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Community Gleanings

  • 07 Mar 2016 8:57 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to FCM member Rebecca Milburn for this post.


    I moved away from Tampa a year and a half ago, and thus, moved away from FCM. I have continued to participate in intensives from afar; they have been very important to my continued growth and connection to FCM. However, I have missed FCM: the people, community, close connection with the teachings, the beautiful building.

     

    After a year and a half, I had the opportunity to visit FCM last weekend. I participated in Wake Up, a Day of Mindfulness (with Fred teaching) and Sunday Sangha. It was wonderful to be back; I felt a combination of excitement and peace when I stepped foot in the building on Friday. I enjoyed again participating in Wake Up – it has grown tremendously since I was a member and the new members (new to me, that is) have a sense of ownership of the group that I really appreciated.

     

    The Day of Mindfulness was soothing and healing for me. I received so much love and warmth from the sangha, I was filled with the deep sense of connection and community I remembered from when I lived in Tampa. Practicing silence in a shared space provides me with a sense of safety – the ability to connect with others beyond using words. To my surprise, spending the day primarily doing sitting and walking meditation did not feel difficult. It felt like I was getting back in touch with a part of me that was always there.

     

    The Q &A session Fred led was extremely helpful and it seemed the questions he answered applied directly to my life. I work as a psychotherapist in a community mental health clinic located in a very high need area. I often feel overwhelmed by all the suffering I encounter on a daily basis. A term spoken of in my profession is “self care” and I am often inclined to think of my spiritual practice in such terms. Fred reminded me that my practice goes beyond “self care” – a more appropriate term may be “self/other care” – since, as he said, “I am my brother” – there is no separation. When I heal myself, I heal another and when I heal another, I heal myself. This helped rejuvenate my desire to be of service to others and to do so from a place of joy and meaning.

     

    I also resonated with the Q& A regarding the “to do list”. I continually find myself needing to have something to do, filling space, fearing the quiet. While at the Day of Mindfulness, having the support of the sangha, I relished the quiet and calm inside me. Now that I am back in Virginia, I am happy to know that the sangha is still there, supporting my practice, and possibly the inner quiet, from afar.

     

    I bow deeply to all members of FCM and offer gratitude to those who made this visit possible for me.

  • 01 Mar 2016 2:22 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As soon as I entered the retreat center, I knew I this would be, for an introvert like myself a dream come true: in the company of others but not required to engage in small talk. Although it was the first retreat I had ever been to, I felt at ease. From the first silent moments, a companionable silence between my fellow participants. I was almost disappointed by the lack of challenge silence might present me. Perhaps the real challenge to my quiet nature would be a Constant Conversation Retreat. Such extreme discomfort would be like being whacked by a Zen masters stick daily and maybe I would be slapped into enlightenment.


    The retreat  took place over four days at the Franciscan Center in Tampa, a modest, no frills place of 1950s boxy architecture, but spacious enough for the forty-two of us and right on the banks of the Hillsborough River. Across the river in the distance the Golden Arches reminded us of our proximity to the never silent city, but the park-like grounds created a peaceful oasis.


    Our days at the retreat began at 6:00 AM by the person in charge of waking us hitting a gong that sounded like a metal plate being struck. I am not much of a morning person and unmindfully rushed to dress so that I could guzzle as much coffee as possible before meditation at 6:30. In the dining hall, coffee clutched like a lifeline, I took a seat with a few others as we watched the full moon shining into the river. Calmed immediately by the glow of moon and water I felt grateful to be up early enough to bask in this serenity, made all the more precious by our silent observance.


    After the 6:30 half hour group sitting meditation and ten-minute group walking mediation, we engaged in our individual walking meditation outdoors. Silent and slow were the unspoken guidelines. Setting one foot in front of the other became significant. The shells on the walkway crunched under foot, and pressed lightly into the rubber of my shoes sole. Other walkers seemed to float past me. Outside and inside, our movements around each other took on a ballet like quality. Edges softened and when we had to make way for another in the hallways with each move to the side we emanated gentleness, kindness even.


    Here is what I took away from the four days of silence and mindfulness:


    How to put the right amount of food on my plate. At the first breakfast I filled my plate but eating mindfully and without distractions, I soon realized I could not finish this amount of food. I didnt need to eat with my usual greediness. Slowed eating tells me when I am full.


    Mindfully walking reveals the world around me. The pace makes room for contemplation of a tree branch winding to the ground, the light playing on the water, the energy of my mind drawn to more focus, less scattershot.


    Most talking is not necessary. And I did not miss my cell phone or computer or even something to read. The ego likes to talk a lot more than my Buddha nature.


    Also, I gained:

     

    A greater understanding of ducks.


    The ducks and I woke, sat, walked and ate. We co-existed and I felt like their kin. One seemed to follow me for a bit on my walk. Being a duck and being a human is not so different when the minds endless litany of desires, demands and preferences are set aside. If the world appreciated more being than doing, perhaps I could have dipped a cup into the Hillsborough River for a drink.


    A better handle on my thoughts.


    Thoughts do not have no substance I had given them. As soon as one arises, it disappears. My mind makes thoughts, but something else, my awareness remains steady as the thoughts come and go. I can choose to follow them or not.


    A deeper experience of space.


    With our preoccupation with solid objects like bodies, cars, guns and high-end real estate, we do not notice the spaciousness of life. To find space we must remove the paint from the canvas. The mind rebels at this; it needs to fill space with images and words. Mindful investigation shows us how space is the substance we dwell within and without. Space surrounds and fills bodies, rocks, ducks. Space holds us, like an embrace.


    A deeper experience of silence.


    Silence and space are inseparable, perhaps they are the same thing. Both serve to heighten awareness.  Sitting in the meditation hall  the stillness is like the  river on this windless day; we sense the energy of our own bodies and those near us, the current still runs underneath the flat surface. Each small movement of a foot, each small sound like a cough is like a stone tossed into the water. My shoulders and back stiffen against this submersion in this deep silence because my habit is mindless movement and nervous fidgeting. This silent stillness reveals each habit.


    An insight.


    Space and silence are changeless as nothing else is. Words and actions change each moment, float around space and drop into oblivion. We fill the canvas with images, fill the air with words, but nothing is lasting but space and silence. We know this, but see no point in it, devalue it. And yetWe yearn for both. Even when we do not know it.


    What then is most nourishing, most natural? What calls us, what is oddly familiar and like home when we stop, awake, aware? If what is real is only what is changeless, what is really true about the ducks and us?

  • 07 Feb 2016 12:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear Sangha


    Thank you Lee Purser and Ruth Fishel for leading the first Half Day of Mindfulness for the Mediation in Recovery group. This group has been meeting at FCM since October 2014 and was developed to support many of us in recovery programs to use mediation and mindfulness in our daily lives. During this day, Lee and Ruth provided instruction in mediation along with guided meditations and dharma talks. We also did a walking mediation through the beautiful FCM gardens.


    Lee brought so much of Buddhist thinking into her talks, relating how these teachings enhance the principles of 12 Step Programs. She provided a wealth of information about Buddhism and Recovery. As usual, Ruth spoke so personally about her path of growth using Buddhist teachings to enhance her recovery program. Her emphasis on practicing self acceptance is so important in learning to live in the present moment.


    Although the day was one of silence, we had the opportunity to ask questions and make comments. We also met in dyads to share the one or two most important things we took away from the day. Our experience ended with lunch and fellowship where, judging from observation, participants eagerly shared with one another.


    When Lee first spoke of planning this day, the thought was we may have 15 to 20 attendees. We were delighted that approximately 45 people attended. Thanks to all who got the word out! The group of attendees was very diverse with many long time meditators along with those new to the practice. Some, but not all, were in Recovery programs and while many were members of FCM others were not.


    Finally, I would like to encourage anyone interested to try the Mediation in Recovery group which meets every Tuesday in the Education building at 6:30 pm. Everyone is welcome!


    Bowing,

    Eleanor Cecil


  • 22 Dec 2015 10:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Fragrant Palm Leaves (Journals 1962-1966) by Thich Nhat Hanh


    Book review by FCM member Janet Levine


     “A satisfying read on many levels: a great introduction to Thay’s ideas, to the majesty of his poetic writing, and to understanding the inspiration for his spiritually based activism.”  


    Fragrant Palm Leaves is the work of a person in his mid-thirties coming to terms with realistic acceptance of the meaning—great possibilities of leadership and mission, as well as significant disappointments of personal loss—that arise from his monk’s training and leadership role in trying to reform Buddhism in his country, Vietnam. The strength of the journals lies in Hahn’s honesty in his writing. The journal entries are not private musings but poignant and often powerful reflections, inspirational messages, directed at his followers. A controversial figure in Vietnam, as he went into to exile (for the first time) in May 1966 he wrote that he doubted if the collection would pass the censors. “If it can’t be published, I hope my friends will circulate it among themselves.”


    The memoir opens in 1962 in mid-winter at Columbia University in Manhattan and at Princeton University in New Jersey. In this section many striking descriptions of Thay’s reminiscences of the secluded mountain monastery and retreat he built with his friends and comrades—monks and nuns—at a retreat they named Phuong Boi contrast with his descriptions of the stark winter beauty of a northeastern winter. “Phuong” means “fragrant” and “boi” is a palm leaf on which the “teachings of the Buddha were written in ancient times.”


    Anyone who has resonated with a “place of the heart” now lost to them will be powerfully moved by Thay’s descriptions of life at idyllic Phuong Boi and his sheer joy in the beauty he finds there. His realization that he cannot remain attached to this place is a lesson for us all. As he writes, quoting another monk, ‘Phuong Boi doesn’t belong to us, we belong to Phuong Boi.” 


    Whether it is in the starry sky in Vietnam or a winter storm in New Jersey, in any place he lives Thay finds solace and cosmic connection to nature. “I still respond to the call of the cosmos…with all my body, with every atom of my being, every vein, gland and nerve, I listen with awe and passion. That is how I feel when I hear the call of sky and earth.”


    Among many other reflections Thay touches on the passing of youth and the permanency of truth. He shares several instances of his own growing realizations on the nature of reality and illusion. These moments contain the clarity of awakened understanding. They are illuminating and encourage us to continue in our practices knowing that we too can experience the conviction of Truth. “How can we continue to live if we were changeless? To live we must die every instant. We must perish in the storms that make life possible. I cannot force myself back into the shell I’ve broken out of.”


    Thay returns to Vietnam in 1964 after his stint lecturing in the USA and although Phuong Boi has fallen into ruin in the tropical environment, he and his cadre of followers devise Buddhist practices in the impoverished rural village communities where they find themselves. These practices are the foundation stone from which will evolve the Communities of Mindfulness that Thay will establish around the globe. 


    A satisfying read on many levels: a great introduction to Thay’s ideas, to the majesty of his poetic writing, and to understanding the inspiration for his spiritually based activism. 


    Marco Island resident, Janet Levine recently became a member of FCM. She is a lifelong meditator and a Dzogchen practitioner for twenty years. Steeped in the traditions of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism, FCM is her first encounter with Vietnamese Buddhism and the work of Thich Nhat Hanh. On the recommendation of Fred Eppsteiner, she began her acquaintance with Thay’s work by reading “Fragrant Palm Leaves”. She is a well-reputed author and a book reviewer for the New York Journal of Books.

     


  • 14 Dec 2015 6:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    My Experience at Empty Cloud - Learning Non-attachment to Knowledge


    by FCM Member Coralee Hicks


    Members of FCM have the extraordinary opportunity to experience a solitary retreat at beautiful Empty Cloud Cottage, a truly sacred, tranquil space in which to meditate and study at a deeper level under the skillful guidance of our teacher Fred. We thank FCM member Coralee Hicks for sharing her recent experience of solitary retreat at Empty Cloud Cottage.


    A private retreat differs from a group meditative setting.  In a solo retreat student and teacher set the meditation schedule and choose the focus of the practice. Since solo practitioners have to rely on their own inspiration and self-discipline to practice, there is more opportunity for touching deeper reservoirs within themselves, strengths and abilities that they might have doubted lay within


    I was very eager and a bit nervous when I arrived on Wednesday. Retreats have been an important part of my spiritual growth. My hearing disability makes group retreats difficult. Now I was in an environment that allowed me to hear Fred's instructions. I had planned to study the Diamond Sutra. I thought: one of the early sutras, why not begin at the the beginning. The actual beginning for me was very unexpected. I also brought two  issues that were thorns in my psyche. I hoped to get some relief from them. 


    On the first night Fred asked me a series of questions. When I finally was able to say "I don't know" he laughed. This not knowing is an uncomfortable place for me. I believe(d) that knowledge was power. I have spent my professional life working in the area of information transmission. As Fred left me that evening one of the last things he said was "It is not about learning". 


    Oh. If not about that.. then what is it about? 


    So I sat, and I thought. And I sat and thought.. and then realized that some questions (like what is the final digit of Pi) don't have answers. I shared this insight the next day. I also realized that I was not ready to understand the Diamond Sutra. My expectation of a Professor/Student relationship was wrong. Perhaps not having expectations might be better? Fred then asked what is a thought? I don't know? I thought I knew... I wished I knew. I don't know. Thinking gets in the way of meditating... I am addicted to thinking?? Ouch. 


    On the final day Fred suggested I relax. So I took a few naps. I wrapped myself in my blanket and pretended I was wrapping my self in the love of the Sangha. I sat and watched the wind move through the trees. I watched the light and shadows move across the image of the Buddha in my room. 


    I realized the two thorny issues were now resolved. When I meditated I told my thoughts to keep Noble Silence. My thoughts laughed at me. I pictured my thoughts as bees and told them to go back to the hive (buzz off).


    The closure session with Fred was comforting. It is okay to stop. It is okay to be human. It is okay to be Coralee. 

  • 01 Dec 2015 4:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In the eight-week summer Intensive for 2015, participants had the opportunity to personalize and deepen their practice by freeing the mind from habits of body, speech and mind that sabotage well-being and our capacity to live in harmony with others. The eight weeks was divided into four two week sections that dealt with different areas of focused change: a personal habit or behavior, a personality trait, an afflictive mind state/ emotional state, and a relationship (family, friend, work colleague). We thank FCM member David Braasch for sharing his experience from the Intensive.  


    One of my personality traits was to harshly judge past, present, future events, and  people. As part of my first intensive, I decided to focus on the present, and particularly people.


    Here is a simple example: I am sitting at a red light, and there is a brand new shiny black Aston Martin right in front of me, also waiting.


    My afflictive tendency was to start an immediate conversation about not only the Aston Martin, but the person in that Aston Martin. A typical dialog might go like this (this is actually a monolog): “That’s a super nice car. That guy must be really rich. I bet he cheated a lot of people to get that car. What a jerk. Probably cheats on his wife and doesn’t love his children. Bet he lives in a really nice house too, and probably has more than one house. Wish I had a car like that. Why don’t I have a car like that? Life is unfair that I am driving a Toyota Matrix with 170,000 miles on it. Pretty sure it’s going to need a new AC, new tires, and probably 1,000 other repairs soon. In fact, I am sure of it. Every time I go to the Toyota dealership I get screwed.”


    As you can probably see, this is not a healthy way to approach every stop light, nor every situation we encounter in present reality. I knew I needed to change, and I also knew that I needed to use a strategy that was very real to me:  photography.


    When I say photography, I am talking about actual cameras, not cell phone cameras. I am talking about viewfinders, 35 mm SLRs, and even plastic cameras. The point is this: it is important that I have the sense that I am holding a device close to my eye, and not away from me, as we do with our cell phones. I need to go into that small, honest world of the viewfinder and focus on what I am seeing, a choiceless awareness of what is in front of me. When I photograph, I first look at what I am seeing, bring the viewfinder to my eye, compose, take a deep breath, and then deliberately press the shutter button, and exhale. I decided that this is how I will approach the man in the Aston Martin.


    First of all, I don’t know that it is actually a man driving the Aston Martin. It could be a woman, it could be a teenager, I simply don’t know. And I simply don’t know anything about that individual driving that car, sitting at a stoplight, just as I am, and many others.


    What I do know is that I can look at this in a different way.  “I am sitting at a stoplight. There is a black Aston Martin in front of me. Let’s photograph this.” This is how the event unfolds.


    First, breathe, and wait. Bring the camera’s eye up into the mind, compose the frame, make it a picture, take a breath, press the shutter, listen to the mirror click and close, and then caption it: “Black Aston Martin, sitting at a stoplight, waiting to make a left turn, in October afternoon sunlight.” Please note that I am not actually using a camera….


    The effect this has had on me has been this: the negative reactivity is thwarted, and in most cases, stops right there at the end of the caption. And then I move on.


    Sometimes a story of compassion and kindness evolves out of the image. Maybe the person is in that car is driving home to take someone to the hospital; maybe that person is suffering, and has no idea where he/she is going. That person is the same as me. Sometimes there is no story, and I just let the image fade away, or remain as it is.


    The point is this: Sometimes there is still a reactive judgment, but now it is softer, more compassionate, and more realistic.  All the lens filters have been removed. Lately, there have been moments when it was just this: compose, breathe, click, and move on, because the light is green.

  • 14 Sep 2015 4:20 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Bill Menza was my dear friend, counselor, and role model.  As a loving brother on the path, over the course of many years he touched me deeply through his persistent teachings about, and behavioral demonstrations  of love based on the Dharma. 


    Bill’s unwavering reliance on the Dharma to encourage others to wake up and to love and serve others shone like a bright beam of light.  My growth and clear seeing was enhanced by his frequent reminder that taking refuge in the Three Jewels, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, is all that one needs for healing and transformation in this life.  


    When encountering Bill, one was assured that through his teaching, his friendship, and other vehicles, one would receive life-affirming gifts.  He understood and taught that the connection, understanding, and acceptance that we all so long for always flows to us and through us when we share our love, compassion and generosity with all sentient beings.   


    For years, Bill and approximately 15 other sangha brothers and sisters met Sunday mornings at a brother's farm near Tampa, FL,  to study the Dharma, enjoy the beautiful scenery, and pick oranges generously made available by the farm’s owners.  During these gatherings, one could count on Bill's deep, penetrating contributions during the discussion period.  We all marveled at his copious note-taking, assured that he would use them to share insights and wisdom for years.  Bill turned picking oranges into yet another loving exercise as he always picked an extra bag or two to take back to Sarasota to share with others.   


    No matter the topic, the death of a loved one, racism, an inhumane prison system, the Holocaust, the Charleston, SC. massacre, Engaged Buddhism and the prerequisites for activism based on right view, the wounded child, his own “demons”, or anything I or anyone within the group became stuck on, Bill always found time to connect, to care, and to teach.  Moreover, no matter the location, The Tampa Practice Center, Blue Cliff Monastery, Plum Village, cyberspace,  or elsewhere, Bill made himself available for teaching and sharing  the Dharma.  While conversations with Bill were always welcomed and beneficial, for years Bill quietly and persistently created and nourished yet another vehicle, his wonderful Dharma poems.


    On September 10, 2010, I received four poems from Bill which reminded me of my good fortune of having received many others from him over the years.   It was probably then that I first thought about how a book of his poetry could also benefit many others.  In early 2015, exactly two weeks after his cancer diagnosis, an email exchange between us resulted in the launching of a long-overdue book project.  


    Deeply grateful for the years-long Dharma poetry teachings that he'd so generously shared with me, on March 17, 2015, I asked if he'd ever considered publishing some of his poems.  He responded with the subject line:  “Hi Sandy; am I dreaming!!!! hugs and poems”, and went on to write, "Your words are some very strong good medicine.  I am feeling real good now.  A book of poems so they can tell others about the Dharma has been my life-time dream.  Let's look into this.  Over the next few weeks I might not be able to help a lot with such a project.  Maybe especially when chemo  treatment starts.  But would do what I can.  Yes, please share my poems as you see fit and useful to spread the Dharma.  I will send you more poems to put to good Dharma use.” Shortly thereafter, Bill sent 176 poems.  I contacted Beth DeLap, owner of The Whole Salamander Publishing Cooperative, and Ken Lennington, MD, Beth’s husband and Bill's dear sangha brother.  Ken read and edited every poem, Beth agreed to involve her masterful editing and publishing skills, and the project took off.  


    During the days that he was critically ill and his body deteriorated, Bill continued to send detailed, intimate, loving emails that shared information about his various ailments so that others might learn and possibly take steps to alleviate their own present or anticipated suffering.  Always giving.  He labeled his many doctors, other help providers, and his beloved wife Alica as true Bodhisattvas.  Always grateful.  As a participant on the phone sangha, Bill continued to teach and share until he was too weak to continue.  Always loving.


    Ultimately, 210 poems were included in a proof copy of Dharma Rain Brings Flowers, that brother Bill was able to enjoy for two weeks before he left.  Writing  that the book was his baby, Bill was pleased that the words that he had so diligently and lovingly worked with for many years might, in fact, benefit others and help to foster understanding and compassion among sentient beings, and love of the Dharma.


    Thank you dear friend Bill for being all that you were, and for having given all that you gave to your fellow brothers and sisters throughout the world.  You are the true embodiment of the concept and practice of Interbeing, and of the fact that we Inter-are.  May the Dharma Rain in your book water the seeds of wisdom and compassion for countless people from all walks of life and on all loving paths throughout the world.


    With love, joy, and ease,

    Sandy Garcia

    Source of True Clarity


  • 21 Apr 2015 9:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Thanks to Andrew Rock for sharing these recollections.


    Last weekend 31 practitioners from many parts of Florida gathered for a three day silent retreat at the Franciscan Center on the beautiful Hillsborough River. Every retreat is wonderful in its own unique way, but FCM’s spring retreats are unusual in two respects: they are open to everyone, not just FCM members, and they are led by senior students, with Fred coming to give Dharma talks each morning.  Our retreat sangha included several people new to FCM, and in some cases new to the practice, as well as several FCM members who had not previously been on retreat with us. Nonetheless, the sangha quickly began flowing as one, silently and powerfully, with a deep tide of commitment, discipline, gratitude for the teachings and the good fortune that brought us this rare opportunity.  We practiced for ourselves and each other, to relieve our suffering and heal our delusional thinking and afflictive emotions, so that we may, each in our own way, help to relieve the suffering of others. 


    The title of the retreat was “Dharma Medicine: The Three Fierce Mantras.”  As always, the real subject matter was to observe our minds, and to awaken to reality as it is, free of our dramas and obsessive thinking.  In his teachings on the Three Fierce Mantras, Fred showed us the unvarying law of karma, that all effects are the result of causes and that our dramas and afflictions are the result of our conditioning.  If we wish happiness for ourselves and others, we must cultivate the seeds of happiness, not those of suffering.  In his Dharma talks, Fred focused initially on the first two of the fierce mantras:


    Whatever has to happen, let it happen!


    Whatever the situation is, it’s fine!


    Not necessarily fine in the sense of ideal, but fine because it could not be otherwise, and it is always workable if we accept reality as it comes. All is perfect because it is just as it must be, the inevitable effect of the causes and conditions that have occurred.  That is not to say that we don’t take action when appropriate, but we do so without the dramas of anger, or anxiety, or disbelief. On the last day Fred taught the third fierce mantra:


    I really don’t need anything whatsoever (except the Dharma).


    If we have a spiritual path and an aspiration to wake up, we find that we don’t need the world to conform to our wishes and desires, we can accept it as it is and find our happiness and equanimity in a mind that is open, free and unattached to any particular outcome.


    Each day of retreat opened at dawn with the beautiful tone of the bell and the morning chant, calling us back to our true home, followed by sitting and walking meditation and a chanting service. In the afternoons and evenings Diane and Bryan led us in guided meditations to help us identify and examine our resistance to accepting reality as we find it, looking deeply into the causes and conditions that lead to the afflictive emotions and delusive thoughts that trouble us.  


    We also practiced mindfulness of the body as a path of awareness and healing, with deep relaxation and mindful movements after lunch, as well walking meditation in the beautiful grounds of the Franciscan Center. Later we practiced deep sharing and deep listening in small groups guided by senior students. We enjoyed sharing healthy vegetarian meals in friendly silence, and night walks outdoors after evening meditation.


    We ended the retreat with a closing circle, sharing the specific aspirations and insights we would bring home with us from the retreat.  The Three FIerce Mantras no longer seemed so strange or challenging to us, but rather a source of strength and simplicity.  We return to our lives empowered by the teachings, supported by the sangha and our teacher, grateful for our precious human lives, and determined to continue down the path of healing and awakening to reality as it is. In this way we will help into bring healing to this troubled world, and greater joy, ease and equanimity into our lives.


  • 24 Nov 2014 11:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Thank you to Andrew Rock for sharing his experience of visiting the Genesis exhibition by Sebastiao Salgado. Viewing Salgado's photography is a profoundly beautiful way to practice mindfulness for this incredible planet that we are so fortunate to share.

    ----------------------

    Yesterday Nancy and I were in Manhattan, at the International Center for Photography to see Genesis, the great photographer Sebastiao Salgado’s epic depiction of this beautiful and amazing world, and its myriad and wonderful creatures.


    Salgado’s gorgeous black and white photographs reveal the almost incomprehensible sweep, diversity, power and stunning beauty of our planet, as if this was the dawn of creation. And in a sense it is, because for us this planet will never be more beautiful, more alive than it is right now.


    The immense majesty of mountain ranges, glittering in sun-pierced storms, cloaked in snow and ribboned with shining rivers; wide untouched deserts of endless dunes; and baobab forests in New Guinea, ice sheets in the south Pacific islands, grand canyon walls and wind-carved monuments in the American southwest… All still there to be seen, and Salgado journeyed this intimate vastness with the eye and the skill of an accomplished artist, to see and share with us the glory of creation.


    Nothing is sterile in this Genesis. Salgado shows us not only the beauty of rock and sky and water, but also herds of reindeer in the Brooks Range, colonies of penguins scattered over Antarctic ice, elephant families in the Okavango Delta, a heron in flight, a jaguar crouched at a river to drink, giant bats flying silhouetted under lacy leaves of tropical forest.


    Despite the daily extinctions of species, despite the decimation of the teeming abundance of wildlife that covered the plains, filled the skies and animated the spreading forests not so many generations ago, the variety of living beings is still – still! – a source of delight and gratitude. Genesis reintroduces us to our biological brothers and sisters, so innocently reliant on us to protect their homes, and to enjoy and preserve the wonder of their existence.


    As if the plants and animals were not amazing enough, the wonderful diversity of peoples on this earth is also revealed in this Genesis. I could hardly believe that in this day and age there are cultures still living so simply, so perfectly and uniquely adapted to such diverse environments. Salgado takes us along with the fur-clad Nenets in the Siberian arctic as they migrate north with their reindeer herds; climbs huge tropical trees to visit in forest tree houses; squats with the San bushmen of the Kalahari desert as they make music with gourds and twirl sticks to kindle fire; shows us the shining eyes of young Turkana women, wonderful black satin skin scarred by ritual beauty marks; endures the watchful stare of shaggy-haired tribesmen in the high mountain forest of Papua; relaxes at midday in shaded reed hammocks with Amazonian families.


    There is no hubris in these pictures. “In Genesis, my camera allowed nature to speak to me. And it was my privilege to listen.” Salgado’s awe, delight and reverence for this sacred world shines through every photograph. He calls this collection his “love letter to the planet.” He and his partner Lelia and their team put in eight years of hard travel and deep, patient looking to reveal the glory of creation in these wonderful portraits.


    What motivated their project was not only their desire to see and share the beauty and diversity of this amazing planet, but their knowledge that it is dying of our unbridled greed for more fossil fuels, more money, more meat, more power, more stuff. They hope that if we can truly see how wonderful is our earth and how beautiful and vulnerable our fellow creatures, our hearts will spill over with love, wonder and delight. And with that love will come the creative energy and determination to change our materialist ways and to halt the reckless rape of our planet and destruction of its creatures.


    This marvelous exhibit exhorts us to slow down and appreciate this wonderful earth our home, and the web of life that holds and sustains us, so that this glorious genesis does not pass away and this planet become another lifeless hunk of dead rock in a cold universe.


    If you can, please see these wonderful photographs. In person in New York through January 11, 2015,  

    http://www.icp.org/museum/exhibitions/sebastiao-salgado-genesis    

    collected in the Genesis book,

    http://www.amazon.com/Sebasti%E2%88%9A%C2%A3o-Salgado-GENESIS-Lelia-Wanick/dp/3836538725

     or take a look online. 

    https://www.google.com/search?q=genesis+salgado&client=safari&rls=en&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=LbtoVP-kA9apyATXtoK4Cg&ved=0CDIQsAQ&biw=1258&bih=563

    (please copy and paste URLs if links don't work)

    Then step out side, look up at the sky, and around you at the life that abounds everywhere, even in the city, even now. Watch a bird in flight, look in a baby’s face, take a minute to simply breathe and enjoy being alive. Let’s expand our awareness, realizing how we are a small part of genesis, interconnected and interdependent with our environment and all its inhabitants. This world is not ours to plunder and destroy, but rather to enjoy and protect as stewards for future generations. May this Genesis contribute to a new beginning for the way we live on this wonderful planet!


    Andrew Rock


    Brooklyn, NY


    November 2014


  • 29 Sep 2014 12:58 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Thank you to Andrew Rock for this very thoughtful sharing about vegetarianism and climate change.


    I am very happy that our FCM community is having a discussion about vegetarianism! Compassion, loving kindness, and awakening are at the heart of our practice and our aspirations. Those of us who have taken Thich Nhat Hanh’s Five Mindfulness Trainings are committed not to kill… and not to let others kill.  


    In his wonderful talk at our Tampa Practice Center on Sept. 15th, 2014 (a video is available on FCM’s website and on YouTube) Venerable Geshe-la Phelgye told us that if there is a hell on earth, it is the animal industry.  His campaign for vegetarianism began after he visited a slaughterhouse.  If we knew the hellish conditions under which the meat industry keeps food animals, and then slaughters and processes them, we would stop eating meat, not only for ethical and health reasons, but out of sheer revulsion and disgust.


    Geshe-la told us that even though most of us haven’t seen these horrors with our own eyes, and may not know about them, “it exists for us consumers; they grow as we demand.” We may not do the killing, but we make others kill for us.  What he saw at the slaughterhouse opened his eyes and changed his life.  He made the commitment to be vegetarian, and from that moment he felt no cravings for meat and had no health issues from its absence. He began his campaign within the Tibetan Buddhist community and around the world for vegetarianism.


    My wife Nancy and I both stopped eating meat in the early 1970s.  Nancy did it in the experimental spirit of the era, and Andrew for a mix of health, environmental and ethical reasons.  At first I still ate chicken, then I happened to visit a relatively small chicken farming operation, and that was that for eating any more chicken. We continued eating fish and seafood until three years ago, when Nancy went on a solo retreat under our teacher Fred’s guidance at Empty Cloud Cottage. Even though Nancy had loved eating fish, she came back with the firm intention not to eat other living beings, and that was the end of our eating fish and seafood.  We haven’t missed them.


    We are both very healthy and we have lots of energy for practice, for work, for friends and community, and for enjoying our stay on this beautiful planet filled with wonders.  We love being vegetarians, not just for reasons of principle, but because vegetables and fruits are so enjoyable to grow and harvest and prepare, and so delicious to eat!  


    It is a myth that vegetarianism means a sacrifice of taste and enjoyment. No, quite the opposite! During my short transition period from being a meat eater, I quickly realized that, for me, fruits & veggies were much tastier, more varied, more colorful and more fun than meat. We need to experiment for ourselves, to make a gradual transition if necessary, as Geshe-la said, and to learn to prepare varied and tasty vegetarian meals, and we’ll see how satisfying it is on every level.  


    It is wonderful that FCM and our Mindfulness Institute are offering vegetarian meals and classes on vegetarian cooking. We need to do more of this, to share the knowledge, the confidence and the enjoyment of a vegetarian lifestyle.


    There is one more dimension of this discussion I’d like to address. As practitioners of the Dharma, we are not only committed to compassion, to non-killing and to alleviate suffering, we are committed to awakening.  And when we open our eyes to what is happening around us, what do we see?  


    We see that we are in a time of incredibly rapid mass extinctions, and of accelerating destruction of the biosphere that supports all life on this planet. And we see that we humans, individually and collectively, are the cause. 


    The industrial meat and fishing industries are among the top drivers of global warming, climate change and environmental degradation. Vast amounts of land, fossil fuels, money, human effort and other resources go into raising, feeding, slaughtering and distributing “meat products.”  (How appalling that we speak of “harvesting” and “processing” our fellow beings!) The pollution created is immense. The inefficiency of industrial meat and fish production as a way to generate calories is immense… But little understood: we don’t want to know!


    We can feed everyone from the bounty of a healthy earth. But not if we continue to eat meat, and if by our example we encourage others to continue down this dead-end road.  As North Americans, we set the standards, the aspirations for the developing world. As OI, we can set the example of moving away from consumption of animals and fish.  Better than anyone, we understand our interbeing.


    Yesterday Nancy and I saw the film “Revolution,” made by Rob Stewart, a young Canadian marine biologist turned climate change campaigner. It focuses on the dying oceans (“the lungs of the planet”) and the huge decline in corals, fish, and phytoplankton from acidification caused by global warming and from industrial scale fishing. I wept at footage showing hundreds and thousands of sharks lying dead on a dock (killed for shark fin soup) and of mutilated tuna and swordfish corpses dumped out of trucks on to concrete for processing, of massive nets and containers crammed full of dead and dying fish, of the billions of pounds of “by-catch” discarded, wasted, killed for no reason but our greed for money, greed for flesh. We are committing both murder and suicide, and it must not continue!


    How wonderful that our teachers are showing us the way, and encouraging this discussion of a vegetarian lifestyle!  How wonderful that our eyes are opening!  How wonderful that we have the opportunity and the support to change!  


    If not us, then who? If not now, then when? Let’s do this, together as a community.


    Gratefully, 


    Andrew Rock

    September, 2014

    I am very happy that our FCM community is having a discussion about vegetarianism! Compassion, loving kindness, and awakening are at the heart of our practice and our aspirations. Those of us who have taken Thich Nhat Hanh’s Five Mindfulness Trainings are committed not to kill… and not to let others kill. 

     

    In his wonderful talk at our Tampa Practice Center on Sept. 15th, 2014 (a video is available on FCM’s website and on YouTube) Venerable Geshe-la Phelgye told us that if there is a hell on earth, it is the animal industry.  His campaign for vegetarianism began after he visited a slaughterhouse.  If we knew the hellish conditions under which the meat industry keeps food animals, and then slaughters and processes them, we would stop eating meat, not only for ethical and health reasons, but out of sheer revulsion and disgust.

     

    Geshe-la told us that even though most of us haven’t seen these horrors with our own eyes, and may not know about them, “it exists for us consumers; they grow as we demand.” We may not do the killing, but we make others kill for us.  What he saw at the slaughterhouse opened his eyes and changed his life.  He made the commitment to be vegetarian, and from that moment he felt no cravings for meat and had no health issues from its absence. He began his campaign within the Tibetan Buddhist community and around the world for vegetarianism.

     

    My wife Nancy and I both stopped eating meat in the early 1970s.  Nancy did it in the experimental spirit of the era, and Andrew for a mix of health, environmental and ethical reasons.  At first I still ate chicken, then I happened to visit a relatively small chicken farming operation, and that was that for eating any more chicken. We continued eating fish and seafood until three years ago, when Nancy went on a solo retreat under our teacher Fred’s guidance at Empty Cloud Cottage. Even though Nancy had loved eating fish, she came back with the firm intention not to eat other living beings, and that was the end of our eating fish and seafood.  We haven’t missed them.

     

    We are both very healthy and we have lots of energy for practice, for work, for friends and community, and for enjoying our stay on this beautiful planet filled with wonders.  We love being vegetarians, not just for reasons of principle, but because vegetables and fruits are so enjoyable to grow and harvest and prepare, and so delicious to eat! 

     

    It is a myth that vegetarianism means a sacrifice of taste and enjoyment. No, quite the opposite! During my short transition period from being a meat eater, I quickly realized that, for me, fruits & veggies were much tastier, more varied, more colorful and more fun than meat. We need to experiment for ourselves, to make a gradual transition if necessary, as Geshe-la said, and to learn to prepare varied and tasty vegetarian meals, and we’ll see how satisfying it is on every level. 

     

    It is wonderful that FCM and our Mindfulness Institute are offering vegetarian meals and classes on vegetarian cooking. We need to do more of this, to share the knowledge, the confidence and the enjoyment of a vegetarian lifestyle.

     

    There is one more dimension of this discussion I’d like to address. As practitioners of the Dharma, we are not only committed to compassion, to non-killing and to alleviate suffering, we are committed to awakening.  And when we open our eyes to what is happening around us, what do we see? 

     

    We see that we are in a time of incredibly rapid mass extinctions, and of accelerating destruction of the biosphere that supports all life on this planet. And we see that we humans, individually and collectively, are the cause.

     

    The industrial meat and fishing industries are among the top drivers of global warming, climate change and environmental degradation. Vast amounts of land, fossil fuels, money, human effort and other resources go into raising, feeding, slaughtering and distributing “meat products.”  (How appalling that we speak of “harvesting” and “processing” our fellow beings!) The pollution created is immense. The inefficiency of industrial meat and fish production as a way to generate calories is immense… But little understood: we don’t want to know!

     

    We can feed everyone from the bounty of a healthy earth. But not if we continue to eat meat, and if by our example we encourage others to continue down this dead-end road.  As North Americans, we set the standards, the aspirations for the developing world. As OI, we can set the example of moving away from consumption of animals and fish.  Better than anyone, we understand our interbeing.

     

    Yesterday Nancy and I saw the film “Revolution,” made by Rob Stewart, a young Canadian marine biologist turned climate change campaigner. It focuses on the dying oceans (“the lungs of the planet”) and the huge decline in corals, fish, and phytoplankton from acidification caused by global warming and from industrial scale fishing. I wept at footage showing hundreds and thousands of sharks lying dead on a dock (killed for shark fin soup) and of mutilated tuna and swordfish corpses dumped out of trucks on to concrete for processing, of massive nets and containers crammed full of dead and dying fish, of the billions of pounds of “by-catch” discarded, wasted, killed for no reason but our greed for money, greed for flesh. We are committing both murder and suicide, and it must not continue!

     

    How wonderful that our teachers are showing us the way, and encouraging this discussion of a vegetarian lifestyle!  How wonderful that our eyes are opening!  How wonderful that we have the opportunity and the support to change! 

     

    If not us, then who? If not now, then when? Let’s do this, together as a community.

     

    Gratefully,

     

    Andrew Rock

    September, 2014

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