Happy Pride 2018!

It’s that time of the year where the LGBTI communities around the world come together in colorful unison and get their parade on.

Before I go further, a bit of history: The Pride parades have their origin in the Stonewall riot on June 28, 1969. The Stonewall Inn was (it closed shortly after the riots) a gay bar, a local hook-up place where those who were not heterosexual could drink and dance the night away. It was also a place that was a long standing target of harassment by the New York City Police. I should say harassment, raids, and arrests.

On June 28, 1969 the police made one too many raids and the locals had had enough, hence the riot. Not only did the riot push back at the police harassment but it ushered in the Gay Liberation movement.

One day short of a year in Chicago, June 27, 1970, a group organized a protest march. The date was selected to not just to protest the treatment and inequalities that LGBTI community suffered but to commemorate the Stonewall riot as well. The protest march grew and turned into a full on parade. That same day but a little later (that’s why Chicago got top billing – it was the earliest) other cities such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles had events of their own. Since then the Pride parades and events have become world-wide. There is so much more to the story and worth it’s exploring, but for us it’s time to move on.

Somewhere out there among the hills, trees and villages is Rose Apple in South Woodstock

So, here I am at Rose Apple in South Woodstock. South Woodstock is a very small hamlet, a population of about 500. The downtown area is made up of a quaint B & B, an auto repair shop, the small County Store, an old schoolhouse, a church and some houses and outlaying farms. If it wasn’t for the sharp curve in the road one could blink and miss it. Our next largest town is Woodstock, which has a population of about 3,000. As one could imagine there is not much in the way of Pride events – actually none. It’s not that the population is made up of rural conservatives, I’m sure there are some, but I think it is more about shear demographics and the older population here. As I drove through Woodstock, a rather gentrified place, there was an small anti-immigration policy protest, maybe sixty people or so, with some not so encouraging words about our president. At first I thought it was some type of garden party until I saw the signs – very civil.

In any event, I decided to commemorate the event by streaming a movie, and a bowl of popcorn of course. The movie I watched was Love, Simon, which was released in March of this year by 20th Century Fox. Love, Simon, in movie classification is a come of age – coming out of the closet – dramedy – teen romance kind of film, and it is remarkable.

I call it “remarkable” from the perspective of knowing a bit about LGBTI portrayals in film history. There is no great tragic life story, no persecution, no self-loathing, bitterness, cat claws, and so on in this movie. No, it is a simple coming of age story in which the main character just happens to be gay. It is as if LGBTI melted with mainstream pop culture. When I was watching the movie I couldn’t help thinking of The Breakfast Club (1985) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), and the plot line is typical Hollywood – boy meets boy, boy looses boy, boy gets boy back. We’ve come a long way.

Simon Spier is a high school senior who happens to be gay. He has known it for years and seems to be ok with it. The big dilemma, at least one of them, in the film is not his own acceptance of who he is but rather the emotional intricacies of coming out, letting those around him that he’s not heterosexual. At the same time Simon falls in love with a classmate online but converse through non de plum, they don’t know each others real name.

Now here’s the thing: Despite the loving and accepting idyllic parents, and the idyllic friends who will always be there, and even the idyllic high school, as far as high schools can go, Simon still struggles with announcing who he really is, what he is about. There is much in the film I could not relate to, my life situation was hardly idyllic, however, my family and friends were supportive when I came out. Like Simon it was my own internal blocks, or in buddhist speak, my own fetters that hindered my freedom.

In the movie Simon takes us beyond the gay-straight thing and speaks to something more universal, something he stumbled upon through his experience. In his coming out post in the school blog, as well as to his love interest, Simon writes “…I was just scared. At first I though it was a gay thing but then I realized no matter what announcing who you are to the world is pretty terrifying cause what if the world doesn’t like you….” So here we are back to that damned 100 foot Zen pole. Just being who you are regardless of what that is is a challenging thing. I find the difficulty in life is not only “announcing” who you are and what you are about but staying on track as well, not getting swayed this way or that way but being constantly there, to your true nature, who you really are.

One last thing – this reminds me of another journey: I go around and give Dharma talks in all sorts of situations. Getting up in front of the room or hall was never easy for me. As a child I was very shy and in school I was terrified to stand up and present whatever I was supposed to present. As I got a little older I decided to get beyond this and over the course of time I discovered a “secret” to public speaking, at least my secret. Why did I not like getting up in front of people to speak? I think it was that I was afraid of looking foolish. How did I overcome my shyness and fear? By realizing that I am indeed foolish and that it is perfectly fine to be “foolish.”

Happy Pride 2018! – cpv

 

 

White Clouds – your moment of zen

Mindful Lunchtime

You know you are in Edinburgh when you attend Mindful Lunchtime at St. Mark’s Unitarian Church. Every Tuesday for about the past ten to fifteen years urban dwellers of Edinburgh (Edinburghers) have had the opportunity to stop and enjoy a bit of mindful practice during lunchtime. The weekly event is a collaboration of the Wild Geese Sangha in the tradition of Plum Village and the Unitarian Congregation of Edinburgh, and of course the lunchtime practice is open for anyone who is interested.

Knowing that I was going to be in the area, Jon Bagust, the creator and facilitator of Mindful Lunchtime, asked if I would be willing to facilitate a session. I had facilitated once before a few years ago at the invitation of Jon and knew what a terrific event it is – how could I refuse.

Between 12:30 and 2:00 every Tuesday the doors of St. Mark’s is open for a schedule of mid-day practice. One just needs to bring their lunch and their mindfulness. The Lunchtime event begins with sitting mediation and walking meditation from 12:30 to 1:15. At 1:15 to 1:40 there is eating meditation in silence. After the meal at 1:40 to 2:00 there is another session of sitting meditation. What makes this schedule so accessible to the urbanites of Edinburgh is, I believe, two things; first, it is in the heart of Edinburgh; second, you don’t have to attend the whole thing. The Mindful Lunchtime schedule is set up so that anyone can join in at any of the practices. If you can’t make the sitting, fine, join in for the meal. If you can’t stay after the meal, great, enjoy the rest of your day.

I think that Mindful Lunchtime must be one of the great secrets of our time because I am really surprised that this idea and expression of the practice hasn’t spread to other urban areas. In any event, the idea and the mindful energy of Mindful Lunch is there for you to eat up – bon appetite!

 

Also – I gave a public talk at St. Mark’s the next evening, Wednesday, June 6th. You can find it on the Dharma Talks Page.

Some Links

Mindful Lunch/ Wild Geese Sangha Website

Unitarians of Edinburgh Website

You know when you are in Bonnie Scotland When…

You know when you are in Scotland when – well, you know …

 

 

London Bridge and Fake News

londonbridge_Fotor

Despite the long standing nursery rhyme conspiracy theory, the London Bridge is not falling down. I was there crossing the bridge a couple of days ago and here is a picture showing the aged bridge still standing and doing its job. As I approached the bridge and began my walk across, I certainly had the confident impression that it was a solid structure and that it wasn’t going anywhere any time soon. As far as I am concerned, any reports, either through rhymes, books, YouTube videos, or verbal communication, proclaiming London Bridge is falling down is nothing less than fake news.

In a world of mass communication, instant access to all sorts of information, even information we don’t even want, it is challenging to sort it all out – What is the truth? What is reality? Generally, we seek the authoritative, the one or ones seemingly in charge. Our society has this interesting schism that on the one hand asserts the individual’s capacity but on the other hand so willing to believe the first thing that comes out of a person’s mouth. I have often wondered about this. I have wondered, is it because we ourselves have been conditioned to accept our own inner authority, the inner authority that has us believe so much of our own misperception about ourselves and how we perceive the world around us, our very own fake news.

This authoritative mind tells us so much, convinces us so much, influences so much that we are not as free as we think we are. Our mind provides us the illusion that freedom comes through the self – interest, self – promotion, through dividing up our own experience into this and that, me and you, ours and theirs. We believe this and what we believe shapes our view and in turn shapes our actions, sometime benignly, rarely positively, mostly destructively.

I remember growing up around the slogan “Question Authority.” There were even stronger slogans such as “Don’t Trust Authority.” Perhaps it is time to revive the sediment in our lives. Do we question what our minds create, all the ideas, images, assumptions, presumptions, narratives and the like, or do we go blindly along? According to the teachings, it is the difference between awakening and ignorance. As my teacher, Venerable Master Thich Nhat Hanh would say, “Are you sure?” In the Korean Zen tradition there is the importance of doubt: Little doubt, little enlightenment. Great doubt, great enlightenment. This also falls into line with the old notion that a healthy spiritual life requires a bit of healthy skepticism to question the authoritative mind, whether it is our very own mind or the mind of others.

Next time we will delve into the cover-up behind the Humpty-Dumpty incident – Did Humpty-Dumpty really die from the fall or was it because of medical negligence due to his lack of health insurance?

Battersea, London: Cultivating the Boundless Field

Hello Friends,

I am here in London for the upcoming Mindfulness Show event. I am also at the Doppio Coffee Wharehouse in Battersea, a district of London, sipping my cappuccino and working on a Dharma talk for an upcoming retreat at Wiston Lodge in Scotland. Here’s a couple of verses involved:

“Then the Buddha emitted a ray of light from the tuft of white hair between
his eyebrows. It illuminated all the eighteen thousand worlds in the east,
down as far as the lowest hell, Avīci, and up as high as the Akaniṣṭha Heaven.
All the sentient beings in those worlds living in the six transmigratory states
became visible from this world. The buddhas in those worlds were also seen,
and the Dharma they were teaching could be heard.”
(Lotus Sutra, Chapter 1: Burton Watson)

“The Buddha’s body fills the cosmos,
Appearing before all beings everywhere-
In all conditions, wherever sensed, reaching everywhere,
Yet always on this seat of enlightenment.

In each of the Buddha’s pores
Sit Buddhas, many as atoms in all lands,
Surrounded by masses of enlightened beings
Expounding the supreme practice of the universally good.

Buddha, sitting at rest on the enlightenment seat,
Displays in one hair oceans of fields;
The same is true of every single hair,
Thus pervading the cosmos.”
(Avatamsaka Sutra, pg. 162: Thomas Cleary)

Both these citations are from classical Mahayana texts, one of the three current branches of Buddhism, along with Theravada and Vajrayana. Pretty cosmic don’t you think? Why did I pick these two? Because the two passages depict through the writer’s literary style the boundless nature. Here the “Buddha” and “Buddhas,” in Mahayana there are more than one Buddha, is not some supernatural being. Instead, I see them representing our boundless nature, the ray of light from the Buddha’s brow, the Buddha’s body, as many as atoms in all the lands, pointing to the understanding that we are much more than we think: This is our boundless field in which we exist – no, more accurately, it is the boundless field that is our existence.

This boundless field is our unlimited human capacity, our boundless potential, a path that is so often goes unseen or unacknowledged: It is the field of our hearts and minds, the totality of our human experience of our past, present, and future. We exist in this time and space, at this present moment, which is the intersection of our lives. This present moment consists of all things present as well as all things past. All things experienced and understood in the past are here and now.  The way we thought and understood, the actions we took, the behavior that manifested, all stored within us. All these things of the past are with us today, all there as potentials in which directly and indirectly influence our experience today. It is today, through our hearts and minds, however influenced, be it wholesome or unwholesome, that shape our future present moments.

There are things in this life we have no influence over whatsoever. There are things in this life that we have some influence over. There are also some things in this life we have direct influence over. It is at this intersection of our boundless field that we do have a great deal of influence over. We have to capacity to practice in such a way to develop clarity and wisdom, which are also part of the boundless field. With clarity and wisdom we are able to sow wholesome seeds and unroot the unwholesome seeds of the field. Not only does this affect our life in this moment but it affects the way we experience the future, the later present moments. It is at this intersection of the present moment we cultivate the boundless field, if we so choose.

Until next time – phap vu

Schedule for 2018

This is my touring schedule for 2018 – so far.

May 27 to June 4

I will be in London to give a talk for the The Mindful Living Show, which is June 1-2 at the Business Design Center in Isington, which is near central London. This event is sort of a mindfulness convention, with speakers, booths, vendors and such.   mindfulnesslivingshow.com

June 5

Mindfulness at Lunchtime at St. Marks in Edinburgh. MAL has been taking place for about twenty years now. I will be facilitating the lunchtime practice in the heart of Edinburgh. How can you beat that. Especially that Edinburgh one of my favorite cities. You bring your lunch. we mindfully eat, a session of slow walking meditation and I think I’m giving a short talk.   

June 6

Public Dharma talk at St. Mark’s in Edinburgh. 7:30 -9:00pm.

For info click on  Talk at St. Mark’s   or   Wild Geese Sangha

June 7-10

I will be leading a retreat at Wiston Lodge at Wiston, Scotland, which is about 40 miles, or should I say about 63 kilometers southwest of Edinburgh. 

June 14-17

I will be back in the US at Morning Sun in New Hampshire to attend a retreat. I’m actually a retreatant here, which is very refreshing.

June 26- July 13

I will be in Boston area connecting and practicing with the various sanghas.

July 7

I will be giving a Talk in Newton, Massachusetts (near Boston). This is being organized now and I don’t have the details but it is being held in conjunction with the Boston Center for Contemplative Practice.

July 13- August 5

I will be in the Washington DC area connecting and practicing with the local sanghas. The schedule of events are being planned now.

October 3-10

I will be at the Buddhist Insights Center in New York

     Oct 4    Dharma Talk in Manhattan 7:00-830 pm

     Oct 5-7    Retreat at the BI retreat center, Rockaway

     Oct 8   Dharma Talk at the BI retreat center, Rockaway 8:00-9:30 pm

     Oct 9    Dharma Talk in Brooklyn 7:00-8:30 pm

For Details go to http://www.buddhistinsights.com

Santa Fe: The Question

 

The question is not “What can we do about this?” We know what to do. We know how the government works, how laws are made, how to demonstrate, how to put pressure on our elected officials. No, the question is not “What can we do about this” but rather “Have we had enough yet?”

It is one thing to see our own habit energies, those unwholesome formations that come up again, and again, it is another thing to work, to practice to alleviate ourselves from those habit energies. It is one thing to be ignorant of our habit energies, not knowing they exist. It is another to be aware of our habit energies. Just as our thoughts and emotions, and therefore actions, are influenced by our own habit energies so too does it take place on the societal level, collective karma, collective habit energies. Somewhere along the line, when we have become aware of the unwholesome, unbeneficial, even destructive, thoughts and behaviors. Somewhere, at sometime we get to the point of the willingness, sometimes at the point of desperation, we begin to work, to take action to get beyond the harmfulness we evoke upon ourselves and others.

I have always held this though, sort of a social theory of life in our society. It is pretty simple: Things have to get much worse before they get better. I know it seems rather cynical, but really, it’s based on observation. We have a history. We have seen these mass shootings over and over again. The same thing: A mass shooting takes place, the horrors are reported on by the media and everyone is “horrified.” Politicians rush to the podium to say how “horrible” it is and that their hearts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Some people cry out for gun control laws, its debated by the pundits and then it is back to business as usual – until next time when the cycle starts again, and again, and again, and again, because ignorance works in cycles. Ignorance is the condition of which we become doomed by our own hands. We are our own worse enemies at times.

With the Parkland shooting just a few short months ago, I say short because these types of things seem to compress time and space, a number of brave young men and women (they deserve the epithet of “men” and “women”) stood up to take on the system, the cycle of suffering. They brought a fresh face to the epidemic. One would think with such a thing would be a rally point for change but it appears not. It seems it’s back to business as usual. Have we had enough yet?

Everytown.com

-cpv

 

Dropping Interbeing

How are we to understand interbeing? We desire explanations- this is how it works, perhaps a scientific explanation, a plus b equals c. This is no freedom in this. How can there be freedom when something is in “concrete” form. Drop the “I am a cloud,” “I am the rain.” These are merely words from the master in order to teach his students. They are not the essence. If this is the case then how are we to understand interbeing? I don’t think we can – at least not fully. It is like an iceberg. The part we perceive, we recognize is just the small part but the great mass is out of view, until it isn’t. I do not think it is a matter of “understanding” interbeing so much as it is as experiencing through accepting what is already there throughout the cosmos. All we need to do, as the Chan patriarchs say, is to drop body and mind. This means letting go of all notions and attachments, the things that bind us, the things that separate us from our true nature, our great potential. Interbeing in not a matter of trying to understand. Any experience of understanding is only revealed to us, like discovering the creamy center of a chocolate candy. No, the experience of interbeing is not understood through the mind but rather from a deep seated utterance of the heart. This utterance of the heart, if we allow it, becomes a grand symphony. How deep and wide is the heart? As deep and wide as the cosmos. Why? Because they are one in the same.

The Buddha and the Indian patriarchs spoke about dwelling in emptiness. This is to dwell in the openness and vastness of non-duality. This is also the middle-way, the place between this and that. This is also dropping body and mind. Only when we dwell in this boundless space do experience the true interbeing. There are two intereings. One is the conceptual understanding which are the bones. The other interbeing is the marrow, the true interbeing, which is open, free, embracing, fearless, and beyond words and concepts, completeness of the the present moment. It is not something we create. How can we create something that already is and has been since the beginningless beginning?

Because we do not dwell in the true interbeing we search for something to fill the void. Maybe we use the first kind of interbeing to fill that void, relying on the intellect instead of the heart. It is like reading a book but not grasping the words. Perhaps this searching leads to unwholesome things. Perhaps this search leads us to wholesome things. Perhaps we go to monasteries, churches, to books, or to a teacher. But what we search for, this connection, this fullness of life can only be found in one place, that which is already present within us. Drop body and mind and the cosmos blooms before you.