Tag Archives: Parenting

Home, part 1

Recently we drove down to Seattle so that my wife could do a photo shoot at a favorite old park of ours (it’s the one I proposed to her at…). It’s been 4 years since we lived in Seattle. The dozen or so times we’ve been back since moving away, it always feels like a piece of my heart was ripped out when we left, and that going back puts it all back together, if even for a moment.

The bench that I proposed to Alex on. On the ground there is a plaque there that reads: "A respite for those who see beauty in all things"

The particular neighborhood we were in was Queen Anne. It is a very wealthy, beautiful neighborhood just North of downtown. On the street we were on, I could almost smell the money along with the cherry blossoms and dogwoods that lined the sidewalks. I don’t know that any of those houses were worth less than $800,000; many of them were worth more than 5 million. Part of this comes from the view many of the homes there enjoy. The homes also enjoy relative security from passersby such as myself. Many of them had gates in front of the driveways, or even in front of the walkways that led up to their front doors. Some are on a steep enough incline that you wouldn’t even bother looking for a way in. The separation was plain as day. I was welcome to look, but not to touch.

Walking down this street with the kids in tow in their double stroller, I ran a gambit of emotions.

Anger that people could live like this, so secluded from the rest of the world.

Jealousy because a part of me wanted to know what that type of life would feel like, to not have to worry about finances, to be able to enjoy the finer things in life and send my kids to a nice safe little private school.

Despair that I’ll never be able to provide that type of life for our children.

And then I turned that stroller East up a hill and huffed and puffed the three of us to the top. All those churning emotions just kind of faded away. Corbin got to see a fire truck with it’s lights on parked on the street to provide support to an EMT team that had arrived in at some public gathering for a medical emergency. We sat there, eating PB&J and talking about the hoses and lights and everything else that made his face light up.

Then we headed back down toward the park as Alex was finishing up her shoot. This time though, I didn’t feel jealousy or anger. No resentment. I’d rather be there on the street, talking to the passersby about the flowers along the road, the weather, the kids in prom outfits walking around getting their pictures taken. I realized then that it wasn’t the houses and the economic situation that had made me upset. I didn’t want to live so isolated as these people seemed to.

What had really been bothering me was that I was homesick. Deeply, desperately homesick. If you’ve followed this little blog at all, you’ll know that I lived the first 20 years of my life in Michigan, then moved to Seattle where I met Alex and we lived for 5 years. When I say I’m homesick, it isn’t for Michigan, but for Seattle.

In Seattle I could walk down the street and breathe in the city. There is life there, but more than that is a feeling of being alive. Seattle fits like my favorite hoodie. Comfortable and warm, but loose with enough breathing room that I’m never really restricted. When we go back there to visit, it feels like I never left. Seattle feels like home. If home is where the heart is, I’ve been missing a piece of my heart for the last 4 years.

At the same time, I feel right at home out in the middle of nowhere. Places where the only sounds are from the birds chirping and cedars creaking. Places where bon fires are encouraged and where a babbling stream serves as a sink and shower.

These two places share one thing in common; when I’m there, I feel alive, I feel surrounded by life. Out here in the suburbs, I’ve only ever felt like I’m living in a way. There isn’t much magic to be had in the ‘burbs. And where there is magic and life, that is where home is. In finding “home”, I look to something other than a place. It is something ethereal that can’t be touched, yet I also find it linked inextricably to my environment. I’m starting to find more and more that this great spiritual quest has everything to do with finding “home”.

I’ll have part 2 up in the next week or so. It will examine a bit about a connection to “home” and Zen.

Cheers.

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The Four Noble Truths of Parenting

Now this, monks, is the noble truth of stress:[1] Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful, not getting what is wanted is stressful. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.

“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.

“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of stress: the remainderless fading & cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, & letting go of that very craving.

“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress: precisely this Noble Eightfold Path — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

~ Taken from Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s translation at Access to Insight

The Four Noble Truths form the foundation of all Buddhist thought, philosophy and practice. It is here that the Buddha diagnosed the fundamental “dis-ease” of the human condition, and provided us with a prescription to cure that dis-ease.

 

My son was sick this past weekend, and is also in the process of cutting his 2-year molars. This week he has basically been screaming and crying all day long at the drop of a hat. It has been very, very stressful for myself, and even more so for my wonderful wife that has to be face-to-face with him all day long. His twos have not been “terrible” so much as apocalyptically horrendous. At times I am quite certain I’ve seen his head spin a full 360 degrees around his head.

This morning his tantrums got me to thinking about Thanissaro Bikkhu’s translation of dukkha as stress. Often times you hear the first noble truth loosely translated as “all life is stress/suffering” and this morning all I could think was “all parenting is stress”. So I’ve taken some liberty with the Four Noble Truths, and re-written them for parents. I hope you enjoy.

1. Now this, parents, is the noble truth of stress: nap time is stressful, dinnertime is stressful, bath time is stressful, diaper changes are stressful, grocery shopping is stressful, car rides are stressful. In short, your entire day as a parent is stressful.

2. And this, parents, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: your child craving shiny objects, craving dirty faces, craving one more movie, craving chocolate chip cookies, desire to play with toilet paper as if it were confetti, desire to climb to the ceiling, desire to never ever sleep, this is the origination of stress.

3. And this parents, is the noble truth of the cessation of stress: the letting go of any expectation that your day will not at some point be stressful, the relinquishing of the feeling that everything will go according to plan, the passing away of the delusion that you fail when things fall apart.

4. And this parents, is the noble truth of the practice leading to the cessation of stress:  just this Noble Eightfold Path for Parents – right bedtime, right snack time, right babysitters, right grandparents, right hugs, right story time, right husbands/wives, and right love and affection.

 

Cheers.

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Filed under Buddhism, Parenting

There were 19 victims in Arizona

 

I really don’t have much time to post lately, and I have thoughts of closing the blog down for good as I really don’t see myself being able to make time to commit to posting. More on that some other time perhaps.

I wanted to post today just a thought or two on the Arizona shooting that took place on Saturday. I’m sure by now you’ve heard the whole story, so I’ll spare going into any details here.

My only thoughts are this: 19 people’s lives were directly and permanently altered on Saturday. The shooter brought lots of ammo with him. While his main target certainly seemed to be Congresswoman Giffords, there were 19 others that were shot, 6 of which died.

Federal judge John Roll, 63, left behind 3 sons, a wife, and 5 grandchildren.

30-year-old Gabe Zimmerman, a Gifford’s staffer who was engaged and had a wedding date set for 2012.

Phyllis Schneck, 79 leaves behind 3 children, 7 grandchildren, and 1 great-grandchild.

Dorwan Stoddard 76 – this is from Huff Post: “When the shooting started Saturday, he dove to the ground, covering his wife Mavy, who was shot in the leg three times. The couple had been grade school sweethearts growing up in Tucson. After their respective spouses died, they independently moved back to retire, became reacquainted and fell in love all over again. Mavy Stoddard talked to her husband, who was shot in the head, for 10 minutes while he breathed heavily. Then he stopped breathing. He had two sons from his first marriage, and Mavy has three daughters.

Dorothy Morris, 76 whose husband was shot in the rampage, but is in the hospital also left behind a few daughters (I’ve seen 2 and 3, so don’t know for sure).

And then, what to me is the most tragic result of this mad man’s terror, Christina Taylor Green, only 9 years old. Apparently she had just been elected to Student Council and had an interest in politics, which is why she was at that Safeway to meet Congresswoman Giffords. She apparently wanted to have a career where she would be of service to others (I think I wanted to be a pilot at that age….). She enjoyed athletics. She leaves behind an 11-year-old brother. She leaves behind parents, and grandparents.

It isn’t too hard to read about the people the elderly victims leave behind. It’s generally expected that parents and grandparents outlive their offspring. It is tragic and sad, yes. And I certainly don’t want to value one life above another here.

But she was only 9 years old.

She was only 9 years old.

I understand the outrage pouring out over this incident. I just don’t understand how the conversation was so quickly turned into a left vs. right ideological battle. Within hours of the massacre people were trying to figure out who was to blame. We heard from pundits about other pundits and about that half-term quitter governor from Alaska, but we didn’t hear about Christina, and her story (other than the little I’ve shared here). We didn’t hear about her aunts and uncles and friends from school and 9 year old team mates that now have to deal with the fact that their loved one isn’t coming back.

It isn’t that I don’t agree with some of the political statements being made out there. Some of them, I do. And I do so adamantly. But their bodies weren’t even cold and all we could hear about was some redneck’s map and what Rush Limbaugh had to say and what books were on the shooter’s MySpace book list.

I remember when Kayla Rolland was shot. It was in my community. My mother worked with a close friend of the family (or Aunt of Kayla’s or something….) and I remember it vividly. Shock. Terror. Unimaginable sadness. A 6-year-old shot another 6-year-old. And I remember that very day, people carrying signs in favor of the 2nd amendment on some busy cross streets in my hometown of Saginaw, MI. Yes, we have freedom of speech in this country. I respect that. But just because you have the right to do/say something, doesn’t always mean it’s the right thing to do.

I also remember my teachers waiting a week or so before we started talking about the greater themes that revolved around the shooting like gun rights, poverty, drugs, homelessness and other broader social issues that contributed to the tragedy.

Already the 6 victims that were killed and the others that were wounded are being forgot. They’re being pushed down in the headlines in favor of partisan rhetoric, blame games, conversations on society’s role in all this and yadda yadda yadda. It’s not that I don’t think some of those points are important or valid. I do. My fear is that this intense personal tragedy will just get churned into fodder for the left vs. right meme machine. In 5 years most of us will probably remember that Congresswoman Giffords was shot, and that there were others shot that day too (I bet we’ll forget how many). Some of us will remember Christina, but I bet it will be the minority. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself if you knew who Kayla Rolland was reading that first sentence, without having to click on the link. It was one of the most tragic killings this country has ever seen, and I don’t know that anyone outside of Flint (and Mid-Michigan) still thinks about it.

Can we try holding off on the politicizing for just a few days? Maybe direct our efforts toward compassion for the victims and their families, even for just a few days? Is the “noble discussion” about whose fault it is and what role everyone plays in it that urgent that it can’t wait a few days? Maybe if we shine the spotlight on the victims for a bit longer, we won’t forget quite so soon this time.

I’ll leave it to others to cry outrage!

Right now, all I can come up with is tragedy!

  

Cheers.

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Filed under Parenting, Political

10 from 2010

I thought I would do a quick ego fluffing year-in-review type post. Here it goes:

1. The biggest thing that happened this year was obviously the birth of my daughter Zoa. She is now 3 months old, and sassy as hell. It is still really weird for me to think that I’m the father of 2! children. A family of four. How the hell did that happen?!?!

2. For awhile there I thought my job and company was in jeopardy. We’ve weathered the storm and I remain gainfully employed at a company that I am proud to work for.

3. Next week I start school. I’ll be taking 3 classes, working full-time, and trying to spend as much time with my family as possible. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep up the 3 classes at a time thing, but the more I can, the sooner I’ll have my degree. And then the sooner we’ll be more financially secure and stable (at least, that’s the plan….) so hopefully I can last at that pace until summer of 2012.

4. This year I changed blogs, joined twitter, wrote for Elephant Journal and shifted the focus of my content here. I’ve been trying to be more aware of how I spend my time online, as well as how much time I spend here. So far the process is evolving nicely. I also started a photo blog which is sort of on hiatus at the moment until I have more time to snap some photos. But I am tied only very loosely to it, so it will just sit there for now. And I’m okay with that. I’m also okay with not posting here regularly. No pressure.

5. I decided to focus my dharma practice in a more Zen-centered path. I’m enjoying what I’m learning, and struggling to put it all into practice. I’m inching my way forward, but forward nonetheless.

6. Last year I made some resolutions. Let’s see how I did:

  • 1st – no more meat. Verdict: fail! So I don’t eat meat for any meal, whatsoever. I don’t order any meat when we eat out. But my son is a very picky eater. Some of the things he will eat are meaty. Sometimes he doesn’t finish his food. So I eat it. I’d rather it didn’t go to waste considering the manner in which it got to our dinner table. I don’t care if that makes me a non vegetarian or not. I didn’t make the choice about my diet in order to provide myself with a label or status.
  • 2nd – a more committed practice – verdict – fail! I wanted to chant daimoku twice daily and such, but I didn’t. In fact, I decided not to continue practicing strictly in the Nichiren tradition anymore. However I have found other ways to integrate other practices and study into my life. So whatever.
  • 3rd – incorporate meditation into my practice – WIN!!! Yeah, I’ve meditated a bit this year. Nothing strict or regular, but I have. And I’d like to find more time to do so, but not sure how that is going to work with work/school/kids/wife/need to shower and eat.

7. This year my only resolution is to be a better husband and father, and to do my best to be there for my family and balance all of my commitments.

8. The best book I read this year is probably The Eight Gates of Zen. Although I’m currently digesting The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing and it is really, really good.

9. Here are the 4 posts I wrote this year that I am most proud of:

Affirm life, Do not kill – it was a post around some of my thoughts/feelings on abortion.

My Personal Internet Usage Policy – this one got the most hits I’ve ever had on one day (400 something) and got really good reception. I even saw some people who said they printed it out and hung it by their computer!

Bringing us back to shore – no one else seemed to like this one, but I did damn it!!!

My Team – I wrote this on July 4th, and it actually has nothing to do with sports, though I think my metaphor got lost. Oh well, I dug it.

If you had a particular favorite that I didn’t mention, let me know in the comments.

10. I discovered that I am now that old guy that doesn’t enjoy any newfangled music! Seriously though, I’ve been able to find very little new music that I like anymore. Here are a few gems that I was able to find:

Chiddy Bang (my interest in hip hop in general is declining, but groups like this and a few other indie MCs out there are keeping my iPod fresh for the time being)

Alberta Cross – excellent Canadian band my friend turned me onto. A distinct Neil Young influence, something I don’t mind in the least.

 

Iron and Wine – amazingly talented music. So talented, you’ll likely never hear it on the radio.

Ray LaMontaingue – ‘soul’ is the first word that comes to mind when listening to Ray LaMontaingue as he plays with all of his and then some.

And the award to the catchiest damn song I heard all year (or was it last year? I don’t remember, I’ve just been unable to get it out of my head):

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Home

 

Here’s to 2011. I hope you all have a wonderful and safe New Years.

Cheers.

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Raising spiritual children

A few posts have gone up recently regarding raising your children in a spiritual tradition, and all the samsara that goes with it. Check out Nathan’s post, John’s post, Mumon’s post, and Karen’s post for some interesting perspectives. (I would say that my post here is inspired by, rather than a response to these posts).

Interesting perspectives. That’s what they are. Perspectives. Of the 4 mentioned above, all are parents save Nathan, who speaks from experience of working with children and running a successful children’s program in his Zen sangha to which he is very much involved. When I read these posts I see a deep sense of caring. Really caring about the children, their lives, their minds, their future selfs.

And something else is there as well. Parents and caregivers projecting what they wish the desired outcome to be. Parents that want their children to be Buddhist or Christian or Atheist or open-minded or skeptical or whatever; they all want something for their children, all to take on a specific role or mindset. And that is part of parenting. You have to want something for your children, and most of us want what is best for them. We all have our different flavors of “best” peppered by the experiences and luggage we bring with us to the table of life.

Personally, I think telling a child what to believe, or “hey Johnny, you’re a Christian, so you believe in ‘x'” is wrong, and does them a disservice. It takes away the process of discovery and replaces it with dogma, at a time in their lives where fostering an attitude of discovery and imagination is most crucial. Spirituality is a very wonderous, malleable thing. To force it into a shape before a child has had the time to poke and prod at it robs them of an experience that is very special, something that will take a terrible amount of work to get back later in life, if at all.

Currently developing the "Rocks and Sticks" Sutra...

But what of raising a child Buddhist, or in a Buddhist community? Is there a difference? I tend to think so, at least to some degree. Buddhism has less to do with belief, and more to do with results. For instance, take the five precepts. This is a teaching I could explain to my children that will lead to examination, and more questions. There is no “because ‘x’ holy book says so answer; there are only questions of “why” and “how” to be met with their own experiences and guidance from father and mother. In Buddhism we seek noble qualities, not adherence to doctrine.

Why do we take the precept to refrain from taking life?

To affirm and honor life, because it is precious. Why else do think we should not take life?

Why do we take the precept to refrain from taking what isn’t given?

To develop generosity, and to accept ourselves wholly. Why else do you think we shouldn’t take what belongs to us?

Why do we take the precept to refrain from wrong speech?

To develop compassion, live our truth, and honor others. Why else should we tell the truth, and not speak unkindly of others?

One day my son and daughter will ask me about Buddha and meditation and being a Buddhist. The questions they ask will come from a genuine place of wonder and curiosity, and my answers should foster that state of mind.

What’s a Buddhist?

Someone that follows the teachings of the Buddha.

What did he teach?

He taught many things. First he taught us that life isn’t always what it seems or what we want it to be. At times this can cause us to be sad, or even angry. So he taught us to use compassion, wisdom, and have the right frame of mind so that we don’t have to live that way.

Oh. So why do you sit on that pillow in the living room?

That’s one way to help me develop the right frame of mind.

 

That is a nice pretend scenario of a conversation that might take place. But given my son’s nature I can only imagine the questions that will soon follow. It will be awhile until the questions begin to emerge, but in time they will. And when that time comes I have no qualms with asking him if he wants to practice with me. And if he says no, he says no and he will enjoy racing matchbox cars around the Kitchen 500.

Spiritual communities can be great environments for children. But when the activities include having them sing songs in praise of people and ideals they have no way of understanding, I draw a line.

Presently we have no formal sangha or spiritual community to raise our children in. Our religious practice revolves around our attempt to manifest spirituality in our daily lives and activity. So there is no temple to “drag” them to. And there isn’t much in the way of belief to indoctrinate them in. There are our daily successes and failures that will guide and shape them. For those with access to a sangha or dharma center, their perspective will be different; I cannot speak to the experience of others.

Or maybe they’ll never really take an interest in Dad’s Buddhism. Maybe they’d rather play with the Tarot cards on our shelves, mesmerized by the dozens of different artist’s depictions of the journey of The Fool. Maybe they’d rather read The Lord of the Rings and get lost in The Shire. Maybe they’d rather spend the day in the woods taking in deep breaths of dead leaves and cedar, running from whatever forest creature they might imagine is in pursuit.

It really is up to them. I’ll be steering them in a direction that keeps them on the road. But that is my perspective, and that is where I feel my children would benefit most. For now I’m focusing on raising compassionate, spiritual children. We can worry about the framework later.

Cheers.

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Filed under Buddhism, Parenting

Just Patience.

The Great Bodhisattva of Patience wields a fiery spoonful of pudding!

I’m finding more and more that I’ve reached a bit of a plateau when it comes to this blog and Buddhism in general. Part of the reason I started this blog was to openly explore the dharma as I started on the path. I am nowhere near any kind of expert, realized master, or authority or any such person when it comes to Buddhism. But I do feel like I have a grip on enough of the basics that I have little where else to go as far as the online world is concerned. I’m finding more and more that what I’m looking for isn’t here, but lies closer to where my feet are planted, and my fingers meet the keyboard.

After awhile the basics start to get boring. I can only read the same thing said a million different ways so many times before it becomes Geography class. Geography class was always required in middle and high school. But it was useless. Once you learned where Bolivia was, that was it. But we had to learn where Bolivia was and what their climate and chief exports and natural landmarks were year after year. But nothing changed. Most of the basic concepts of Buddhism are like this, at least on an intellectual level. And quite frankly, you can only do so much with text.

Also quite frankly, you can only do so much while sleep deprived. I haven’t had but maybe 4 good nights of sleep in the past 2 years or so. Kids can do this to you. My kids do this to me. My wife has it worse. So I haven’t been meditating, and I struggle to even read the past few weeks. For my son Corbin, it’s been a struggle to get him to go down for the night. Once he does, he’s been mostly sleeping through the night (finally, after almost 2 years) but wakes between 5-6am. This wouldn’t be too bad if our daughter Zoa would allow us to put her down to sleep at a decent hour, but she’s a bit of a night owl and frequently won’t lay down for the night until between 11pm-1am.

Needless to say, I’m running short on patience. Patience with my wife, children, situation, self, work, strangers, family, you name it. It manifests in many forms. Anger, rudeness, non-compassion are the usual ones, though cold distance is there at times as well.

Concepts are great, but they don’t mean shit off the paper.

Spiritual traditions are great, but they don’t mean shit if you can’t apply them to your life. They don’t mean shit if they can’t help you deal with your issues in a way that brings about real, actual change. And those changes don’t mean shit if you can’t use them to better deal with those you love the most and keep the closest.

So I’m dedicating my practice to the pursuit of patience.

Patience.

                 Patience.

Patience.

It really couldn’t be a better time to do so. Financially, we’re hoping to put ourselves in the house market by the end of 2011. This will take work, sacrifice, and a ton of patience and non-attachment. Starting in January, I’m going back to school to pursue a degree in Enviromental Policy and Planning. The A.A.S. part will hopefully be done by Summer 2012, but looking down the road this is going to be tough. I’m going to have to put in a lot of work for this, and working 40+ hours while trying to be a family man and go to school full-time is going to really test ability to remain patient, calm, and present.

Oh, and I have 2 kids! Wow! They are a daily test of patience. My son’s new favorite game is just to knock shit over. He walks up to a chair, and just knocks it over, bam! Vacuum? Bam! High Chair? Bam! Our neighbors below must love us…

So what I’m getting at here in this long “me me me” post is that what I really need to do is forget some of my loftier dreams of group meditation or kensho and just go for what matters most to my life right now: developing patience. My family will thank me for it. I will thank me for it. To me it is more beneficial than digging through Nagarjuna’s thoughts on Dharmadhatu, though I do hope to make it there someday as well. Right now my practice needs to meet the pavement where I commute daily, in hope that my passengers will benefit.

Cheers.

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Filed under Buddhism, Parenting, Personal

Jataka Tales, Zen Practice, and Daily Life

 

 

Once long ago, when Brahmadatta still reigned in Benares, the bodhisattva was born as a crow. In time he became the leader of a great, raucous troop of crows, nearly a thousand strong, that lived in the cemetery…

So starts The Wise Crow Jataka, presented in Chapter 6 of Endless Path. The Jataka tales are a collection of stories that supposedly tell the tales of Shakyamuni Buddha’s many previous lives. The Buddha appears in many forms, from God to crow, and from King to beggar. An obvious moral teaching can be at the heart of each tale, similar in some respects to Aesop’s fables. From my experience, in Western convert communities, the Jataka tales are generally seen as children’s stories, rather than important moral lessons for all practitioners. Enter Rafe Martin.

Rafe Martin is the author of several books, including The Banyan Deer, Straight to the Heart of Zen, and One Hand Clapping: Zen Stories for All Ages. With Endless Path, Martin has found 10 Jataka tales that relate directly to the 10 paramitas (also known as the 10 perfections). In so doing, he brings them off the children’s shelf and into the lives of every modern-day Buddhist, young and old.

The he uses is almost like that of a koan. First he presents the Jataka, each one given fresh new life as an original telling, all with a dash of Zen. Then he spends a few pages extolling commentary on each one. Martin’s commentary stays with the contemporary theme in order to reach a modern audience as diverse as the characters we find in the Jatakas. This is definitely the first Buddhist book that I’ve ever read with references to President Obama, iPods, and 9/11. His commentary roams from personal narrative to a bit of Buddhist history, and covers the morals, ethics, and finer details of each tale wonderfully.

Rafe Martin breathes fresh new life into these wonderful old tales, and in doing so, provides us with a much-needed perspective into our individual lives and practice. He doesn’t really touch on whether or not these stories actually took place. Certainly there are those out there that believe they did, and there are many out there that see them as nothing more than folklore and stories left over from a far-away culture. Instead, Martin prefers taking up the task of telling each story, and bringing out its full potential to a modern audience. It doesn’t really seem to matter here if the tales are true or not, because they are reflections on our own lives, here and now. In his commentary, Martin shows that each Jataka stands on its own, fiction or non, because the lessons we take from them can affect us deeply, here and now.

Something we fail to realize is that this life, right here, now, is a Jataka in the making. We might not be a talking crow or a monkey king, but we do each have our own stories of struggle developing these 10 perfections, developing the life of a Buddha. Something that I appreciated while reading these tales was how much the Buddha struggled through his previous lives! It wasn’t always so easy for him, and sometimes he failed miserably. It should give us hope then, that the struggles we work through here in this life are not just the mud of life, but they have the potential to become the very thing that drives us on this difficult path we walk.

I wholeheartedly recommended Endless Path to any practitioner out there. There are lessons we can all take away from these Jatakas and Martin’s commentary on them. As I said, these tales are for people of all ages. So those of you out there with children have the added bonus of being able to read these tales to them, and maybe create your own commentary, something that touches you and your family.

 

Cheers.

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Filed under Book Review, Buddhism

Happy Birth-Day

Welcome to the world Zoa Lilith Reed. You came into my life at 4:17pm on September 29th. You weighed 10lbs 6oz and were 22 inches long with a full head of hair.

I haven’t stopped loving you since, nor will I ever.

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Filed under Parenting, Personal

Life!

Life has had me very busy these past few weeks. We had been planning on having a c-section scheduled for our daughter that is due to arrive in the next couple of weeks. Turns out that is no longer necessary, which is a huge relief. But that still means that lots of preparations have to be made, and a lot of my deadlines have been moved up at work. I have a few posts in the works, but my internet use has been fairly sporadic.

Speaking of internet use, I’ve created a little tumblr account. Photography is something I’ve always been mildly interested in but never really pursued. Lately I’ve had the bug to take more photos and focus on it a bit more. To showcase some of those photos (as well as force me to take some so I’ll have something to post) I created Dharma Snapshots. Nothing fancy. Just some photos that I’ve taken and liked, as well as some teeny tiny dharma tidbits I find and enjoy. Feel free to look around there. I’ve added a link up at the top of this blog that will take you directly there.

Cheers.

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I’m a big teary-eyed moose

 

As many of my readers know, my wife is pregnant. In about a month, we’ll be welcoming our daughter into the world. And I can’t stop crying.

There is a term for this, couvade syndrome, it’s when a man who lives with a pregnant woman suffers from some of the same physical and emotional symptoms that his partner does. With my wife’s first pregnancy, it was food cravings. I gained about 15 lbs during my son’s gestation. But this time around, I’m just a big teary-eyed moose.

I can’t help it. Anything remotely emotional makes me well up. I get all sappy and the waterworks start flowing at least half a dozen times a day. We watched the movie “The Unborn” (terrible, terrible scary movie) the other night, and I started to cry because I thought about how the demon boy wouldn’t be able to play with other little kids his age, on account of being possessed by a demon and all. Today it was leaving for work, and having to say goodbye to my son. I started to cry a bit in the car.

It is really silly, and I can’t control it. I wish it would have been the food thing again.

It’s happening right now, for no good goddamned reason.

I’d like to say this has given me some profound insight into something. But it hasn’t. It’s mostly just made me cry a lot for no good reason. I suppose it could be worse. Some men gain up to 30 lbs, experience vomiting, and sometimes breast augmentation or hardening of the nipples.

Those poor men. Makes me wanna cry.

 

 

Cheers.

 

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In a fog

Oregon Coast

 

Fog rolling in thick, endless beyond sight

A steady ebb

A steady flow of water eroding away the rocks one by one

Nature taking its course without the approval of the rocks

They only want to feel the warmth of the sun.

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My baptism: growing up in a spiritual community

My childhood church - Ascension Lutheran Church, Saginaw, MI

Recently my dad sent me some of my stuff that he had been holding on to. A copy of my birth certificate and immunization record. My handprints. And a certificate from my baptism, along with that Sunday’s church bulletin.

I was baptized in a Lutheran church about two months after I was born. The prayer for the day upon entering the church was

Almighty Lord, you are aware of our problems. When troubles thicken, you do not desert us. We need to be reminded of your presence, your willingness to remain with us, even through suffering and pain. Help us to remember; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, within our world today. Amen

The memories I have of that church are mostly all fond. Sure, when I was real little I hated putting on those stupid itchy clothes, but I can always remember finding something to enjoy when we were there. Most of the time it was the children’s sermon, a time during the service where the pastor would call all the children up to the front of the church and he would tell a story for them. I always liked that.

On that particular Sunday, a few hymns were sung. A few verses were read. The theme of the sermon that day was ” Faithful Examples”. The choir sang. Then my baptism. Obviously, I don’t remember it. But I do remember attending a few later on in life. They were fairly simple ceremonies. My parents would have stood there with me, and I’m sure an Aunt and Uncle and my Grandparents were there as well. The pastor would have said a few words, splashed my head with a little water, then dried me off with a baptismal cloth (which my dad also sent along). The concept of god-parents is present in the Lutheran faith, but we didn’t put as much stock in it as the Catholic tradition tends to. After that, another song or two, and service was over.

There is some more information included in the bulletin. That week, Mr. Landskroener was serving in the nursery, and Mr. and Mrs. Colpean donated that week’s flowers. You see, in my church, there was a strong sense of community. In the back of the church there was the “cry room” where mothers could take crying babies to quiet them or nurse them and still listen to the service through a speaker (there was  a large window there for them to watch as well). The nursery was there for kids that couldn’t sit still (toddlers mostly) so that parents could attend service and not have to worry about a sitter. Every week near the altar there were was a fresh arrangement of flowers donated by someone in the church.

Later in the bulletin the week’s events were listed. Tuesday was 7th and 8th grade catechism class. Wednesday youth choir (which I was later a part of) practiced. Friday the Luther-League mini-retreat began, and it ended sometime on Saturday in time for adult volleyball at the middle school gym. That next Sunday in March there was a couple’s home bible study at the Sanders’ house.

This is the church I grew up in. There was a strong sense of community, albeit relaxed. For the most part, no one was really pressured to attend or made to feel worse for missing a week or not attending bible study. Of course there were a few busy-bodies that fueled the stereotypical church-gossip, but they were in the minority and easy to ignore. Never once did I hear a fire a brimstone style sermon. They were always inspirational (though many times boring to an 8-year-old) and meaningful. I have an extremely hard time relating to the fundamental Christians I see carrying signs that say “God hates Fags” and the ones found on internet discussions condemning all non-believers to Hell. I never knew that.

My dad rarely went to church growing up, preferring instead to stay home and work on the yard, fix the house, all those dad type things that dads have to do. But when he did go and get involved, it always seemed to me like he was doing it out of obligation to the community, rather than service to God. My church community consisted of families. Families that knew each other and their children. People you would stop and talk to if you saw them in the grocery store. So it may come as no surprise that when I decided to no longer tread the Christian path that I wasn’t rebelling against the church. I never had a problem with church. My problem was with the belief system.. It just never really ever made sense to me, and never really spoke to me.

This idea of a spiritual community is something that my wife Alex and I have been searching out for some time, and have yet to really find one. I hope to find such an environment for my children to grow up in. One that fosters their spirituality and sense of community. I feel that it’s important for my children (and my self and wife) to experience something like that. It might not end up being a Buddhist community, as we both hold other spiritual beliefs as well. But being a part of something that shows them how to be in service to something greater to themselves (the community) and fulfills their spiritual needs is an experience I think they should experience.

Cheers.

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Wordless Wednesday – with words

We live in a 2nd floor apartment, so when it gets hot out outside, it turns our living space into an oven. So we decided to get Corbin this little pool to play in on our balcony. It’s the best we can do for the moment, and he enjoys the hell out of it.

Cheers.

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Welcome!

Thank you for checking out my new blog, Fly Like a Crow.

First, what’s up with the name?

Check out the ‘About’ page at the top for more info on that. And take a moment to explore the other pages as well. They’re short and sweet, I promise.

So what is this blog about?

Beyond what you read on the about page, it will be a place to write and blog on a myriad of topics. Primarily, I’ll be focusing on Buddhism, and my family/being a father. I actually see these two things as being parallel lines on the same track of “me”. They are both an evolving practice where I work towards perfection. Every day brings a new challenge, struggle, and usually some success.

I might just try my hand at some more poetry here. It’s something I’ve only dabbled in before, and has been a long time since I’ve really written any.

I’m going to toss in some politics from time to time. Nothing hateful, no right vs. left narratives. There are plenty of those to go around.

I’ll continue to review books here, whether they get sent to me by authors or publishers, or ones that I just happen to purchase myself.

And there’s a slight possibility that I might get philosophical from time to time. I also might throw in some sutra study that I’ve been working on.

And sometimes, I’ll just throw up a picture or two. I’m also going to try to include a picture with more of my posts in general, and I’m going to try to only use ones that I’ve taken.

Whatever happens, it will flow naturally. Like my previous blogging endeavours, I have no ambitions to blog daily. Once, twice a week is about all I can muster given work and family responsibilities (and enjoying time with my family).

So, take a look around. You’ll notice all of my old posts from the past, minus a few I wasn’t proud of at all. Feel free to subscribe via RSS or email (head to the footer) and feel free to add this blog to your blog roll if you feel so inclined. Thank you for stopping by.

Cheers.

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A good day at the park

A good day at the park always ends in a face full of dirt

 

Cheers.

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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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Why you should(n’t) be a parent

Of the many hats I wear, “Father” is the one that feels most comfortable. I must admit that I was (am?) scared shitless when I found out that I was going to be a dad a little over 2 years ago. How could I be a Dad? How could I afford it? Can I still party hard? Did I have to put away my Tool CDs in favor of Barney or whatever other monstrosity was being marketed to kids these days? Would my wife and I still be able to maintain our close relationship? So many thoughts, mostly worries, ran through my head those first few months. And I really had no idea what to expect. No one does. My wife is due again in September, and I’ve been able to finally reconcile with myself that I have no idea what to expect this time around, and that revelation is okay.

But for the 4 of you out there that read this blog and don’t have children, I thought I’d put together a little list of reasons as to why you shouldn’t have kids. People that have kids and those that don’t live in two completely different worlds, and I thought this might put into perspective just how different things can be. The responsibilities are endless and paramount, but there are lessons to be learned along the way.

So without further ado, here are some reasons as to why you shouldn’t have kids (and if you stick around, there might be a few reasons as to why you should).

1. You shouldn’t have kids if you value sleep. I seriously haven’t slept more than 4 or 5 hours straight in almost 2 years. Routinely I’m only getting about 5 hours of sleep a night. And with another child on the way, I can look forward to not sleeping through the night for another two years or so. Yippee! Though I have heard rumors that they now make kids that learn to fall asleep, and I’m considering trading mine in for one of those…

2. You shouldn’t have kids if you value your free time. Because, there is no free time. There is only parenting time, work, and sleep. Sure, after the kids go to bed you can sit around, watch some TV, read or whatever, but usually for us that means fall down on couch exhausted. Might be partially due to the fact that Corbin never, ever slows down. His thirst for knowledge and inquisitive nature lead him to be constantly discovering and running around. The kid is a sponge. He’s just under 18 months and can count to 10, read letters in succession, name 16+ species of dinosaurs and 20 Marvel super heros. That’s not me bragging (I have no idea what other kids his age are fixated on) that’s just examples of the things he soaks up. He didn’t settle with just learning Spider Man  and Allasaurus, he wanted to know about Hulk and Rouge (he has a Marvel super hero poster, he calls them “super guys”) and pteranodon and diplodocus (dinosaur book). He simply has to know these things. He needs constant stimulation or he gets frustrated. Also, he’s pretty young, and not quite to the “hey I’ll just play in my room for the next hour” phase yet. Also, he figured out how to dismantle the baby gate, so there is no more baby prison around my place.

3. You shouldn’t have kids if you enjoy having extra cash. This one is a given. Extra mouths require extra food which requires diapers and clothes and toys and co-pays and Iron Man plates and boxes of crayons and an endless supply of paper.

So, okay those are pretty ubiquitous when it comes to parenting, and most people know (at least in some part) that these things will happen going in. But then there are a ton of little things as well. Like heading to a friend’s house that isn’t baby-proofed. And I’m not even talking about locks on drawers, but just stuff lying around in arms reach of my toddler. You put your child’s safety and your friend’s CD/faberge egg/replica Tie Fighter collection at risk. So then rather than visiting, you spend most of your time corralling.

Or then there’s shopping. It used to be we could head to 5-6 different grocery/supply stores in one day to do all of our shopping, but that can’t happen anymore. Now we can hit a max of about 3 (maybe 4) stores because we have to take into consideration his nap time, snack time, bed time, diaper changes, and general fussiness about being locked in a car seat/shopping kart for a few hours. Having kids can be a pain in the ass! There, I said it.

The point is, having a child doesn’t just change your life, it becomes your life. It affects who you are and what you do in every way imaginable (and many that aren’t). It used to be that scary/sad movies didn’t affect me much. But now I start to well up anytime I see a child in danger, getting abused or when anything bad happens to a kid on TV (or in the news). I am no longer Adam. I am now Daddy. And it is through this filter that I now view life.

With this change comes an opportunity to examine our selves. Parenting, much like Buddhism, is a process of discovery. We can look at ourselves and ask, “okay, why is it that I feel that having kids can be a pain in the ass sometimes?” Usually it comes down to an inconvenience, laziness, apathy, not being able to be okay with the present moment, or some such thing. You’re then able to uncover the motivations behind those excuses and really dredge some shit up. Which can then lead to the revelation that you loathe the person looking back at you in the mirror, because the person you see is a reflection of a person you don’t want to be. And that’s a good thing.

It’s a good thing because at that point, you’re able to actually do something about the “problems” and baggage we’re carrying around with us. You have to be a little disgusted by yourself to effect some change in your life. At this point you can then begin the process of striving for the change you are looking for. Those excuses you came up with about why it’s so damn hard to wake up in the middle of the night and why you’d rather be golfing with friends than feeding your kid dinner suddenly start to look ridiculous upon evaluation. They don’t go away overnight (or ever?), but you can begin to see them for what they are: hindrances. They hinder your ability to fully embrace this moment with kind-heartedness and acceptance. They hinder your ability to produce the end results you fantasize about (rather than put into action). And they hinder your ability to live with the love you usually feel about being a parent. Because even though the responsibilities of being a parent are enormous, a majority of the time we are able to embrace them with joy and a smile.

So if you can get over all the crap you have to deal with as a parent (which you may just fall in love with), that I talked about in the beginning of this post you might find there is a greater source of joy out there than you could ever imagine and discover quite a bit about yourself along the way.  For for me, that simple joy comes from moments like these, moments I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for:

 

 

 

Cheers.

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More than just a weed…


Witnessing the joy your child finds in pulling up dandelions at the park does two things. First, it makes parenting worth it. It makes the sleepless nights, frustration, and absence of “adult time” all worth the effort and sacrifice. It’s hard to see that sometimes.

Second, in those moments, the entire world melts away, and it is just you and your child. Smiling. Engulfed in a moment. Equanimity.

And then he puts a ladybug in his mouth.

Cheers.

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The Laundry Monster strikes again…

(This is one of a few posts I’m importing from another blog I recently closed down)

Tuesday.

It’s there on the couch. Staring at me. Growing by the day. I shove it over to one side of the couch so that I can watch something on Netflix. But it’s still there. It’s not going anywhere on it’s own. I’d like it to. I’d like that pile of laundry to grow laundry arms, and laundry legs, and go fold itself and put itself away where it belongs. It’s not budging.

I could take care of it today. It’s not too big of a pile right now. Look, a couple of towels. Fold those and the pile gets quite small. Eh. I just got a new Xbox game and I need to play it.

Thursday. The laundry monster has been feasting.

I have to stack the clothes on top of each other in order to clear off the couch. Even then, it’s a tight squeeze for my wife and I to fit on the couch. So much laundry. Plenty of time to take care of it, but if we don’t watch this Netflix movie today, we won’t get a new movie in the mail on Saturday, and then what will we do?

Friday.

Can’t find a pair of matching socks. Grey and tan it is. I don’t have time to fight the laundry monster. I’m already late for work. Such a huge pile. I should have folded this shit earlier.

Saturday.

Corbin is taking a nap. Time to kill the beast. With my wife and I tackling the monster, we make short work of it. Towels.

             Dish rags.

                              Lonely socks.

                                                     Clothes hung in the closet.

A sense of accomplishment, followed by a sense of shame. Should’ve. Should’ve folded it Monday. Should’ve folded it Thursday. Could’ve taken care of it right then and there. Now I’ll have to iron just about all my clothes this week. Could’ve spent that half hour on Saturday doing something more constructive with my wife. Should’ve spent that half hour on Saturday doing something more constructive with my wife. Instead I allowed it to pile up. I fed the monster.

This week, I shall starve the monster.

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