I've been looking for lists of Buddhist blogs. I just found these Tasty Links. I look forward to reviewing all of the blogs in this directory.
I think I heard Marianne Williamson say once that if you have something that you feel the need to say, there is someone out there that needs to hear it. I might be misquoting and I might be incorrect about the source... I want to write about the sentiment.
I've been blogging in an isolated space for six months. I didn't know much about the blogging community (beyond the fact that it existed) and I didn't care. I started this blog because I wanted to write about something I feel driven to explore. I wanted to use writing as a way to deepen the exploration. Now, a few weeks after purchasing a real blogging service (Typepad) and a few days after discovering blog directories and audience feeders, I'm finding some aspects of being in this community distracting, uncomfortable, unappealing.
I assigned credits, I exploited the power of Firefox tabbed browsing and had multiple browsing sessions going on at once trying to rack up points and site visits. A couple of people made really nice comments on my blog. It was exciting... My first comments! Then I started to think about these past few days and how far I've deviated from my purpose here.
In all that time, I could have been meditating. I could have been reading. I could have spent more time with my daughter. I could have been writing. I could have been doing kong'an (Korean romanization of the word "koan") practice (the Buddhist temple I attend is of Korean lineage). I could've gotten some exercise instead of sitting on my futon all day with a computer in my lap. I wasted two days of my life for what I can now see is nothing but the Drum Major Instinct that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about in his sermon of the same name. A few excerpts:
There is deep down within all of us an instinct. It's a kind of drum major instinct—a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first. And it is something that runs the whole gamut of life.
We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. Alfred Adler, the great psychoanalyst, contends that this is the dominant impulse. Sigmund Freud used to contend that sex was the dominant impulse, and Adler came with a new argument saying that this quest for recognition, this desire for attention, this desire for distinction is the basic impulse, the basic drive of human life, this drum major instinct.
And you know, we begin early to ask life to put us first. Our first cry as a baby was a bid for attention. And all through childhood the drum major impulse or instinct is a major obsession. Children ask life to grant them first place. They are a little bundle of ego. And they have innately the drum major impulse or the drum major instinct.
As I went pimping around, I discovered something... some piece of this instinct in myself. It is so Junior High! I want people to like my blog. I want people to value what I say. For a minute I forgot what I was doing here and I went for blogging community prom queen. I went for popularity. I went for traffic. I hope I never get caught up in the blog pimping business again. I will leave my listings out there... and perhaps people will find this site like I found Ow, My Blog and others... If there is an audience for Buddhist blogs, people will search for them. My whoring days are over. I'm off to try to be a bodhisattva... off to save the world one breath at a time.
Why? He was so busy pimping for traffic he didn't have time to build it.
I love my daughter. I mean it... I really, really love my daughter. She is beautiful and smart and fun. That being said, I really get ticked when I have to clean up after her. It is par for the course, I know. I still can't pretend I like it. She is eight years old. This means that she can't eat without getting crumbs all over the place. This means that she can't pick up her dirty clothes and put them in a hamper. This means that her toys are always all over the place. I'm looking for strategies on how to teach her to consistently pick up after herself. Parents with a clue, let me in on it.
I have learned how to deal with most of the unpleasantries of life. Most things roll off my back. What I find interesting is that fact that my daughter is the person with whom I lose it the most. She is certainly not the person who deserves it the most (if I were keeping score). I start to ask myself... "What's up with this?"
The idea of losing control assumes that we are in control, and I believe this is where the breakdown occurs. Parents "lose it" because they believe they are supposed to be "in control." We are taught to believe that adults are in control, or should be.
But control is an illusion; there is no such thing as control, only the appearance of control which is maintained by pushing our feelings down, "flatlining" our emotions.
...from Time out for Parents by Cheri Huber, pg. 22
If I look at what I'm feeling as I'm "losing it" I usually find things like extreme fatigue and overwhelm. It's not what she is doing that is causing my reaction. Usually, I'm just plain tired. When I'm tired, I want things to go my way so I can relax then rest as soon as possible. Anything that interrupts that pathway gets on my damned nerves. It is no coincidence that I usually have these feelings and become irrationally impatient at the end of a day. After driving an hour to pick her up from latch key on time, after dealing with those people I work with all day, after traffic and bad weather... let's face it... I'm burned out and often in a sour mood. The farther away it is from Sunday, the more exhausted I am. It's not her fault. She gets the short end of the stick, being the only child of a single parent in America.
Thinking about all of this led me back to a book that I read before she was born. Pregnancy spurred a new category in my book-buying addiction. I probably had 15-20 parenting books in my collection before I started to let some of my books go (which of itself is a process). This one is my favorite... and I decided to read it again and really put it into practice. It's called The 10 Greatest Gifts I Give My Children. I highly recommend it to all parents.
Well, it's official. After pseudo-blogging on my personal Earthlink home page for six-months (hand coding entries on a static HTML website with no comments or trackbacks or any of the other interactive features that make a blog a blog), I have joined the Blogging community. This site now appears on Blog Explosion and Blogarama. I'm still waiting for inclusion on Blogwise. I visited Peace Blogs to learn more and hopefully submit my site there, but they are closed for new business.
I have surfed at least 50 sites so far on BlogExplosion, 99.5% of which I could do without... But there are some very interesting people out there, with compelling things to say. I'm starting to get excited about coming out of the blogging closet and sharing some of myself with the world.
My initial intent in starting this blog was to do my Intensive Practice work live... to let people who are interested in Zen/Buddhism see what it is like to really delve into practice. I also wanted to connect with other Buddhists across the globe and create a community of kalyana mitta (spiritual friends) who will remind me to keep going when the going gets tough. Although I place a lot of emphasis on the fact that I am an African-American Buddhist, I am not here for political reasons... I'm not on a crusade. While I might at times raise awareness of Black Buddhist issues, the main intent of this site is to focus on my practice and use this site as a vehicle for my practice.
Thanks to the bloggers that have made me pause, read, laugh, nod and smile:
When I get around to starting a Blog Roll, it will likely list these sites and more.
The reality is that there is no solution to work's inherent chaos and messiness. Work by its very nature will always be uncertain. The good news is that work's messiness and uncertainty need not be distressing. They may in fact, be just what we are asking for.
[...from Chapter 4, Work is a Mess, in Awake at Work: 35 Practical Buddhist Principles for Discovering Clarity and Balance in the Midst of Work's Chaos by Michael Carroll, pg. 48]
It has been a month now, and I'm still moving stuff and unpacking. The end is in sight, and I can't wait. I was just about to say that once I'm finished with all of these boxes, I can settle in to my practice again. It gets interesting... I don't even notice myself making excuses about why I don't practice. For the past few weeks, the "reason" has been that I need to get settled. What's real is that I am feeling very unsettled lately.
Positions are being cut left and right. A close friend was recently laid off with no warning. Several hundred people will be cut from my company. I think my job is secure, but who knows. If it weren't for my student loans, other debts I need to pay, and the daughter I need to feed/clothe/house, I would be ready to give up my job. Am I the only one out here who is tired of being stressed?
I finished reading the latest Grisham this evening before I started searching for buddhism-related blogs. I found a few that I might visit again. One in particular posted a recent article on meditation from the Washington Post.
Tonight, I'm feeling like a slave to my job. I'm tired, I'm frustrated, I'm needing (at least) a vacation. I'm in a serious mental fog right now... water, prostrations and sitting would do me good. I'm exhausted, and I have to wake up in five hours. I will probably just go to bed.
Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.
[...The First Mindfulness Training from For a Future to be Possible: Commentaries on the Five Mindfulness Trainings by Thich Naht Hanh, et. al... pg. 3]
Someone was killed in the first half-hour of the day. A man I'd never heard of before named Donald Beardslee was put to death by the California Department of Corrections. I wouldn't have known anything about this man or his death were it not for Diana, an employee of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship who passed along news about their plans to sit in vigil and seek a stay of execution.
I read the article in the Chronicle explaining all of the details of the crimes he committed, the remorse and emotion he did not show, the final little details of his life (that he did not eat, that he drank grapefruit juice, that his head tilted slightly as he took his final breath). I found his crimes inexcusable, but I'm not going to say he didn't deserve to die because he suffered brain damage, or because the other defendants who were accomplices in the murders committed recevied lesser sentences, or because some are calling into question exeuctions of this manner suggesting they are cruel and unusual for this or the other reason. I'm going to say he shouldn't have died because it is wrong under any and all circumstances to kill another being. Period.
I'm unwilling to listen to any reason why the State of California or any other state feels justified in the legalization and enforcement of the death penalty. Common arguments include the need to provide closure to the family of the victim, and the need to provide a strong deterrent to violent crime. I don't buy it.
What if the family of the victim decided the state was taking too long to provide "justice"? What if a few family members decided to break in to death row and finish the job early? They would likely be convicted of murder... they would be reprimanded for participating in vigilante justice. But how would what they did be any different than what many states are doing now? The death penalty is state-sanctioned vigilante justice. It is tit for tat... murder for murder... life for life.
The wise give up
their attachments to everything.
Unshaken by craving,
they are calm with feelings
of both pleasure and pain.
Unjust means are never used
by the wise
to obtain success,
children, wealth, or land.
In fact, unjust means are never used—
even for the sake of others
[... from Chapter 6, THE WISE, in The Still Point Dhammapada by Geri Larkin, pg. 38-39]
Today we celebrate the life of a great man—a visionary, a revolutionary, a philosopher, a change agent, a leader in every sense of the word. Today, we celebrate Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I wish I had a copy of Eyes on the Prize. My daughter is eight years old, and I wonder as I write this if she is old enough to see with her own eyes her history as an American of African decent. I don't remember how old I was when I watched Roots, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Glory, or other films that demonstrate the horror and soul-shaking atrocity that befell Black people from slavery to the Civil Rights Movement. Perhaps I was a few years older than she is now when I saw those first images of young Black teenagers marching for peace, fire hoses turned upon them, angry dogs set loose among them. Regardless, I don't think age alone can prepare any of us to see hatred and violence so flippantly enacted against people who have done nothing to provoke a depth of malice that is difficult to understand or comprehend.
I wonder how parents are using this day... this day off of school or work for most of us... to teach their children about King and his legacy. Are they reading the I Have a Dream speech? Are they checking out books from the library and reading them together around the kitchen table? Maybe they are talking about the back story... watching Ghandi... and explaining how his philosophy of non-violent social protest motivated and inspired King and his contemporaries to stand up and do something for change. Maybe they are attending a program in his honor. Maybe they are sleeping in, trying to de-stress, running errands, doing all of the things we find difficult to do from day to day because of the demands our culture places on our time.
I'm looking at the cover of this month's Shambhala Sun magazine. It features a picture of Martin with the caption All We Need is Love. I just finished reading Charles Johnson's article, The King we Need. I'm in the middle of bell hooks' article Surrendered to Love: King's Legacy. Both hooks and Johnson take this opportunity to stress the significance of love. It reminds me of something Jamie Foxx said on Inside the Actor's Studio yesterday during the Pivot questionnaire. When asked "If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates," he says "I would want God to break down how he came up with love." Johnson and hooks are reminding us that love really is all powerful... that love really can make a difference. Are we listening? Are we really in tune with what Martin's legacy really is?
Johnson suggests that we have forgotten, that we have oversimplified the meaning of his thirty-nine year presence on earth:
Too many of us, especially those born after his assassination thirty seven years ago, see him only in the oversimplified terms of race—as an eloquent, segregation-era "voice of his people," frequently and falsely compared in political conversations with his very different (and philosophically antithetical) contemporary, Malcom X.
This is an article everyone should read... it skips over the popular messages and goes right to the bones... the Letter from a Birmingham Jail... the Drum Major Instinct... the progression of Martin's life and philosophies and how he found ways to make real the deepest convictions of his heart. If we only find ways to let love rule, ignoring at first politics, economics, and focusing instead on the person in front of us... If we only find ways to see each other not as who we are but who we are becomming, we would carry on King's vision and live his legacy, and show our children how it's done. We would fall into that natural progression that he did... starting from a solid spiritual base, moving out to help others, being unsatisfied until somehow we change the world.
I believe it is critical that we continue to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. I believe it is critical that we study him, honor him, appreciate him, resepect him. However I think it is inappropriate for us to wonder what our lives would be like if he remained among us. Jamie Foxx talked about the death of his grandmother... He called her the tool maker, explaining that she "gave him the tools" he needed to handle every situation, every challenge in his life. It would be appropriate for us to see Martin in this light... He was the ultimate tool maker. He gave us the tools. It's up to us to continue to use them.
May you be free from danger. May you be peaceful and at ease. May you be filled with loving-kindness. May you be happy.
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