Archive for the ‘Social’ Category

365 Days

Posted: 07/22/2011 in Buddhism, Inspiration, Practice, sangha, Social

A year ago today, I became part of a simple idea that has literally taken Buddhists all over the world by storm. A friend of mine from Twitter, @TheZenOutlaw, came up with an idea to send out a tweet whenever we were going to meditate. Other followers joined us in giving shout-outs. Then it blossomed into people all over the world joining together in meditation, all types of practices. I don’t have much to say other than I’m glad to be a part of something so cool.

Happy Birthday, Online Meditation Crew!

 

\m/ Meditate and Destroy! \m/

Happy Thanksgiving

Posted: 11/25/2010 in Social, Spiritual

I know I’m a bit late on this, as the day is almost over, but I wanted to say I hope the three of you that read this blog had a Happy Thanksgiving and spent some valuable time with your family and/or friends.

I had a quandary as far as what to do about Thanksgiving Dinner, being a new vegetarian and all. The problem was solved when I was informed that my mom and her husband would be coming over to my sister’s house for breakfast and we would not be doing a turkey dinner. No problem: eggs, pancakes and biscuits while they eat the bacon. My sister and brother-in-law went to his family’s house for a turkey dinner and I wasn’t into that so I didn’t have to worry about the turkey temptation or the explanation of the vegetarian thing to everyone including the man of the house who is an avid hunter.

I will admit, it brought me down a bit. Even though I was able to spend the morning with my family, it just wasn’t the same. The turkey dinner and pumpkin pie with the family has been part of my life for 34 years. This year I was by myself having homemade udon noodle stir-fry and cookies from Dollar Tree. I shouldn’t complain, this morning I spent time with my mom and I had my son. It was just…different.

But then again, this whole past year has been different, with all kinds of changes. Last Thanksgiving was my first in 7 years without my wife and her family, eating her mother’s legendary stuffing. This year it’s spending the evening alone with the dogs watching shitty reality TV.

Not bad, not good. Just…different.

Meditate and Destroy,

\m/ Metal Buddha \m/

SLAAAAYERRR!

Posted: 09/03/2010 in Metal, Music, Social, Thankfulness

On September 1, 2010, I was blessed with the opportunity to see legendary thrash metal band Slayer live for the first time in my life. Now all you metalheads may be asking “WHAT?! You’ve never seen Slayer live? You can’t call yourself a dedicated metalhead!” Well, let me explain:

I grew up in a Christian home, basically born on Saturday and in church on Sunday as the saying goes. I was never allowed to listen to secular music, which was known as “the devil’s music.” When I was a tween, I heard Stryper for the first time. This was right around the time I had inherited my grandfathers guitar when he passed and got interested in playing. There was something about the sound of a distorted guitar that really spoke to me, so that’s where my love of metal started. Hair metal is not quite “metal” in the real sense, but I digress. Using Stryper as a starting point, I was able to explore heavier Christian metal bands such as Whitecross (Rex Carroll is the shit!), Believer, Deliverance, Bride, Tourniquet, etc. I found that thrash metal was the style that I liked the best. In learning to play by reading guitar magazines, I found out about a whole new world of metal. Bands like Metallica, Slayer, Exodus, and Testament really caught my interest. I ended up sneaking around to listen to these bands and watch Headbanger’s Ball and it all went downhill from there. So if my mom ever reads this…sorry mom. You never knew I was such a rebellious kid, huh? Due to this situation, I never had the chance to see any of these bands live. Although I’m still pissed at my sister to this day for sneaking out to see Type O Negative and Queensryche when we were in high school and telling me after the fact. I could have at least taken them and been a chaperon, dammit!

There are plenty of years since then that I had opportunities to go see these bands live, but the ability to follow through hasn’t happened, for time or financial reasons or whatever. Yeah, I saw Testament at a small club here in town, and that was fuckin’ awesome, but seeing them in an arena was MUCH different. When the American Carnage Tour was announced with Slayer, Megadeth and Testament coming to the arena here, I thought this might be my chance to finally see the legends live. My friend Travis contacted me in March asking if I was going, and due to my job issues, I just told him that I was hoping to have a good job to be able to buy a ticket from someone around the time of the show if they were unable to make it. Little did I know that he had already bought a bunch of tickets, including one for me. I talked about this in Metta is Metal, about how metalheads stick together. Travis demonstrated the brotherhood of metal by buying me a ticket to this show so I could experience them live for my first time. Here’s a pic of us after the show. He has a metal face on, yet I have a really goofy smile because I was so stoked to have just experienced SLAYER!

I won’t go into a full-on review of the show, because this has already turned into a long post. But I wanted to share a little bit:

I walked in while Testament was playing and it was so awesome to see Alex Skolnick up on stage with them again. Last time I saw Testament, it was during his hiatus from the band doing his jazz thing. They played my favorite song “Into The Pit” and I went nuts.

Up next was Megadeth. I’ve never been a huge fan of the band, but I’ve liked them, and there are a bunch of songs I like, so it’s all good. That lead guitar player is no Marty Friedman, but it was awesome to see David Ellefson back in the band on bass.

When Slayer got onstage, I was really excited. I hadn’t looked online for any setlists of what they’ve been playing on the tour but I was hoping to hear my favorite songs, and I was not disappointed. Toward the end of the set I got to hear “South of Heaven,” “Raining Blood,” and they closed out the evening with “Angel of Death.”

And finally, here is a video of “Angel of Death.” Please excuse the slight shakiness, I was headbanging and singing along. And the sound sucks because it was taken with my phone.

I am very thankful to my friend for giving me this opportunity in which he demonstrated heavy metta! \m/

gutter punk kids

For the last month or so, I have been looking for a new job. I need something stable, because my present job does not have enough projects going, and I’ve worked a total of 5 days in the last month. This job search has caused me to think a lot about “right livelihood” and how I could find something that would benefit others, rather than just being “employed” in a mundane industry. I have had a few ideas and have begun to research a few areas that are dear to my heart.

One in particular is homeless teens, or “gutter punks.” I see these kids on the street and it breaks my heart. I would love to create some sort of shelter in my area that would give them a place to stay, resources to go back to school, learn a vocation, etc. There is one place in town that does that, and I plan to volunteer there to get a feel of how it is run, and maybe branch out to do one on my own on this side of town. I would love to also offer meditation classes, that would be cool. I’m starting to research how to go about this because I have no idea if I could get a grant or what. If anyone has ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Earlier today I met with my friend/coworker to discuss a possible business venture. For a while now he has been recording his dad telling stories about his life, and posting them on a blog. He thought that might be a great idea to offer it as a service to other people, sort of like personal historians, but digitally. We grew up together and were reminiscing about our past, and I told him I wish my dad was still around today to tell a certain story. (On a side note, it’s ironic that we met today to discuss this venture, as today marks 9 years since my father passed away. I miss you, Dad). My buddy is right, that’s the exact reason we should offer this service.

Also, since we both teach music, we had a great idea to start a non-profit offering free music lessons to underprivileged and disabled children, and build a recording studio to let these kids have the experience of working in a studio. A local music store here has a program that puts young kids in bands, they write songs, and then perform at a battle of bands and get to record their songs. I have been a coach of this program for 5 years, and I tell you what, there is nothing like this experience. They meet for the first time one day and 2 months later they are playing songs that they wrote on a huge stage with Marshall stacks, pro audio, lights, smoke, etc., and then get to hear themselves on a cd.  I would like to provide that to kids that can’t afford lessons or young bands that can’t afford studio time.

This is kind of a random post, more like a journal entry than anything. It’s been weighing heavily on my mind as I sit here figuring out how to pay my bills. I need a new job, so no time like the present to explore these options of right livelihood. If anyone has any suggestions, comments, etc., please feel free.

\m/ Heavy Metta \m/

Photo credit

Fishing - Silhouette

One reason I started this blog was to document the various experiences and challenges I have on this new path I have chosen to tread. Here is one challenge that is really messing with my head:

As I study more about Buddhism, I find that there are certain concepts and experiences that are so ingrained in my mind and way of life that it’s difficult to change my view to where it aligns with the precepts. I wanted to discuss one renunciation that has turned into a quandary for me, and that is the act of fishing.

Common sense tells me that fishing would fall into the “cause no harm to living beings” precept. I understand the fact that the very act of baiting a hook, whether with a live worm or plastic baits, in order to entice a fish into biting that hook and impaling itself in the mouth causes harm to a fish, and of course the worm if you use it. Trust me, I get it.

The reason it’s difficult for me to renounce is that I grew up fishing. My father was a man’s man: a carpenter, hunter, fisherman, mechanic, etc. He had quit hunting before I was old enough so I’ve never been hunting, but we still went fishing. It was wonderful out there experiencing nature, spending time just being quiet, hanging with my dad and learning how to be a man. I would give anything to be able to have him back, but those are fond memories, and I’m wavering from my topic. Anyways, when we went camping, we would always go fishing, it’s just part of that lifestyle, they go together like peas and carrots. Now that my friends want to plan a camping trip, I’m wondering what to do. I mean, besides fishing or going for a hike, what else is there to do while camping?

I can’t wait to get out into nature and just experience the fresh air and the retreat of it, but when it comes time for fishing, it’s going to be a challenge. Not just because of the questions that will be asked, but also the fact that the activity of fishing has always been fun for me. I’ve always loved going to sporting goods stores and shopping for fishing gear, organizing my equipment, the challenge of getting the fish to bite, being bummed out after a day of getting skunked, the whole she-bang. It’s so ingrained into my lifestyle, that all of the sudden refusing to do it anymore is boggling my mind. I’ve gone fishing for 30 years. I’ve been a Buddhist for less than one. Some lifestyle changes are going to be hard to swallow, I completely get that. Like becoming a vegetarian, I haven’t quite been able to make that jump yet, but I digress. I’m just talking about fishing here.

What I’m saying is that I do understand that the act of fishing is the act of causing harm to a sentient being and goes against the Buddhist precepts. I just wanted to put fingers to keyboard and document an issue I’m having on my path. If anyone would like to comment about this quandary I’m having, whether it be an insight or an insult, please do.

Picture credit

LONELY TREE

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend, and the subject of me no longer being in a relationship came up. I told her that I was happy being alone and unattached to anyone at this present time. She could not believe it and actually laughed. I told her I’m honestly happy right now because I have more time to focus on myself and some growing I need to do as a person, and left it at that. That conversation got me thinking about the difference between loneliness and being alone.

When feeling lonely, we crave interaction with other human beings, and we all know what craving leads to: suffering. Are people so uncomfortable in their own skin that they must have interaction with other people constantly? I guess some people are that way, not able to face their own demons or skeletons in the closet if they are alone with their own minds for too long. They desire the distraction of other people and the drama that comes with it. There is an emptiness inside that some strive to fill with human contact, delaying or outright denying any emotional or mental growth. Of course interpersonal relationships are very much needed for personal growth, however, I believe that there needs to be a good balance of social and self, and some cannot handle the self part.

At this present time, I prefer to be alone, which I feel is much different that feeling lonely. Yes, there are times that I desire to have companionship again, someone to share my deepest thoughts, goals, dreams, etc. I’m sure in the future that will come in due time. But for now, I am living in the present moment, and this moment calls for being alone, focusing on me and the changes I need to make in myself. I view this as a positive thing, not a negative because there is no constant feeling of emptiness. At times it’s no picnic; being alone can be a scary thing, but it takes a strong will to work through that in a healthy way, and learn from the experience. But in general, I am happy being alone on this new journey of  meditation practice and am up to the challenge of the experience.

In meditation, we have no choice but to open the closet and drag the skeletons out, to face the demons. It takes strength mentally and emotionally to be able to do that. I feel compassion for those that crave interaction so much that they don’t have the ability to embrace “being alone.”

May all those who feel that craving overcome it, to embrace that “aloneness” and not feel “loneliness.”

Photo credit

Integrity

Posted: 06/20/2010 in Karma, Social, Spiritual, Truth

One thing that really gets my goat is when my integrity is challenged. I was lucky enough to grow up with a father who instilled in me values like being a man of my word, trustworthiness and honesty. I pride myself (but not too much!) on having integrity. If I say I will do something, I will damn well do it, not lie about it.

Today, my integrity was called into question by someone very close to me. If this person had taken 2 seconds to investigate a little further the facts of the matter, they would have found out the truth. Instead, I was confronted and accused of lying. My blood started to boil (still dealing with anger, of course – hey, it’s a marathon, not a sprint), but I gathered my thoughts before speaking and very calmly explained what really happened in the situation. I was obviously defensive, but did my best to respond in a loving way so as not to cause a dramatic “discussion” and ended up coming off as condescending and the battle lines had been drawn.

So the way I see it is even though it’s not fair when we know we’ve been honest about something and are accused of the opposite – that’s life. And life isn’t fair sometimes. I know in my heart I acted with integrity and that’s good enough for me. We’re the only ones who control how we feel, act, respond and react to any given situation, so we can’t let someone else cause us emotional suffering. If anyone has any thoughts on this as it relates to the Dharma, I would love it if you chimed in!

Photo credit

Anger and the Dharma

Posted: 03/28/2010 in Social, Spiritual

anger. hostility towards the opposition

Photo by: assbach via Flickr

I recently had a major test when it comes to dealing with my anger, and I failed. I was having a conversation with someone and it escalated into an all-out verbal war. I lost my temper due to the fact that trying to have fruitful communication with this person is near impossible. Trying to be tactful and articulate is frustrating when being cut off mid-sentence, thus not able to produce a coherent thought explaining my opinion, and it evolves to the point of anger. Also add in the fact that when I do try to talk fast to get my point across, I start to stutter, resulting in mockery by the other person, fueling that anger more. Unfortunately, the Dharma went right out the window, and instead of exercising wisdom in dealing with this person, and practicing mindfulness, I drifted off the path.

Reflect - Self - Reflect

Photo by: kausthub via Flickr

I decided it would be a good idea to meditate on loving-kindness, and develop the intent to be loving, kind and mindful even in times of being walked on and insulted. I am the one in control of my reactions, and it is my responsibility to respond with the proper attitude. Nobody else can control the words that come out of our mouths, it is up to us to be the filter from the thought to the action (word). I believe I learned from my mistake and will be using all of my conscious power to exercise mindfulness in dealing with this person and others with whom I may have similar encounters in the future.

If anyone has any words of wisdom, advice or techniques, comments are welcomed.

With the holidays coming up, I have been thinking a lot about Thanksgiving. We all know the history behind it, of course, but do we really know what “Thanksgiving” means? Over the years, holidays have become so convoluted, polluted, and commercialized. The stores start selling decorations and themed food for the following holiday before the present holiday is even over just to get a jump on the sales, and it has turned into a means to industrialize what is supposed to be a time to spend with friends, family, and significant others. To business, then end justifies the means.

But when it comes right down to it, what is the true definition of “holiday spirit?” Rarely does a family just get together to celebrate thankfulness, really appreciating what we have, which is the true reason we should be celebrating “Thanksgiving.” Instead we think about what we don’t have. It has turned into a stressful occasion: Getting up at 3am to put the turkey in the oven and worrying that it won’t come out right, fighting with the family over stupid, petty disagreements, getting to the stores by 4am for Black Friday to be the first to get the newest hot toy of the season that your kid just has to have, etc.

On a personal note, the holidays this year are especially hard for me to endure. For the last seven years, I have been fortunate to enjoy spending the holidays with not only my family, but also my wife’s family. There are certain traditions devoid of the commercialization of the holidays and it’s just the family spending time together, being happy, no stress. With the separation of my wife and I, that will not be happening, and honestly, I’m trying my damnedest to stay positive and really examine thankfulness and what it means. But it’s tough. It hurts that I won’t be able to be with a significant other, sharing love together for the rest of the family, like I’ve been able to do for the last seven years. There is a huge void in my heart, and I have felt very alone, and the holidays make that loneliness so much more apparent. I feel at times I don’t have anything to be thankful for, due to losing my wife and my job at almost the same time.

I have to keep in mind that I do have a lot to be thankful for:

1. I have my family. They aren’t going anywhere, and I have their support 100% in these trying times in my life. Without them, I would be homeless at the end of this year, and no, I’m not being dramatic. That is a cold, hard FACT.

2. I have my son. He loves me unconditionally, and brings so much joy into my life. He has been following in my footsteps by playing guitar non-stop and is wanting me to teach him new things every day. There is a sense of pride there, that makes me feel wanted.

3. I’m alive. I woke up this morning. My health isn’t the greatest, and have a lot of medical problems, but I am thankful for today because I woke up once again.

4. My wife. Even though we are separated, on our way to a divorce, we are still great friends. We talk every day, and rarely fight. I am thankful for that, because I see so many nasty divorces, and I don’t want to go through that. So yes, I am still thankful for my wife, even though this is a very sad time in my life to endure.

On this journey, I have learned that there are changes I needed to make to attain the happiness I deserve. Being thankful, even in the midst of hardships, suffering and potential emotional breakdowns, is one key to attaining that happiness that has eluded me for so long. So this Thanksgiving, even though I am going to miss my mother-in-law’s legendary stuffing, and will be unable to spend the holiday with someone I’m in love with, I will still appreciate being with my son, my mom and step-dad and my sister and brother-in-law and his family, because now they’re all I’ve got, and I’m thankful for all of them.

We need to take the focus off of what we DON’T have, and keep our thoughts focused on being thankful for what we DO have. What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Wisdom Den

Posted: 11/08/2009 in Social, Spiritual

I just returned from the first meeting of the Wisdom Den, hosted at Elemental Holistic Healings in Fair Oaks, CA. This is a group social that begins with a guided meditation by Angie Weckworth, then the group discussion is led by Sonia A.

From their site:

“This group is designed to encourage growth and provide inspiration to those who have a desire to reconnect to Themselves, their Highest Self, and to One Another! Based on the understanding that we are ALL ONE at our core being, when we help ourselves we are helping one another and vice versa.”

Every month when we get together, we will be having a guided meditation, then an open discussion of the assigned book of the month. This month we will be reading The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. Almost everyone that was present in tonight’s class has read the book more than once, and I haven’t, so I am looking forward to it and hoping I have something to contribute to the discussion since I am pretty much a newbie. There are some great books on the list for months to come, so I am very excited!

Angie and Sonia are good friends of mine, so when I found out about this, I couldn’t wait. Angie has been a strong influence in my life over the last few months as I have embarked on this journey by giving me a list of books to read, so I knew this would be the perfect venue for me to connect with like-minded individuals. Sonia and I have had some great discussions, and she has been a huge influence on me as well, giving me some priceless insight into my situation, and life in general. Angie and Sonia are amazing women and I’m proud to call them friends!

If you are in the Sacramento, CA area, I would strongly encourage you to join the group. Also, please check out Elemental Holistic Healings, as they offer massage, hypnotherapy, Reiki energy healing, etc.