Dharma Punx SF stands against hate in all forms – racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and ableism.
Dharma Punx SF stands against the intentional harm of innocent civilians on any continent.
Just since the time we shifted to an online format, encapsulated from the rest of the world via Zoom, we lived through a global pandemic, horrific acts of brutality and racism in the US, a surge in authoritarianism around the world, attacks on women’s healthcare, and multiple domestic events and international wars. And that’s the shortlist.
The Sangha is resilient.
The weekly Wednesday night sits are focused on exploring suffering and the end of suffering. Rarely do we discuss geopolitics, international conflicts, or politically charged events. We are informed by credible news sources and the voices in the room. The decision to focus primarily on the individual and the Sangha is not due to an unwillingness to address issues in our contested world. It is based on Dharma Punx SF’s mission statement which begins with the phrase, “Bring in the parts that don’t feel allowed out there…” This is an acknowledgement that we can create personal change now.
There are Buddhist groups that promote activism. That is a personal choice. Several Sangha members are involved in social justice activism, making music, creating art, supporting businesses, and healing others.
The dedication of merit includes well wishes for all beings everywhere. This is not a passive wish or prayer. It is derived from the very action of gathering and meditating. We all interact with people and ideas daily and can choose how to respond. When appropriate, compassion, empathy, and lovingkindness can lead.
Forgiveness may be more challenging when conflicts or acts of hate are common or ongoing. We don’t abandon the practice in the midst of personal or global crises. The sangha is a living and changing entity, one of the three jewels. Gathering together in the wholesome pursuit of learning more about oneself and others is cherished practice.
“We don't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts.” – Pema Chödrön.
We welcome everyone and understand that our personal work enables freedom from suffering. That includes minimizing greed, hatred, and delusion. We are confident that the transformation that comes from our practice has a positive impact on others. One person can make a difference in their community.
“Fear of something is at the root of hate for others and hate within will eventually destroy the hater. Keep your thoughts free from hate, and you need have no fear from those who hate you.” – George Washington Carver
“The weight of the world is love. Under the burden of solitude, under the burden of dissatisfaction.” – Allen Ginsberg.
I was invited to share my story of recovery form addiction recently at the
Refuge Recovery Saturday Night Speaker meeting online.
With over nine years of freedom, there's a lot to be grateful for. Always encouraging full disclosure about our real lives here, I offer the recoding of that share, and a written version.
If you or someone you know or love is in trouble with substance abuse. Please reach out and connect with me or one of us in a program of recovery. All are welcome to attend any Refuge Recovery or 12-step meeting without obligation and free of charge.
Addiction Creates Suffering (a day in the life):
3 a.m. I come to. On the couch, still dressed and dirty, tv on, there’s a little left in the glass so I drink it, take a look around and try to piece together the night. Looks like there was some attempt at eating, a fifth of Jack on top and a couple of champagne bottles in the trash.
6 a.m. I’m up and in pain, everywhere, and I know what’s next, I get in the shower and the convulsions start. Like someone belting me in the gut with a baseball bat, Dry heaving, uncontrolled loud wails, accompanied with bile, shaking head to toes. I pull it together and looking in the mirror see “that guy”. I remember a time when I used to say, as I looked down the bar, “If I ever wind up looking like that guy, I’m gonna quit”. Now I’m looking at him.
6:30 a.m. I’m running through ways of getting out of going to work and explaining the sounds in the shower must be some kind of acid reflux problem – I’ll see a doctor about it, someday. (These are called acute withdrawal symptoms)
6:45 a.m. first stop, the liquor store, head down, hoody on, a bee line to the soda isle for ginger ale then a quick loop around the side for a half pint. In my truck, I stretch around like I’m looking for something in the back seat so I can duck down and slug half the bottle and chase it with the soda. Sometimes it won’t stay down so I crack the door, cover my mouth and re-swallow what doesn’t spill out of my mouth. Then pour the rest into the soda can for the ride into town. I ditch the empty in the store’s garbage can and head off.
7:15 a.m. I hit the gas station I know sells booze next. Same program but this time two sodas and a pint.
12:00 Noon. A couple of beers with a taco and if I can swing it, I’ll pick up another pint and sodas for the rest of the day. Either way, I’m only going to function for a couple more hours.
3:30 p.m. There’s place that has half pints in the freezer, nice treat for the ride home
4:00 p.m. Have a seat at the bar, like it’s my first, well deserved cocktail of the day. A double shot and a beer lands in front of me without asking. This will be the first of 3 or 4 rounds. Depending on my mood and means, a call is placed for some cocaine.
6:00 p.m. I’ve got half the bindle in me before I have to get home and share the rest. Picked up a fifth on the way and a couple bottles of champagne for her. Dinner is optional as a bag of chips.
How the hell did I get like this?
It all started off so normal. I just wanted to fit in, just wanted to be cool and be liked by the people I looked up to.
I came into this world as an accidental surprise to my family. Mom and dad had a girl and a boy, all set, then me – six years later. I grew up thinking I was older than I was most of the time and when I got treated like a baby and left out of things, it hurt. I think that hardwiring is still problematic for me at times. I’m adverse to being part of teams or groups to avoid that feeling. But I’m clever and found ways to feel like I was the one in control, that’s where the real hustle comes into play later in life.
I wanted to get the attention that my older brother got. He was always in trouble and I thought that was cool. I wanted to be just like the guys on the Lynyrd Skynyrd album cover from as early as I can remember, complete with that pack of smokes with the skull and crossbones on it. The problem is that I was a loving, sensitive little guy, and that wasn’t going to cut it with my tough-as-nails dad.
The first time I remember being left alone with him for an evening, we bonded over a few beers and then a bottle a champagne and maybe more. I was eleven years old. By the time my sister got home I was well into vomiting in the bathroom. I don’t know if this was some kind of reverse psychology to teach me about the effects of alcohol but all I knew is it was how I could be cool with dad. At other times, riding in his truck I could have a beer between my legs too, and when I snuck down to his shop, and the fishing trips. I was already learning how to moderate so I wouldn’t be a pain in the ass or get him in trouble with mom.
And when I wanted friends, I figured the same technique was how it worked. I started smoking pot in grade school, it wasn’t hard for me to find, and from this I had my own little clan of secret keepers. I was cool and I felt like I belonged to a family of my own. The buzz of drinking and the lofty, giggly high from weed made everything in life seem more interesting and fun. But life was already interesting and fun. I grew up in a really great area to be a kid. A small, rural area on the California coast. Tree forts, bicycles, surfing, skate ramps… we always stayed outside until the streetlights came on. Smoking pot and drinking were just something that went along with being in the clan, and eventually it would just be weird not to.
It was rare that those things would get me in trouble or even cause any interruption in daily life. Once we started getting cars and girls, though, the stakes were raised a level. It was fairly lawless in this area back then and you could get away with huge parties. Keggers! And always up to outdo the last one, some of the beach bond fires we had looked like a mini-Burning man!
Growing up in this small town, you get to know lots of people, which also means you know lots of people who die. In high-school one of my surfing buddies got killed by a drunk driver on his bicycle, and another died in a drunk driving accident of his own, one of my best friends made it out of that car and watched him go. And another thought it would be a good idea to go buy some crack and not pay. He was shot through the back window of his car and later died. All these things happening around me had no effect on my usage, in fact it seemed the right thing to do to get together and drown the sorrows in alcohol.
As my life started taking shape, the things I took on took drugs and alcohol right along with them. At fourteen, my first real job was washing dishes in a busy local restaurant. I learned early on there that if you bust your ass, the servers and cooks would leave a few beers for you in the walk-in refrigerator out back. Again, alcohol equals “good boy”. Then we’d ask one of them to buy up for us after the shift so we could go get wasted.
That’s about the time I discovered LSD and mushrooms. And my fantastic revelation about this whole universe being some kind of make-believe dream world had begun. The idea of heading off to college was for suckers. I was heading off to follow what was left of the Grateful Dead!
That world somehow meshed with discovering the punk-rock scene in San Francisco and I was either one place or the other, tripping out on these shows where the lines between the stage and the crowd are very blurry.
I learned to be independent and self-reliant, and just didn’t seem to have any resistance to throwing myself into wherever or whatever came next. I moved to Lake Tahoe to snowboard and be a lift operator for a winter and followed that with a couple seasons in Europe living out of a backpack, train cars and nightclubs. Smoking hash and drinking legally there until I could back home.
I began my construction apprenticeship under my dad and brother (another career that has drinking beer after your shift as a built-in perk) and later went on to start my own company.
As my own boss, I had my first taste of real lack-of-supervision. I could party all I wanted so long as I kept the wheels turning and brought home the bacon. My work ethic has always been strong, so the money followed. And I was in control – just the way I want it.
I was in a rock band, had kids, got married, bought a house – all that shit. There were two new cars, a ski boat and a Harley in the garage. I worked as hard as I played and partied, never stopping. I could afford cocaine and everything!
Everything I got into had to be taken to the breaking point, from business to pleasure.
And it was never going to be enough. I was never content. I was angry all the time and at the things that got in my way. Like my wife. And my kids. I really tried to cover it up – I even went to church and read a good portion of the Bible there for a while.
Then, right around the time planes brought down the world trade center buildings, my world came crashing down too. I had terrible, violent fights with my wife while the kids, two and three years old, hid in their rooms. The police were at our house a couple times a month. There were restraining orders and then a divorce. And my attitude was if I can’t have it all, no one gets anything. I all but burned my own house down. I spent every last dime partying and hid or destroyed anything with value.
I’m not sure what lead to my finding out about the Friday night Dharma Punx group in the City but what I saw there was like nothing I’d seen before. Sometime around 2006 I’d start sneaking away by myself up there like I had some secret peephole into another world. I’d stay sober just long enough to soak it in. It was all backwards and I dug it. This skinny little dude would sheepishly appear and the whole place went dead silent. Like the exact opposite of going to a show where the front man comes out and everybody goes nuts – but in reverse.
I sat there in meditation for a half hour or 45 minutes, I often thought I was gonna lose my mind or pass out – or both, but I listened, and the teacher made what I was feeling seem normal, even kind of interesting. I had a few seeds planted in my head that would later save my life. He said things like; “You hold the key to your own prison door” and “You don’t have to believe everything your mind tells you”.
It felt good to hear. I was relieved for a while there. But on the way home, I would stop off and grab a bottle of booze or hit a few bars. You know, to really enhance that spiritual experience. I kept going the wrong way down this road for another eight years. I had discovered the slowest path to spiritual death imaginable.
I took a yearlong course and became a certified massage therapist and “holistic healer”, even took a course in Reiki. I would fast for weeks on end and maintained a steady diet of hummus, Kale and whisky. Naturally none of this shit was working because none of it was addressing the problem, but hey, at least I was in control, right? And I was helping others – so how bad could I be?
So… yeah. Once I was out of money again, I sold everything and moved into a make-shift garage-apartment with a few necessities. While living within crawling distance of two bars and two liquor stores with my ex-bartender wife, I heard some news from back home that would spiral me into an even deeper depression. My lifelong friend had hung himself and died. He had an open casket funeral, and against my will, I got a good long look at him there. He was an artist, a musician, handsome and funny, everybody loved him. I saw him there and thought maybe he’s got it right. There weren’t many days after that I didn’t consider the option myself. I had a .38 revolver and kept it loaded by the bed. On particularly desperate occasions, I would press it tight against my head or into the roof of my mouth. I found the hammer pulled back a couple of times in the morning and would realize just how close I came. I didn’t know to be relieved or disappointed that I didn’t succeed. But I didn’t – I couldn’t do it because I didn’t really want to hurt anyone else, and I couldn’t figure out how to pull off one job without the other.
One day I had had enough. After years of unsuccessfully drinking myself to death like a couple other of my friends now had. I said that’s it! I’m just going to sit here and strap myself to this chair until I kick alcohol. I had made countless vein attempts to reduce, scale down, replace or modify my use in the past, so this was going to have to be it. Hell, only a few people die from withdrawal and I’m tough, so here it goes. By noon my (now former) wife was begging me to stop and just have a little alcohol, I was shaking uncontrollably, raining sweat, and not making coherent sentences. She wanted to call an ambulance and I told her Death was coming, they’re not going to make it. I don’t know how, but she got me into a car and to the local triage hospital herself where I have vague memories of bright lights and an IV going in.
The next day, I was released with a course of Librium and as the doctor closed the door behind him, he said, “Listen this is going to help you feel better for a few days but it’s not going to solve your problem. I’m giving you a personal referral to a rehab and you must go there if you want to live – I know, I’ve been sober for twelve years and I know where you’re at. Now take these, make that call and do not drink while taking Librium!”
I should have listened. Especially to the part about not drinking while on Librium. By the time I remember what happened next everybody was super pissed off at me and my wife was packed up and gone – no telling where either. Just the hell away from me. I picked up a DUI a week or so later and got the whole nine yards.
Somewhere in this time, June of 2014, my mom had given me a gift. Some new book she pre-ordered from that Noah Levine character. She asked if I was still going to that Dharma Punx group, but I hadn’t, not for a long time now.
AA wasn’t going to work either; I had failed at this too. One night I let everybody in the group have it – it was all their fault, then I started crying really hard. I had an out-of-body glimpse of who I was in that moment and ran out. I sat in my truck for a minute deciding if I was going to drink or drive off the cliff. Then, some dude came out and knocked on my window. “You alright now?” I told him how humiliated and embarrassed I was. That I had burned this bridge too and I can never go back. And what he told me right there led to a change that would keep me sober to this day. He said, “You don’t know – you might have saved someone’s life tonight, it ain’t all about you… Besides, they want to know if you’ll help make coffee next week”.
Something clicked in that moment. I didn’t want to kill myself. I just wanted to kill the alcoholic I’d become. I had been believing everything my mind had been telling me and it was wrong I had lost sight of self-worth, but others hadn’t, I was worthy to them just by being there.
My mom had asked a couple times by now if I had checked out that book she got for me and I just told her I didn’t have time. She told me Noah was coming to town for a book-launching event and really pressed me to go, which I thought was kind of weird, but ok. Besides, the guy who saved me in the parking lot was going too and I was out to prove him wrong, since he said I couldn’t even put a week of sobriety together and basically gave up on me until I went to rehab. So, I went up there to SF Dharma Punx. I got there early to find a place to park and yes, I had actually been sober for an entire 7 days this time. I figured I better at least open the envelope that had this book inside and have a look before I go to this thing. I pulled out this nice leathery feeling book, kind of thicker than his others and read the cover: REFUGE RECOVERY; A Buddhist Path to Recovering from Addiction. I was cooked. This guy I respected went and wrote a book on recovery. Just for me. I knew right there I couldn’t turn around.
As Refuge Recovery continued to grow, so did I. Meditation had meaning, these four truths are about my recovery, and the eightfold path is the map to this new-found territory. Wisdom and compassion were my headlights. I learned to trade thoughts of a bullshit buzz for peace and tolerance through this practice of present-time, non-judgmental, kind awareness. This is the way to be a real spiritual badass, I had it all backwards, and I totally forgive myself for it.
An old sweetheart of mine and I met in the store one day, right around the time of that meeting with Noah. We admitted to each other right away that we had both recently hit rock-bottom and were seeking a life of sobriety. We would stay up late talking addiction, life and recovery and she went to meetings with me. We were in this together for ourselves, and not to be outdone or done-in by the other. It didn’t take long for us to become romantically involved and we vowed to hold friendship and sobriety as our foundation. This would be the first sober relationship we’d each ever had, there would be some blind navigating to forge here, we had the guidance of the Dharma.
We became partners in service as well, starting Refuge Recovery meetings in our hometown, and two other locations in San Francisco over the next couple of years. It was wonderful to be a part of this growing movement and people we spoke to were excited, curious, and gracious about it. We printed flyers, talked to local drug counselors, therapists, and community centers. It felt like the right thing to do. Here we are enjoying life, like we got a free pass, and we can let anyone else in who wants it. It was up to us to let them know the door is open.
That Dharma Punx meeting became the San Francisco Against the Stream Meditation Society (ATS) and I was happy to be involved helping with the move and building improvements. I had become part of a community and it was almost surreal to walk into a room full of people I know and trust, that were happy to see me.
In 2018, my beloved Sangha at ATS San Francisco came apart over controversy and the community became divided and angry. Refuge Recovery as we knew it got pulled apart in the battle as well, the meditation centers and treatment centers ended, and many friendships dissolved in the toxicity. This brought my forgiveness practice to its knees. It also created bonds with those of us who hung in there, because we don’t step on our fellows when they’re down. That’s not what recovery people do. If you fall in the pit, we jump in to pick you back up.
During the second year of my Buddhist meditation teacher training, now through Noah himself and a small cohort, a new board of Refuge Recovery was formed. It felt good to have hung in there through the storm with them. I know they have a solid plan of growth with structure and even though I feared the 2020 Covid Pandemic would be a hinderance to progress, the online community has really taken hold in new and exciting ways.
In retrospect, I think all that drama in the communities hurt me more than I knew. My defense mechanism had been re-engaged and I hid behind my walls. I was barely making one meeting a week and eventually stopped attending – for several months in following the pandemic. Although I kept my commitment as a mentor/sponsor to a couple guys, I took a step back from group recovery and stayed away too long. New resentments arose and older ones started to return and get sticky, I was out of shape in spirit. I found the more I tried to control, the less grateful I became. The less grateful I was, the less generous, and therefore less received.
It took wise friendship to wake me up, again. I’m thankful to have a mentor I can trust to tell me when he thinks I’m “in the red” in my recovery because I’m slacking off on my practice and being in community.
When I returned, I felt like a stranger already, my ego was put in place, and I was ready to receive treatment for my wounds instead of sitting around licking them myself. Those times that I was strongest in recovery, I was most regular at meeting attendance and most accessible to those I could offer myself to and most in service to the community. I know better, it’s up to me to stay in community, and to step over the self-centered preferences that lead to trouble.
I learned that what I may feel is lacking in a meeting is what I should be bringing into it. This thing is ours, collectively, Like Grateful Dead and punk shows; what’s happening on stage is happening in the crowd. I have my family here, lost loved ones here, I stay within reach, share my thoughts, achievements, and losses, keep a service commitment, and show up to meetings regularly. I believe if I suddenly stop showing up, people will come looking. That’s the kind of insulation being in community can provide.
The Buddha described the Sangha, the association with wise fiends, as the whole of the Dharma. Those successful in recovery know that a fellow recovering addict is our lifeline. Whether we need them, or they need us. No matter what. It’s up to each of us to recognize when Mara is getting in the way of doing good, being kind and living a life that leads to liberation.
May we all do what needs to be done to free ourselves from the suffering of addiction, and may our recovery be a benefit to this world.
Hello Dharma Punx,
This is an invitation for you to let us know if you’d be interested in participating in a special break out group engaging in the Year to Live process and program with the Dharma Punx SF Sangha.
The Year To Live book by Stephen Levine, maps out a unique opportunity to prepare for the most significant and guaranteed part of your life; your death. It’s a year to imagine you are given a terminal diagnosis. And experience what you will feel, think, fear, and do with your remaining 12 months in preparation for the final breath. Almost no one prepares for dying their best death while trying to live their best life. Then we find out far too late that there’s no time left for it. Stephen outlines a suggested course of kind, aware and compassionate action for group practice in the back of the book, which will be utilized as our blueprint.
The second Sunday morning at 10:00 (PST) of each month is the most likely candidate for the large group meeting which would begin February or March 12th (please let me know if this is a deal-breaker).
The intent would be to:
In 2018, Emily and I experienced this yearlong process together, guided by Vinny Ferraro and Noah Levine. To say it was a year to remember would be a massive understatement. It reorganized the way we consume the world around us, culminating in the virtue of treading lightly and with fewer regrets of haste or waste. Later that year, this very Sangha was formed as a direct result of this refreshed attitude toward our time here. Now, as an endorsed Buddhist Meditation Teacher, I am encouraged and supported to facilitate this course.
These offerings are typically $750 - $1,500 for the (online) course elsewhere. But that’s not how we roll. We’ll offer this at your discretion of generosity. However, a real commitment to oblige the group of your time and attention is totally required. So please consider your willingness and ability to stick with it all the way through before you decide. And pick up a copy of the book (paperback is best in this case).
Right now, we’re just looking for a head count of those willing to commit, before setting this thing in motion. I’d like us to have at least a dozen participants (and up to 20) to make it happen. Please reply in the comments here or via email. Thanks for your careful consideration.
UPDATE: COURSE BEGINS 2/12 AND WILL BE ON A SEPARATE LINK SENT BY EMAIL. REGISTRATION CLOSES ON 2/10/23
In this true story, one might see how we never know how or where a random act of kindness may land. An unintentional intervention into a traumatic childhood experience, a real world example of equanimity and a glimpse into our conditioned perceptions.
You're welcome to share. The transcript PDF is HERE
and this video is on our (barely used) YouTube Channel HERE
Somewhere along the line I met Jack Huynh, a friend and family member of our Dharma Community here in the Bay Area. Jack is a brilliant photographer, videographer and has the patience and determination it takes to put together a multi-media overview of modern Buddhism in the U.S. and the many forms it inhabits. Jack first interviewed me at my home in 2017, still in teacher training and about to be married. Then again in 2019 at the home of SomaDharma at 5051 Mission Street. After a division in our meditation community, yet before the division of the pandemic.
Please check out this work at beyondthecushion.com
(2017- At Home)
WHEN WERE YOU FIRST EXPOSED TO DHARMA?
I learned about meditation as a youngster, but it wasn’t until around 2004 that I started going to the Dharma Punx group on Friday nights in SF (the Back of the Bus) and hearing the dharma talks there in a language I could understand and with people that looked like me that I really felt exposed. It became my path when I learned to walk again as a sober man in 2014. In early sobriety I held on to the dharma like a life raft. I literally took refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Thankfully, enough of the teachings seeped in from earlier, they were kind of lying in wait for my heart and mind to detox enough to truly absorb. Saved my ass – for real. Not that the philosophy is some sort of recovery program but it certainly offers a road map to a path of least resistance.
HOW HAS THE PATH MANIFEST IN YOUR DAILY EXPERIENCE? DOES IT REFLECT IN YOUR WORK AND RELATIONSHIPS?
I’ve learned how to see what’s coming at me from the outside through seeing what’s coming at me from the inside. So I pay a lot more attention to how my thoughts and feelings try to pull me around. Even the way bodily pain can effect my behavior. If I find myself getting a little too far out there, I can pull back and understand I can only create and respond to the past or future in this moment. Just like what we learn in Vipassana meditation. This and taking the 5 precepts to heart has really given me a solid foundation. Sati and Sila.
I do my best to apply this to work, relationships, my practice, whatever, and when I fall short, I just check out where I’m at with that too and keep going. It’s worked out pretty well. I seem to be doing more of what I enjoy and less of what I don’t. I started training to teach a while back and that’s coming to fruition these days. I wrote and published a book too. The construction thing is still paying the bills and I’m even getting married to my sweetie this year.
(2019 - At Soma Dharma, a transcript)
On the Composition
Yeah, we’re super unconventional here, and I would be uncomfortable saying what type of person would come in here. Like, every body can get in here. I’m going to reference a little bit the recovery model again. What I know about drug addiction and alcoholism is that it doesn’t discriminate at all. It discriminates as much as cancer or anything else, from any class, color, sexual orientation, age, you name it. We’re all susceptible to suffering either through addiction or through ordinary or extraordinary things in life that - that hurt us. I don’t know what an individual will come in and be comfortable with or not. And, if they are uncomfortable and don’t want to ride that out in here, it’s totally OK. I want to encourage anybody to know the doors are unlocked in here, you can let in or let out whatever you’re cool with. We have just, as an example, an artist, an architect, a mechanic, a schoolteacher, a counselor, a builder, a scientist. Yeah. These are just the professions that come in here. And as far as their economic status or sexual orientation, I couldn’t tell you and, only they know what’s right to show. That’s just stuff that lands in the room. Yeah.
On the Container
It’s been interesting. Our little group is coming on to just about a year. So I sort of had to show up with the same kind of attitude that I wanted other people to show up with. So, this is just kind of how I would do it if I didn’t have to obey any rules. And I want people to not feel that we have to abandon what’s going on to come in here. It’s cool to come in here smelling like work, or with a bad attitude, or proud of something, or whatever. It makes me kind of feel good and feel at home to play some music. So I usually have some cut of rock music or tonight there was some reggae or something going. I think that helps people just kind of show up. And just if they don’t know each other, they can just hear the music. And it’s just kind of noisy and rowdy sometimes and just sort of feels like family. I like to see that. And I think we go at the meditation and the teachings with that same sort of attitude. I really want to demystify it. You know, I’m not going to sit up here and act like I’m some sort of monk or scholar or anything else, just sort of a Buddhist geek and try to share my experience and, and do my best to draw out of the group what their experiences are, to learn the most from each other that way. And there’s, like I said tonight, there’s no - there’s no separating dharma from the rest of life.
The whole idea is down there on the street, the street fight there. Then we’re being serenading with a tambourine we had tonight. That just got delivered into our practice up here. Now there’s nothing that doesn’t belong in here. Yeah. Can you specify your role? Yeah. Yeah. I love it. It’s a, it’s a real interesting balance to be and act like a leader because I think there’s a certain element that gets created when there’s structure and there’s some point person, there’s some discipline. I think it creates a level of safety. And when that crosses into a sort of authoritarian role, sit this way, act that way, I get to talk, you don’t. That shit seems to spill into a form of separateness, which I am certainly not.
The teachers that I learned from told me that the curriculum should come in second or third, maybe fourth in line and the first always being this connection, this ability to transmit authentic storytelling. I work on bringing a personal aspect. Um, because I think that’s what Dharma is. It’s so personal. So, so intimate and I respect the Buddhist model of teaching by not saying hey do it this way, but rather that this is what works and I’ll try my best to explain it and see if that works for you and then you’ll see for yourself. And in a group that’s small enough, with a dozen or 20 of us, there’s enough opportunity for those who want to voice what they’re excited about or they’re struggling with.
And I try to allow for about a quarter or a third of the time that we have here to be an opportunity to get your voice in the room and listen and share with your peers. So there’s a bit of a mixture and inconsistency, and I’m sort of playing with a peer led model and seeing that love for teaching and helping from others in our group. I’ll reference the recovery room again, the parallel to the model that anybody in the room can lead the meeting.
There’s still that thing though, if there’s somebody sitting up there with a binder or somebody with a bell next to them and a piece of paper, you’re think they’re the one. And I mean, people come in here looking for something to do, some direction to go, so you got to respect that responsibility and do your best to help show the way from your heart, right? And you know, I mean, if you came all the way from wherever you came from to come here, I’m going to have something prepared to make it worth your while.
I think that’s important too.
On the Fallout
There was a total split, and I think this might be the elephant in the room. It’s that the founder of our parent group, Against the Stream, Noah Levine had some trouble, there were some accusations, allegations against him, which led to nothing but the fallout and dissolution of Against the Stream and some other organizations he had in place are coming apart. And I just wasn’t in the camp of vilification based on speculation. It’s not that I was waving the banner down the street saying yay Noah, but I just wasn’t in the camp of saying I’m going to completely abandon this person, my friend, my teacher who opened the door to the dharma for me and the founder of this community I fell in love with because there's problems in his life. I think my popularity suffered because of that position. Which I find so unfortunate, so unbecoming of a Buddhist community.
On Human Connection
If I had the magic bullet of getting through to people just how vital that is, this human connection. Really, and I think if there’s one thing I can, I could dream up and say, I just want to get this through to as many people as possible. Being able to have an in the the same space conversation. It’s such a virtue, and it’s just vanished and being eroded further and further and further apart by us becoming insulated by fixed views. And I mean, I don’t think we need to go into the state of the world as it is today and how social media and instant communication and everything’s a statement and whatever I say goes out to 1,000,000 people and the likes and dislikes in that, oh, the pain of being dismissed by 1000 people.
I always thank everybody and point to lets please, please not take this for granted. You know, it’s so precious to be among each other and even be awkward at times. And I see it, particularly with younger people who come and it’s so hard. It’s so hard to look at someone in the face and ask to have a real conversation. That scares me a little bit, you know, it’s just so valuable and so close to being a forgotten skill.
Yeah, so comparing that type of wisdom, what you can get out of a true, authentic connection to what you can read about or listen to or watch online, which, as I pointed to, is a great resource. But I don’t know, it’s almost like saying that we can just look at beautiful pictures of food and feel like we’re nourished by it. It’s just not the same.
Wow, it's been a LONG time since I've posted anything to this page. Which makes sense right? I mean nothing really significant happened in the last year and a half, did it? ...What? What did I miss?
OK. Look, as most of us have been, I bet, I've been somewhere between being overwhelmed with thoughts and inspiration and just being so damned exhausted from it all that just keeping my composer was a full-time effort.
So. In light of some things going on lately, I dug up this Dharma talk note I wrote a few years back. I'll write out a story or metaphorical stream of ideas from time to time. Then leave out writing down my own direct, relevant experiences or perspectives on practical Buddhism for spontaneous talking points. Thus the footnote at the end. It's in regard to an experience I had rebuilding a burned down home. The owner's of the terrifying fire had a new house to live in, but the neighbor's still had some lingering, phantom scents of smoke that continually reminded them of the unintentional harm caused by the event. One might be able to ascertain a metaphor for karmic consequence from even that snippet of the story.
Anyway. Here's my thoughts on a Campfire as our Sangha. Enjoy!
These sits where we come together in the interest and the service of awakening can be really sacred and beautiful. It’s more available, the beauty, if we're willing and able to allow ANY experience that comes out of this to be in that service.
We all came from so many directions today and from the infinite possibilities of experiences we had into being right here together for a little while. And from that, we may have come in with some expectations of what “will I get out of this”, what you expect to hear, who you expect to see, how will you be received and maybe how well you will receive what’s offered.
And while I am happy to share some of my perspectives and understandings of Dharma with you, I feel like my role, my obligation to you as a group facilitator tonight Is to value your time and attention by providing some area of focus and that it may be of some service to you, your direction, your perspective and insight. Shoring up or challenging them, or maybe testing your level of tolerance.
What you take away is yours to keep and do with as you will (you and your Buddha nature), but the creation of it will be collective. Simply out of the nature and energy of the Sangha itself.
When I was growing up on the coast the big event was having a beach party at night with the big fire sometimes or at somebody’s Ranch inland. Now whoever hosted that party was usually responsible for the fire and being in construction, I had no shortage of access to fuel for the fire with scraps from the job, so many times I was elected to that position and that was cool. It felt good to have that responsibility and regard because the fire was the main focal point out there at night in the dark and cold.
Everybody huddles around the fire. So it was cool to be the guy with the pickup truck full of wood. I’m always early to everything so I’d get there and unload it all, maybe have some hands pack it in close by and I wasn’t always the one that got to set it up to ignite later... everybody’s an expert when it comes to this.
So people start showing up around sunset and just before it gets dark somebody would get this thing going and you know how it is at first: big hot fire with the paper and kindling burning off. Of course we usually threw gasoline on there to make a show out of it. Some people like that kind of thing ...some don’t.
You know it’s when (and how) the fire and gets established that it becomes communal... and through the course of the night has a lot to offer.
To the senses and the spirit: all sense doors engaged in the exciting sight of the fire, the crackling sound, the taste and smell of burning wood and smoke, the heat in your hands and face... and for me, just the miracle of fire itself tends to deepen my thoughts and makes me feel connected to a power greater than myself
To our tribe: we can see how we’re all centrally drawn to its warmth and energy and yet how it affects us all differently throughout the night as the fire changes with the direction of the wind or the fuel it’s burning. You know, there’s always someone who gets smoke in the face the whole time no matter where they moved, someone else usually gets so close they get burned or char some article of clothing, someone else always upwind and not really feeling it.
And then there’s all the contributors; some knuckle-head’s going to throw something on there that doesn’t belong and someone else will dowse it with a beer. There’s the experts, the chronic pokers, the hunter gatherers, the chefs, the daredevils, the elders and the children.
None of us are the fire itself.
But we can create it, maintain and nurture it... bring to and take away from it... and leave it to smolder out... taking away nothing but our experience.
The same goes for these sits, energetically everyone brings something into this room that becomes the fire. And everyone walks away without any part of it but their own direct experience from being around the fire like everyone else.
The Buddha spoke often about knowing our experience as externally, internally and both externally and internally. Extensively throughout the Satipatthana Sutta, our User’s Manual to mindfulness meditation in the Theravada tradition.
If we contemplate the element of fire literally and purely externally, we know what a delicate balance it is. An asset and liability as an element vital to our survival, yet when it is unconfined, can be devastating, merciless and deadly.
Living in California, we get an up close and intimate relationship to this nearly every year. Folks in large numbers are still putting back the pieces of their losses as we enter into the next season. In my career as a homebuilder and working on many insurance losses over the years, including the San Bruno fire, I have some rather direct experience with this as well.
Figuratively speaking, if we can parallel ‘fire’ with ‘human passion’ whether in lust or in anger we can see a similar volatility.
This is not our fault, at least not the first part - it’s the conditions of our reality and the fundamental basis of the first and second noble truths. A) that there are causes and conditions that are not agreeable and b) because we cling to the idea that we can control the world we live in by pushing away pain or clinging on to pleasure, the manifestations of these actions gets to become detrimental to our peace and well being.
Absorbing the wisdom of the 3rd and 4th truths; that we are capable of liberating ourselves from this process in this lifetime (3rd) and following the path to this realization or at least getting further from ignorance – through applying the virtues of wisdom, ethics and concentration, using the map of the territory we know as the eightfold path...this is our responsibility once we can see it.
**EICHLER STORY? (leads to compassion, equanimity, sangha)
Breath and body mindfulness meditations can take on many forms. Practicing clear comprehension of the posture, movements, breathing... calming, becoming steady. This happens through training our minds to narrowly focus attention as we choose, then learning how to negotiate what we intend with the mind through the actions of the body. That takes persistence and careful attention, making small corrections along the way, studying the results of those actions and trying not to get caught up in disappointment or attachment to outcome.
Just continue recollecting, aiming and observing.
I've been shooting at targets a long time (never any living) and I don't keep score. The target is only one tiny piece of this activity. It shows only the millisecond in time that the arrow was released and the cause of the conditions that led up to it being in that spot. Archery as a meditation is my benefit.
Although it is much easier to collect your arrows of they're all in one place ;)
And always, always know what lies beyond your target!
Unlike life, where we're shooting arrows all over the place everyday. Never really knowing where they land, or who might get hit. Ever get hit by a stray arrow? Sure you have. And I bet you want someone to blame for it too! But that's not part of the deal. By taking birth, we signed up for the "getting-hit-by-stray-arrows' course.
The Buddha taught a parable about this. One of his students was going on and on, asking a million questions of him about all the unanswered mysteries of life and death. "Where do we come from? Where do we go? Are we something or or are we nothing?" He was really upset that the Buddha wouldn't directly address these things, since he seemingly had all the answers!
So the Buddha explains to him about life. He says, let's say you got hit with a poison arrow and before removing it, you demanded to know what the arrow was made of, what type of feathers it was fletched with, or whether it was it shot from a long-bow, a recurve or a compound? What was the political or religious principles of the shooter?
While concerning yourself with all these questions, you would surely die of your injury. He said, all we needed to know was what suffering is (getting shot by a poison arrow) and how to end it (promptly removing the arrow).
This would be the way to liberation and thus, the questions rendered fruitless.
The journey IS the destination, so enjoy the ride.
The story of Bamboo Pole Acrobats.
Emily and I wanted to share this message with you about how we can all care for the world right now by taking care of ourselves. By being diligently cautious and wise with our bodies and by trying to stay mentally/spiritually balanced.
It might feel like we’re “doing nothing” to help this situation by staying isolated, but as it turns out, it’s an incredibly generous and compassion action to take for the well being of many. Of course I’m referring to physical isolation here as advised by scientific and medical professionals. The flip side of this is that we’ve seen a massive outpouring of connection and service provided by means made possible through technology. That’s wonderful and essential. Please stay engaged in community anyway possible and reach through any discomfort to connect widely and be available for others to reach out to.
Emily and I are here too.
Thanks for watching, doing your part, deepening your practice and inner wisdom and looking after one another through looking after yourselves.
Please join us @soma.dharma Wednesday nights at 7:30 to connect with your people. ✌🏼❤️🙏🏼
Well… It's been a full week into 2020 and it's been quite a year so far in world news events!
Certainly valid evidence that there is no shortage of greed, hatred and delusion and plenty of suffering to be had by many through the actions of the few. Our sincerest wishes are for ease and peace for all in these strange and difficult times and for wisdom and compassion to prevail. Though our own practices, to cultivate inner peace and through insightful, mindful outward expressions into the world we live in.
Last week, Wednesday 1/1/20, we celebrated our Sangha and ourselves in surviving all that each of us had 100% successfully survived so far in our lives.
Taking a look back through the last four seasons we contemplated what was worthy of carrying forth and what was best let go of, as it no longer served us.
After I gave a talk, we took a bit of an imaginative journey in the form of a visual sort of guided meditation (a version of The Backpack Journey – available on the “Sounds” page here) and in reflection, set our intentions for the year ahead.
We also had the beautiful gift of individually hand-painted stationary by Emily to write down our visions and intentions to ourselves on. We then sealed the envelopes, addressed them to ourselves and piled them into the middle of the room. These letters will be mailed out in one year.
I suppose after you do something a couple years in a row, it becomes a tradition, or ritual. So this is a repeat of last year’s The Day after Xmas Party’s events to some extent and beyond in other’s. I heard some people were very pleasantly surprised to receive last year’s letters they’d forgotten all about.
This year, the ‘food thing’ got bigger and better too! We had our Sangha’s finest bringing: vegan black eyes peas and sausage with collared greens, amazing minestrone soup, vegan corn bread, coleslaw and more. We hung out enjoying each other’s company, eating and listening to tunes for another half hour after we closed the sitting group. It was a lot of fun and truly one of the most comfortable holiday “family” experiences I can remember.
Please check out the “What’s Happening” page to learn about upcoming plans and ideas for this Month and the rest of the year!
I’m figuring out how to get a a decent recording of some things I’d like to add on the here and don’t feel like it’s there yet. So, I thought I’d just share my transcript of the talk I gave on New Years night (below). This piece was followed by a short description of how several other traditions go on pilgrimages, or spiritual journeys in search for guidance before we did our own version in meditation.
Enjoy. And Happy New Year!
Punk Perceptions and Gratitude - Just as rivers (1/1/20)
This December I went on a special ten-day silent retreat. It was special in a number of ways. It wasn’t like most any of the western insight traditional retreats, this was a Monastic retreat. Meaning that, first of all it was organized and led by monks. Like the real deal; Ajahn Passano is the senior most disciple of the venerable Ajahn Chah (a hero of mine, the grandfather of ours and my teachers) in the Western Hemisphere and one of only a few remaining alive today.
The retreat for us laypeople would be a taste of what they do for three months starting tomorrow (Jan 2). We take 8 precepts there, which means in addition to the traditional five*, we don’t eat after noon, don’t adorn or entertain ourselves and don’t sleep in great comfort. I followed these rules.
It was also significant in that I had just foregone a pretty significant opportunity to lead a dharma talk on a retreat with my training cohort at Joshua Tree. This was a major milestone on my path, but a story for another time. I had to line up everything just right in my life coming up to this event as I have a business to run and tying up all the loose ends according to plan (to disappear completely for 10 days) is no small feat. This happened as well as assuring my personal life, health and mindset and full support from my home life would be in place.
It was also known that it would be raining and cold in the Sierra foothills, uncomfortable, to not only be away from my cozy and happy home, but that I had this feeling like I just needed to “veg out” from working and stressing lately. Knowing enough about intensive silent retreating, especially done in this very traditional, ritual and pretty religious way would be stressful in and of itself. Nevertheless I was as ready as could be.
So I come to you here with two tales that seem to meet each other to me in some way at this point. And an experience of what it means to have gratitude and a way to express it.
On the first day of retreat, you get there and check in, awkwardness is the general weather pattern for the day for me. Finding my room, setting up my stuff just right, dressing up my thin, narrow mattress and awaiting the other body that would soon be cramping my style for the foreseeable future in here with me.
Enter “Povel”, a mid-thirties, heavy Russian-accented gentleman. Very polite and orderly, who also very deliberately alerted me of his tendency to snore! OK, no problem I am prepared for this.
At 9 p.m., after the excitement of the first “Puja” and orientation, the very light evening meal I had in my belly from 5:00 and a day of travel and transition, I remembered I had in my bag a pair of earplugs and a handful of melatonin.
I have rarely used melatonin in the past when I had long periods of difficulty sleeping, and usually tried it when I didn’t have to get up early the next day.
But the thoughts were that I had to have a good night’s rest to be the best Yogi I could be - beginning tomorrow. Especially since the cushion and mat I had dropped off in the shrine room upon arrival, was placed all the way up in the front row, just right of center stage.
Fast forward to 6:45 a.m. the next morning. I had over slept! Nearly 3 hours after the time I had set my alarm and the yogi bell ringers had come and gone to wake us all to make the trek downhill to the first Puja. A significant one too, the first bowing to the Buddha, and senior monks, the first set of chanting. All that I had ambitions for experiencing up to now – had come and gone without me.
Alone in the dorm, a bit panicked and feeling like a total failure. What the fuck could have happened? Whose fault is this? Why didn’t my roommate help me out here? Everyone is going to know I’m a total amateur, a slacker, and just here to vacation. I made it down in time to get in line for breakfast at 7 am.
Feeling like a total turd, not being able to tell anyone what happened. OH sure the thoughts of ‘fuck all this, I’m crawling to my truck and leaving right now’ were there. But then a soft voice of my inner knowing arose; ‘fuck ‘em, bro. You just do you. It was an accident and you probably really needed the sleep. Let this experience inform you. Get it in gear and push on.’
I did. For the next 9 ½ days, I really absorbed all this retreat had to show me. It was everything you can (or can’t) imagine. And on day ten, I was very happy to not only have pulled it off in stride, but very happy to be packing it up and heading back to the lap of luxury.
Back now to Povel. With whom I had only a very brief, interaction of formalities on day one. We said our goodbye’s and he asked if his snoring bothered me. I was polite about it and honestly told him that I had dealt with it well enough, it had subsided some and it became a part of my practice (of metta and forgiveness).
He told me that he sat behind me in the shrine room, sitting in meditation for those many hours and admired my stamina and diligence of practice, but what really blew him away – did me too!
He said that he noticed my Dharma Punx bumper sticker upon moving in and had some preconceived notions about me. Which proved valid to him when I “just decided to fully rebel against the stigma of looking good and getting up early on day one to go to the first Puja”.
“That was radical, man! I mean you just said fuck ‘em, I’m gonna sleep in today and do shit my way! I was so fucking impressed, I mean, I could just never do that. Totally punk rock, dude, I loved that!”
Oh, sure, I considered being the guy he thought I was in his mind for a minute, but no, I humbly confessed to the truth. I did however, also share that I was feeling good about a quick recovery, which in a way did come from this attitude, but in a more self directed way I guess. More like “Fuck my mind, I’m just not going to know how to do everything right and be ok with it”
So that’s tale number one. This group. Soma Dharma is tale number two.
If some of you know the back-story, and me, the parallel might make sense already. The cliff notes go like this though; Many of us had come to know and love a sangha called against the stream, some of us had grown up on our dharmic paths through the earlier version of this sangha known as dharma punx, then the back of the bus crew, led by Vinnie Ferraro.
Well, some things happened involving allegations of sexual misconduct and the founder, (Noah Levine) wound up with his organizations falling apart and divisions happening within the sangha itself. The center I and so many other came to rely on as their sanctuary and place of community and spiritual friendship (our own special brand of it), the place I personally had put a lot of time and effort into building and becoming a facilitator of, had abruptly slammed it’s doors shut.
In the midst of the stormy weather of feeling betrayed, disappointed, divided and abandoned, some folks were working on restoring the status quo of the center at 23rd and Folsom. With a new mission statement, visions boards, nonprofit status, all that I didn’t know much about or have any faith in. I was also somewhat verbose, given the opportunity, about not being in the camp of hating or abandoning anyone for anything. Especially not the one whose home we were sitting in discussing these things, and the one who unlocked the door to the dharma for me and saved countless lives through his efforts in the world of teaching, writing and working with recovering addicts and the incarcerated.
I just wanted to do something. Anything, if even just a crutch for a while until shit got normal again. Shit never got normal again. I went and rented a weekly space for a couple hours over on Howard street (SoMa) and invited all my favorite teachers to come and fill the head seat for us to continue to hear the teachings and get together like we used to. I intended to go retro a bit, hoping to sort of hit a reset button of some kind, Bringing it back to the old dharma punx days, the room even kind of looked like that one did.
But instead, what I was met with was questions about my affiliation with the founder, how I felt about sexual misconduct and whether I condoned it! That my offer was even a statement of apathy for the afflicted in those cases. I responded with a plead to come and tell the group and me how their perspective would be helpful and lead to an understanding that would foster wisdom and compassion. Eventually, not one of them would come here it seemed, they turned their backs and when other places started back up again, saying all the safe, right and popular things to say, that’s were they landed
In the meantime, I had a meeting with Noah while on retreat with him in November of 2018, the former founder, who had mentored me by proxy through Vinnie and Joanna, the guiding teachers of the time. When I told him about my intentions and the dilemma ensuing, he reached over the table and said; “you do this. You’ve got he training and the passion for it, I don’t think you need to bring in all these people to speak for you, just jump in and see what happens”.
Here’s what happened. Here we are. The closest friends I’ve ever known are in this room. In my opinion the ones who really got the Buddha’s message of love, equanimity and forgiveness. Arie, Erika, Scotty, Cheryl, Brian and others; rode the waves of this group of well-meaning misfits all the way here from the first few meetings.
My wife, Emily. She is truly the foundation my building sits on, and the local rescue department of my heart and mind over the last year and a half. She’s able to pull me out of the mud and fill my tank all at once, and does it all the time. If I have a crazy idea (Like soma Dharma) she’s the executive director of the outcome. “You can totally do this, follow your heart – or- uh… you sure about that, maybe sit on that one for a minute, dear”.
When I say that Emily is the strong, silent type, the reason we’re really a family here and appear to have our shit together most Wednesday nights. I’m not just throwing that around. It’s true. And trust me when I say, she got hit with plenty of shrapnel from that fallout too.
Are there some false perceptions out there about my motivation, intentions or abilities? Maybe. Do I need to confess my truth to whom I might guess is holding them? Nope. Are we living breathing truth about what it means to find a refuge in our sangha? Yes. Where a practice can develop in the most authentic ways, where we find our kalyanamittas? Yes, absolutely. It’s done, it’s happening now, and stands as it’s own witnesses to be true.
This has truly been the most meaningful venture of my life. And I’ve been on a few!
How do we share our gratitude for this? I’ll tell you how WE do, and about a couple of the ways the MONKS do.
How we keep fuel in the tank here, and what I’ve come to know as the corner stone and key to real revolutionary transformation and spiritual growth: it’s generosity.
The pinnacle of which is just showing up here. Really. Without the action you all take to dedicate time and energy to get yourselves here on a Wednesday night, if not for your own practice, then to be a guide for others seeing you continuing to arrive – just for them, is the greatest act of generosity and gift to yourself that you can contribute to foster our growth collectively.
Another is in the form of contribution that may seem really practical. We have expenses to cover and hopes for things we’d like to create, which takes money and other efforts. My hope is that when you help in this way, it comes from the same spirit of generosity that’s in offering good advice to a friend, giving a gift to a loved one, or buying something you love to eat or wear.
It’s also part of belonging to the oldest continual barter system in the world. The Buddha, and the order of monks and nuns, in an unbroken lineage have been dedicating their lives to spreading the teachings for free and living on what is only freely and willingly offered in return. Everything from their housing, to food, clothing and medicine.
Now, that’s not me. I don’t live that way at all. I work my ass off as a building contractor and hope to get PAID for that work. I’ve been at it a long time and have managed to live good enough – to fairly well through the years.
This here – I don’t get paid for and I don’t want to. The perspective for my part here is that through your generosity, I get to continue training as a meditation and dharma teacher; it’s an ongoing internship. Money we collect here goes directly back to this group (and I keep track). So I hope that my part in this this group is also viewed as an act of generosity, just like every one of us who walks through the door.
That’s us. The monastics, like the ones I just spent some time with – total dedication to generosity and renunciation. They don’t even get to ask for their preferences.
When I got to be part of the daily alms round, I was moved deeply.
In the setting I was in there on retreat, there’s a buffet line, it’s kinda the same at the monastery, and you’re all welcome to go join them there too.
But to get a closer look at the ritual, I had to volunteer to “Offer the meal” along with a few other yogi’s. As they can’t just take anything without it being offered, and we can’t just put things in their hands, it need to be put in thier bowls. So for them to do this themselves it has to be offered somehow.
I learned that when they come in, and walk down to the buffet line, to offer it: I was to touch one side of the dish or tray, then they touch the other - then it’s been offered and we move on to the next. Then they go collect their bowls and serve themselves up.
At the end of all this, they all line up at the end of the table, bowls in hand, with all of us yogis standing there in Anjali (hands together). And the monks begin this most beautiful chant to us. Offering us their gratitude and blessings. It’s called “Just as Rivers” and I’d like to read it now to you all.
>>>Read from the chanting book page 50.
Before checking the calendar, I just sensed a need for putting things away. Conserving energy, getting things in order. The Autumnal Equinox is here and once again the nights will dominate the clock. It's a beautiful time of year all over here in the Northern hemisphere and nature's relentless reminders of impermanence are all around us.
I've been through the maple leaves just once when they were full of fire light, but I'm a NorCal boy and as many of you may be hip to - this is our beach weather. Growing up on the coast with lots of dirt roads, surfing was about all we had. And those long summer days were usually full of fog and flat water. Then September/October rolls around when you have to go back to school and guess what? It clears up. Sunshiny days, south swells start rolling in AND the days are getting shorter? One must have priorities, you see... grades suffered and truancy soared for this kid around this time of year.
Things have shifted but it seems a similar cycle is in my psyche. Holidays and Winters can be slow for building contractors like me, so Spring and Summers are time to run full throttle. After three decades at it, though, it feels like the engines are winding down into a cool idle a little earlier each year.
Time for Reflection.
In many ways, the fall brings potent opportunities for reflective awareness and contemplation.
After the harvest, we can look back across the growing season and determine how we were successful or learned lessons. We take mental notes or document our discoveries for next season, even with some degree of accepting the unforeseeable variations of weather to come.
Rehash and rehearse, reflect and prepare. The mind is always at work doing these things.
Good for you, mind. Meanwhile the world goes on.
This October marks our first full year as the Soma Dharma Sangha.
As I look back across the year, I too see successes and lessons.
More than anything I see the fruit of our efforts.
And it's more beautiful than I would have imagined.
We've grown something really special here together.
This Poem from Mary Oliver called Wild Geese is one of my very favorite combinations of words.
Mary left this world in January of this year, she was 83
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.