Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
With a familiar sound, the pages of my notebook from the weeks in India fall open. With only 10 pages of journal entries, it’s cover to cover with notes from our group prep sessions and sessions with His Holiness. Reading the inked words scrawled across the page, the humility and gratitude felt towards the experience and the distinctive heartache particular to missing H.H. and the group rises from where it lives under the busyness of daily life back in America.
Many of us who traveled to India hope to inspire change; we are change-makers, idealistic yet jaded, fighting to respond to injustices and to make a difference.
If you’re reading this, I’m sure you are a change-maker too. Whether it’s wishing that someday women will be able to walk alone at night without fear, buying at a farmer’s market, working as a teacher, mentor, or giving advice to a friend, all of us have causes we advocate and things we want to change. We visualize a world that is better, safer, happier. But, if you’re anything like me, you can only feel so much before overwhelm, depression, and burnout hits. Would we be happier if we just didn’t know? Ignorance, after all, is said to be bliss.
To be a change-maker, to be an activist, to be a person who is intentional about the impact of our purchases, choices, and words, means opening oneself to seeing and feeling deeply. And that vulnerability is scary.
With gentleness and wisdom, H.H. spoke to us again and again about the importance of seeing the humanity and tenderness within everyone and to be strong in activism while never holding an us/them mentality. Day after day he spoke about ways of making the world a kinder and more equal place. Day after day his words and demeanor of humor, generosity, and profound wisdom wore away my cynicism and burnout and left me with energy, intention, and humbleness. He gave me a new view on how to be an activist.
I wish everyone could have had the experience that I did in India. Unfortunately that is not possible. I very much hope and believe that the book conveying H.H. teaching will be moving and profound. I am so very glad that each of you will have the chance to have your own experience of his teachings and I hope that it will leave you with much to think about and renewed strength to address whatever challenges face you.
Until next time,
Saturday, June 4, 2011
"Remember that you are not a machine. Do not live the life of a robot. Be a full human being. In other words, live in the fullness of love and affection for all those around you.
"Soon you will be returning to your homes. Though we will be separating physically, we need not separate mentally. Our affection for each other can keep us close. We can remain connected through our good heart.
I believe there were a few students whose eyes did not moisten. Together, teacher and students went outside after this session to take the group photo you see above.
Friday, June 3, 2011
These ideas were all brought up in the Karmapa's teaching, and I am attempting to share what I have learned form him. Some of these concepts are very easy to realize. They might be better explained by him, but this is my synthesis of what he was saying.
Hello One and ALL from the past.
Yesterday (May 4) we met the 17th Karmapa: something that very, very few people do, at least in the setting that we had. We met him in his monastery while he was giving out his blessings, but then we were escorted back in to the library where he spends much of his time. This was a very nerve-racking experience for me, because we began by presenting him with gifts that we brought. I had brought a one-stringed instrument I had made last year and he seemed to enjoy it. I also had given him a song I wrote to one of his poems. This was the most difficult part of the meeting for me. We all sat and watched him listen to it on an mp3 player. I really did not want to be there, but I had to realize how many times in anyone's lifetime does an extremely important lama listen to a piece of music you composed? I sat and absorbed everything he dished out. At the end he seemed to be very pleased and genuine with his response..."It's over? Thank you."
His English is very good, but sometimes there needed to be a translator helping him along. Once we got over the introductions we were able to ask him some questions. He answered very straightforwardly, and we could tell he was being completely sincere. I can tell that these meetings we are having with him are going to be beneficial for all parties involved and for the rest of the world as well. His Holiness seemed to lounge back on his seat in the middle of the session, which I take as an indication that he felt comfortable with us.
We know that these meetings we are having are very special and no one else has been given this opportunity before. This was very apparent to us, and this was why it was so nerve-racking, but the Karmapa really just seems to want to meet with us and have it be as comfortable as possible. He made it very clear how new these interactions were to him. Even longtime students of his do not had such opportunities to be in such close quarters for extended periods, and ask such questions. Most people are given 15 minutes and we were given 12 sessions approximately two hours each. This is truly an experience that will impact a lot of people. I will write more soon.
I will leave you with a quote from the Karmapa that really put me at ease.
"We have all been living together on this earth. We just had not had the opportunity to introduce ourselves before."
Thanks for reading and have a great day.
[Note from blogmaster: In the first photo above, Patrick has just offered His Holiness the instrument he made for His Holiness from recycled materials found in Redlands. In the lower photo, His Holiness has placed a ceremonial white scarf around Patrick's neck, as a blessing and farewell gesture.]
His Holiness the Karmapa presented the Buddhist notion of non-attachment with a simple yet profound metaphor - that we all live our lives as if we are in a movie. The characters, including ourselves, are fabricated beings. We give them names and identities according to their family, education, socioeconomic location, surrounding culture and media, etc. We then attach ourselves to these characters. We cry, we laugh, we feel rage and elation, or attachment and aversion. We allow ourselves to get overwhelmed and discouraged by the suffering we experience or the changes we undergo. But non-attachment is a realizing that it is all just a movie. It's a recognition that our thoughts and visions have been clouded with the many fabrications, projections, and illusions inside the movie and that we actually have a second "I" watching. This second "I" can see from all angles and can therefore respond with greater awareness and compassion. So what if we were able to step back from particularly overwhelming moments of life and respond to it as if we were watching a movie?
[Note from blogmaster: In the photo above, taking during our concluding dinner, the fabricated I we call 'Nina' offers her beautiful voice in singing a song called Ah World! composed by His Holiness... and renders it jazz style!]
Thursday, May 26, 2011
I was sitting in his Holiness’ library, fervently taking notes, surrounded by my peers and numerous books that I cannot read. His Holiness was addressing that we need to bring about change on an individual level. “Relying on the government is difficult because who has the foresight to see what is good for a country and its people. Big corporations have their own agendas. We cannot put it on others because we are the consumers.” That made sense to me because I am terrified of organizations that are too large for me to perceive. Some might say that I am paranoid, but I quote Spider Jerusalem and say, “Paranoia is just possession of all the facts.”
His Holiness continued, “Everyone is responsible and at fault because the world has become a small family. Damaging any part of the world, or anyone in it will come back cyclically. We need to change behaviors on an individual level. We need to honor the enormous amount of responsibility and the great amount of work that needs to be undertaken.” That seemed reasonable enough to me, His Holiness’ generation, of which I am part, is going to face tremendous adversity dealing with the many global issues that we will face in our lifetime.
Then he said, and I will never forget it: “We are the protectors, each and every one of us,” which is when my ears perked up; I put my pencil down, and began to really listen.
He continued his lecture explaining that it takes noble aspiration to be a hero and noble resolve to manifest noble conduct. Responsibility is a heroic endeavor. Uncle Ben’s words rang out in my mind. Noble conduct means being pioneers in steering towards new directions, and the first step required to do so is education. Batman’s lifetime of training second only to his compassionate will to never take a life shined out like the Bat-signal.
I was forced to acknowledge that I have been reading superhero comics for all the wrong reasons. I ignored the moral responsibility that these characters uphold because I have been blinded by the power that frequently overshadows the responsibility. I felt like Lex Luthor - green with jealousy or orange for avarice - looking to covet whatever he cannot possess. I did not dream of protecting the weak and saving the day, but dreamt of what it would be like to fly, throw cars, melt stuff, and teleport. What it would be like to be loved by all, to have to answer to no one, and to have a super computer and a butler to do all of the stuff I don’t want to do. I fantasized about escaping this reality, where I frequently feel so impotent, to live in one where I could do anything.
You see - I always kind of assumed that I would get superpowers at some point. I think a lot of permanent adolescents like myself do, at least that is my justification. I had done the homework – years of backbreaking research into the most suitable powers, how to construct a foolproof secret identity, and where the best possible secret lair would be. I have been anxiously looking for an arch nemesis more than I have been looking for true love. I have explored alien abductions, gamma radiation, and cosmic rays. I have spent years avoiding my Earthly responsibilities thinking about the day when I finally get my long deserved superpowers, sliding into some spandex made of unstable molecules (it breathes well, and I have sensitive skin), and saving the day.
It never occurred to me that I haven’t gotten superpowers because I haven’t tried saving the day without them. I had fallen into the fickle and deceptive display of phenomenon all around me. Surrendered to it because of gullibility. I had accepted the system as it is, swallowed the red pill, and have been waking up, wrapped in a cozy blanket of ignorance every morning since then.
I do not need superpowers to do the right thing. I never did. I do not need to be bitten by a radioactive arachnid, or have billions of dollars to do what is right. I do not need super speed, a magic ring or hammer, or adamantium claws. I do not need to be the ruler of a kingdom, made of stone, or be able to read people’s minds. What I need is to follow the example of the characters I know and love, and do what is right, especially when it is difficult. It is kind of a tough pill to swallow, but it feels fantastic, even spectacular or amazing, to feel awake and alive for the very first time.
I bring this up because I have always wanted to work with comics and education. I just never knew how to do it, but now I think I am starting to. The powers and abilities, beautiful covers, and complex continuities are what drew me into comics. What kept me reading, though, and will keep me reading, is the way these characters turn their struggle into heroism through perseverance. The way they continue to show compassion to everyone and never give up.
I may never have realized that had I not had the opportunity to listen His Holiness’ insightful words. I am forever indebted to him for showing me what has been right in front of my face for years: that power comes from within. I have always been ready; I was just looking in all of the wrong places.
Check back later for an mp3 recording of Brendan and Patrick performing the song.
The Moon is the Keeper of My Love
- by Brendan Mead and Patrick Sundlof
The moon is the keeper of my love
Even when it wanes it still prepares to wax
the moon goes in cycles, like this life to the next
Follow your course and believe in your best
Trust the moon and its path
The moon is the keeper of my love
Even when it wants, it is still full
Just look up to see the light beaming from above
Don’t grasp at it let its shine be your pull
Through the night to the day
The moon is cradled by the earth
Rising on the same path taking the course
Shining down lighting your way
Keeping you safe until the day when
you can return to my loving embrace
Monday, May 23, 2011