Archive for May, 2012


Wait and See

As many writers and other literary giants have found, a good deal of life is spent on waiting to see what will happen. I see “waiting” everywhere.” The doctor who tells a family, “Well, we did everything possible. Now we have to wait and see.” The job interview went great, but we’ll have to wait and see. Couples wait to see if they can have a child. Someone depressed, waits to see if they can climb out of the hole just one more time, the lonely waiting for love, and parents waiting to see how the kids will turn out. Waiting in both my job and my life seems mandatory.

Yet, over the past two years, my daily communion and meditation indicates that great things come after a period of wait. I am waiting for the Spirit of life to define my life even more critically. I am waiting for what has been promised. For a Christian, they wait upon God’s promise, “I am sending upon you what my Father had promised; so stay here until you have been clothed.” Granted, I am not looking for that “Shazam!” effect. Rather I am waiting to reach deep into my life, re-cleanse it, and transform me. I am awaiting marching orders, the gift from being confused to becoming bold and visionary.

I have found some great truths; my aloneness has turned into a rich fellowship of prayer. My waiting has not been wasted. I am reminded of my mortal-ness (is that a word?), that I cannot change the world solely in and of my own effort: I need a Sangha as well. As I spiritually find nurturing while walking in the woods near the Canadian border, I realize that I cannot quench my own thirst, for it is the Buddha and God who chooses to commune with me. As I recognize my limitations, I begin to see more and more of my real self. This waiting is not meant to break me, but rather it is meant to reveal me. I am discovering what I am made of and remolding the frayed edges.

Truly, in spite of all my mistakes, I am blessed by what has been given me. And while I am not particularly fond of everything I have done, I show up each day at the well like the Samarian woman, asking for His promise of living water. I meditation and prayer, I retouch my soul and remake the soul anew. I need this water to reclaim my spiritual soul and thankfully, I am constantly given the opportunity to drink from love, simply because I am loved.

In truth, I am thankful for this walk, for the friendship and whatever prayers and love afforded. For without this walk, I would have never had an opportunity to see and live my own life and what the spirit of God has in store.

Until next time, “Peace and Blessings.”

A Greater Family

Through my walks in the forests near Canada and upon the beaches of San Francisco I came to understand my level of brokenness. There, in the darkness of sunset, I physically walked alone, no friend, no lover, no Good Samaritan. Looking back, I can actually see the footprints of a greater being in the sand where each personal burden, pain and disappointment  where removed. Only by a greater grace was I finally able to accept my failures, my false securities and safety. I cut loose the inner armor and begun to stand.

In Buddhism, I mourned many losses in my life. Even now, each time I relive the deep and painful loss of the love of my life and all the other memories, I re-experienced them, but each day I felt their absence in a new way. And each time I cry, they die and something anew emerges. I connect with a more profound sense of compassion and love. I feel the Christian form love and God’s grace.

I realize I am part of a greater family. And as I shred my former self, I am moving from communion to a larger ministry.  Still, I know my past with each of the people offended has been difficult. And certainly, while I am forgiven by some, I learning only too well that I can hardly expect to be forgiven individually for the harm I caused.

Moving forward, I have re-embraced myself and my faith. I have been summoned from the “wilderness.” I will help develop a leadership network that helps to connect each other and others involved in the battle for healthcare and human rights in this country.

No One Dies Alone

Journal Entry: October 15th, 2011

I found myself in many awkward positions while tracing computer cable through the cramped hallways of the hospital. But this October morning began like most.  The sun overcame the marine layer and was beginning to peak through the eastward windows of the fourth floor.

But cable is cable. And tracing the conduit throughout each room can be meticulous, especially where one begins and another ends.  Is the cable colored? size, transmission capacity, potential age and potential damage. The installers performed a lousy job.  Basically, they laid the cable, but did little to make it serviceable.  Each floor, room, closet and entryway had a checklist. Each checklist must be compiled and recorded for clarity.

Room 407 was odd. There in the room, lay a fragile man, maybe 30’ish. Time, stress and pain wore him down. Standing in the doorway, stood Nurse Jena. “You a relative?” she inquired.

“No,” as I quickly turned.

“Too bad. We were trying to find a family member.”

“Why?” I inquired.

“Well, he’s homeless and probably will not last long.” Looking back at the man, “We know he’s a former Iraqi vet. But who exactly we aren’t sure. We also know he’s homeless. But getting information from the VA is difficult at best.”

“Basically he’s going to die alone?” I interrupted.

 “Yeah, Basically.”

“Mind if I stay with him? I mean if that’s alright?”

Jena paused for a moment, “Sure.”

When I recall his frailty, I remember the words of Douglas MacArthur:

“Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up wrinkles the soul.”

Many people hate those words.  For some reason, at this moment, that’s all I can simply think of. And I have no idea why. He deserved better words. He deserved someone to give a damn. Maybe, in the end, that’s all I could do. Maybe I would be the one who gave a damn. For this man, for all he had given, respect should have been mandatory.

This man passed later in the evening.  I was there and he did not die alone.

Post Script

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According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, far too many veterans are homeless in America—between 130,000 and 200,000 on any given night—representing between one fourth and one-fifth of all homeless people. Three times that many veterans are struggling with excessive rent burdens and thus at increased risk of homelessness.

Further, there is concern about the future. Women veterans and those with disabilities including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are more likely to become homeless, and a higher percentage of veterans returning from the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have these characteristics.

On this Memorial Day, and every day hereafter, let’s all give a damn.

It is easier to recognize a blessing after it is gone.

We are so obsessed with what we do not have, we cannot see the value of what we have been given.  The blessings from God are usually hidden in very plain packages. They come wrapped in things like an evening meal at the kitchen table with someone you love, a child you see playing in the backyard while you clean the dishes, a great conversation with a friend. In these earthen vessels are found the treasure of God’s love.

To be blessed means to discover that God cherishes us more deeply than we do ourselves.  To receive God’s blessing is to come home to a place we have never been, but where, from the moment we arrive, we know we belong. It is a place where we are unconditionally loved.

Blessings are not achievements, they are gifts from heaven.  The sinless one, the judge, came to me, a person who lost on the sea of good intentions and altered my sense of how I found hope. I am made right, not by trying harder, but by God’s grace and seeing how God is with me. He found me out in the wilderness where I was trying hard to get to the right place in life.

One cannot justify living like a snake simply because the world is full of snakes. Nor can I simply refuse my own venom saying, “just get use to it, for that is who I am.”  As a Buddhist, I recognize God did not make me angry, cynical or deadly. I did.

Paul, Christ and Ananias

Being invited and participating in Protestant worship, we had chance to reflect upon Paul’s conversion of the road to Damascus. Having been kicked out of the Catholic Church and unforgiven, I find much heart in Paul’s story.

As you may know, Saul grapples with his dawning realization that his life, though lived in zeal for the one true God even to the point of persecuting the church, has in reality been one of “ignorance in unbelief” (1 Tim 1:13). He begins to see that in proving his commitment to God by persecuting the church, he has actually been proving himself an enemy of God. As Saul deeply considers that “why?” and accepts the divine perspective on his actions, his whole spiritual world will be turned upside down. What was a badge of honor will become a lifelong shameful blot on his character.

The subsequent blindness shows Saul the spiritual bankruptcy of his pre-Christian condition.  In the end, Ananias healing and addresses Saul as a brother. Thus at the end, the healing and the laying on of hands are linked. And those who are healed can take full physical restoration and nourishment.

Few of us have has a dramatic public conversion experience as Paul, yet full acceptance of the change and forgiveness can be very dramatic for all. Secondly, Ananias followed the Lord’s request to forgive. And third, no life is useless or too far gone for God. He has a purpose for all of us and can forgive us no matter what if we are willing to ask for His forgiveness and accept it as His gift to us. What miracle life might He have in store for you.

In Buddhism, forgiveness, kindness and unconditional love towards others are three central aspects which are emphasized.  I went to my former Church, my pastor and former lover to request forgiveness. I submitted myself to public humiliation, but was granted none.

But in Buddhism, when you forgive me for harming you, you decide not to retaliate, to seek no revenge. You don’t have to like me. You simply unburden yourself of the weight of resentment and cut the cycle of retribution that would otherwise keep us ensnarled in an ugly samsaric wrestling match. This is a gift you can give us both, totally on your own, without my having to know or understand what you’ve done.

The 5 moral responsibilities I understand are:

    1.  I always responsible for our conscious choices.
    2. I must always put myself in the other person’s place.
    3. All beings are worthy of respect.
    4. I will regard those who point out my faults as if they were pointing out treasure
    5. There are no — repeat, no — higher purposes than the basic precepts of ethical behavior.

As you walk, be like Ananias, please forgive and call me a brother. Call all who seek forgiveness your brother. Miracles do happen.

Every Memorial Day weekend is spent watching “Band of Brothers.” Band of Brothers is a ten-part video series dramatizing the history of one company of American paratroopers in World War Two—E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, known as “Easy Company.” This exemplary group fought in some of the war’s most harrowing battles and “Band of Brothersdepicts not only the heroism but also the extraordinary bond among men formed in the crucible of war.  In truth, it is my way of remembering.

Being a veteran, I personally served in no major war. But personally, the inner war and personal demons of what I did during the military in the late 70’s is often reflected by these men.  I am in awe of the sacrifices these men so valiantly gave.

Still in contrast, many Buddhists refuse to take up arms under any circumstances, even knowing that they would be killed as a result. The life of monks permits them to defend themselves, but it forbids them to kill, even in self-defence. For Buddhists this poses the difficult dilemma of how to protect the rights and lives of their citizens without breaking the principle of nonviolence.

The pure Buddhist attitude is demonstrated accordingly:

“A Vietnam veteran was overheard rebuking the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, about his unswerving dedication to non-violence.

“You’re a fool,” said the veteran – “what if someone had wiped out all the Buddhists in the world and you were the last one left. Would you not try to kill the person who was trying to kill you, and in doing so save Buddhism?!”

Thich Nhat Hanh answered patiently “It would be better to let him kill me. If there is any truth to Buddhism and the Dharma it will not disappear from the face of the earth, but will reappear when seekers of truth are ready to rediscover it.

“In killing I would be betraying and abandoning the very teachings I would be seeking to preserve. So it would be better to let him kill me and remain true to the spirit of the Dharma.”

But being Buddhist also means being a humanist. At times, we must focus on human values and concerns, attaching prime importance to what it means to be human rather than divine or supernatural matters.  Episode 9, ‘Why We Fight’ is very reflective of being human.

One of my favorite movie lines comes from the Rob Reiner film “The American President.” At one point in the film, in the midst of political controversy, the president (Douglas) says stoically and dismissively, We fight the fights we can win. But then, in a moment of movie magic, the loyal friend and faithful attendee to the president A.J. (Martin Sheen) retorts with uncharacteristically bold defiance: “You fight the fights that need fighting!” Buddhism, Christian, Atheist alike, there comes a time when we all must fight the fights that need fighting.

For the men of Easy Company, whether known or not, stopping the kind of people responsible for the concentration camp they find outside of Landsberg is exactly why they fight — why they’ve given up years of their lives and risked those lives repeatedly. As the real Dick Winters (who had fewer problems with his resolve to begin with) said to himself after getting a look at that nightmarish place, “Now I know why I am here!”

This episode was really powerful, because it captures what those soldiers saw when they went into Kaufering IV and how they liberated all the people the Nazis put in concentration camps. It was so horrible to look at and makes you wonder how humanity can be so inhuman to other human beings. It’s one of those things you have to see for yourself and I’ll never forget this episode.

This was a brutal look at what hatred and racism does when it gets out of control and it’s thanks to brave men and women in the armed forces that help prevent things like this from happening and we should never forget what all our troops do every day.

As Buddhist, a humanist and Veteran, I am in awe of all who served. I am truly honored to all who fight the fights worth fighting.

Living in the Moment in Lubbock

These past several days I have been in Lubbock, Texas.  I could summarize all the city benefits, but that would only put a nostalgic touch on a day of continuing to place image before feeling.

Being a consultant is very much like being a Buddhist. You constantly live in the moment, aware of the ever present tangibles life will offer.  Every moment of the client, every movement, facial expression, smile, smirk, concern and raised eyebrow is always measured.  The texture of the day, it’s heat, humidity, rain, the paint, the wood decorations, dust, pictures, windows, sunlight, smells and wall space offer small testaments of the inhabitants residing within.

The consultant–client relationship is a never ending dance. It’s a relationship we transcend from courtship and infatuation, to the power struggle, onto a re-evaluation, forward to awareness and finally acceptance.  By living in the moment, I have learned these phases shift quickly and often go unnoticed.

Most never experience the shift and never live in the moment. Thus, our life often spirals toward only positive or negative loss. We live a life where friends are few, relationships last weeks to months and we bury the emptiness of aloneness via a mixed drink and fast food.  We lose ourselves and at the end of the day, we begin the dawn as continual repeat process.

By living in the moment, we can understand the repeated process of our life. By understanding, we can change the process, end the suffering and move toward enlightenment.  Days like this remind me to live in the moment.

Sometimes it is difficult to love someone. Sure, we all can love those who believe what we believe, like what we like, think like us and live like us.  For example, the U.S. Center for World Mission breaks down various faiths accordingly:

  • Christian 33%
  • Muslims: 20%
  • Hindu: 14%
  • Buddhist 6%
  • Non-Religious: 12%
  • Atheist: 2%

So basically, if you are like Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, N.C., there’s a whole lot of people out there to hate. 

For those who don’t know, Pastor Worley recently condemned President Obama’s much-publicized endorsement of same-sex marriage while calling for gays and lesbians to be put in an electrified pen and ultimately killed off.  When asked who he would vote for he yells: “I’ll tell you who I ain’t gonna vote for, a baby killer and a homosexual lover!”

So from a Buddhist perspective, I concur that most major religions basically prohibit sexual immorality.  But I also believe that believe Buddhism, like other religions, allow for grace and love to transcend the hatred and build stronger ‘Sanghas.’ 

We all make mistakes, we all suffer. But while we can personally disagree, we must choose to disagree agreeable.  Electrified pens are another name for death camps.  And this logic, regardless of faith must be condemned.  Just as hatred drove the planes of 9/11 into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and an empty field, so does the hatred surrounding the thoughts of Pastor Worley.

As for Pastor Worley, I will always respect him as a person created by God. I just choose to agree to disagree agreeably. But as Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, Orthodox Rabbi, quoted in ‘Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero,’ “…and if you can say that, well, at least you’re honest. I don’t worship the same God, but that at least has integrity.”

Also, Mr. Worley, I suggest you review Mark 12:31 again:

‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

And I Long

You were all
The beauty I ever gazed.
And I long.

You walked upon my street, then vanished.
And sometimes, in the moment, in window reflection
I am startled by your presence presence

Who knows?
Perhaps the same moment was shared by both of us
Yesterday, in the morning, in the evening…
Forever more

Your spirit fulfills
Am beloved by nature
An agape love
Given for only a moment

In this moment
Thy gze without you
In stillness, you are
Every femtosecond I turn
The breeze whispers
Flowers scent
My tongue twisters
The sun sets
This moment
You are here.

In every moment
The maestro chisels
The maestro molds
Cradle, soothe
Embrace, unfold
Love, forgive
A gentle dove
I relive.

Your hair ablaze
Eyes of blue
Thy touch craved
A Blessed hue
Erotic love
From Ehyeh
And angles above
Musical phrase
In this moment
I pray.

Oh love
You are here
In this moment
Everyday
Of life
In decay
Forever more.

In every moment.

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