Tag Archives: Blog Swap

Guest post from the good Rev. Danny Fisher

This post was originally supposed to be part of a big ol’ blog swap a few weeks ago. I had to decline to participate last minute because of a family emergency, and Danny was only now able to write the following. I hope you enjoy. You can catch Danny on his regular blog here.

 

First, many thanks to Nate at Precious Metal for once again getting us
all together like this. Thank you also, of course, to Adam for
hosting this post.

I was invited to comment on Buddhism and the media. I think I’ll use
part of a longer piece I’m working on about what has been called
“Buddhist journalism.” My pal and Shambhala Sun editor Rod Meade
Sperry calls me a “newshound,” which I am. But I also am a Buddhist,
so I’m particularly interested in this intersection of the tradition
and news-gathering — particularly news-gathering by Buddhists.

It’s interesting to me that in the introduction to his and Kenneth K.
Tanaka’s book The Faces of Buddhism in America, my friend Chuck
Prebish observes that “a strong new Buddhist journalism” is apparent
on the American Buddhist landscape in such publications as Tricycle:
The Buddhist Review, Shambhala Sun, Buddhadharma:  The Practitioner’s
Quarterly, Inquiring Mind, and Turning Wheel:  The Journal of Socially
Engaged Buddhism, “as well as many publications of individual Buddhist
centers.” Although the book only addresses these publications in terms
of how they aid engaged Buddhist organizations in “bringing [their
visions of] activism and optimism to the American Buddhist,” it is
becoming clear to me that works of Buddhist journalism are beginning
to serve another purpose: as source material for historical writing
about the development of Buddhism in America. In 2006, the Duke
Divinity School Library began the first attempt at a systematic
collection of American Buddhist periodicals—works that certainly fit
Prebish’s description of Buddhist journalism.  Commenting on this in a
post for the earliest iteration of Tricycle’s weblog entitled “Help
Record the History of American Buddhism”, another pal and contributing
editor for that publication, Jeff Wilson, wrote:

“At the end of the day, we really know so little about how Buddhism
spread from India to other countries. Documents are lost, important
meetings never recorded, artwork destroyed–whole teachings,
practices, and schools of Buddhism have been swallowed by time with
barely a trace left to let us know they were there…The difference this
time is that we [in America] have the capacity to observe and record
this new turning of the Dharma wheel while it is going on [in our
country], and to preserve important artifacts from this transmission
so that they will be available to historians and practitioners for
centuries to come.”

Jeff was careful to say something about the limitations of these
periodicals in his comment that the Duke Divinity Library’s project
will offer future generations only “a glimpse of how the Dharma took
root on these shores.” Before more histories of Buddhism in America
are recorded, though, I think we do well to take time for substantial
critical reflection on the use of periodicals that might be fall under
the rubric of “Buddhist journalism” as source material for historical
writing. It seems to me that there are important historiographical
questions to consider here for would-be historians of Buddhism in
America. Namely, “What constitutes evidence?”, “Can journalism be
considered evidence?”, “Is ‘Buddhist journalism’ journalism?”, and
finally “Can ‘Buddhist journalism’ be considered evidence?”

I’ll have more on this in the future, but this is just something I’m
thinking about now. Thanks again, everyone.

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“I never really cared for smells & bells” – an Interview with Jomon of the blog “Nothing to Attain”

Every so often, Nate over at the Precious Metal blog throws out a call for some sort of blog swap. This time we were tasked with interviewing the blogger we were paired up with. You can see a list of all those participating here. I was paired up with Jomon (Laura) from the wonderful blog “Nothing to Attain“. Update: my portion of the interview is up at Laura’s blog here. Here’s the interview:

In exactly 108 words, describe Laura to the world.

Hah!  I have really go to work on being too dang wordy!  108 words would be a great practice for the blog!

Speaking of transplanting (see her questions to me on her blog), what about it met your expectations? What about moving to the West Coast shocked you or failed to live up to your expectations? What is it that you miss about the Mid-West? What is it that you will never, ever miss?

I miss my parents and my mid-West friends but they now have a wonderful place to visit.  I seriously miss Major League Baseball.  Portland is tough for baseball fans, and worse for this third-generation Cardinals fan (my maternal grandmother used to take my mom out of school to watch games).  Not only does Portland not have a major league baseball team, we are losing our AAA team!  So my husband Patrick got the iPhone app that allows us to listen to all the MLB radio broadcasts.  We get to hear all the corny St Louis area car dealer commercials we grew up with.  And don’t hate me, but I still love Budweiser.  I know, seriously, I’m living in Beervana, and I still love Budweiser.  I tried, I really did.  I guess you can take the girl outta St Louis…

I do believe it is safe to say that I will never, ever miss pulling ticks off of my skin and clothing after hikes in the woods.  I continue to be shocked and awed by the beauty of the PNW.   That and the prevalence of Buddhism.  The midwest has pockets of teachers and practice centers, but not the wealth we have on the coasts, especially the number of retreat centers.  And Portland!  Throw a baseball in Southeast Portland and you’re likely to hit a Buddhist.

How do you balance your personal life with your practice/sangha?

Personal life has pretty much fused with practice / sangha.  My husband and I got married at Great Vow Zen Monastery.  We had a realization that spiritual practice needed to be at the center of our lives.  We didn’t need to be in the same tradition; we just happen to be lucky that we both managed to find our way onto the same path.

So now my husband is the president of the ZCO Board, and I’ve been the Portland Shuso for the past year, and serving on a few committees as well.  We both have held various service positions, like chant leader, and bell-ringer over the years.  I guess our center is benefitting from the fact that we don’t and probably won’t have children.  I feel something like motherly love towards our Sangha and temple.  Patrick and I sometimes look at each other, awestruck at whatever it is — luck, good karma — that brought us to such a place of deep, authentic practice.

Letsee, though, non-Buddhist stuff — dragonboating is a great activity — I’ve been taking a bunch of yoga classes, doing photography, going to basketball or baseball games.  We do our best to get out into the forests or camping on the coast.  And there may be another attempt at a dog this fall.  We are such dog people; it is painful to be without a dog for this long.

Do you have a favorite sutra, or one that speaks to you more than any others?

You mean like reading the Sutras?  Heretofore I have not done a lot of reading on Zen and Buddhism.  I know that is a bit backwards from many practitioners, who get inspired by reading then start practicing.  I have read some of the Vimilakirti Sutra.  Just reading Robert Thurman’s intro to his translation was enough for me to chew on for months!

We regularly chant the Heart of Great Perfect Wisdom Sutra.  That is where the name of my blog comes from:  “With nothing to attain a Bodhisattva relies on Prajna paramita and thus the mind is without hindrance.  Without hindrance there is no fear.”

One of my biggest struggles in life and in practice is with attainment.  Getting somewhere.  Being somebody.  Improving.  Meeting goals and objectives.  It gets at the heart of a deep assumption that I am somebody and that there is something inherently wrong, or unworthy about that somebody.  The words “nothing to attain” serve as such a great reminder that this is not at all the case.

Same question kind of, but instead of sutra, whats the one koan that has spoken to you, or ‘shook’ you more than any other?

This is a good question — my experience with koan practice in general is that koan practice itself shakes me to the core, and then shakes that ‘core’ apart!  Koans lure out all our best strategies and then they reveal those strategies to us as completely ineffectual.  I suspect they are all pointing to something more than just our best thinking and strategies.  I have most recently worked on “the True Person of no rank,” and that one flirted with me, charmed me, and then it grabbed me and held on.

What’s up with Rinzai?  What made you choose Rinzai? It seems that the Soto school of Zen is the more popular one here in the US, so I’m wondering what it was that drew you there.

Our teachers come from the Yasutani-Maezumi lineage, which is really a fusion of Soto and Rinzai.  Currently their teacher is Shodo Harada Roshi, a Rinzai teacher, and his influence can be felt deeply.  I certainly didn’t research all the branches of Buddhism and then pick “The One” for me.  I just happened to trip over myself and land in the laps of some very amazing teachers who have come out of this / these lineages.  It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t go all researching about.  I would have developed a bunch of ideas about what Zen is, what Rinzai and Soto is, and it probably would have made a convincing argument to myself to stay the hell away from all of it!  Zen has such a macho rep, and there is some truth to that, I suppose.  I hear some of that from people who from the outside say Zen is “too disciplined”, “too regimented”, “too cold”.  I have been fortunate to practice in a woman-led Sangha, and with such skilled teachers, and such a mature Sangha, that in my experience, there is a really huge, warm heart in Zen!  Roshi Chozen has been doing a Metta Sesshin for many years.  It was controversial at first because Metta is not officially a Zen practice, but she acknowledges there was some need to warm it up a little.

More on Rinzai: how would you describe Rinzai to someone that knows next to nothing about it? What advice would you give to someone thinking about diving in to that particular school?

I have rewritten this answer until it is hash.  And I still do not feel adequate to really say something useful and I am not exactly sure that the following is not  a bunch of bullcrap.  I can pretty much just say some of the things I have heard our teachers say about the distinction, and I have felt the distinction when they have done more Rinzai-inspired sesshin, so please, add grain o’ salt here.

One of the differences is that of gradual (Soto) vs immediate (Rinzai) enlightenment.  The Soto school stresses that we are already Buddha.  The Rinzai school stresses pointed effort and the experience of kensho.  To me, when you put them together, it is like Suzuki Roshi’s comment that we are all fine just the way we are, and we need to do better.

This intensity of Rinzai appeals to me very deeply.  We don’t know if this is our last moment.  So to practice intensely is in alignment with that deep truth.  And it reminds me of the wholeheartedness of dragon boating.  A close friend of mine described my husband and me as “constitutionally incapable of phoning it in.”  This is not to say that a Soto practice is not intense; that shikantaza is not an all-consuming practice.  This is why I defer an answer to an actual teacher.  What the hell do I know about it?

Rinzai, Soto, Zen, Insight, Shambhala… regardless of where you practice, the advice I would give anybody about diving into any spiritual community would be the same — to show up.  More than once.  To take your time, to observe, to pay attention to your heart and your head in equal measure, to ask around about the reputation of the place, to observe the senior students, to see if the people at this Temple have something you want.

If I knew anything about anything before I started practicing, I swear I would have thought I’d have to be an Insight Meditation practitioner wearing layers of colorful drapey clothing, and purple scarves, not so much Buddha, more mindfulness.  I never really cared for smells & bells.  I had to come at it slowly.  It took me a year to really begin a regular practice with the community downtown.  There was never any pressure, just a constant, open-handed offering.   I found that for me, it’s not really about the forms.  It’s the relationships.  The Sangha.  Whatever form that takes is not so important I think. I mean, it is, but the important thing is to practice.  To show up.  That is the most important thing.

What sparked the moment when you said Yes! Buddhism is it for me! (or whatever)

It was after my first weekend meditation retreat.  This was a super-gentle, Vipassana-led, women-only, completely permissive retreat at a really nice hippie-run hot springs resort out here.  You can’t get a more gentle intro to retreat practice.  And even so, holy shit it was hard!  All that sitting with my bored, pained, dissatisfied, worried, judging, self-critical self.  And while things did smooth out a little bit by the end of the retreat, it wasn’t until a few days afterwards that my soon-to-be husband and I were having a VERY painful discussion about our relationship, which was in crisis.  And for the first time in my life, I could actually HAVE that discussion, and actually hear him, and really hold his feelings and experience before just reacting with my own defensiveness.  It was not just mind-boggling, but it turned out to be what saved our relationship.  Yes!  Buddhism is for me!

Does your extended family all practice? Or are you the black sheep? How do they feel about it? Has it caused any strife?

My parents do not understand it at all.  I think they might worry a little bit.  They’re a bit old school Christians, and I know they’re a bit uncomfortable with the “graven images” of Buddha.  I get that.  But we can and do talk about it, and I think they have been reassured to some degree that there is no worship of an idol going on here.  There is nothing I could do to diminish my parents’ love for me.  They are worriers, though. As far as extended family Buddhists, I am apparently related to Jimmie Dale Gilmore by marriage.  It’s a fairly remote connection, but if you count my extended family out that far, then I’m not alone in practicing Buddhism.  Otherwise, yeah.  Becoming a Buddhist came totally outta left field for my family, but it’s not much of a struggle with them.  My dad isn’t interested.  I don’t talk about it much to them.  They really don’t get how we can take so much time off to attend retreats.  That is just so not in their Protestant Work Ethic frame of reference.  It’s become such a clear priority for our lives.  And our lives have been gradually reflecting more of this priority all the time. They just want me to be happy, and I think they can see a lot of the contentment and satisfaction, the fruits of practice, so that is reassuring to them.

What is it in life that you struggle with most?

Confidence.

What is it in your practice that you struggle with most?

Confidence.

What do you tell people who are unfamiliar with Buddhism when they ask you about it?

I think most people who are unfamiliar with Buddhism are surprised that all Buddhists are not necessarily vegetarians.  That and the Buddha is not worshipped as a God.

Why blog?

I have no idea!  Seriously!  I thought it would be for my Illinois friends and others.  I thought this would be how we could kind of stay in touch.  But they don’t really read my blog.  They’re always, “oh yeah.  What’s the address for that again?”  But now I have made a few connections through the blog that really does feel like community.  I am happy to be so focused on my own practice and the temple and all, but it is also really nice to have this broad sense of Sangha.  I think it’s a real connector for Gen X practitioners, too.  Our brick-and-mortar Sangha is comparatively well-dispersed generationally, but I know that is not really the case around the country, and there is some understandable concern about what will happen when the Boomer generation has gone.  Buddhist blogging can be a doorway into practice, I think.

What types of changes have you noticed in yourself/not-self since you began practicing?

Heh heh!  Not-self…  Yeah, that cookie keeps trying to crumble, which has not been a real comfy experience I tellya.  I am a lot less wound up and a lot less of a perfectionist.  My standards for myself and my surroundings have gotten a little more relaxed.  I was pretty hyper-organized, always 5 or 10 minutes early for everything, and while not a clean freak, there was a bit more of a tendency to lose the forest for the trees sometimes.  There was a point in my practice when all of that just kind of started melting down.  It was awful!  It was definitely against my will, and I just had to deal with it.  It seemed like there was a big part of self-identity that was held together by this anxiety, and once that started letting go, it all just started falling apart, and I would forget really important things, I would double-book appointments then forget both of them.  Missed appointments, forgotten promises dramatic screw-ups.  My old strategies just stopped working, and it was really disturbing.  And yet, I found that the world didn’t end.  My friends and colleagues still cared about me, even if I dropped the ball on some really important things.  This is similar to the lessons from being the chant leader.  The experience of making mistakes in front of the community.  Not only have I lived to tell, but the community still accepts me!  And that acceptance is not based upon being perfect at anything.  It’s not about a me that is doing.  It’s about just being.  I have observed practice having a balancing effect on others, too.  It is amazing, really.

What do you care about now that you may not have paid much attention to before?

I think before, my spiritual practice (probably universally), was about feeling better, or feeling more in control of my life.  I don’t know that that is necessarily changed,but now, in addition to continually being treated to the reality of no control, there is a deeper question: “What is TRUE?”  Which can just be there, control or no control, feeling better or feeling worse.  What is TRUE?

Thank you for taking the time for this interview/swap! It has been fun and informative!

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A “real man”, and a narrative

I have a guest post up over at the DaddyYoBlog about being a “real man” that leads into a little bit about false narratives. Go check it out here.

A teaser blurb:

Maybe what was lacking was the spiritual side of manhood, of fatherhood. Maybe when our grandfathers came back from WW2, they had no sprit left to give their sons. So manhood became something that was altogether mechanical, and was out of balance. Our fathers then pursued this mechanized lifestyle which fulfilled the mundane aspects of their lives, but left little room for them in the realm of that which is ethereal. For a few years, my dad raised me all by himself, and I now wonder if he struggled with this on some subconscious level. I wonder how detached my grandfather was. I wonder how my Father’s generation prepared for Fatherhood, if at all?

Cheers

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Article Swap #3 – Buddhist Ethics in Political Dialogue (guest post by Justin Whitaker)

The following is a guest post from Justin of the wonderful blog, American Buddhist Perspective. This is part of the great “Buddhoblogosphere Blog Swap” that was set up by Nate over at Precious Metal. Check out this post for a list of all the other articles being swapped and hosted today. The article I wrote hasn’t been posted yet, but as soon as it is, I’ll post the link up here. I was in charge of assigning Justin a topic, and knowing that he is a Buddhist Ethicist, I asked the following questions:

“How do we apply Buddhist ethics in a secular way to the political dialogue/discourse we currently have in this country? Right now it is dominated by the fringe extremists with the loudest microphones and it is getting us nowhere. How do we combat (without combating) this extremism using Buddhist ethics? How do we make it part of the dialogue?”

Adam has posed some great questions here. I hope they elicit as much thought in you as they did me and that you will join the conversation. First off, we need to identify what “Buddhist ethics” is or are. From there we should be able to launch into engagement with our current political situation. 
 
Let’s orient ourselves. Where are we? If we call ourselves “Buddhist” (and often even if not) we no doubt see ourselves as on a path to awakening. We can think of this as our vertical or “Developmental” Dimension:  our own ignorance and suffering at the bottom, and perfected wisdom and compassion at the top. And we are also living in the year 2010, mostly (for readers here) in America. This is the horizontal or “Relational” Dimension, the world around us right now and on each stage of the path (see Firgure 1*).   

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        In this picture, Buddhist ethics can be seen as our conduct as Buddhists and the reasons we have for that conduct. How do we move “up”? How do we cultivate the twin virtues of wisdom and compassion in a world so dominated by extreme voices and ideas?
 

The Buddha’s own advice to people again and again was to relax their attention on the Relational Dimension and focus on their own development. One of the curious facts about this way of seeing things is that as we advance (upward) toward awakening, we open up more fully (relationally) to the world. Meanwhile, the more caught up in personal delusions, greed, and hatred we are, the more isolated we are from the world. This is what Alan Sponberg has coined as the Hierarchy of Compassion.
 
So this is our starting point. Right here. Not with the politicians or the pundits, but with our own mind and mental states. As laypeople we can begin with the five precepts:
1.   I undertake the training to abstain from harming living beings
2.   I undertake the training to abstain from taking the not-given.
3.   I undertake the training to abstain from harmful conduct in sensuality.
4.   I undertake the training to abstain from false speech.
5.   I undertake the training to abstain from drinking liquor or taking intoxicants.
Each day we can take a moment to evaluate our relationship with these training principles. Our first step in remedying the often contentious political sphere is to ensure that we ourselves are contributing as little as possible to it. Recall Mahatma Gandhi’s teaching, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
 
For some, “ethics” ends there. But I think we can see that the whole of the path is interconnected and that meditation and wisdom are not distinct categories of practice. It is in our meditation that our deepest mental convictions and afflictions become transparent to us, rising to the surface of consciousness where we can make the changes necessary to move closer to harmony with the Dharma. In terms of the political world, in meditation we can let go of divisive labels and self-other duality. In particular, in the cultivation of loving-kindness meditation, we invite to our mind an ‘enemy’ to imaginatively sit with us, seeing this individual as no different from a neutral person, themselves no different from a close friend. We see that all beings “fear the stick and tremble at punishment.”
 
The cultivation of wisdom, too, serves our ethical purposes. While notions such as non-self, impermanence, and interconnectedness can serve as mere intellectual concepts, they can also be applied on the cognitive level to challenge and overcome prejudices. The noble 8-fold path begins with right understanding, and I believe this is not accidental. If we believe in permanent separate souls or that moral actions hold no consequences, it is unlikely that we will follow the next seven steps on the path. While the complete understanding of reality as it is marks the culmination of the path, we cannot even begin if we are clinging to radically false notions.
 
But we are still at a very individual level. How do we ‘reach out’ to others? We begin with those nearest us, friends and family. If you’re anything like me, this group alone contains a very wide spectrum of political views. Generally it’s easiest to talk politics with those who agree with you and at times downright painful to talk with those who appear to be in the extremes. I’ve had conversations with relatives who say they’re “just waiting for him [President Obama] to start taking our guns away” and friends on the other end of the spectrum who lamented how horrible a nation America has become (under President G.W. Bush).
 
Sometimes the best we can do is listen, try to understand where they are coming from. At our best though we can ‘mirror’ the extreme position of a comment to the other person in a way that gets him or her to its extremism clearly. We might remark that Obama is having a hard enough time accomplishing his stated goals, so it might be a bit tough for him to do something that would be so widely unpopular.  Or we might note that America wasn’t exactly Eden before G.W. Bush – or mention a few of the dozens of countries that would be much more ‘horrible’ for our friend. What we see is that extreme positions are often very narrow, both historically and in terms of contemporary realities around the world. 
 
As our own thought and understanding deepens, we are less affected by extreme and misplaced views and opinions; much like H.H. the Dalai Lama as he responded to Chinese claims that he was a devil:

If he were to bitterly argue against such claims, they would only gain strength. But by laughing at them, and making us laugh in turn, we see the absurdity of the Chinese government’s position. The more often this happens, the weaker this extreme voice becomes. Similarly, teaching the history of Tibet, and showing the reality of people there today are other ways to cut through extremist claims.
 
But what the Dalai Lama’s story also shows us is that in the end, enlightened conduct might not win in the political sphere. This is a fact of the deluded state that most of us dwell in. Even the Buddha had enemies, including an angry cousin who tried on several occasions to kill him. The extremists have always been there and likely always will be. Through our own practice, though, we can develop the wisdom of seeing the context of our political lives and compassion through realizing the similarities we have even with our worst enemies. Bringing this ‘home’ in our own daily conduct and meditation frees us from merely reacting to the latest extremism in the world, allowing us to be creative agents of that wisdom and compassion. The greatest contribution, and indeed the most authentic one, that Buddhist ethics can give to contemporary political dialogue is in its tools of spiritual development.
 
* This schematization and the figures are taken from Sponberg, Alan. (1994). “Green Buddhism and the Hierarchy of Compassion,” in Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds. Tucker and Williams eds. (1997). Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA, pp. 351-376.

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“The Importance of Ritual (and Irritation)”: Guest Post by Maia Duerr

 A shout out to Adam and to all his blog audience as we commence this big Buddhist blog swap. This is the first time I’ve participated in the blog swap. It’s a lot of fun to dip into someone else’s pool, and to have Shane Hennesey of Zenfant post on my blog, The Jizo Chronicles.

The way this works, all of us who volunteered for this endeavor were matched up with another blogger, and we were to write something for his or her blog. We each suggested a topic to write on, and then Nate Montigny  put these into a hat (was it a real hat or a digital hat? I wonder…) and assigned a topic to each of us. The topic I suggested was “how do you practice with irritation?” The one I was assigned was “the importance of ritual in your Buddhist practice.” I didn’t understand that we weren’t going to write on the topic we suggested… and so I have to tell you, I am irritated that I have to write on a topic other than irritation. I guess that is perfect. I may end up writing about both topics here. 

First, ritual. I grew up Catholic, and I mean really Catholic. Twelve years of Catholic grammar school and high school at St. Andrew’s, in Pasadena, California. This was in the 1960s and 70s, so if you can imagine the scenes in the Meryl Streep/Philip Seymour Hoffman movie “Doubt,” you’re not far off. Okay, maybe not quite that bad, but we were definitely steeped in ritual and nuns and priests. I can remember being herded from our classrooms across the street to the big church every Friday for Mass. When I was growing up, the post-Vatican II Church was just on the cusp of “modernizing,” so I have some faint memory of the mass being said in Latin when I was very young. But most of what I remember is that awkward transition to guitar masses and the priests trying to act very hip. 

Even so, there was still a great deal of ritual. During big masses like Christmas and other holidays, the altar boys, dressed in black robes with a splash of red and white garments, would carry large bronze urns filled with incense and swing them around on their way up to the altar. The most ritual-intensive part of the liturgy was around the consecration of the ‘host,’ when the priest held up the golden chalice and whispered some kind of secret incantation as the bread and wine allegedly turned into the body and blood of Christ. It was wild. So when I encountered Buddhism later in my life, I was already pretty comfortable with ritual. I started practice in Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition where there was actually less of it. But by the time I hit Soto Zen, I was happy to see the black robes come out again and hear all the chanting in morning service. I know this can be a turnoff to some people, but I felt right at home. Maybe that’s why there are so many ex-Catholics who seem to turn up in the ranks of Zen Buddhism.

 Over the years, something really valuable I’ve discovered is that it’s important for me to personalize those rituals a bit more, otherwise they can end up feeling kind of dead after a while. In the past couple of years, I’ve created a morning ritual for myself that has really helped me to feel much closer to my practice. When I sit on my own at home, I end the sitting period by lighting incense and then chanting a set of three vows that are close to my own heart – not something that someone else has come up with. This seems to go to the core meaning of ritual for me – it’s a remembrance of things that are close to my soul, that vitalize me for the day ahead. 

Finally, a few thoughts about irritation. After my irritated moment about not getting the topic I wanted for this blog, I realized how much irritation has permeated my practice. I don’t mean that in a bad way. Really, irritation has permeated my life and I would guess that is true for you as well.  I remember one of the first things that my root teacher, Roshi Joan Halifax, said to me: “We spend most of our lives circling around the drain of resistance.” I thought that was fabulous and I’d never heard it before. It’s so true, only the problem is we usually don’t realize how resistant we are to “things as they are.” Irritation really seems to get at the heart of the First and Second Noble Truths, that there is suffering in life and that suffering arises when we resist what’s going on. I’m not sure I can say I’ve experienced any less irritation in my life since I’ve been practicing meditation. In fact, maybe even more. Or maybe it’s just that I am more aware of it (damn awareness!). Sometimes it seems that just about anything can trigger the irritation: the loud breathing of someone else in the zendo (and it’s always someone else, not me!), the co-worker who drives me crazy with his stupid questions, the method for choosing the blog topic that I didn’t have a say in… If it’s not one thing, it’s another, as Gilda Radner would have said. 

One saying that’s made the rounds in many Buddhist settings is that when we practice and live together as a sangha, we are like a bunch of hairy potatoes being washed in the same bucket of water together, continually rubbing each other clean through the process of bumping up against each other in our irritation. If that’s the case, I am getting to be a very clean potato. 

Thank you so much Maia! Wonderful!

For a list of all of the other blogs participating in the swap, head over to Precious Metal. My post is up at Peace Ground Zero, so check it out! Cheers. -Adam

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