Out with the old and in with the new!

Happy Chinese New Year!

This week is the turn of the Chinese Calendar Year, and it is now the Year of the Rabbit. This is my birth year. To welcome it in, we’ve been organizing and cleaning our house, office and studio. Everything is now organized and clear for us to think and work with focus and clarity. It’s amazing how just organizing your closets, and cleaning those usually neglected shelves and cupboards can give you a renewed energy to focus and work. I’ve done everything from overhauling my art studio, to preparing my taxes ahead of deadline. I’ve also rewritten my entire Kung Fu personal notebook, full of meditation, practice, Qi Gong and Tai Chi notes, and in doing so, got to revisit the teachings again.

We’ve done all this in the past few weeks, and it’s really been a great help towards better focusing our work projects, which is also helping us create more personal time. I highly recommend doing it.

I’ve also made a resolution with my sister to learn Mandarin. I find learning languages difficult, and of all languages, Mandarin is one of the harder ones to master. However,  I’ve decided that learning this language will be a perfect way to stretch my mind and help me understand the culture of my ancestors.

The Dalai Lama in San Jose – Talking about the 8 Verses for Training the Mind

This week we went to see the Dalai Lama talk at the San Jose Convention Center. It was an amazing experience and rare opportunity that I will never forget. His website features images from the event that you can see here. He talked about the 8 Verses for Training the Mind, but didn’t really elaborate on the verses’ text much, instead choosing to talk about religious tolerance and compassion in general quite a bit before going over the verses and their relevance. It was all related though, as everything ultimately is. He spoke mostly in English, but had an interpreter there for when he had trouble explaining his thoughts, and also to translate his teachings about the verses. I was really impressed with how much English he actually did speak….and also at his sense of humor. He cracked jokes frequently and laughed quite heartily at them too. Saying things like, ‘normally, we should now  chant and meditate, but there’s no time, so today, it’s not necessary’, then picking up a sun visor and pointing at the spot lights on the stage, says ‘this hat….necessary’. The way he said it was very cute and everyone chuckled 🙂

We arrived at the convention center at around 10am to line up for the event and were lucky enough to be the first to be seated in our designated section. We were about 30 rows from the stage, behind the reserved area for Buddhist groups, who had preferential seating. So we ended up getting great seats, with a huge gang-way between us and the rows in front. The Dalai Lama made his way to the stage at around 2pm to address the room of approx. 12,000 people. I’ve never heard 12,000 people make so little noise. It was a deafening silence in respect of his presence. At this moment I was over-whelmed and welled up with tears of awe and respect. I’ve never felt that before in this way. It was really something.

The entire room rose for his entrance. He walked up to the fr0nt of the stage passing several monks and acknowledging them as he went. Then he turned to his bowing audience, placed his hands in prayer and bowed right back at us. We all stooped a little lower in our bows, while trying to look up to see him at the same time. He smiled generously at us all. Even with the powerful energy of his presence, his humble demeanor still shone through. He really does embody the lessons that he teaches.

It was something to see the diversity of the 12,000 people there to see him too. I saw many robed religious figures to include Christian Priests, Hindus, Sikhs and Jewish practitioners.  All there, proud of their own religions, but open and respectful to the words and teachings of  The Dalai Lama. How refreshing and wonderful is that! I wish this was more the norm and less of an anomaly.

At the end of his teachings, we all got to recite in unison the 8 verses along with him. I’m copying them here for you in case you don’t know them. Their message is about compassion, living with out anxiety and anger, but instead acceptance of others and love for others even if those others show you less in return. Taking negative emotions and using them as positive lessons to clear your mind of unproductive thoughts and feelings:

  1. With a determination to achieve the highest aim, For the benefit of all sentient beings, Which surpasses even the wish-fulfilling gem, May I hold them dear at all times.
  2. Whenever I interact with someone, May I view myself as the lowest amongst all, And, from the very depths of my heart, Respectfully hold others as superior.
  3. In all my deeds may I probe into my mind, And as soon as mental and emotional afflictions arise – As they endanger myself or others – May I strongly confront and avert them.
  4. When I see beings of unpleasant character, Oppressed by strong negativity and suffering, May I hold them dear – for they are rare to find – As if I have discovered a jewel treasure!
  5. When others, out of jealousy, Treat me wrongly with abuse, slander, and scorn, May I take upon myself the defeat And offer to others the victory.
  6. When someone whom I have helped, Or in whom I have placed great hopes, Mistreats me in extremely hurtful ways, May I regard him still as my precious teacher.
  7. In brief, may I offer benefit and joy t all my mothers, both directly and indirectly, May I quietly take upon myself All hurts and pains of my mothers.
  8. May all this remain undefiled By the stains of the eight mundane concerns; And may I, recognizing all things as illusion, Devoid of clinging, be released from bondage.

Unmistaken Child (Ha-Gilgul)

Just watched a documentary called ‘Unmistaken Child (Ha-Gilgul)’, a film by Nati Baratz about the journey of Tibetan Buddhist monk Tenzin Zopa as he traveled around looking  to identify the child who was the reincarnation of his deceased master, Lama Konchog. It’s an interesting insight in to this monk’s life and feelings for his master, as well as the eventual identification of the new Rinpoche. It was very interesting watching this young boy know his past life…..sometimes acting like a mature monk in a child’s body, sometimes, just acting like a child. I wonder what must be going on inside his head.

I recommend this film highly, if anything to help you understand the process of recognizing a reincarnated Rinpoche (Precious One) and get a glimpse in to the real world of a Tibetian Monk. Two thumbs up from me.

This documentary is currently a Instant Play on Netflix, so check it out!

More Dalai Lama

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has added a date to his visit in October, stopping to talk at Stanford on Oct 14th. I’m planning to attend his talk  on Oct 12th, so I’m keeping a close eye on this extra event in case I can’t get tickets for the other. Here’s the link to find out more. Tickets are not yet available for either date, but you can subscribe to the newsletter for the organization running the event to find out as soon as they’re up for grabs.

Teachings from the Dalai Lama

His Holiness the Dalai Lama talked to Ann Curry on NBC the other day. Check it out.

I learned something of course!

I’ve been feeling very dejected about the general state of human kind recently. I’ve been sad that so many people are ready to fight, kill and show aggression towards each other with so little stimulus. Not just between countries at war, but between fellow citizens, neighbors, children, teachers. I’ve felt like we’ve learned nothing from the atrocities of our recorded history and continue to repeat the same mistakes continually, even making them greater mistakes with our technology these days.

I haven’t known how to deal with this, but His Holiness had an answer. When Ann Curry asked him about the same thing, he explained that he felt human kind was not getting worse, but actually improving. He saw the good in the midst of everything bad that happens in this world. He said that 100 yrs ago, when a natural disaster happened, no one from neighboring countries gave a hand in relief. Now, countries flock to the scene to bring aid from great distances.

Being less enlightened than His Holiness, I still see far more damage than good done all over the world. But the lesson he brings me, is to FIND the good and focus on it. To nurture it, so it will grow. To not give up on it. All this time my focus has been on just how awful stuff is and it has been leaving me with a feeling of helplessness, which has been depressing, not to mention anti-productive…like banging my head against a brick wall constantly interjecting about how much it hurts, but doing it anyway. Now I must change my thinking to align with His Holiness. Focus on the positive, see the good and I will have more compassion for my fellow man, as well as find more peace inside myself. I see this now. It’s like acknowledging negative forces actually makes them stronger, so it’s better to try and focus on the positive and build strength there. In this way, I can be more helpful, not to mention more content inside.

As someone that studies the teachings of Buddhism regularly, it’s not like I haven’t come across this theory before. But reading it and doing it are indeed different beasts. The Dalai Lama leads by example. Despite knowing better, my bad habits and emotions had led the way. I needed a beacon to show me where to go. I’m sure I will veer off course many times in this way in the future, but as long as I can continue to notice it and correct it, I will still move forward on my path.

Thank you your Holiness 🙂

‘You Are Here’ by Thich Nhat Hanh

I’m currently reading ‘You Are Here’ by Thich Nhat Hanh a Shambhala Sun publication that I recently bought, along with a copy of  ‘I Ching, The Book of Change’. Both books so far are awesome.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s book focuses on ways to practice mindfulness every day. Ways to appreciate the bad as well as the good. Ways to appreciate the world, existence, just being, and in doing so, to be happy. It’s very simple stuff, but poignant nonetheless, and really nicely written. He suggests some very simple mantras you can say to yourself through out the day to practice mindfulness and living in the moment. I’ve started trying to incorporate them in to my meditation, and have taken some of his suggestions on too, like thanking a red traffic light whenever you’re stopped at one. To say to the traffic light ‘thank you for being there and giving me an opportunity to stop and practice mindfulness’. So far at least, this little mantra has actually calmed my slightly aggressive driving nature. I’m pretty pleased about that.

I haven’t gotten too far in to the I Ching, but it’s really interesting, and a basic must read for any practicing Buddhist I’m sure. It’s a giant formula that breaks down everything. I will read more and report on it when I have a better understanding.

Yoga & meditation groups

So excited! I’m going to sign up to do a yoga master class with Paul Zink, right here in San Pedro where I live in May. He’s doing the class at this place called People’s Yoga, Health & Dance, just across town. I checked out their site and it seems that they also have a regular schedule of Yoga, Tai Chi and Meditation, taught by a Tibetan Monk. Most of the class schedule clashes with my Kung Fu schedule, so I’m not sure I’ll get to attend. But there’s one class I’m hoping to get to on Sunday mornings, if I can keep it free!

I’ve been looking for places to get more involved in my spiritual practice, but it’s hard to find English speaking meditation groups around here. The closest temple seems to be in Santa Monica, and honestly, that’s a long drive with my hectic schedule. I’d have to commit half a day to just get an hour practice in. I’m busy joining online groups and email lists to get some regular guidance, but I can’t help but feel I need a local, regular guru of some sort to help keep me accountable for my practice. Now I realize that I’m supposed to be holding my own self accountable, but at this stage, for me, that means finding someone to help hold me accountable, if that makes sense. If anyone has any suggestions or leads on local groups, please help me out. Thanks 🙂