On letting go of rules: words of wisdom from Devi Daly

Yin yoga is like the punk rock of yoga; it’s the yoga where we don’t like rules very much.

Thus spoke Devi Daly in the middle of Dragon pose during her live-streamed Yin yoga class this morning.

She went on to explain that there is a lot of physical variation from person to person; we don’t all have the same bone structures, the same hip joints, the same flexibility, etc. So when it comes to yoga postures,

We really need to have a lot of variation, a lot of permission, and a lot of willingness to break the rules. For those of us who have done a lot of other kinds of yoga that have strict rules we need to let go of some of these alignment dogmas that we’ve learned in order to honor our bodies properly.

I’d add that for those of us who have done a lot of ANYTHING that involves strict rules or even unspoken or not-so-strict codes of conduct — it pays to at least question what we’ve learned in order to honor ourselves properly. Because we’re all different, in terms of values, motivations, and inclinations. Thanks for reminding me of this, Devi, I really needed that this morning ❤

If you’re looking for some excellent online yoga classes, taught by someone who’s really on it as far as the technology goes, do check out her awesome yoga channel and consider subscribing!

Like Rechungpa, I have a lot to learn

Apparently I need to read this book, ha:

Rechungpa is a promising disciple, but he has a lot to learn, being sometimes proud, distracted, anxious, desirous of comfort and praise, over-attached to book learning, stubborn, sulky and liable to go to extremes.

Source

Lauren Ruth Ward channels some serious Vajrapani energy

I’ve been studying up on Vajrapani, wielder of the thunderbolt, protector from fear of unknown places. He’s got a wrathful side. Look at his mudra! \m/ He’s ready to burn it all down; all the delusion and hatred, that is.

Lauren Ruth Ward channels this energy perfectly in this Jam in the Van performance:

Even the lyrics are spot on, complete with poison, pride, and a fight to lead with one’s heart. Om Vajrapani Hum!

Valhalla by Lauren Ruth Ward

You’ve got beauty coming out your ears
Aw, must make it hard for you to hear
Give me the wheel
And I will take you off course
I’ll put your money on the speckled horse
I’ll put your money on the speckled horse

Communication is the only ointment
(But) You give me poison
You give me poison

They’ll memorize my name on the list
At the door at Valhalla
I’ll tell them how I died
In the battle of Madonna
Some will scratch their balls
And wonder how I conquered
Befriend the male gaze
Make my own money
Forming my own phase

I ate shit on the walk of fame
Yeah, I tripped looking down looking for my name
I saw the L saw the A saw the U
Saw the aRe you gonna gonna make it thru?
You can’t take tomorrow
Won’t fake today
When are you going to make
A name?

They’ll memorize my name on the list
At the door at Valhalla
I’ll tell them how I died
In the battle of Madonna
Some will scratch their balls
And wonder how I conquered
Befriend the male gaze
Make my own money
Forming my own phase

It’s a sleepy time
For the ones who choose their hearts
One of a kind, bedroom eyed
Pair of dice
Take my hand you will understand
My side
Be my friend
Woman or man
We will fight

They’ll memorize my name on the list
At the door at Valhalla I’ll tell them how I died
In the battle of Madonna
Some will scratch their balls
And wonder how I conquered
Befriend the male gaze
Make my own money
Forming my own phase

How did she do it?
How did she do it?
How did she do it?
They all will ask

Calling on Akshobya: a Puja for people experiencing anger

As someone who experiences anger and indignation quite strongly, I’ve been digging around for Buddhist approaches to handling these challenging emotions. Of all the Buddhas in Triratna’s mandala, it seems that Akshobya is the appropriate one to call upon at such times… though I can’t think of a time when Imperturbability or Mirror-like Wisdom would NOT come in handy!

Ever since discovering Saccanama’s Puja to Akshobya I’ve been wanting to arrange it into a printed booklet, complete with images and all the refuges and precepts intact and an appropriate reading, etc. Voilà!

If you send this pdf to Warehouse Stationery or some other printer, they know how to organize things such that it works out properly when printed on A4 paper, folded and stapled into a 20-page booklet.

If anyone is interested, I can probably figure out how to organize the pages so that it works if you’re printing it from home? Contact me and we’ll get it sorted 🙂

Stone Hammered to Gravel: a poem by Martín Espada

An excerpt of Martín Espada’s poem, Stone Hammered to Gravel:

Did you know?
When the bullet exploded the stars
in the cosmos of your body, did you know
that others would read manifestos by your light?
Did you know, after the white ambulance left,
before the coloured ambulance arrived, if you would live at all,
that you would banish the apartheid of the ambulance
with Mandela and a million demonstrators dancing at every funeral?
Did you know, slamming the hammer into the rock’s stoic face,
that a police state is nothing but a boulder
waiting for the alchemy of dust?

Written for a specific person, at a specific time, in a particular place… and yet, and yet. For how long will poetry like this be necessary?

The entire poem:

Stone Hammered to Gravel

for poet Dennis Brutus at eighty Continue reading “Stone Hammered to Gravel: a poem by Martín Espada”

Generosity and the giving of time: a talk for Buddhist Action Month

As part of our Buddhist Action Month series on Generosity, this week I gave this talk on Generosity and the giving of time.

The official description from the Auckland Buddhist Centre’s website is below (thanks Mary Anna for writing these up!)… but it actually ended up shifting into something a bit more esoteric once I started pondering: what even IS time?!

A finger is sometimes pointed at Buddhism accusing its practitioners of sitting on their cushions, wishing everything to be well and happy but not actually doing anything practical to achieve it. Yet in Buddhism the Bodhisattva ideal exists, where Buddhists dedicate their lives to the alleviation of suffering of all, and tirelessly dedicate themselves to this task.

In this spirit Buddhist Action Month (BAM) was born. Buddhists commit to taking action in areas of concern, usually around the degradation of the environment or issues around poverty and other social concerns.

Most of us have intentions to act with care for the environment and a desire to help those less fortunate. However, many things seem to get int the way of translating this intention into action. For some, feelings of scarcity and lack shrink their perception of the resources they have available to offer. Others are overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness or dissuaded by feelings of hypocrisy from giving their resources to a cause.

This is where the “Perfection of Generosity” – one of the practices of the Bodhisattva, serves us well. Generosity is an act of love, and out of love comes the spaciousness, energy and resources to act. Generosity connects us and imbues our lives with wellbeing and meaning. Generosity provides the resources to act in any situation, so that we take action not only in Buddhist action month, but we live Buddhist action lives.

Over the month of June, we will cover the following themes:

  • evoking Ratnasambhava and the spirit of generosity
    • giving money
    • giving time
    • giving to the care of the environment
    • how generosity makes us happier, creates more meaningful lives and the science that supports this idea

29 June – Elizabeth U – generosity and the giving of time

Elizabeth gives her time to many unpaid causes. She will talk about the factors that enable her to give her time for free and for the service of others. She will speak to the busy-ness of our lives, how we need to evaluate how we spend our time and what makes time well spent. She will also touch on time scarcity and the perception of “enoughness.” She will explain why we need to make space for generosity in our lives and how we can do that.

For Nothing is Fixed: podcast and poems

“Fixed” as in: permanent / unmoving / unchanging;
“Fixed” as in: repaired, made whole.

On this theme I present this timely and provocative conversation between Viveka and Paramananda. So much of what Viveka says (and not just in this podcast!) resonates with my experience, in particular:

Just because we’re physically together doesn’t mean we’re vibing together… Just recognizing that when we’re physically together doesn’t mean that all bodies are able to be there in the same way has been a huge teaching for me.

and:

How can we actually co-create a space that everyone is genuinely able to be welcome with others, to be welcoming others? …There’s something about the beautifulness of our differentiation where we can actually welcome each other fully.

Their conversation takes as its springboard this poem by James Baldwin, which Paramananda recites beautifully (and from memory!) at 4:40:

For Nothing Is Fixed
by James Baldwin

For nothing is fixed,
forever, forever, forever,
it is not fixed;
the earth is always shifting,
the light is always changing,
the sea does not cease to grind down rock.
Generations do not cease to be born,
and we are responsible to them
because we are the only witnesses they have.
The sea rises, the light fails,
lovers cling to each other,
and children cling to us.
The moment we cease to hold each other,
the moment we break faith with one another,
the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.

***

Here’s another excerpt of a poem, which I heard for the first time this afternoon. Apparently it is stenciled on the streets of Salem, Massachussetts in such a way that it is only visible when it rains, and I wish I could find the poem in its entirety:

Prema-Bangera-TheArtofHealing

All around the globe, Right Now, people are busy filling in the cracks of our world with gold, and I’m deeply inspired.

Severence by Ling Ma: an excellent lockdown read

I read Ling Ma’s Severance back in March and keep forgetting to give it a glowing recommendation, especially for those of you who are still in lockdown.

Severance

A few of the elements that really worked for me:

  • A fascinating perspective on the benefits (!) of boring office jobs;
  • A mysterious flu with origins in China;
  • Post-pandemic dystopia;
  • Cult dynamics;
  • A solid critique of the internet and how we use it;
  • Philosophical differences revealed through a romantic relationship;
  • A Chinese-American immigration story;
  • The choice between going with the flow vs joining the revolution vs saving yourself; and
  • Geekery related to specifics of publishing books (think: paper weight, binding, and cover materials) to remind me of my former life as a publisher.

Check it out. 4 out of 5 stars!

Both / And: on the experience of existing as woman of color in the Triratna Buddhist movement

The world today is very different from that in which Buddhism originated and flourished…
The challenge Buddhists face today is to find ways of communicating and practising the Dharma that are truly effective in these new circumstances. The situation seems to call for renewal in the Buddhist world, faithful to the Buddha’s own teaching, yet addressing the circumstances we find ourselves in now.

Those are the words of Subhuti, excerpted from his 2012 publication, A Buddhist Manifesto: the Principles of the Triratna Buddhist Community, written at Sangharakshita’s encouragement as a way to spread the latter’s Buddhist principles “to other Buddhists worldwide.”

And.

A problem of the dharma today is that it has become so limited. It has become constricted inside of a kind of fear. We want to maintain control of it, so we resist it evolving as it always has…

…we miss the opportunity before us to liberate ourselves from the obscurations that keep us from knowing who we are, from knowing each other, from knowing that our birthright is exactly love.

Obscuring the path of liberation for us all, simply put, is race. And when I say race, I mean race and ethnicity and heritage and skin color and all of those things that we have conflated into it for hundreds of years.

Those are the words of Rev. angel Kyodo williams, a self-described Black, mixed-raced woman Zen priest, from a recent article, Your Liberation is On the Line.

***

I found this image on the website of an international retreat for women “like me” who are training for Ordination into the Triratna Buddhist Order. [Source]

I am currently training for Ordination in the Triratna Buddhist tradition. After years of of studying with a number of Tibetan Buddhist teachers in India, Sangharakshita, a man who was brilliant and British, insightful and white, brought his unique vision of the Dharma [= teachings of the Buddha] back to England. From there, this vision has spread throughout the so-called “Western” world and beyond.

The Buddhist movement Sangharakshita founded is the Triratna that I first encountered at the Auckland Buddhist Centre, after a decade+ of intermittent Buddhist study and practice. I may just as likely have encountered it at the San Francisco Buddhist Centre, or any of the dozens of Triratna Buddhist Centres located around the world.

I am deeply grateful for the clarity and accessibility of the Triratna teachings, and even more so for the beautiful Sangha [=spiritual community] that makes the Triratna movement so unique amongst all the other Buddhist disciplines.

And.

I struggle daily with several intersectional aspects of Triratna’s culture, as it manifests at the more-distributed-than-centralized global and local levels. The movement’s history stings of appropriation, colonialism, and patriarchy. Formal Dharma study groups and people training for ordination are separated by gender, with no formal support for people who do not identify as “male” or “female.” At my local Centre, it’s a lot easier to join a study group if you identify as a man, but many women wait months, and must make formal commitments, before being assigned to a group.

There doesn’t seem to be an accepted path to Ordination for parents of young children or people who otherwise don’t have the ability to attend retreats for long periods of time. The retreat Centres we use are not accessible for people with limited mobility, which means that many of our older Sangha members, and those who use walkers or wheelchairs, cannot attend.

There is quite an openness to the queer community. On the male side of the gender divide, that openness has bordered on (crossed into?) concerning abuses of power over the course of Triratna’s history. All but one of the authors whose work is disseminated by the publishing company associated with Triratna appear to be male, though it’s possible I’ve missed someone.

There is subtle scorn (or it simple racism?) directed at “cultural” Buddhists, a term used for those who were born into the tradition without having actively chosen to practice its teachings. The one female author I mentioned earlier also happens to be the only person of color I am aware of amongst their list of authors.

***

Triratna is my spiritual home. The more I learn about Sangharakshita’s history, the lineage of his teachings, and the beautiful and diverse people who are the embodied continuation of that lineage, the more comfortable I become with the late founder of this movement.

And.

I would like to keep my eyes wide open to the suffering that follows from the many issues I mentioned above.

***

I study, first and foremost, as I am encouraged to do, the Dharma as taught by Triratna teachers. Fortunately for all of us, there are far more recorded talks and videos from Triratna Order members of color than there are written works. I am deeply honored to be able to learn from teachers as insightful and skilled and experienced in the importance of diversity and inclusion work as Vimalasara and Viveka.

And.

To keep my cup full, I regularly seek out diverse Buddhist teachings from people who practice in traditions other than the Triratna community. There is so much amazing anti-racist work happening in the Insight Buddhist Community in North America that Buddhist of any affiliation can learn from, for instance. I share these resources in the hope that we all can benefit from — and see ourselves in — the many facets of the dazzling Dharma jewel.

***

To the extent that I have the energy — it takes a lot of emotional labor! — I am committed to actively working with my local Sangha to build a more inclusive approach to sharing the Dharma. This includes regularly engaging with my friends and teachers and Order members and fellow students in designing new ways to communicate with and learn from each other. It includes doing my best to stay engaged, even when it seems as though my concerns are being minimized or dismissed. I try to model the inclusive behavior I would like to see.

And.

I regularly slide into anger, into indignation. I skip right over “the gap” [between feeling and wanting something to be different] more often than I can keep track of. I wonder how regularly I break the precepts that pertain to kindness, generosity, and mindfulness. I am overcome with feelings of Hrī [=remorse] when I reflect on the impact of my unskillful actions. I know that my tone has many times resulted in people feeling shut down or minimised themselves. The cycle of samskara [=habitual tendencies] continues.

***

I try to remember that all things arise based on conditions. I work to include in my compassion all the people who “aren’t racist” but who do not yet fully understand their privilege or the impact of their behavior on others less privileged… which I do not believe is their fault; rather, I see it as a function of their own conditioning.

And.

I say the name of George Floyd aloud, and remind us about the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, lest we carry on with our Dharma activities as if this moment of great suffering were not happening. Yes, all beings experience suffering. And we need to be clear that suffering is happening in a very specific way — murder, often at the hands of police! — for Black people right now. And that this suffering is related to the suffering of Māori at the hands of the NZ police, and the suffering of indigenous people around the world. And that this suffering is related to the climate crisis. And that our liberation is tied up in the liberation of Black people in the US, whether we choose to look at those connections or not.

***

This represents what is most alive in me today; tomorrow, I might say something completely different. May we all stay open to the possibility of holding multiple perspectives at once. That is, after all, the promise of liberation — of Enlightenment! — that inspires my practice.