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June 20, 2007

the chalzay done right

My sister says that the little butter and oatmeal sculpture (called a chalzay) she did yesterday wasn't quite right. For one thing we used oatmeal from my kitchen and it's better to use supplies just for the offering. Then, evidently, on the little disks, the colors are supposed to go from light to dark with the white dot in the middle. So, she fixed it:

NewChalzay 002

She's very satisfied with the new chalzay. What is a chalzay? It's just meant to be some kind of pretty food offering. Those little things at the bottom are supposed to represent jewels, but who knows what the rest of it is supposed to signify. Usually everything in vajrayana buddhism means something, so I was a little surprised when she said, "Those disks are just for decoration. It's supposed to be pretty."

Then, you throw it out for the animals to eat when you're done. I bet we'll have some very happy butter eating raccoons by the end of retreat.

June 19, 2007

chöpa nadun

ChopaNadun 015

After my sister and I went downtown, I went to a business meeting, and then we had a wicked Italian lunch at the Pink Door.

Then, when we got home, our retreat started. We are not leaving the hood until Thursday.

She said it would be nice to clean the shrine and do a nice offering, so we did a traditional offering called a chöpa nadun. It's a symbolic offering you do in the bowls normally used for water offering. They represent the eight offerings you'd make to an honored guest in ancient India: drinking water, water for washing the feet, flowers, incense, light, perfume, elegant food, and music.

ChopaNadun 002

So, I meticulously cleaned the shrine table, infused the water with saffron and made a little flower arrangement in one of the tiny bowls. While I was doing this, she made this traditional food offering sculpture made out of outmeal, food coloring, toothpicks, and mostly butter. It was pretty cool to watch her sculpt the butter and mix all these colors in ice water. It was a great effort and it came out looking so pretty.

ChopaNadun 008

Now my shrine looks so authentic and we can have a little retreat.

April 17, 2006

1/2 of retreat (the first half)

So, 15 days of my little retreat. I'm just here to report from Fortress Talsky and talk about how it's going in here.

First of all, I'm paying the bills. So far I've been able to hustle work and keep on task well enough to get paid decent. A trip to Ireland? A little 150cc scooter? Health insurance? All these luxuries could be within my grasp this year!

I've been meditating. I've been observing my ethical disciplines. Mostly.

meditation

Have I been meditating every morning and every night before I go to bed? No. Most mornings. I start the coffee water and grind the beans and then I meditate until the electric water pot clicks. That's a big improvement for me. It's really hard for me to meditate in the morning. I don't know if it helps. It seems to. I feel like less of a jerk or something.

Except I bitched out saltcellar about something stupid and that was pretty jerky. That's pretty mild for me though. And at night...I usually manage to sit. Sometimes not. Tonight I'm going to, just to start the second half of the retreat off right.

Have I been faithfully going to meditation church on wednesday nights? Yes. That's been good. Although I did get this one cute meditation girl's email address. I hope that doesn't invalidate the meditation. Hehehehe.

stealing

Have I refrained from stealing? Yes. But I did go help the newly married Andrew Dunloy take scrap lumber from a jobsite in the middle of the night with flashlights. We did make sure we didn't take anything that looked usable and wasn't in a scrap pile though. I think we did okay. Me and Andy are good boys.

intoxicants

Have I refrained from indulging in intoxicants? Yes. But I did drink wine for Josh's seder two nights ago. It was part of the ceremony and I didn't feel like it was indulging. (There was also a shot of single-malt highland scotch though, and I don't know if that was technically part of the seder ceremony but let's say it was.) The seder was really amazing...I wish Josh had a website or something for his cool "plain english" Jewish teachings and outreach. It's pretty cool the way he explains it. Even the shiksas could understand.

This has actually been one of the nicest parts of the retreat. It makes life a little less expensive. And it's easier to get things done in the evening. I can go out partying and then come home at 11:30pm and work still if I feel like it. I don't know if it's helped my meditation but maybe it has. It's been mostly fun, actually. I've discovered I'm actually just as off the hook at parties even stone cold sober.

I actually bartended at Cara's cocktail party and was the sober one. Now I know why bartenders don't drink. Because people like to give the bartender a hard time and crack jokes and think they're real funny. But they're drunk. And the bartender is sober. So guess who gets in the last zinger 90% of the time? I get it now.

lying

Did I refrain from lying? Yeah. I did good. I was pretty mindful of this.

sexual misconduct

Yeah yeah. This is the hardest one of course. I tightened up the ship, but let's just say I went to the next level on this one. Sexual conduct is pretty subtle, and there were a couple of times I wondered if I had lived up to the highest standard.

the next half

Well, nothing to do for it but keep on chugging. Usually friends of mine find out about it when I tell them I'm not drinking or anything and they think it's all about that. It's really not. The ethical disciplines I try to do anyway. I'm just trying to step up my awareness of these things yet one notch higher and really pay attention to what I'm doing in my life.

I was going through some periods of real hopelessness and sadness for awhile there and felt like the walking wounded. It seems to be abating a bit, and I have a better handle on trying to run this life with humility and grace. I think. For the moment.

It's been a beautiful time for me, and it's been nice to have a virtuous focal point for my existance.

December 25, 2005

jc superstar

Neither will I tell you why by what authority I am doing these things.  - Matthew 21:27 NIV

...you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, "Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, do not swear at all: either by Heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, because it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot even make one hair white or black. Simply let your "Yes" be "Yes" and your "No", "No"; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.

It is also written, do not put the Lord your God to the test.

I am with you for only a short time, and then I will go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I go, you cannot come.

(rollover verses for attribution)

March 29, 2005

a proper cup of tea

Hold the sadness and pain of samsara in your heart and at the same time the power and vision of the Great Eastern Sun. Then the warrior can make a proper cup of tea.

trungpa1.jpg

-- Chogyam Trungpa

January 6, 2004

seeing my sister into three year retreat

It's been a few months in coming!

Here's my story about my sister:

momandsis.jpg

a stupa:

stupaandriver.jpg

and a retreat:

tossingthetorma.jpg

Enjoy!

November 13, 2003

3 years, 3 months, and 3 days

My sister has been one of the best companions I have ever met in this life.

Me, Lama Tashi Namgyal, and mi hermana Elisabeth.

I'm going to Wappinger Falls, New York to see my sister into three year retreat, the traditional retreat of the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

Here's the lama with all the gory details (excerpted):

Elisabeth Talsky, who is going into three year three month retreat on
Sunday, took vows this morning and has already begun to receive the
preliminary transmissions for the retreat. I spoke with Ani Sonam this
morning, who has been with Lama Norlha and has lived at Kagyu Thubten
Chling since its very inception in the late 1970's, and who participated in
the first three year three month retreat cycle beginning in 1981 or 1982 <
who said how impressed she was with Elizabeth over all as a dharma person.

In particular she said how impressive her chanting was, that she had a great
voice and was going to be a great Omze (chant master), that she seemed
already to have memorized almost all of the morning and evening pujas
(amounting together to approximately four hours of rather fast non-stop
chanting), that she picked up the cymbals this morning (which is what the
chant master plays) and was a natural, and finally that she had learned how
to perform all of the duties of the shrine master during pujas (which are
many and varied, including torma making, etc.) She said how impressed she
was with people like Elisabeth who showed up a year before retreat and
prepared themselves properly, as opposed to people who showed up at the last
minute.

What all of this means is that Elisabeth will enter retreat being
able to chant without any problem virtually all of the daily practice that
is maintained throughout the retreat the variety of pujas and prayers I
mentioned in my last e-mail and will only have to learn the core
curriculum, which they will be taught progressively during the retreat and
which the retreatants will practice in their rooms by themselves during the
four main meditation periods. So going in, Elisabeth is in very good shape
with respect to what she is going to have to know and do on a daily basis.

If you would like to support Elisabeth's retreat in any manner, by making a
one time contribution, by making a monthly contribution, by check or by
credit card or by automatic monthly credit card deduction, Sonam says it can
all be done. All contributions, if they are made payable to Kagyu Thubten
Chling (KTC for short), are tax deductible. Contact:

Kagyu Thubten Choling.
245 Sheafe Road Wappingers Falls, New York 12590 U.S.A.
Phone: (845) 297-2500 Fax: (845) 297-5761

Sonam emphasized that no amount of dollars should be considered too little.

In all cases, either on your check or in your letter, you need to indicate
that your contribution is being made in support of Elisabeth Talsky's
retreat. (Her name really is spelled with an "s")

Thank you all very kindly. May blessings be upon you, and may you always
meet with auspicious opportunities for the study and practice of dharma!
Many Tashi Deleks and Sarva Mangalams, I remain affectionately and
devotedly,

Lama Tashi Namgyal

...I got all my sista's with me!

May 25, 2003

sparing rats, eating sausage

rats_and_sausage.jpg

In response to a comment on my last post:

Is the karma still there if you hire someone else to do it? Cause you're only indirectly causing the pain and suffering (which you do every time you eat meat)...I guess I have a hard time understanding that it's ok in your world to eat chicken or lamb but not to set a trap for a rat....but hey - we all have our hypocrisies. -- L. Beth 'Suki "Tsunami"' Yockey

Beth and I have gone back and forth on this. For the record, she does eat fish, but I'm sure she would have little problem killing vermin.

So the question before me is, what is the difference between eating meat and killing a rat.

Involvement with Death

Well, for one thing, it is quite impossible to be on this earth and be uninvolved with death. Our lives work to kill others in thousands of indirect ways. Even the vegan's food habits involve a harvesting process that kills an uncountable amount of small insects. I think there's a certain habit of even many people to value the life of a cow over the life of a rat or spider or even an aphid or tick.

One could arguably say that for sheer lethality, purchasing gasoline for your car has the most bang for your buck.

Yes, I Really Like Sausage

So when I go to the store am I hiring someone to kill the animals for me? I don't think so, exactly. Unfortunately, if I stopped eating meat tomorrow, the stockyards in Chicago would hardly grind to a halt. Would it have some influence? Probably, but that has to be weighed against some other factors. I do, at least, buy from vendors who support ethical treatment of animals (if slaughtering them can, on the whole, be considered ethical).

Traditionally, the Tibetans, who can't get much to grow up in the mountains of Tibet except for some hardy strains of barley, live off of yaks. They eat the butter, and they historically bought the meat from Muslim butchers. Tibetans also do seem to have some weird guidelines. They'll buy meat, but they won't eat an animal that was killed just for them. They prefer to eat larger animals like yaks and such, because you get a lot more meals out of a cow than a shrimp.

However, the Tibetans also have an incredible sense of reverence towards meat, and there are special prayers said when meat is present at a meal in order to make a positive spiritual connection with the animal. They have an attitude that on the whole, for them to eat meat and use that energy to benefit to benefit beings, that the eating of meat is of a sum benefit to beings.

They're Vermin!

So why the big deal about killing a rat, then? Just do it with the attitude that the sum benefit to beings will be greater than letting it live, and then it's easily justified, right?

Well, everyone has to make their own choices. The way my lama presented it to me was that it was a great deal more harm to one's cultivation of meditative stability and compassion to stalk and kill a being than it is to eat meat with compassion. No being wants to be killed, and in a sense you have to close your mind to a being in order to kill it.

And let me tell you about the process. It's been a difficult experience to let this rat live, when it only grows bolder by the day, and it's a lot of work and money to try and capture it. But I've had to take a hard look at what exactly the problem is with just coexisting with the rat. I've had to take its needs and desires into account in some way, and really face my knee-jerk revulsion.

That knee-jerk hatred towards another being is really an obstacle to compassion for all beings, I think. Now, I realize that I can't in good conscience allow the rat to continue to live here. It causes damage to property that I am renting, it is a health hazard, and it freaks out guests.

So today we bought tupperware containers, a securable kitchen garbage can, and a live trap. Wish us luck.

But tonight I am eating bacon. Is this hypocrisy? I guess so, but it's not just intentional blindness. I have thought about all sides of the issue and have tried to come to a reasonable decision. I hope I have.

February 8, 2003

snowbuddhas

snowbuddhas.jpg

Nate hails me from Mount Tuam.

July 16, 2002

dhammapada six

Better than a meaningless statement of a thousand words is a single word which, when heard, produces peace.

Better then a thousand verses that pile up meaningless remarks is a single verse of deep meaning which, when heard, produces peace.

Better than reciting a hundred verses that have no meaning is reciting one verse of Dharma which, when heard, produces peace.

The one who has conquered himself is a far greater hero than the one who has defeated a thousand times a thousand men.

Beings who have mastered themselves move always with restraint. How much better to conquer oneself than to conquer a host of others!

June 30, 2002

looks like family

looks just like it

June 25, 2002

dhammapada five

If you cannot find a companion equal to or better than yourself, journey alone - do not travel with a fool.

The fool busies himself thinking: "These are my sons, this wealth is mine." But he does not even belong to himself, so what can be said of sons and wealth?

A fool aware of being a fool knows at least that much. But the fool who is proud of his knowledge deserves to be called a fool.

A fool may associate with the wise for the entire length of his life, but he will never understand the Dharma. Can the ladle taste the soup?

A sensible man may meet with the wise for only a moment or two, he quickly understands the Dharma, just as the tongue tastes the soup.

June 24, 2002

dhammapada four

Just as a bee extracts the flower's nectar without disturbing the flower's color or scent, the Sage moves through town and quickly passes on.

Do not reflect upon the missteps of others, their deeds and misdeeds, but rather look upon what you yourself have done and left undone.

June 23, 2002

dhammapada three

Living for the pursuit of pleasure, senses endlessly stimulated, all appetites fed, undisciplined and lazy, you will be blown away by Mara, poweless, like a twig in a storm.

Aware of the unpleasant side of life, senses controlled and appetites contained, full of faith and effort, you are like a mountain of rock in a storm, and Mara cannot touch you.

June 18, 2002

dhammapada two

"They would harm me. They would embarrass me. They would rob me. they would defeat me." Those who think in such a way will never be released from their hatred.

"They would harm me. They would embarrass me. They would rob me. they would defeat me." Those who do not think in such a way will be released from their hatred.

Your enemies will never make peace in the face of hatred - it is the absence of hatred that leads to peace. This is an eternal truth.

We are but guests visiting this world, though most do not know this. Those who see the real situation, no longer feel inclined to quarrel.

June 15, 2002

dhammapada one

Buddha sayz:

All things have the nature of mind. Mind is the chief and takes the lead. If mind is clear, whatever you do will bring you happiness that will follow you like your shadow.

All things have the nature of mind. Mind is the chief and takes the lead. If the mind is polluted, whatever you do or say leads to suffering, which will follow you, as a cart trails a horse.

June 13, 2002

om, allah! the spiritual survey

Well, this is to be my last post before buddha camp, and then I shall hand you over to my able guest curator of the tinyblog.

Before I go though, since the surveys seem to really make people happy, I think I'll do a little survey to send off. As before, if you post answers, please leave a link in comments so I can read them when I get back. I may do some kind of weekly survey then...

Om, Allah! The Spiritual Survey

1. Do you believe in God? I mean like...a being that embodies all goodness that one can relate to personally, not some amorphous 'jedi force' principle.

2. If you have some other conception of God then as a being, then what does it look like? How do you interface with it? Do you have some kind of persistant connection to it?

3. What (if any) established faiths do you participate in, or have dabbled in, or have observed enough to get some insight into?

4. What is your view on religeous traditions?

5. What do you make of John 14:6? 'Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' (NIV)

6. Either inside or outside these traditions, what can one do to deepen their connection to their life or spirituality?

7. Do you believe that there is some stream of conciousness that continues after your biological body becomes a corpse, or do you believe that conciousness is an illusion generated by biological processes that will stop when those processes stop? Feel free to elaborate. (Simple version: do you die completely or continue on?)

8. How (if at all) do your spiritual beliefs alter or influence your behavior?

9. How do you think spirituality relates to sexual conduct? What is the highest purpose of sex?

10. What do you think is the purpose of a human life? How do you think you are fulfilling it?

11. What makes you get up and keep doing it every day? Are there any circumstances under which you would want to stop doing so?

12. What is the most important thing life has taught you? (Please no platitudes...I'd rather hear something very small and personal life has taught you than a rehash of The Golden Rule.)

Hope that gives you something to chew on.

Be nice to Shauna, she's my baby.

buddha camp 2002

Buddha Camp 2002 is what Shauna calls my upcoming retreat. It doesn't really have a name, but the teaching is on part of a new english translation of a classic (and exhaustive) Tibetan Buddhist text called Mahamudra: The Ocean of Definitive Meaning, which is a shortened version of it's more literally translated title, 'The Profound Instructions on the Definitive Meaning, Mahamudra, Connate Union: The Radiant Activity of the Essence of the Ocean of Definitive Meaning'.

A friend, as we were out for dinner with some friends, asked me the very succinct question of, "What the hell does that mean?"

"Well," I said, after some careful consideration, "I'm afraid that's beyond the scope of this discussion."

You know, it's not like I think it's just SO DEEP or anything...it's just that it's a pretty foreign presentation of reality, and to understand it, a little bit of groundwork has to be laid. Most people just want to hear enough so they can argue semantics, convince themselves that there's some sort of logical flaw in it, and then go back to being too cool to align themselves with any particular spiritual tradition. Which is cool, but as a result I'm a little gunshy. I don't explain unless it seems like people are really interested.

Are you interested? Many of the teachings that introduced me to these concepts are edited, transcribed, and published as a periodical called Shenpen Osel. There's links there to pdf's of each issue. I recommend Volume 1 Issue 1, Volume 2 Issue 1, and Volume 3 Issue 1 in that order. That's a lot of reading. If you're still remotely interested after that, then talk to me. Hehehehehe.

Another great way to learn a little bit about modern Buddhist thought is to read some Chogyam Trungpa. They just released the amazing The Essential Chogyam Trungpa, and that's a good place to start where that's concerned.

Want something sweet and calming and gentle and loving and simple? You can't do much better than Thich Naht Hanh.

I hope that helps anyone who is genuinely interested.

June 10, 2002

heads up

The time has come for that once a year that I go look at the very messy situation of my mind, and do not do any working or computering. It's the time when I go on retreat. I'll be gone from the 14th to the 24th somewhere in the wilds of Canada. (They have ducks on their money!)

Unlike last year, when I just put up a little static page while I was gone, I'm going to keep the blog going, in absentia.

To accomplish this, I am enlisting the help of a very special guest curator of the tinyblog. Yes, it's none other than Shauna of What's New Pussycat. She will providing the...well, whatever she feels like providing while I'm gone, interspersed with some canned posts I wrote in advance.

So...if there's anything you want me to know about or do between now and the end of the month, now is really the time to tell me, as I'm only going to be around for a few more days.

You can also read the posts I wrote about last year's retreat if you're so inclined:
not killing the mice.
i didn't mean to kill the mouse.
are you eyeballin' me boy?

February 20, 2002

sayings of buddha (in flash!)

If you want to get a general sense of what Buddhism is basically about, but don't want to tax yourself with paragraph after paragraph of reading, take a look at a little introduction to the teachings of Buddha Sakyamuni accompanied by some pretty little drawings in this lovely flash comic about the basics of the Buddha's teachings. So nice, perfect for a lunch break at a stressful day.

September 26, 2001

the way of all civilized people

The Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche The Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche The Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche

Realized Tibetan teachers are known for composing dohas, or spontaneous songs of enlightenment. The Tibetan siddha Milarepa is said to have composed 100,000 of them in his lifetime.

Following the incredible goings down of September 11th, The Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu rinpoche, a lama, and incredibly learned man, wrote this doha about it at Oxford Thrangu House in Boulder, CO. I thought it was so cool that I wanted to share it (in translation) with the rest of the web community:

We are obliged to cherish and protect this world,
The place we humans have our home.
So why pointlessly destroy any source
Of our world's prosperity?

May the truth of all Buddhas in the ten directions
Help bring an end to all such deluded actions.
May raising the attitude of love and compassion
Help peace and happiness spread throughout the world.

The way of all civilized people
Is to protect one's life and precious body.
How pitiful to cast away and destroy it
In the delusion that it may be used as a weapon.

May the nectar of Truth, calm and soothing,
Completely pacify such violent intent.
May the attitude of love and compassion
Blossom in all people throughout the world.

The way of noble people is to help others
And the universal norm is to protect oneself.
May the pitiful wish to destroy both self and others,
Such an unwholesome thought and deed fade forever.

May the truthful speech of bodhisattvas and virtuous people,
The truthful speech of the pure nature of reality,
Promote peace and harmony here in our world
So that everyone might enjoy the wealth of happiness and well-being.


This is also a man who, when asked if he was ever angry at the Chinese for occupying Tibet, he said, "No, they were just doing their job, which was to shoot at me, and I was doing my job, which was to run for my life."

September 15, 2001

in those who harbour such thoughts hatred is not appeased

``He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,'' in those who harbour such thoughts hatred is not appeased.

"He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,'' in those who do not harbour such thoughts hatred is appeased.

Hate is not overcome by hate; by Love (Metta) alone is hate appeased. This is an eternal law.

The others know not that in this quarrel we perish; those of them who realise it, have their quarrels calmed thereby.

- The Dhammapada - Yammakavagga - The Pairs
(verses 2, 3)

September 1, 2001

last retreat note (are you eyeballin' me boy?)

The Lama gave this kind of brilliant teaching today of a certain kind he sometimes does. He just sort of lays out the whole Buddhist path and how it relates to a modern westerner trying to do it sincerely. I so wish you could have been there to hear it.

It reminds me that to be a dharma practitioner and practice these strange 1300 year old (or so) teachings where some of the time one meditates on 4-armed white men of light sitting on a lotus moon seat is not such a silly, eccentric thing to do. In so many ways it is quite sensible, quite complete, and quite useful for working with the situation of the world one finds oneself in.

I sat next to the Lama today at lunch and stared at him, kind of marvelling at what he can lay down and the way he can handle questions about it. He looked up at me and stared at me for a long time. It reminded me of a time when I worked at the Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort in Colorado, in the kitchen.

There was this guy who lived there with his wife and 16 year-old daughter. He was sort of this stubborn old latter-day cowboy. He was a brusque, surly, alcoholic old coot who I suspect his wife and daughter secretly thought was a fool.

He had served the role of prep-cook/dishwasher before me, and evidently kept the kitchen quite spic and span, according to Jeff the Chef. So he would come into the kitchen every now and again and supervise me and make sure I was washing the walls right and so forth. He was honestly kind of fascinating and at that early point, I did have a fair amount of respect for him.

So one day he's there in the kitchen talking to Jeff the Chef and I'm looking at him intently and he turns around and talks to me about cleaning the kitchen...and I wasn't looking away. At all. It went on for about 10 seconds, with me patently refusing to drop my gaze, and then he stops what he was saying and pauses for a moment.

"Are you eyeballin' me, boy?"

I didn't know people said that anymore. I realized at that moment that I had been living in polite city society for too long, and this was in some ways a wake-up call. On one hand I could have continued to psychically stand up for myself and then said very cleverly, "Yup."

But then I realized I didn't really have the force to back it up, and that he might decide to very un-psychically smack me upside the head. I didn't say, "no suh," or anything, but I did look at the floor and avoid prolonged eye contact in the future.

I finally looked down from the Lama's gaze as well...but for much different reasons.

August 31, 2001

more notes from retreat (8-27-01)

more notes from retreat (8-27-01)

It took me awhile to get my shit together emotionally today. I had wierd, lonely, crazy dreams last night, and I woke up this morning to find that I had caused a mouse to be drowned in my own urine.

Freeform outdoor peeing is verboten here. I dunno if it's a smell thing, or an animal thing, or a not-defiling-the-retreat-land thing. In any case, it's either the outhouse, or plastic pee-pots that we bring down to the cabins, and then empty in the morning. I happened to take a pee-pot without a lid, and didn't go find a lid.

I went two days without emptying mine, or perhaps the poor guy would've been able to touch bottom and last until morning. Normally, a mouse wouldn't be able to get into one of them, but I place my little urine deathtrap partially beneath the two lowest stairs.

I woke up to a bit of a stomach ache. It was very cold and when I saw something big and black in my pee-pot, I hoped it was a leaf or something. Man, what a way to go.

Normally it feels so good to kick off my shoes on the shrine room porch as the gong to call people in is being struck...but today I was restless and my knees hurt. After meditation I didn't even get up, just sort of lounged there. The Lama came back in and started doing walking meditation. I joined him, and while doing something so simple, I immediately felt a little better. It was good to move my body.

I went outside and did some chi kung and then breakfast. Then the sun started to come up.

Time for kitchen duty.

August 30, 2001

the tinyblog returns

I am back! Some notes from retreat (yes, I could not help but blog):

I expected it to be a longer drive here, but much of the grunt work is done by the Tsawassen and Schwartz Bay Ferries. We only had to drive just past the Canadian border, about two hours.Then, off the Schwartz Bay Ferry, it's about 2 miles of regular road, and 6 miles up hill on a twisty, rocky dirt road that threatened to rip the pan from my Civic several times over.

Once up on the KDOL land, though, it was astounding. The air smells like wild honey and the view is tremendous. I quickly felt the amazing gravity of the place. I realized that it's a place that was built for the sole, pragmatic purpose of being a place where people can live and practice dharma. It is only the basic essentialsdining building, shrine toom, a kitchen/shower ("one shower every three days/ navy showers only"), a shrine room, and little cabins. The cabins have 2 neat little matresses, a little shrine table, and most importantly, doors that serve as effective barriers against mice and raccoons.

I have not seen any mice, but the local raccoon family is quite bold. We saw them several times in broad daylight hanging around the kitchen and the compost bin.

They are used to human beings who are trying to practice non-aggression, so they have little fear. If a door is left open, they will amble carefully in and nose around for food. Even the mice have little to fear. There are little traps stocked with peanut butter, but they merely confine the mice, and we have to check the traps periodically to make sure that they do not die of dehydration.

This may seem silly to some, but when you're sitting there trying to cultivate a state of mind that cares equally for every single being without prejudice and without exception...well, it's a little hypocritical to be setting deadly traps designed to crush the spines of a few little beings who committed the horrific sin of wanting to eat a bit of one's oatmeal.

June 21, 2001

a bit of Buddhist stuff

Question: Rinpoche, you mentioned tightening up our minds and toughening the edge of our awareness. Could you please say more to us about how we can do that?

Thrangu Rinpoche: Essentially the tough edge or sharp edge of awareness is the same thing as what is meant by effort in meditation. Sometimes when we meditate, we practice it and experience it as conscious relaxation of the mind into the meditative state. At other times meditation invloves a conscious and hard-headed refusal not to become distracted, as in the attitude, "I must not become distracted." At different times one should emphasize one or the other of these. In the situation where one needs to emphasize more effort, the one emphasizes a kind of sharpness of one's awareness, which is produced by this hard-headed intention, which is the refusal to space out.

May 21, 2001

it was some weekend, but it's monday and i'm in the fucking server room and my homework is clearly not going to get done tonight

Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche is in town. Goddamn this man is the real article. He gets up there in his little seat and teaches Dharma and jokes and clowns around in Tibetan and generally puts everyone at ease while he tells you that nothing is inherently existant, that the nature of your own mind is luminous clarity and how you can come to realize this in one lifetime. He's awfully convincing, and as far as I can tell, completely unflappable.

Then I get to work tonight and read my Email. Evidently the UPS alarm got blown over the weekend, and they don't want to pay security the extra hours to have someone hang out in there all night, so they decided to just let the night dispatcher do it, since they're here anyway...which is me. So I'm in the loud-ass, cold-ass, sterile-ass, non-microwave or fridge havin-ass server room all night blasting R L Burnside's Mr. Wizard and blogging.

I can't do my Java homework 'cause my computer is downstairs in distpatch and I sure as hell am not going to install the JDK on my Boss's fucking computer. Errrrr. Burnside makes me want to drink whiskey and fuck and swear like a sailor. Plus no coffee. Things could be worse though...at least I don't have to do anything I'm supposed to do...which is just fine with me, tonight.

May 12, 2001

tibetan summer

40 hours of work, 10 hours of class, x hours of internship, occaisional sleep, and a girlfriend are a bit much I think. If I wanted to find out where the limit is, I believe I have. I am SO looking forward to a summer off school to take a little of the pressure off. It is getting beautiful in Seattle, and the last two days have been these amazing, relaxed yummy days.

In spite of the madness of my schedule, I am somehow going to manage to attend all of the teachings that Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche is giving over the course of 10 days or so, in about a week. Magical. He is one amazing guy. He's just sort of this modern scholor and yogi.

There's something amazing about listening to teachings in Tibetan and then having them translated. They'll just go on for a while and the voice is kind of rhythmic and my mind just sort of tumbles about, thinking of the last bit that was translated, along with a big pudding of my regular thoughts. Sometimes I even nod off. Then suddenly the translator starts talking and you get to hear what the guy was going on about. What's really funny is that they usually understand enough English to hear when their jokes are being translated, and they always laugh at their own jokes in English.