Monday, December 21, 2009

Salvation Army—an opposing view

Saw this today linked to on Twitter:

I can't be sure of how true some of the allegations are, but I wanted to share it in the interest of fairness.

Comments, anyone?

With metta,

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Salvation Army

Every year, in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there's a Salvation Army bell-ringer posted by the entrance to the local Publix supermarket.

In general, I find evangelism and missionary activity (of any kind and any creed) distasteful. But when it comes to the Salvation Army, I've always reached into my wallet to slip a five-spot into the bell-ringer's red can. Why?

I guess it's because the S.A.'s activities seem less exploitative than other forms of missionary activity. I have the impression—perhaps mistaken—that the helping comes first at the S.A. and the preaching of God's Word is secondary. (I'd be interested to hear from anybody who has actually received assistance from the S.A. to share their experience in this regard.)

Far too many "people of faith" profess a creed but do not put those beliefs to work to help their neighbors. I am therefore pleased when a Christian group puts down their Bibles to minister to the non-spiritual needs of the poor and suffering. There are 200 million some-odd Christians in the U.S. but far, far fewer who act "Christlike."

I have no problem with giving help to those who need it and, should the needy want spiritual guidance, too, giving them that, too—as long as the latter isn't a prerequisite for the former.

I hope I'm not engaging in wishful thinking here, but please "call me on it" if I am.

Happy holidays to you all!

With metta,

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Health care reform

We cannot call ours a just society if we do not guarantee every man, woman and child a basic level of care—preventative, curative, ameliorative and palliative—for their bodies and minds.

I do not understand those who would deny to others the health care that they themselves enjoy.

Underneath all the reasons have given for opposing universal coverage and a public option, there seems a basic principle: some people's lives, health, livelihoods and happiness are just less important than others'.

There is a blindness out there to the suffering of others. For anyone following any spiritual path, this is antithetical to the path of righteousness.

When I hear my conservative Christian friends rail against universal coverage and the public option, I remind them what Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 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.’"

Just as people are to be judged by the manner in which they treat the poor and downtrodden, so are societies.

Will we as Americans take it upon ourselves to provide for the least among us? Or will we, callously and selfishly, allow our brothers and sisters to slip through the cracks for the benefit of the affluent?

I pray we come to our senses.

With metta,

Monday, July 20, 2009

F*** My Life

I've started reading FML (thanks to a really easy to use iPhone app) and find it simultaneously hilarious and profound. The hilariousness is obvious: I challenge you to read more than 3 of these blurbs without laughing out loud. But...profound?

The thing is, after reading a few dozen of these usually somewhat funny tales of woe, I realized we all have these "oh fuck me" moments. It serves as a useful reminder to be more compassionate of others—and myself—in such situations. I tend to be very hard on myself. Maybe FML will help me remember that I'm not the only one that has those kinds of troubles.

So give F*** My Life a look.

With metta,

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pema Chödrön

Whenever I feel like I need a "reset," a renewed sense of purpose in my practice, I sit down and listen to Ani Pema deliver her dharma talks on shenpa in "Getting Unstuck." Her teachings on shenpa make so much sense and offer practical tips to neutralize the shenpa's effects. I highly recommend you check it out and give "Getting "Unstuck" a listen.

With metta,

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Rip currents (repost from 2007)

What follows is a reposting of a blog entry I made back in 2007.

Standing fast in the current,
I feel it swirling around my ankles,
pulling me under.

The more I try to stand fast,
the stronger the water tugs me down,

Then I see the sandy beach,
and I move gently against the waves,
parallel to shore.

No longer am I struggling,
and the riptide loosens its angry grip,
and I free myself.


A theme common to the teachings of my favorite teachers—Pema Chödrön, Thich Nhat Hanh and Lama Surya Das—is that the key to release from suffering and samsara is mindfulness, or what Pema Chödrön calls "learning to stay." It is not a question of no longer having negative feelings or cravings, but rather learning to gently and with lovingkindess understand the feeling or craving without letting it drive us into habitual behaviors of self-harm.

In Florida, there is a common and occasionally lethal ocean phenomenon called a riptide or rip current. A rip current is a strong flow of water returning seaward from the shore, and it can catch swimmers (and especially non-swimmers) unaware and push them farther away from shore. The majority of people who drown in rip currents (causing about 100 fatal drownings in the U.S. each year) do so because they exhaust themselves fighting the current.

One can survive (escape) a rip current in one of two ways: either by floating with the current until it subsides (which works if one is a strong enough swimmer to swim back to shore after being pushed 100 or so feet out) or to move out of the current by swimming parallel to shore. Florida beachgoers are warned that they should not under any circumstances attempt to fight the current, which can be very strong (as fast as 2.5 meters per second).

I think this advice works with cravings and negative feelings, too. Fighting them can create its own difficulties (e.g. guilt). Pema Chödrön teaches that when one feels the tightening, one should gently and without judgment acknowledge the feeling with curiosity, and that in this way one can avoid getting "stuck" or, using my analogy, being carried away by the rip current of one's own angst.

With metta,


Return from extended silence...

Life got busy, and I stopped blogging. Since then, I started a novel but the story and my enthusiasm for it faded. The technology of online communication evolved: now, I'm a regular Facebook'er and Twitterer.

But my heart and love of the dharma haven't changed or faded. I don't always meditate as often as I should, but I try to live mindfully and compassionately.

I've thought about restarting my blog. So here I am, back again. I never really went away, but fell silent in the blogosphere. But I have found my voice again.

Stay tuned :-)

With metta,