Sunday, April 30, 2006

Do no harm

"Do not take lightly small misdeeds,
Believing they can do no harm:
Even a tiny spark of fire
Can set alight a mountain of hay."

- Patrul Rinpoche

Carrie's baked crab cakes

These crab cakes are baked, not fried, and so are quite healthy, low in fat and high in protein.

Any kind of crab meat will do.

I used blue swimming crab (Portunus pelagicus, pictured here), which is widely available in U.S. grocery stores.

1-1/2 lb. crab meat
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
3 eggs, slightly beaten
5 Weetabix biscuits, crushed OR 1/2 c. bread crumbs

Combine first five ingredients in bowl and mix well.

Add enough Weetabix/bread crumbs to shape mixture into 3" diameter cakes.

Coat with additional Weetabix/crumbs, if desired.

Place on a baking sheet and bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden, flipping cakes over once during cooking. Makes 8-9 servings.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Today is the anniversary of the bombing of Guernica, Spain.

The Wikipedia entry says, "The bombing of Guernica was an aerial attack on April 26, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War by the German Luftwaffe squadron known as the Condor Legion against the Basque city of Guernica. It was the first aerial bombardment in history in which a civilian population was attacked with the apparent intent of producing total destruction."

Guernica was the first instance of the heartlessness of the modern air war. Sadly, such atrocities continue to this day.

So today, thinking of Guernica, Dresden, Hiroshima, Bagdhad and all the other cities and towns all over the world that have endured the horror of death from above, let us live mindfully that there may someday be peace in all of our hearts.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

My little mindfulness frog

So this evening I was running around the house (which is still not quite completely unpacked, even though we've been in the house a couple of months now), looking for my purple fleece jacket which I need for a business trip to Denmark in early May. (Hva', because early May in Denmark could still be a wee bit chilly, ja?)

I went out the front door to look in my car, and was surprised to see a familiar little face seeking shelter from the rain:

He was just about where he was the first time I saw him, a few weeks ago, clinging with his (her?) amazing little feet right next to the latch on our wrought iron gate. He must like that little place.

For a few moments, he looked right at me as if to say, "Shhh...enjoy the rain. Denmark and the jacket can wait."

Sort of like a mindfulness bell, one glance at my little mindfulness frog and I snapped out of my hurried haze back to the moment.

What a beautiful frog! What a beautiful spring shower! What a nice cool evening! These things are real, but transient. I should appreciate them while they last.

So, whenever the harried haze comes over me, I will try to think of my little mindfulness frog.


Monday, April 17, 2006

Letting go, step by step

Don't cling to anything and don't reject anything. Let come what comes, and accomodate yourself to that, whatever it is. If good mental images arise, that is fine. If bad mental images arise, that is fine, too. Look on all of it as equal, and make yourself comfortable with whatever happens. Don't fight with what you experience, just observe it all mindfully.

Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Can faith foster social justice?

"'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in; I needed clothes and you clothed me; I was sick and you looked after me; I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" (Matthew 25)

This morning's Meet the Press featured a fascinating discussion among a half-dozen religious leaders of various faiths talking about faith and politics. Of course, Buddhism was not represented, but several of the guests did speak about changing the focus of American spirituality away from the destructive politics surrounding issues like abortion, gay rights and genetic research and towards more basic principles of lovingkindness, compassion and social justice.

I was impressed by three of the speakers in particular: Rabbi Michael Lerner (Jewish), Sister Joan Chittister OSB (Catholic), and Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr (Muslim). All three encouraged Americans of faith to turn their attention to addressing poverty, social inequality, environmental destruction, corporate greed and the erosion of civil liberties in the United States. While all three declined to characterize the United States as "a Christian nation," they each argued in favor of reaching out to the less fortunate in ways that are more "Christlike."

I came away from the program feeling a little more hopeful that there are social progressives among all of the world's faiths. If people of all spiritual paths can come together out of love and compassion and treat others with lovingkindness and compassion, then perhaps we can begin to rid the world of the grinding poverty, ignorance and suffering that foments so much violence, injustice and disease.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Seeking stillness

"You tell me to stand still, but I am not walking," he shouted, "whereas you who are walking say you are still. How is it that you are standing still but I am not?"

The Buddha turned round. "My legs move but my mind is still," he said. "Your legs are still but your mind moves all the time in a fire of anger, hatred, and feverish desire. Therefore, I am still but you are not."

-Majjhima Nikaya

Stillness of mind does not come easy to me.

My husband says I am a bit of a "Type A" personality: goal-oriented, serious, etc. In my pursuit of doing the right thing and doing it well, I tend to think myself into a tizzy. "What if...? If only I had..." You know what I mean.

In the last two years I have learned to recognize these twitchy, anxious "habit energies" (Thich Nhat Hanh's term) and steer my thoughts towards calmer, more wholesome thoughts. I still feel the habit energies, and feelings of worry and self-criticism still bubble up from time to time, but I have learned ways to control my thoughts, rather than let them control me.

Interestingly, meditation is a way to practice calming my native habit energies, and the more I practice finding stillness, I improve my zazen sessions and the overall level of happiness in my daily life.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Freedom bracelet

Support Tibetan Buddhist nuns in exile in India and show your support for the plight of the Tibetan people ...

Buy a Tibetan Freedom Bracelet here!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Carrie's keema recipe

This is my variation of the traditional Indian dish of ground or minced lamb in a curry gravy.


1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1 cup diced baby red potatoes
1/4 cup minced garlic
1 lb ground lamb
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 cups diced tomatoes
1 can young green peas
1 cup water
1 tsp Mild red curry paste *
1/4 tsp Thai green curry paste *
1 packet Sazón seasoning "con culantro y achiote" *

* Available in the "ethnic" food aisle at your local market


1) Add oil to hot skillet and coat surface evenly.
2) Add ground lamb and cook on medium-high heat until meat is just barely browned
3) Add onions to skillet, saute until onions are translucent
4) Combine lamb, onions and the rest of the ingredients in a large pot.
5) Cook on medium heat until bubbling, then turn heat down and allow to simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not allow it to boil.
6) Serve over jasmine or brown basmati rice.

Serves 4-6. (Makes great leftovers.)


Friday, April 07, 2006

Heard on the radio...

Lost in the sky
Clouds roll by and I roll with them

Arrows fly

Seas increase and then fall again

This world is spinning around me

This world is spinning without me

Every day sends future to past

Every breath leaves one less to my last

Watch the sparrow falling
Gives new meaning to it all
If not today nor yet tomorrow then some other day

(From "Pull Me Under," Dream Theater)


The one who wanders independent in the world, free from opinions and viewpoints, does not grasp them and enter into disputations and arguments. As the lotus rises on its stalk unsoiled by the mud and the water, so the wise one speaks of peace and is unstained by the opinions of the world.

(Sutta Nipata)
Comment: I don't think the Buddha intended that we live our lives without having opinions at all. I think the point is not to be stained (or constrained) by them in such a way that your opinions and viewpoints compromise your ability to live treat others with compassion and lovingkindness. I think of people being so consumed by the passion of their opinions that they are blinded by them, unable to think independently and exercise sound judgment. Opinions and viewpoints should be treated like other products of thought, and we should be in full control of them, rather than controlled by them.
Peace to you all. Love one another.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A teacher without a classroom

“Contemplate the workings of this world, listen to the words of the wise, take all that is good as your own. With this as your base, open your own door to truth. Do not overlook the truth that is right before you. Study how water flows in a valley stream, smoothly and freely between the rocks. Also learn from holy books and wise people. Everything—even mountains, rivers, plants, and trees—should be your teacher.”

Morihei Ueshiba

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

My dog in samsara

I was letting my dog out this morning and I had a bit of an epiphany.

I was watching him sniff around the backyard when he stopped and started nibbling on grass. Now, Jakey does this from time to time but every time he does—no matter where he is or what kind of grass he eats—he throws up. "Hey Jakey," I said, trying to distract him from his would-be nibble, "don't do that, you'll just throw up." He looked up, somewhat startled, then trotted over to me to be let back inside.

Why does he eat the grass when it makes him sick every time he eats it? Why do any of us humans do things that are unhealthy or unwholesome when we know we will reap the consequences later?

A few minutes later, back inside the house, I was preparing breakfast (Kashi with sliced strawberries and bananas). Jakey was doing his usual, sniffing around the kitchen floor, hoping to find something to eat, perhaps a morsel that a human dropped last night. He was grazing, even though he had a bowl full of fresh, tasty dog food right around the corner.

Don't we all do this? We graze, always looking for something, that special whizbang doo-dah, even if we have no need for it. There's a multi-trillion dollar retail industry out there that preys on our neverending desire for the next doo-dah. Perhaps because we feel incomplete, empty or unsatisfied psychologically, or perhaps because of what Thich Nhat Hanh calls our habit energy. We spend our lives, sniffing the floor of the cosmic kitchen, looking for the next morsel, even though we don't need it and whatever loot we find may in fact be unhealthful.

The Buddha didn't say it this way, but the second and third Noble Truths could really be summarized thus:

"Don't be a dog! Quit nibbling and sniffing, let go of the wanting and live."


Monday, April 03, 2006

Set your compass to Buddha nature

Every sentient being is
Ready to be enlightened
At every moment.
The only hindrance
Is not recognizing
The purity and limitlessness
Of Buddha nature.
We may have inklings
Of our limitless quality,
But we don’t fully recognize it,
So we become focused
On the relative I, the self.

Tesshu Tokusai (?–1366)


I have read how other "new" Buddhists are overwhelmed by the principle of no-self.

There certainly is something intimidating if not downright frightening about being told that everything you always thought was central to a well-lived life—finding your "true self," maximizing your potential, achieving "self-realization"—was in fact an unhelpful and pointless distraction.

I have tried to think of it in terms of being a mindful, compassionate part of the Whole. I am not responsible to find my "Self" any more than I am responsible to find the Bermuda Triangle or the Northwest Passage.

My responsibility (as one who has been given this precious human life) is to treat all beings I encounter with lovingkindness, genuine concern and compassion, and to take joy in the lives of others. Through meditation and waking mindfulness, I can "remagnetize" my internal compass to steer away from defilements and unwholesome practices.

Go forth, brothers and sisters in the dharma - remagnetize!


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Loving one another

Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings:
Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.

Metta Sutra

I love the Metta Sutra but I find it difficult sometimes to act always with a loving, open heart.

I try to remind myself several times a day that I should try to treat others with lovingkindness as a mother would her only child.

That is a very powerful image for me.