I’m a bit behind in sending this out, but then I realized that the full moon is a perfect way to schedule my newsletter, much better than “the first of the month.”
Time and space are how we move through this world. In this digital age, we’ve gotten so attuned to our devices, whether they are smartphones or laptops or something else. The more digital we get, the less human we are…. that’s my feeling, anyway.
Over the past few months, I’ve been remembering how good it feels to pay attention to the moon. When I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was part of a small sangha (Buddhist community) that took full moon walks along a eucalyptus tree-lined trail in the Oakland hills. We would walk about 20 minutes in silence until we reached a certain overlook. Along the way, someone would ring a bell of mindfulness every so often. Then on the way back we took time to catch up on each other’s lives, renewing friendships and connections that might have been put aside in the busy-ness of the previous month.
In July, I co-led a full moon ceremony at the International Women’s Partnership for Peace and Justice center in northern Thailand. My co-conspirator for that ceremony was Nicole Sangsuree Barrett, an extraordinary young woman who was there for the Buddhist Education for Social Transformation course that I was helping to teach. Sangsuree was a gifted ceremonialist and she designed a beautiful ritual to support all of us to reconnect to the earth and with each other. Just five days later, Sang was killed instantly when she was hit by a car in Chiang Mai.
As you might imagine, her loss was devastating for so many people who loved her. At the same time, there were many gifts that flowed from her death (I wrote more about Sangsuree’s life and death here). For me, it was that reminder of how important ritual is, how deeply we human beings need that chance to find our way back to the ‘home’ that is always there in nature and deep inside each of us.
As you move into this next month, how can you create time and space in your life to re-connect and renew yourself? It might be as simple as turning off all your digital devices for one day of the week and being more present to yourself and those you love. This is so important in this world of ours these days… it’s really an act of healing to be present. I’d love to hear how you do this in your life – drop me a line and let me know.
Occasionally I like to cross-pollinate here from my other, more stealth Buddhist blog, The Liberated Life Project.
I thought that you — my Jizo peeps — might enjoy knowing that I’m offering an e-course in October called “Fall in Love with Your Work.” This is an 8-week adventure into the heart of ‘right livelihood’ and how you can make it happen in your life. It’s very much based in a perspective of mindfulness.
If you’re considering making a shift in your professional life, starting to work for yourself or starting a business, or if you need to re-align your relationship with your current job so that it feels more meaningful, “Fall in Love with Your Work” may be right up your alley. You can find out more on this page.
Registration closes next Monday, September 29, and the course starts on October 1. I hope that some of you will join me for this!
p.s. Sharon Salzberg was kind enough to send me a box of her “Real Happiness at Work” to help promote this course. I’ve still got a few left — if you register this weekend you’ve got a good chance at receiving a free copy of this great book!
Becoming more deeply engaged with the world around you
can accelerate your own path of liberation.
Your life is bigger than the boundaries around your skin.
When I was growing up, I loved the start of the school year – new books to read, inspiring teachers to learn from, and reconnecting with friends returning from summertime adventures. I’ve always had a passion for learning and connection.
September has always felt to me like the real beginning of the year – I wonder if that feels true for you too?
As this September starts, I’m ready to create something new… hence this newsletter!
A little background may be helpful. You’re receiving this email because you’ve signed up for one of my lists: the Liberated Life Project, Five Directions, and/or the Jizo Chronicles. Over the years, I’ve discovered that readers on any one of those sites often have no idea that the others exist. It seems I’ve created different spaces for different parts of myself… but now I can see how connected they all are.
Recently I’ve started to see how all these venues — and my whole body of work — have one thing in common: creating space for learning and transformation.
In the next few months, my big project is to bring together these online personas into one integrated space, a place dedicated to transformative learning and mindful awareness and to supporting those who share those values. This monthly newsletter is a first step in that direction and makes it easier for me to tell you what else is going on in my ‘world work,’ as a friend calls it.
I know lots of folks are downsizing in the email department. If you need to unsubscribe from this one, I understand. But if you feel that you’d enjoy hearing what I’m up to, staying in the loop about ways to learn along with me, and keeping connected to the other great folks please do stick around! I would love to stay connected – if that feels right to you.
blessings and love,
p.s. the beautiful photo of the spider web, above, was taken by my friend and colleague, Katya Lesher.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about despair and hope… how do we move from one to the other, how do we not lose hope when so many terrible things are going on — from our own neighborhood to all around the global community. In this age of nearly unlimited internet connectivity, we hear about these tragedies in nearly real time.
Earlier today I posted this on Facebook:
135 killed in Gaza, no end in sight… kids from Central America and Mexico locked up in Texas warehouses… journalists sentenced to 10 years in prison in Burma…
In the middle of my comfortable life it can be easy to ignore all this and more. The practice: Not turning away.
Not turning away is not easy, but it is what I understand to be the foundation of our bodhisattva vows. Being present to the truth of suffering, connecting with compassion inside of me, and then taking loving action from that place.
After I put up that post, I thought a lot about how I could respond in each of those cases. Initially I felt a sense of hopelessness, of how daunting it is to even consider addressing any one of those. But thanks to that very internet connectivity that made me aware of these situations, I was able to find what some other folks are doing to respond. And so was born… The Yes List. Who knows… maybe this will become a regular feature on The Jizo Chronicles.
YES! The Open Letter crafted by Jewish Voice for Peace… eloquent and powerful. A call for compassion for all sides, at the same time recognizing the root causes of the violence and calling for Israel to end the illegal occupation of Palestine. I encourage you to sign the letter. And let us know what other creative and generative responses you know of to this crisis.
YES! The good work of United We Dream, an organization pushing to re-frame the situation with the children in Texas as a refugee crisis, not an “illegal immigrant problem.” UWD has organized a three-day vigil in McAllen, TX, to raise awareness of this issue and they’ve got a petition you can sign to urge President Obama to take action to protect all immigrant families.
YES! This piece of news just came to my attention in the last day, and I am more attuned to it because I’m here in Thailand right now and there are seven Burmese women in the group I am currently helping to facilitate. With this being a very recent development, I couldn’t find an immediate response. But I am betting that Amnesty International will be an excellent resource, as it always is in cases like this. Keep an eye on them — they’ve already got an article on the situation posted here.
And for good measure, here’s one more to add to the Yes List, a creative response that I just love. A group of folks in Dallas, TX, took to the streets on Friday to demonstrate for their right to open carry…. guitars. Yep, guitars instead of guns. Amen.
Ouyporn Khuankaew and Ginger Norwood are two Buddhist feminist activists based in Thailand who co-founded the International Women’s Partnership for Peace and Justice (IWP) in 2002. Through IWP, Ouyporn and Ginger and a wonderful team of activists offer workshops on anti-oppression feminism, collective leadership, gender and diversity, nonviolent direct action, and peacebuilding — all based in dharma teachings and practice.
Last summer, IWP launched a new training program called BEST — the Buddhist Education for Social Transformation. BEST is an innovative yearlong course focused on transformation of individuals, communities, the environment, and the world. The program is open to anyone seeking a Buddhist perspective in his or her approach to personal development, social justice, and social change work.
I taught a course at the 2013 BEST session and have been invited again for this year. I’ll offer a workshop on the Mandala of Socially Engaged Buddhism and will help facilitate other parts of the training along with Ouyporn and Ginger.
I’m running a small Indiegogo campaign to help me with some of the costs of doing this — I’d be so grateful if you would consider making a small contribution to help me get to Thailand again this year. And my biggest thanks to those of you who have already made a contribution to this fund. Thank you also for helping to spread the word about BEST to others who may be interested in applying for future years.
Dear Jizo Chronicle readers,
Thought you might like to know that I’m giving away a copy of Sharon Salzberg’s excellent new book, Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace this week over on my Liberated Life Project website.
You can find the book review and contest details here — the deadline to enter is next Monday, February 10, so stop by soon!
I am smiling as I write this. Because, even though I felt great sadness when I learned the news yesterday of Bhante’s death on December 29, at the same time all kinds of wonderful memories of him are flowing through my heart. And I know I am only one of thousands of people who were privileged to have been in the beam of Bhante’s smile and good life.
So this post is dedicated to the spirit of Bhante Suhita Dharma, and offers a little glimpse of him through the places his life intersected with mine.
First, the facts, as they say….
Bhante was the first African American to be ordained a Buddhist monk. He was ordained by Ven. Thich Thien An, the first Vietnamese Buddhist master to come to Los Angeles. Bhante also had the rare distinction of being ordained in all three major Buddhist lineages: Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana.
Bhante had professional training as a social worker, and found deep joy in working with the homeless, those with HIV/AIDS, ex-offenders, and many others on the margins.
There is a lot that I don’t know about Bhante… simple facts like where and when he was born… I searched online and could not find those. He was not a Buddhist celebrity, so you won’t find much about him on the internet. He worked largely in the realm of the invisible. My guess is that Bhante was in his 70s, and I know he had a strong affinity for Louisiana, so perhaps there was a life connection there.
What I do know is this: Bhante’s presence was filled with deep love and a quiet, unshakeable commitment to do the right thing.
- Co-creating the “Coming Home Project” with Bhante at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF) almost 10 years ago, and Bhante’s dedication to supporting people coming out of prison as they entered a world that was often hostile to them.
- Getting emails from Bhante about Baton Rouge and New Orleans, with photos of the devastation post-Hurricane Katrina. He urged me to mobilize the BPF community to help the folks from underserved communities who had been overlooked in that disaster.
- Listening to Bhante give a beautiful dharma talk on socially engaged Buddhism, along with Robert Thurman, at a fundraising event for BPF in 2006. Just two days ago as I was cleaning up some piles, I came across the CD of that talk. Now hearing the news of his passing, I will convert it to an mp3 and share it with you all soon.
- Walking with Bhante and the Buddhist Peace Delegation in Washington, DC, in 2007. Hundreds of us had gathered from dharma centers across the U.S. to call for peace in Iraq. Fortunately, we had filmmaker Ed Herzog along with us to document the weekend. Here’s a video Ed made… you can see Bhante throughout the video, but he has some eloquent words to share at the 4-minute mark.
I had not seen Bhante for probably about six years, but we’d run into each other once in a while on Facebook and every so often he’d give me a friendly poke. My hope is that you’ll learn a lot more about Bhante in the coming days as others write about their memories of him. He truly was a dharma jewel. Thank you, dear Bhante.
Here are some more photo memories of Bhante:
January 3, 2014 UPDATE
Here are links to remembrances that other dharma teachers and practitioners have written about Bhante… a dharma bouquet…
- Bhante’s longtime spiritual friend and co-teacher Mushim Ikeda’s beautiful tribute to Bhante
- Kimberly Alidio of fckyhdkkh shared lots of great vignettes of Bhante, including the LA bicycle blessing!
- Karen Waconda-Lewis’s remembrance of Bhante
- Max Airborne writes about her experience of receiving the precepts from Bhante in 2012
- San Francisco Zen Center’s In Memoriam article