Friday, December 18, 2009

And Yet Another New Blog

I just can't seem to stop myself... the latest blog is "Five Directions," and is a companion to my consulting business. This is a place where I will post ideas and tips about cultural insights and skillful communications, and how they can help you understand and connect with your audience — whether you run your own business, direct a nonprofit, or are simply interested in the everyday impact of culture and communication. I look forward to seeing you over there!

And all the best wishes for a peaceful and reflective Solstice...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A New Blog: The Jizo Chronicles

I've started up a new blog called The Jizo Chronicles, which focuses on socially engaged Buddhism. Originally, I thought that I'd start blogging on culture and communication as way to extend the reach of Five Directions Consulting -- and I still will. But the inspiration to write more about engaged Buddhism, a subject close to my heart, arose first and so here we go! I hope you'll visit the new blog and add your comments.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

photo: Santa Fe, Winter 2008

I haven't written in this blog for more than 6 months and so this is a good time to officially close it down, as this sabbatical period of my life has wound down as well. I am grateful to now be fully engaged with building my consulting business, Five Directions, as well as continuing to settle into my new home here in Santa Fe.

In the near future, I'll start a new blog connected to my work... I'll be writing on themes of cultural insights and communication tips, especially as they relate to nonprofit organizations (or as a friend of mine prefers to call them, social profits!). I'll post the url for that blog when it's ready. In the meantime, many thanks to all of you who have read and commented on this blog, and all the best to those of you who are on your own sabbaticals and journeys of discovery.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A New Home!

A sign that this year-long sabbatical and nomadic journey is winding down… after many months of living in temporary homes, Gina and I are finally settling into a beautiful casita on Cerro Gordo Road in Santa Fe, NM. It’s practically right next door to Upaya Zen Center where I practice meditation and do some of my work. And up the road in the other direction, one of our neighbors is Ella, a Sicilian Miniature donkey. Life can’t get any more perfect than this…

When I started this sabbatical almost exactly a year ago, I had no idea where I would end up, or what people and opportunities would show up along the way. One of my intentions was simply to create more space in my life for the universe to surprise me and support me, and that is exactly what has happened.

Even though my life seems to be falling into more structure now around where I live and the work I am doing, I hope to always keep that spirit of openness, spaciousness, and surprise alive. I am deeply grateful for this past year.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Catching Up

Washington, D.C. -- The National Cathedral

Once again, I've fallen off the blogging bandwagon. Since the last post, right after the Inauguration, I've been buzzing around -- to Washington, D.C., to Pasadena, CA, and then back to Santa Fe in time for greeting 24 new chaplaincy students in Upaya's Buddhist Chaplaincy Program, and in time for juniper allergy season!

The D.C. trip was for work purposes. I gave a short presentation on the use of meditation with care providers, as part of a symposium co-organized with the U.S. Army. Every time I go to D.C., I am always so impressed by the architectural beauty of that city... this time around, stayed right next to the National Cathedral.

Pasadena was for a visit with family... it rained heavily, which is pretty unusual there but much needed.

And now, back in Santa Fe for the spring time.

That's the short version -- more soon!

Santa Fe, as it looked back in January

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The White House Blog

I've just added the White House Blog to my blog list (see the right side of this website)... because it's just so much more fun to read now that President Obama is sitting pretty in the Oval Office.

Here's the link:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reflections on President Obama’s Inauguration

Today's inauguration -- Associated Press photo
(I hope it's okay to snag a web photo like this for an occasion like this!)

Like millions of people around the world, a group of us gathered in the Upaya zendo on Tuesday morning, Jan. 20, to watch Barack Hussein Obama be sworn in as the 44th president of the U.S. Some of us were Upaya residents, others were friends from the local Santa Fe community, and others here for the Winter Practice Period. As we watched on the big screen set up in the zendo, waves of joy and tears swept through the room. Each of us viewing the event brought the whole of our own lives to this moment, and each of us was moved in a unique way by what we saw.

I was moved by the crowds of people there in D.C. to witness this historic day in person – gathered together on a bitterly cold day, black and white, young and old. The camera scanned over to dozens of people who had climbed on top of a statue to get a glimpse of the new president. I remembered my own visit to Washington two years ago to march for peace in Iraq with a Buddhist delegation and thousands of other people. People had clambered atop that very same statue on that winter day, but they were not there to celebrate – they were pleading desperately for an end to war in Iraq to a President and a government that seemed completely ignorant of suffering. What a difference two years can make.

This inauguration represents a historical moment in which this country, so steeped in a history of institutionalized racism, has finally elected its first Black president. Just as importantly, it represents a moment in which we have a president who embodies compassion and intelligence, such a rare and precious gift. Realizing the convergence of these two streams brought tears to my eyes. In each, we have collectively broken through huge amounts of fear and ignorance to make a choice for love and inclusion.

President Obama’s soaring speech included a number of remarks to our better angels. While the language may be a bit different, as I listened to his speech with an ear to dharma I could hear some of the same teachings that we work with on our cushions. In his own way, Obama was reminding us all of our buddhanature, and of our vast responsibility to fulfill that nature:
  • “We understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things.”
  • “The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”
  • “Our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please… our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.”

At the same time, President Obama reminded us of our collective responsibility to make choices in awareness of others. This, too, is something we work with in sangha. And in this case, our country is our sangha. We live in daunting times and there is much work to be done. In Obama’s words:

“Our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”

As I listened to President Obama’s speech, I was struck by how a human life is always embedded in the time and the community in which we live. None of us is alive in a vacuum—we are part of a vast swatch of humanity. We are shaped by the parents who raise us, by the ancestors whose teachings are passed down to us, by the neighborhoods from which we come, by the schools in which we are taught, and by the political atmosphere in which we grow up. And in turn, we shape our world.

For the past eight years, our lives have been steeped in the poisons of ignorance, greed, and hatred that have permeated this country. We are reaping the karma of decisions made by those in power. But it is not enough to lay blame to the former administration, though they must be held accountable for their actions. For each of us, we can ask: How have I made choices to indulge myself at the expense of others? To be comfortable rather than to be awake?

At the end of the morning viewing, Roshi Joan Halifax, Upaya’s abbot, invited us to resume what we were doing before, but to do so with mindfulness and cognizant of the great responsibility we all hold to each other and to the world. We ended with the Bodhisattva vows, which took on renewed meaning:

Beings are numberless, I vow to free them.
Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to transform them.
Reality is boundless, I vow to perceive it.
The awakened way is unsurpassable, I vow to embody it.
A happy zendo -- photo by Yushin Heilman, Upaya resident

Roshi Joan Halifax, viewing the inauguration -- photo by Yushin Heilman, Upaya resident

Saturday, January 17, 2009

In Santa Fe

Saturday night in Santa Fe...

A couple of weeks ago, I moved out of Upaya Zen Center and into a room in a house on the other side of town. (If you know Santa Fe, my new home is off of West Alameda, near the Co-op.) I am adjusting to life outside the monastery walls. Some things I'm enjoying... like being more in my own rhythm of life... and some things I miss, like getting up early in the morning and walking just a few steps to sit in the zendo with a whole sangha. But overall, this feels like the right move for the present moment.

I've been really enjoying taking walks around my neighborhood in Santa Fe. There are so many alleyways and curvy streets here... I am reminded of the same feeling I had when walking through New Orleans. A town with secrets, a town with a long, long history and a big dose of magic and mysticism.

There is so much here that is new to me, and yet at the same time something feels strangely familiar. There is much here that reminds me of growing up in Southern California, just 10 miles from L.A... something that feels 'at home' about seeing all the shrines to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the lowriders, Spanish spoken in so many places.

Soon I'll take my camera out for a walk and share some neighborhood photos.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Help Change the World

Here's today's good idea/bodhisattva alert (haven't had one of those for a long time!). Check out the "Ideas for Change" page at Here's how it works according to their website:

"The Ideas for Change in America competition was created in response to Barack Obama's call for increased citizen involvement in government. The final round of voting began on January 5 and is comprised of the top 3 rated ideas from each of the 30 issues in the first round of the competition, which collectively received more than 250,000 votes. The top 10 rated ideas from the final round will be presented to the Obama administration on January 16th at an event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC..."

Voting ends on January 15, so visit the site soon! Some of the ideas that I like:

  • Bridging the Empathy Gap -- An initiative to make empathy a cornerstone of government policy and practices, through coaching, trainings, public dialogue, and more.
  • End Corporate Personhood -- "An 1886 Supreme Court clerk's headnotes misreading applied the 14th Amendment to corporations, extending to them all the rights, but none of the responsibilities, of human persons. The result has been the steady erosion of our democracy since then, and the consequent rise of the corporate state, which is primarily responsible for the military-corporate-media-academic complex, the expansion of the often brutal U.S. global empire (including the IMF, WTO, and World Bank) with its protecting militarism, and the destruction of our only planet's environment...Ending it is the start of the way back to humane civilization."
  • Forgive Student Loans -- A bail-out for the rest of us. "The American middle and lower classes are crippled under the weight of educational debt; in these unusual times, as we bail out lenders and executives, we encourage the Obama administration to forgive student loans, providing a bail-out to the people and simultaneously increasing their spending power."
  • Victory Gardens 2.0 -- Asking the Obamas to start a victory garden right at the White House; the veggies grown would go to the First Kitchen and to local food pantries. A powerful symbolic move which could inspire many others to start their own gardens, helping to grow our energy independence, food security, and sustainability.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating

And on a completely different note.... if you're like 99% of the people who promise yourself to eat better in the new year, here's an interesting list found in today's NYT: The 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating. Suggestions from Dr. Jonny Bowden, a nutritionist.

(author's note: I worry sometimes that my blog is too eclectic and all over the map without a cohesive theme... but what the heck! Mangia!)
  1. Beets: Think of beets as red spinach, Dr. Bowden said, because they are a rich source of folate as well as natural red pigments that may be cancer fighters.
    How to eat: Fresh, raw and grated to make a salad. Heating decreases the antioxidant power.
  2. Cabbage: Loaded with nutrients like sulforaphane, a chemical said to boost cancer-fighting enzymes.
    How to eat: Asian-style slaw or as a crunchy topping on burgers and sandwiches.
  3. Swiss chard: A leafy green vegetable packed with carotenoids that protect aging eyes.
    How to eat it: Chop and saute in olive oil.
  4. Cinnamon: May help control blood sugar and cholesterol.
    How to eat it: Sprinkle on coffee or oatmeal.
  5. Pomegranate juice: Appears to lower blood pressure and loaded with antioxidants.
    How to eat: Just drink it.
  6. Dried plums: Okay, so they are really prunes, but they are packed with antioxidants.
    How to eat: Wrapped in prosciutto and baked.
  7. Pumpkin seeds: The most nutritious part of the pumpkin and packed with magnesium; high levels of the mineral are associated with lower risk for early death.
    How to eat: Roasted as a snack, or sprinkled on salad.
  8. Sardines: Dr. Bowden calls them “health food in a can.” They are high in omega-3’s, contain virtually no mercury and are loaded with calcium. They also contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese as well as a full complement of B vitamins.
    How to eat: Choose sardines packed in olive or sardine oil. Eat plain, mixed with salad, on toast, or mashed with dijon mustard and onions as a spread.
  9. Turmeric: The “superstar of spices,” it may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
    How to eat: Mix with scrambled eggs or in any vegetable dish.
  10. Frozen blueberries: Even though freezing can degrade some of the nutrients in fruits and vegetables, frozen blueberries are available year-round and don’t spoil; associated with better memory in animal studies.
    How to eat: Blended with yogurt or chocolate soy milk and sprinkled with crushed almonds.
  11. Canned pumpkin: A low-calorie vegetable that is high in fiber and immune-stimulating vitamin A; fills you up on very few calories.
    How to eat: Mix with a little butter, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Reflections on Gaza

I've been missing in action for a few days because I've gotten sucked into the world of Facebook. Not sure what to make of this...

Looking out at the world, the news from Gaza is heartbreaking. Here are some wise words from my friend Alan Senauke, of the Clear View Project:

Reflections on Gaza and the Ritual of Mutual Destruction
Hozan Alan Senauke — 1.2.09

Gaza is burning. The violence must end before anything else can happen. We can all think nice thoughts about right and wrong, who acted first, who acted worst. We can argue about politics — national, international, geopolitical, corporate. Whatever intellectual thread my mind pulls at quickly comes to a hopeless tangle. The reality of fear, death, and destruction is beyond all this. A father weeps for his five daughters who died in their sleep, “collateral damage” in the heart of Gaza City. A daughter cries out for her mother, lost in a Hamas rocket attack on the town of Ashdod. Multiply that scene by a thousand. See yourself right in the midst of it. In this latest round, to date, more than 400 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli attacks. The Israeli government counts 19 fatalities from Hamas rockets since 2002.

There is, of course, something pointless to the algebra of comparative suffering. But Israel’s attack on Gaza is like shooting fish in a barrel. The body count and vast disproportion of weapons, technology, and killing make me ashamed to acknowledge that my government supplies so much of Israel’s weaponry, and ashamed to be a Jew, even as I fear for the future of the people I was born to. Present day Israel seems to have forgotten the words God spoke through the old prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 12:19,20):

"…and say unto the people of the land, thus saith the Lord God of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and of the land of Israel; they shall eat their bread with carefulness, and drink their water with astonishment, that her land shall be desolate from all that is therein, because of the violence of all them that dwell therein. And the cities that are inhabited shall be laid to waste, and the land shall be desolate, and ye shall know that I am the Lord."

There's more -- you can read the whole essay (and suggestions for action) here: