June 16, 2017 - No Comments!

Alligators, Full Moon Gatherings, Savannah GA

We're moving again! This time for a few months down in Savannah, Georgia. Just exploring all the southeast has to offer - it's been beautiful and healthy for me so far. We still got out to some interesting events in Charleston before we left.

I had been looking for an alligator in the lake behind Alexandra's house since we arrived in Charleston and finally got to catch a few pictures of one.

Still Soul Studio helped organize a wonderful full moon gathering on a beach at Sullivan's Island. I was fortunate to be able to lead some meditation practice - all credit to the singular Young Katherine for taking many of these lovely photos! There was also yoga, chanting, and some journaling with a fire ceremony. Very special evening for me - my thanks to everyone who helped organize and came out for that lovely time.

Finally Alexandra, who's been our most gracious hostess with the most gracious mostest in Charleston for this last month, took us to see the final day of an art installation: Wade in the Water. A multimedia installation based on the subjective experience of people affected by climate change in a real way. It was a beautiful, non-invasive and non-chart laden experience to walk through - the artist, John Duckworth, is currently planning to expand the project into more cities. It made me a little sad to be leaving Charleston so soon, as I haven't had a chance to fully explore the artistic community, but it was simultaneously inspiring.

Finally - we went stand up paddle-boarding!

 

I know I said "more to come" on Charleston last time but life moves fast and so now that will become "more to come" on Savannah.

 

May 14, 2017 - 2 comments

Holy City

I feel like there's too much to say right now about my experiences leaving Ratna Ling. That place, the people and the teachings I received there are innumerable and intimidating to try and write down. Essentially I'm lazy. But! We're living in Charleston now.

Re-integration after renouncing (most) of my possessions and moving to a Tibetan Buddhist commune in the woods is a complex thing, but so far I've felt re-energized in a way I couldn't have predicted. I'm still going through the process and there are challenges, but for the most part I would place my general happiness and desire for creative output and meaning at an all time high. I have a beautiful, wonderful and supportive partner, I have some friends and a spiritual community here already, my family is closer than in Cali and I have a new city to explore!

So far, Charleston has been wonderful and fascinating to me. It's an old place, with deep and complicated roots when it comes to American history (and in particular, race in America). "A Holy City, a flawed city." Source. Once, many pirates lived and died here. And many unsettled ghosts purport to still haunt just about every street corner, if the guided tours are to be believed.

Shepherd Fairey is a Charleston native, as is Darius Rucker, of Hootie and the Blowfish fame. If, like me, you were unable to recall that exact blend of bad 90's ideas:

You can almost feel the fucking humidity in this video.

Edgar Allen Poe lived on Sullivan's Island for a time, and there's a restaurant I ate at called "Poe's" by the beach. No fried raven and waffles though (yuk yuk).

The greater Charleston area is called the Lowcountry, which encompasses swamps, pluff mud and what I can only assume are metric shitloads of alligators. I have to say the fauna around here is a little scary for my taste, what with the shark attacks and the gator attacks and the palmetto bugs (giant cockroaches that actually fly [they goddamn fly with their awful satan wings] directly into my nightmares).

The above is a Magic the Gathering parody card and of the 5 readers I have no doubt zero percent get the reference. If you do, leave a comment because that is funny.

But there are also beautiful herons, cranes, dolphins. The weather is fantastic and even though I'm too terrified of sharks to actually swim the cautious and anxious wading has been divine.

Charleston's past is tangled and gets pretty dark - politically I've seen some confederate flags around, although C Town (or Chucktown if that floats your boat) is pretty liberal for the South - here's how South Carolina played out in the election:

Source: NYTimes 

Look at Charleston! Hang in there little buddy. At least until the impeachment/revolution.

Kate and I are staying with our friend from Ratna Ling, Alexandra! Here she is Salt Bae-ing fried green tomatoes:

For reference:

I've been teaching Kum Nye classes at Still Soul Studio thanks to Alexandra, which is Charleston's first and only meditation studio:

Life has been awesome so far - I'm also working on creative things with Layerframe and feeling up to any and all challenges, opportunities. I look forward to setting goals and making an impact here in the dirty south.

More photos!

 

 

 

May 6, 2017 - 1 comment.

Coast to Coast, Belongings in a Sedan

After a two week road trip from Northern California Kate and I are now sort-of settled in Charleston, South Carolina! It was my first trip across the country by car and the small-but-mighty Ford Fiesta passed with flying colors. We managed to fit two people's worldly possessions into a single sedan.

We went about it like this:

I'll be teaching meditation at Still Soul Studio and collaborating with my friends at Layerframe to see if we can't cook up something interesting for the South.

It was an exciting trip - have some photos! Sorry I clearly dropped the photography game at certain points in the trip.

More on Charleston to come soon - but it's a great place and y'all should move here.

 

April 20, 2017 - No Comments!

Backpacking Big Sur

Arroyo-Seco trail, underneath Cone Peak and to the coast, then back. Around 32 miles in 4 days.

 

Day 1

 

Day 2

 

Day 3

 

Day 4

March 4, 2017 - No Comments!

Working With the Energy of Time

My volunteer commitment is almost up at Dharma Publishing! I'll be wrapping up my projects in one month and then striking out east. Above is a photo I took of sunset at Stump Beach, in case you were wondering how goddamn beautiful it is up here.

In Skillful Means teachings your accomplishments act as a fuel for your future action, and provide nourishment for continuing projects. In the interests of continuing to grow as a person, I'm going to try and acknowledge some of the things I've accomplished here and sketch out some goals for the next phase of life. If that sounds narcissistic and boring, it definitely is and I also definitely don't care. #myblog

Meditation, mindfulness, contemplation - this continues to be a fruitful field of exploration and I intend to continue seeing where it takes me next. In my time here I've done two levels of Kum Nye Teacher Training; I lead a Kum Nye class three days a week for volunteers and occasionally teach retreat guests at Ratna Ling as well. Continuing to learn and plumb the depths of mind is bolstered by teaching - leading any class requires a more intricate understanding of the subject. To really be a good instructor one needs to be intimate with the body of knowledge you're teaching. This is the same principle in teaching anything- Muay Thai, design principles, or cooking techniques. I would like to attend a multi-day silent retreat, and also am open to learning new techniques and practices over the coming years. To not be curious about the experience of being human is no longer an option for me, and I'm happy to chew anyone's ear off about why that's important and necessary work to do.

Political activism - I'm afraid we seem to be experiencing a "democratic recession" at the moment globally, and domestically we have a dangerous ego-driven wannabe autocrat at the helm. And Jesus Christ, this Russia thing. It's a precarious situation, and as someone who has been enjoying the fruits of liberal democracy for a long time I owe more time and energy spent protecting it. How that manifests requires more thought, but I can dedicate my physical presence more if I'm not way out in the middle of the redwood forest. I've been taking liberalism for granted, and recent events have made it clear that we may be a hair's breadth away from sliding backward into a bleak, autocratic political situation. More vigilance and action is required here on my part.

Learn how to teach basic self defense and begin leading free classes for my community. Learning martial arts has been a very important part of my life, and I hope it will continue to be so. I want to continue to train in martial arts to improve my body and mind, but also would like to give back by volunteering efforts to lead self defense classes locally. This may not seem to jibe with the whole meditation and Buddhism activity — but unfortunately we do not live in a safe world yet. Pretending violence doesn't exist is not a rational option, and I'm worried by statistics pointing to increased violence against various groups being targeted by those in power at the moment politically. I'm fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to learn principles of self defense and enjoy teaching, so this makes sense as an extension.

Work is our creative outlet in this world. It is a very important part of my life and, when I am being kind to myself, I am proud and sometimes surprised at how I continue to improve in this area. Applying Skillful Means (think of it like a mindful management training program) to my work at Dharma Publishing has been very fruitful.

In less than a year I've been able to learn Premiere Pro and After Effects - not an expert by any means but competent enough to design intro sequences, cobble together clips with basic editing and export/distribute via online channels and physical DVD production.

I also created the new Dharma Publishing Academy, an online portal for learning Dharma teachings like Kum Nye and Skillful Means. It serves two purposes: preserves and presents the mixed media (audio lectures, video seminars, books) and content Dharma Publishing has produced over the years by turning them into Self Study Programs. And, it's an automatic source of revenue. With no human effort required (other than originally creating the online course) money is able to go straight to purchasing paper for the books printed by Yeshe De and distributed every year to the Tibetan refugees in India. Writing and designing the courses has been a rewarding challenge, and working on a digitally oriented project with huge video files from a place in the woods with satellite internet has been a good test in patience.

There's also all those Stupas, and the work I do in the community here, and the days I've been faced with a choice to say yes or no, and learning to choose "Yes" more often. How my work and activity will continue to unfold is a question I'm still working with. But I am excited to try it out "in the real world." I have an entrepreneurial spirit, enjoy leadership and am excited to continue adding tools to my arsenal of creative expression. I intend to live from a mindset of abundance, at least unless that's proven wrong and I end up destitute (spoiler alert: I won't).

Relationships, do them better - I would like to continue improving here, my connections with other humans is a great space to do self-work from. Family, friendships, romantic partners, coworkers, community members - there's always room for improvement and making things better. Not to get all woo-woo but the bedrock underneath most of our life seems to be love — when you penetrate the layers of mind deep enough that's been my experience, at least. If that's the case then one would be wise to start acting like that more often. Appreciate and have more gratitude for those around me, through daily practice. Develop my patience and equanimity when it comes to interpersonal relationships.

Broaden horizons through travel and new experiences. Learn Spanish. I would love to commit to writing something more substantial, mostly to tell others condescendingly that I'm an author. I want to explore virtual reality and immerse myself in technology again. The creative possibilities with VR sound exciting — at Layerframe we got the first Oculus dev kit and it was cool but basically just made you nauseous. I think the blending of sensory experiences and ability to manipulate perceived reality like they are able to know is ripe for exploration. And it's still nascent enough that there are real opportunities to innovate with the technology and drive change, which is exciting. Continue to read, at least one book per month. I feel like that's a major "lifehack" that people seem to be forgetting, which is worrisome. It might just be because I currently work at a publishing company so I feel it more acutely here.

I'll continue to jot down thoughts as my experience here winds down. If you have questions let me know in the comments. And if you want to work with me or collaborate come springtime holla at ya boy: ryan@ryanegan[dot]net

February 26, 2017 - No Comments!

Longchenpa Ceremony: Chanting, and chanting, and chanting…

So chalk up another awesome life experience - chanting to enter a trance-like state for an extended period of time.

Every year at Ratna Ling all organizations stop activities in order to go on a retreat for three days, during which a chant is kept up constantly in our Meditation Hall/Temple. The ceremony is named after Longchenpa, a great master in the Nyingma tradition, especially when it came to Dzogchen teachings. According to tradition he passed into Parinirvana, (meaning he doesn't come back/reincarnate anymore) but you can still contact his energy, as he technically didn't die but more became part all things like when Mufasa died in The Lion King.

And at this particular time of year Longchenpa's energy is most available to invoke, and we chant to invite these blessings of an awakened being into the world around us. As always take my interpretations and understanding of Buddhist history with a giant grain of salt.

"...how can we return to the wholeness of our being?  As these questions become more meaningful, we discover that Longchenpa gives us the answers we seek at the level we presently occupy. [And] he implores us to do it straight away."
-- Tarthang Tulku, Introduction to Now that I Come to Die

 

The experience itself was pretty intense, I actually enjoyed the formality and dedication required to keep the chanting going. The idea is once you start the chant Friday night it doesn't stop until the closing ceremony on Monday morning. There were about 8 people participating this year, so we made groups to rotate in and out. I was leading one of the two daytime groups but I hear the nighttime chanting is an interesting experience as well.

So what's the mantra? After the invocation of Longchenpa, which sort of opens the gateway to the experience, it's actually just a repetition of the Vajra Guru Mantra:

Over, and over, and over. Experiences over the course of the three days include:

  • Voice gives out, leaving you chanting in a throaty whisper.
  • Voice inexplicably comes back, loudly, and in a squeaky teenage pubescent tenor.
  • Regularly being afraid of forgetting the words of an eight-word chant you've been reciting every morning for the past 10 months, and pretty much constantly over the past 36 hours.
  • Keeping a 4/4 rhythm without speeding up or slowing down seems like an impossible task.
  • The body is not used to sitting still so long, and starts to try getting your attention in various ways (aches, itches, the feeling you HAVE to stand up right now etc.)

Eventually these small ticks smooth out, and especially towards the end you can have some pretty powerful meditative experiences. It could be a result or combination of several factors, but focusing the mind on one task like that for an extended period of time combined with the energy of other people doing that same thing right next to you, and all over the world, can create an atmosphere that you can get deep into.

The mantra itself is easy to remember and has a very nice rhythm, each word has a significance and meaning that can unfold and open up the more experience you have practicing with it. At a certain point it seems to naturally orient the mind toward the qualities of joy, light and love. Think about it as replacing the "annoying roommate" usually babbling in your head all day with words of universal compassion, wisdom and truths.

I wouldn't describe it as "fun" - it's like a lot of self-work and "awakening" practices I've seen. They're difficult and a lot of uncomfortable shit from your past, fears, sometimes demons can come up. Ultimately you'd want to feed those demons and befriend them in order to join their power to your own efforts. This is a metaphorical concept until you've been sitting and chanting for days at a time, at which point it becomes somewhat more literal. But! There are also some wonderful feelings of one-ness, joined spirit, and contact with a knowledge much greater in scope than your own. Like most things in life I derive satisfaction from I'd say it's challenging, but fair.

At some points it seemed a little like casting a spell or performing magic. It's a ritual invocation but instead of messing with things from the Lesser Key of Solomon for curiosity, wealth or whatever (forgive my ignorance of that body of knowledge) all the participants focus on invoking a great awakened being who symbolizes the principle conceits necessary to help alleviate suffering in this life.

"Oh shit I meant to summon a wagon not a dragon!" - This guy, probably

Longchenpa wrote a short piece before passing on called "Now That I Come To Die" which is very inspiring, and we read in a group before beginning the ceremony. The very nature of everyone in the community uniting and working together for this common cause of wisdom and deep human truths is very cool to see and participate in.

At times it was a little bit like something was being rubbed away, I felt raw and emotionally sensitive toward the end. That also allows for some deeper experiences, because the conditioning and patterns of your day-to-day life are allowed to relax. The self-image we're dragging around from day to day is able to dissipate, to weaken even for a moment and allows for some new insight.

Whether or how that all actually works technically is still beyond me - all I'll say is that afterward I felt great. I didn't eat much over the three days and when we finished I went for a run and hit a record distance and record time. That could have been my body responding to being still for so long, but there was a noticeable stillness and natural quietness to the mind for a few days afterward. It wouldn't surprise me at all if engaging the mind in a "pure" or at least non-harmful way does allow for a sort of purification or re-alignment of cells inside the body. I mean if this happens:

Why wouldn't chanting do something analogous inside the body itself? But, that's where my ignorance starts to shine through so I'll shut up about all that before I start going on about multiverses and fractals.

It was one of the more impactful experiences in my time here, one that has made me commit mentally to participating in more retreats and maybe some chanting ceremonies down the line. If you're interested in learning more about mantras:

The word ‘mantra’ refers to protection, transmission and transformation of mind. Its enlightened energy is encoded in syllables and sound.The rhythms and dynamic of mantra’s sounds lead awareness past conceptual images and words, disengaging patterns that give samsara form. The sound of mantra evokes indestructible awareness, enabling mantra to become a wish-fulfilling gem. Their far reaching power and application is available for any honorable purpose and pressing need. They will bring joy and well-being, while promoting harmony between humanity and the cosmos.

You can check out some mantras recorded at Ratna Ling here.

I'll do another, longer post but finally we've launched the Dharma Publishing Academy, and if you're curious about Kum Nye and Kum Nye Meditation you can now enroll in Level 1 here. You get ~12 hours of video content with guided exercises by my director out here Arnaud, plus text excerpts and image examples of the postures and movements. It's part of an effort to allow the teachings to spread as people continue to move away from text and onto devices of various sorts.

So get your learn on! See you soon, be kind to each other but most of all yourself!

Om Ah Hum!

December 28, 2016 - No Comments!

Reality vs. Perception vs. Happiness

First a very important update: I've been wearing the same sweatpants and hoodie for several days now, and it's glorious. Merry Christmas.

I was fortunate to recently participate in some training at Ronin Athletics and in between getting strangled the head coach, Christian Montes, told me about how the Gracies used to sell laypeople on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This is back in the eighties, before the emergence of modern MMA and when there were still karate schools practicing death touch and breaking boards. To prove Brazilian Jiu Jitsu's effectiveness as a self defense discipline they would have a prospective student lay down on the ground and put them in full mount:

From there the black belt would just tell the neophyte on bottom to try and get out, like their life depended on it, there was someone taking away your loved ones right over there, you have to get to them, etc. etc.

Anyone who has trained modern martial arts can probably guess what happens - the person on bottom will not be able to escape, inevitably and quickly become exhausted, and a realization sets in. That you had an perception of reality that was at odds with the way things actually are. I would bet a lot of us who train in BJJ had an experience similar to this the first time we stepped onto the mat.

How you take that new understanding and move forward is up to you. In my case the absolute decisiveness of the practice (you are in essence fighting for your life every time) and the depth of knowledge required to get good led to it becoming a borderline obsession.

Now I can give you this same experience, but for meditation or contemplative practices.

Just do this: Try not to have a thought. I'll wait.

Probably didn't take long. Meditation, like martial arts, is many things but awareness of thoughts and how mind operates is one major benefit of the practice. This is important because, arguably, identifying with thoughts and as thoughts causes roughly all of our problems as human beings on a day-to-day basis.

You can take this realization and cognize it, process it and think about it and that's fine. But in my opinion until you practice meditation regularly this won't become apparent in daily life.

Just like I can learn the escape from full mount, and that there are actually a couple of very easy ways to get out most of the time in the space of five minutes, but without practicing the technique over and over my mind won't fully realize it. Eventually you want it to become muscle memory (which is a flow state of mind and body unified) where it feels like you don't even cognize what to do next, you just do the technique and get out.

The same principles apply for contemplative practice - without taking the time out of your day to sit, pay attention to the breath or the body, and work with the ceaseless stream of thoughts that we think are "us", then we will not be able to have this awareness become muscle memory. In daily life, when we are upset, we will not be able to recognize (what a wonderful word by the way, re-cognizing) that upset is just a thought and pull ourselves back into a better frame of mind to deal with the situation. This can be done more and more effortlessly and quickly the more you practice paying attention and bringing mind back to a focal point.

From there it opens up. How far you choose to pursue it and integrate that into your life is entirely up to you. In my case the style of practice sort of found me, and I currently subscribe to the Tibetan Buddhist practices and general perspective on the practice. There are more secular alternatives if the very concept of religion freaks you out, but I would also argue that religion is just that- a concept, and of the spiritual practices available (that aren't a cult) Tibetan Buddhism has almost 3,000 years of creating contemplative masters.

You can completely ignore any magical elements and still receive extraordinary benefits by learning more about it. I'll plug a different book this time, I recently read Sam Harris' book Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion and would recommend that if you'd like a logical presentation of contemplative practice and Buddhism in particular.

We are being driven around by thoughts and emotions for most of our day. You don't need any sort of spiritual practice to see this is the case. Just try and not have one. Sam Harris used a great example in the above book - imagine you're in a room of strangers and you find your glasses. You might say out loud "There are my glasses" when you found them and no one would really react. Now imagine if you kept talking, "Oh, there are my glasses. I am always forgetting things. This is probably why Cheryl stopped talking to me. I'm such an idiot!" The people around you would probably be freaked out. But we do this in our own heads all day, without even realizing it most of the time.

I am much better off now because I am able to more fully understand the depth of this simple fact, by taking a little time out of my day and paying attention. Compared to when I began earnest meditation practice, I generally get 'hooked' less by thoughts and am able to better recognize patterns of behavior that seem integral to my being but aren't at all. I'm not great at it by any means, but any advancement is improvement and I try to acknowledge it as such.

So big thanks to Christian for bringing that to my attention recently, as I love to draw parallels between the different obsessions that I have and gradually become an even bigger nerd. If you want to learn more about any of that, whether related to strangling people or becoming more mindful just leave a question in the comments and I'll try to respond!

OmAhHum and Osssss

 

November 12, 2016 - 1 comment.

Practical advice for the the apocalypse

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When I heard from a coworker here at Dharma Publishing that it looked like Trump was going to win, I was completely surprised. Clearly the polling system is broken, but the feeling was like being punched in the gut. Clinton was not my ideal candidate but I certainly didn't fear for our country's future with her at the wheel. Someone as consistently chaotic and ignorant as Donald Trump having access to 6,000 nuclear warheads was, and still is, an existentially terrifying thought.

trump

There are plenty of opinions on exactly why we're screwed and I don't want to add to that echo chamber. I thought Sam Harris did a pretty good job summarizing the very real danger we now face:

Now that the news has settled into my brain a bit, I figured it was time to process some of this through writing. I see many of my friends back in New York are participating in protests and speaking truth to power and that's incredible! Democracy at it's finest, speaking truth to power. I can't do much from my commune in the woods though.

So I thought it might be interesting to provide some thoughts from a perspective of what I've been practicing out here. Full disclosure I'm a beginner at all of this so any misinterpretations of teachings is on me.

Practicing compassion - for everyone. 

A powerful practice can be sitting and practicing compassion for those you feel the least amount of compassion for. In the book Hidden Mind of Freedom (good guidebook for meditating btw) Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche writes, "What seems to be purely compassionate may really be somewhat self-oriented, based on grasping. We like certain feelings and responses, so we tend to act in a way that stimulates them... Even experienced meditators may have traces of grasping. Only as we let go of it can compassion arise... Even the thought that each of us is capable of becoming compassionate, or of becoming compassion itself, can have a highly beneficial effect."

So the practice would be twofold - practice feeling compassion for those in communities who would be directly affected by some of these divisive policies. But also practice feeling compassion for Donald J. Trump - someone who is so ignorant of his own mind that (I am convinced) he doesn't have the ability to feel or care about the suffering of others. For me that is much more challenging and theoretically could yield more fruit.

Noticing the suffering of everyone

Compassion would be wishing to lessen the suffering of others, but noticing suffering is another good practice. Again the concern should be the organizations that are potentially being defunded, the minority groups that are seeing progress pull back like a receding wave.

But the fact is half of our country voted for this person - and however misguided they may have been I think it does speak to some suffering being felt by many Americans. I know my impulse is to look down my nose at the middle of the country and brand them racists - but I'm not sure that gets us very far. It is definitely worth pointing out that obvious racists overwhelmingly support this person, and that is terrifying - but it seems more likely that people are suffering, feeling scared and hopeless. It's relatively easy to manipulate fear and hopelessness over into anger at the "other" too.

By recognizing the suffering of those who seem inaccessible, ignorant, and plain wrong it will ultimately serve us more. As we welcome our first atheist president into office it may be worth remembering a little hippy named Jesus Christ:

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

This is the way to move toward healing, and no doubt it's hard to find now but I'm trying to start on that path a bit more in daily practice.

But also taking care of yourself

A common way to close practice is to dedicate the merit. Merit is a big term in Buddhism but one way to think of it is that, by virtue of practicing - just sitting and being still, noticing thoughts - we are becoming better people. We are less prone to being carried away by emotions and better equipped to handle situations just like the one we are in now.

What I'm trying to say is that taking care of yourself is crucial - it doesn't need to be meditation necessarily - if you need to cry, sleep a lot for a few days, exercise, scream into a pillow, do it.

Of course I'm going to make the argument for examination of mind. A shared and tumultuous event like this one is actually great practice to work with. There's an impermanence component - Barack Obama was an inclusive and erudite leader I could truly respect, and losing that can be devastating if you think it will last forever. There is a clear sense of anger and fear, two very clear emotions to work with and tease out in relation to thoughts as well.

Use anger to move but try not to be moved by anger

There's a zen koan that seems appropriate here:

The Governor asked a teacher: I have read in the scripture the following and I do not know what it means. "A boat driven by unfavorable winds drifts towards the land of the demons." Please explain it to me.

The teacher responded: What kind of idiot asks such a stupid question!

The Governor visibly stiffened and turned red with red.

The teacher then said: A boat driven by unfavorable winds drifts towards the land of the demons. The Governor's demeanor suddenly changed as he got some understanding.

I'm not saying anger is bad - there's plenty to be angry about here. And it's also not to say "take no action" - action will be badly needed over the next four years, I fear. But can you recognize anger and use it as fuel for appropriate action? In my case, social media can be useful but it is all too easy to allow myself to be pulled into a negative echo chamber that doesn't actually provide any new or useful information. To me this is a useless anger, and apart from the negative mental effects ultimately it's wasted time. Organizing, educating, demonstrating a clear and articulate outrage - these would be more useful qualities I would like to embody more.

We're in weird times and it's getting weirder. The final point would be about Sangha, or community. Whatever happens in the immediate future it's important to come together as much as we can and share, try to be as open and inclusive as possible. If that manifests as peaceful protest, organizing support for affected groups of people, or simply coming together in the spirit of art, culture and progress to help preserve what this incoming clown car of "politicians" hopes to dismantle is useful.

All that being said, if you want to sit out the next year or two in the woods of Northern California we're always looking for volunteers!

With love and hopefulness, peace out.

November 4, 2016 - No Comments!

Road Tripping Across California

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So I recently re-upped my commitment here at Ratna Ling / Dharma Publishing for another six months of volunteer work, and took a little vacation to celebrate! The eminently photogenic Kate has a friend named Alex who has a lovely spot out in Lake Tahoe. We had a (tragically cancelled) AirBnB that turned into a semi-seedy motel stay in Sacramento, hiked around a bunch, popped into Reno and generally had a great time.

Photos below!

First up, Old Sacramento. According to local legend and also a brochure that we found, there is a whole city built underneath Old Sacramento. I would tell you more about that, but we tried to take the tour and it was sold out. So you'll have to use your imagination like us, sorry.

Not contented with one tourist trap, we moved on the next to Appleville, where they grow all the apples you eat! This isn't true but they had a $hit ton of apples and apple byproducts. Also, pumpkins.

Finally we got to Lake Tahoe, which is stunningly beautiful in a natural splendor way, and a little weird in the Ritzy Ski Resort Town way. It got really cold at night, but it was so gorgeous during the day it really didn't matter.

Shoutout to Alex for letting us crash at her lovely pad for so many days! We also went four wheeling which was pretty fun, and off roading at night which maybe made Kate a little sick. I'm not into skiing enough to live in Lake Tahoe but it was nice to visit - Sacramento, eh. Leave it.

Positive customer service experience - AirBnB was very good to us when our host cancelled last minute - full refund, offered to help us find a new place (we opted for shady hotel) and paid $40 worth of food and drinks while we abused wifi to find a new place! Not the company's fault and appreciated the extra service and responsiveness. So good on them.

That's probably the last trip until I head home for the holidays. I haven't been able to write much because I've been really busy with the 60 hours working and we just started a gang of new classes in the evenings. I usually have about 1 hour of free time a night and that's typically spent staring at the wall until falling asleep at 9:30pm.

It is still wonderful and mostly sunny here! The rainy season did start, and things are green again which is really nice to see. The rain is kind of hilariously soaking when it does come though, sideways rain, upside down rain, etc.

 

Till next time! Adios.

October 9, 2016 - No Comments!

Silent Peace Walk and Tripiṭaka Chanting Ceremony

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I recently had the opportunity to help volunteer with one of our sister organizations, Light of the Buddhadharma Foundation International (LBDFI), who was hosting a recitation of some of the Tipitaka over the course of a few days. The Tipitaka is a massive text, thousands of pages, written and chanted in Pali, which is like a more hipster version of Latin. I understood none of it but like most things around here I just tried my best to show up and be helpful, hoping something rubs off.

The word itself means "three baskets" - those baskets being:

  1. Vinaya - basically rules of conduct for monks, but also the reasons the Buddha gave for those rules of conduct.
  2. Sutta - discourses attributed to the Buddha and some of his close disciples
  3. Abhidamma - a framework of the discourses in the Sutta that give a psycho-philosophical way to understand the nature of reality, mind, and matter.

I had the opportunity to work with some of the lovely people from other organizations, drive some monks around town, eat great vegetarian food, and wander around Berkeley. All in all not a bad experience.

I also took some photos, below:

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Some more from the walk:

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This set contains one of my favorite shots, the movie theater with promotional text, the monks and the shopping cart setup in the entryway make for a lot of content in one shot:

 

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Finally some shots from around Dharma College, where I slept, and Berkeley's waterfront:

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