Archive for the ‘dharma’ Category

Retro to Cosmic: TBoH Summer Soundtracks

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Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

Little girl, she had to grow up quick,
She ain’t a child no more.
Her heart’s still soft but her skin got thick,
She ain’t a child no more.
How could a mother be so reckless and wild?
Put your kid through such torture and trial?
You can only have the love of your child,
She ain’t a child no more.


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Janelle Monáe

Say you’ll go to Nirvana,
Will you leave Samsara?
In the words of Dhammapada
Who will lead, who will follow?


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Flying Lotus

“On Cosmogramma, this never-ending stream of aural textures sounds effortless, and the enthralling swirl of jazz, drum ’n’ bass, dubstep and hip-hop beckons you toward the edge of something damn near cosmic.” (Review)

What’s your soundtrack this summer?

Prapañca Journal

I’m delighted to share the news about Prapañca, an online Buddhist journal edited by friend of the blog, Scott Mitchell from Buddha is My DJ. The purpose of this quarterly publication — whose name refers to the way we make sense of the world through the “play of words” — is to represent an inclusive and diverse range of contemporary Buddhist voices through original feature articles, reviews and opinion, and creative work (poems, fiction, and art).

What’s especially intriguing to me is that the journal is interested in capturing unconventional perspectives on Buddhist traditions and philosophy. The submissions guidelines indicate that the editors want to hear not only from experienced, self-identified Buddhists, but from fledgling practitioners like myself who are curious about the connections between the Middle Way and our everyday lives.

The June 2010 inaugural issue will focus on the issue of “Imperfection.” So if you have an idea for a submission, or know of someone who might be interested in the journal, please help spread the word!

A Holiday Wish: “You Cannot Step Twice Into the Same River”

One of the most cherished memories that Frieda and I shared as kids was of my grandmother’s beautiful white Christmas tree, adorned with silver and crystal ornaments and small diamond-shaped mirrors that tinkled like chimes when you walked nearby. No one else we knew had a tree so brilliant. Visitors to the house oohed and aahed, leaning in close to see their reflection in the mirrored branches. We were always very proud.

Today her precious tree, so fragile and so deeply loved, is collecting dust in a box somewhere in a garage. A few days ago I panicked realizing this. Both of my grandparents are gone now and the tree is not being used. It all feels very wrong. I miss those holidays, the silliness and drama of my extended family and the unexpected joys of being together. I had thought that these traditions would last, but now we are all scattered about and every conversation seems to begin with an apology: So sorry we can’t make it this year… Sorry I couldn’t afford a gift… Sorry I forgot to get my card in the mail…

But instead of feeling low or shedding any more tears, I am using this time to reflect on the realities of impermanence. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, as paraphrased: “You cannot step twice into the same river; for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you.” I won’t be able to see my grandmother’s white Christmas tree this year and, even if I could get my hands on those dusty boxes of ornaments, there is no way to relive the past. With each breath, though, I am already creating new memories with a wonderful husband, an amazing daughter, and of course, a special new tree.  I want to be thankful for all that we have – even when what we have is the occasional nostalgia for the way things used to be – without hoarding and clinging to things that can’t last. As another great thinker wrote, “The only lasting truth is Change.” Being mindful of this truth compels me to stop and observe with deep appreciation the world around me right now. I don’t want to miss it!

Here’s wishing you a joyful holiday season filled with peace, compassion, and fresh waters of love ever flowing in upon you.

On Behalf of Aspirations

NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

President Obama departs Rose Garden, October 9, 2009

The day after President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009, I attended my first meditation retreat. Instead of the relaxing getaway that I anticipated, I came away from the day of deep reflection and concentration exhausted, but strangely exhilarated. Most importantly, I learned something about myself that (I hope) will allow me to remain mindful, to engage the world thoughtfully, and to approach difficult moments with compassion.

That’s easier said than done. Just the other day I almost lost my mind at a Chuck-E-Cheese birthday party when an impatient, unsupervised little brat rudely nudged my daughter away from the air hockey table as her turn came to an end. As I looked around for the boy’s parent — where is this child’s mama? — I realized that I was more concerned about salvaging my pride as a mother than I was about my daughter’s feelings. She hadn’t even noticed the slight and was off to another game. Others may have handled the situation differently, but I let my anger dissipate in that moment. I decided to devote my energy to making sure she had a good time instead.

One of the lessons of the retreat that has stuck with me is about developing right intention (also called “right aspiration”) and being attentive to the thoughts, ideas, and assumptions that guide my decisions. We don’t often place much value on our motives as long as the outcomes are acceptable; after all, conventional wisdom says the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, right? As a black woman and a southerner, I know how to speak kindly even when my words are not rooted in sincerity or wisdom. As a survival strategy, it works. But then again, our nation’s history is distinguished by black southern women who took dangerous risks, speaking out rather unkindly against the status quo when spurred by the clear, earnest intentions of a righteous cause.

So I was especially intrigued by the way the Norwegian Nobel Committee praised Obama’s work through references to his vision, attitudes, initiative, and of course, hope. The sentiment was reiterated in the President’s remarks about the Nobel Peace Prize:

“Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.”

New pundits and bloggers of all political persuasions have been scratching their heads to figure out what Obama has done to warrant the prize. Okay, fair enough. Still I can’t help but be very glad to live in a world in which right intention is cherished. Undoubtedly, there is much work to be done on health care, education, and climate change among other issues. And like some of my friends, I worry about whether or not it is possible for Obama to meet the overwhelming expectations being placed on his shoulders. I am heartened, nevertheless, by the doors that open when we act “on behalf of aspirations.” Volition is a kind of power that is not confined to a meditation retreat, but when used as the basis for virtuous action, can be felt as close as the Chuck-E-Cheese air hockey table or as far away as Oslo.

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A Dharma for Blues People

dharma_wheel_1“No, there’s no way not to suffer. But you try all kinds of ways to keep from drowning in it, to keep on top of it, and to make it seem – well, like you.” – James Baldwin, “Sonny’s Blues”

I’ve wanted to share my feelings about my spiritual journey towards Buddhism for some time now.  I consider matters of faith and religion deeply private, and as someone who is forever pushing against labels that oversimplify our complex and ever-changing identities, I have been reluctant to claim this belief system as my own. Black and Buddhist? Seriously? Sounds about as crazy as a Black President! (Heh.)

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