For Baybes Who Resolve To Learn Meditation

Hey friends! For any of you folks in the Bay Area, I just wanted to pass along this announcement for a *free* (donation-based, give-as-you-can) introductory course to Vipassana (or “insight”) meditation, at my local sangha, the East Bay Meditation Center. EBMC is largely run by and for queer folks and people of color (with one weekly sitting day reserved for LGBTQQI & SGL folks, and one for POC), though this workshop is open to straight white people, too.  Should be rad.

I’ll be ringing in the new decade at the Center tonight, sitting together up until midnight. Truly, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be on New Year’s. It’s an amazingly warm and wonderful space, and one of my main anchors in the Bay.

Have a safe and happy night, y’all, and thank you for reading, shaping, and encouraging the Kloncke chronicles of 2009.  Wishing you all the best things for 2010.

Into the Heart of the Moment:
Meditation for Beginners
Buddha Statue Head

with Mushim Ikeda-Nash and Kitsy Schoen

Open to all

Five Monday evenings:
Jan. 25 – Feb. 22, 2010
7:00 -9:00 pm

East Bay Meditation Center
2147 Broadway Street, Oakland, CA 94612
(near the 19th Street BART)

About this Class Series

Are you stressed or overwhelmed, seeking ways to be more compassionate to yourself and others? How do you get your brain to work for you instead of replaying old tapes and unhelpful messages?  We don’t have to keep doing things the same way – we have choices! Based in Buddhist teachings and supported by modern science, mindfulness meditation has clear and proven benefits for health and well-being. We’ll offer basic instruction in sitting and movement meditation, interactive exercises, and support for establishing a home meditation practice.

Registration is Required and Space is Limited!
Please plan to attend all five classes in the series.  This is NOT a drop-in class.

To register, please click here, or copy and paste the following link into your web browser:

If the link does not work, reply to this email, with your full name, requesting a registration form for the “Into the Heart of the Moment” series.

Dana, or Generous Giving

There is no registration fee for attending this event, nor most EBMC events.

However, EBMC is not independently funded.

The center and the teachers will be sustained only by your voluntary donations (the practice of generous giving, or “dana”).  Please donate generously, in proportion to your ability:

  • Either online (you will be offered an opportunity at the end of the online registration process)
  • Or at the event, in the two baskets at EBMC, one for the center, the second for the teachers.

Thank you for your generosity.  Giving together, our unique, diverse center will continue to grow and thrive!

About the teachers

Mushim Ikeda-NashMushim Ikeda-Nash teaches meditation retreats for people of color and social justice activists nationally, and she is a core teacher at East Bay Meditation Center. Known for her warm and down-to-earth approach to mindfulness practice, she brings 28 years of monastic and lay experience to her teaching, with an emphasis on integrating meditation and everyday life.

Kitsy Schoen

Kitsy Schoen has been practicing Vipassana meditation for 30 years. She is a graduate of the Community Dharma Leader program of Spirit Rock Meditation Center and is on the Leadership Sangha of the EBMC.  Kitsy is passionate about the integration of mindfulness and multicultural awareness.

In order to protect the health of community members with environmental illness, please do not wear fragranced products (including”natural” fragrances) or clothes laundered in fragranced products to EBMC. A list of fragrance free products is posted on the EBMC website, at

wheelchair - lively
The East Bay Meditation Center is wheelchair accessible.

More Music

Been doin a lot of reading, reflecting, and relaxing the last few days.  I’ll try to share some thoughts once I get them better-formulated: on “resistance” as understood in politics and dharma; on greed and its tricky disguises; on a radical interpretation of the “no stealing” precept in Buddhist ethics; maybe even on sex and sexuality, since I haven’t talked about it hardly at all this entire year.

But today I’m more into reading and listening than writing, so here are a couple more lovely songs, from one of my favorite guitarists.

I saw Lionel Loueke (born in Benin) with a friend in New York in the fall of 2006, in a tiny hallway of a venue.  On top of falling for his music, I remember my delighted amazement when, midway through the performance (with his group at the time, Gilfema), he called spontaneously to a woman sitting in the row ahead of us, and she just stepped up on stage and started singing brilliantly along with the ensemble.  Just like that — from listener to performer.  It’s so easy to get mesmerized by the person onstage and forget that we might be sitting in an audience of musical geniuses.

Monday Music

Well, it was gonna be a Monday Musiq Video, but my favorite version of “Just Friends (Sunny)” (to which Ryan recently reintroduced me) got nixed from YouTube.  What can you do.

So here, instead, something that’s been in heavy rotation on my laptop lately.  I wish I could upload the version from my own library (slightly gentler, more a cappella, with only the lightest touch of instrumentals — just breathtaking), but it’s “protected” and alla’ dat nonsense.  Anyway, this one’s gorgeous, too.

Here’s wishing you some of that slow Sunday luminosity.

Bonus Track: Ill Doctrine Holiday

Jay Smooth gets it right on.  Now this is real metta (lovingkindness).  As Sharon Salzberg says,

The practice of lovingkindness is, at a certain level, the fruition of all we work toward in our meditation. It relies on our ability to open continuously to the truth of our actual experience, not cutting off the painful parts, and not trying to pretend things are other than they are.

Unrelenting pressure to be positive is not real love or kindness, even if it’s coming from good intentions.  It’s only when we let go of expectations for joy or peace that real, honest listening and caring can occur.

Take care, y’all, and I’ll see you Monday.

– – –



Merry Merriment

Marcie packaged homemade cookies as gifts for her family.

Enjoy the day, y’all, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing.

As much as this time of year often seems to be ‘about’ spending time with friends and family, lately I’ve noticed in myself a strong urge to be alone.

It could be because I’d grown so accustomed to accompanying my own self through the days in Spain.  Now that I’m settled in San Francisco, levels of social stimulation have skyrocketed.

And it’s not that I’m feeling irritated, necessarily, or claustrophobic.  It’s more like an active, positive desire to spend time with myself, immersed in some silence and solitude, and see what happens.

Whatever I find, whether beautiful or harrowing, helps me to bring my best self to others.

A great example of this solitary/social link is Marcie (pictured), a friend from the Faithful Fools.  Her courageous decision to enter a dual-diagnosis rehab program this year (talk about the ultimate solitude and self-reckoning), and her success in staying committed, have opened up space for her to connect more deeply with her family.

I’m not saying that relationship improvement should be the main motivator for choosing to spend time alone.  There are plenty of good reasons for solitude.  Even when it gets lonely, or frightening.  (To a point, of course.)  Silence and stillness are necessary conditions for certain kinds of insights too subtle to penetrate our typical mental autopilot, the white noise of everyday extroversion.

May these holiday weeks bring us strength to face and accept, with compassion, all parts of ourselves.

That’s the kind of Christmas Miracle I’m talking about.

Unhappy State (Of Mind)

According to the NYT, a recent study measuring correlations between living conditions and happiness in America found that they’re very strongly linked.  More thoughts on that in a minute.  But an informational byproduct of the study was a ranking of states from most to least happy.

At the bottom of that list?

Let’s just say that Jay-Z and Alicia Keys might not be pleased.

Sure, it’s important to avoid conflating New York City with the state as a whole.  But it does give me an excuse to finally share my photos from September’s week-long visit.

To return to the main point of the study, though, and the article covering it: this journalist dude takes on a strange, pseudo-sarcastic tone in defending New York, and in so doing seems to be talking out of two sides of his mouth: (a) objecting that Poor people in those higher-ranked places can’t really be happy — they must be faking! and (b) defending unhappiness as a catalyst for great artistic achievement.

Let’s take the second point first.  This is actually a pretty common attitude, right?  Haven’t you ever known someone who seems to derive great satisfaction from their misery and solemnity, from complaining about it, or from constantly striving for bigger and better achievements, never satisfied with what they have?

Such attitudes or habits of mind aren’t limited to artists by any means — in fact, all of us fall into similar patterns from time to time.  Even if we don’t particularly like feeling unhappy, we cling to an identity of unhappiness because it seems solid and somehow justifiable.  Or maybe we’re terrified of what might happen if we let go of it.  So we want to analyze it just so, and relate it back to our whole life history, beginning with childhood, etc.

With art, though, or “creativity” more broadly, this normal fascination with unhappiness is particularly easy to rationalize, since part of artistry involves representing human misery faithfully, accurately, and poignantly.

But all I’m saying is, if Michelangelo were a close friend of mine, and he had a choice between finding happiness and creating the Sistine Chapel, I’d encourage him to put away his brushes.

I mean, would we really wish unhappiness on another person — or on ourselves — just so that we could enjoy some good art?

It’s the same flawed logic I laughed about in another study, which implied that being a hostile and unhappy person might be worth it if it increased your longevity.


As for Haberman’s first point, being dubious about the poor yet satisfied, here’s how I see it.  His attitude reflects the common American notion that greater material wealth — and its attendant perks — grants us more happiness.  But the quality-of-life measurements used in the study included a wide variety of factors, including “climate, taxes, cost of living, commuting times, crime rates and schools.”

Now, having a lot of money does expand one’s options, meaning that you, an individual, could choose to move to a place like Louisiana (the state ranked highest in happiness) and enjoy its sunshine and other non-monetary advantages.  But simply having a load of money and living in a cold, dismal, rat-race, no-one-knows-their-neighbors and people-spend-half-their-day-in-traffic suburb ain’t gonna cut it.

Similarly, just because a state has a lot of financial wealth doesn’t mean it’s allocating it in ways that boost people’s well-being.  More likely, it’s using it to further enrich the ruling class and imprison huge numbers of people of color.  (Side note: I wonder if prisoners were surveyed for this study?)

The issue that interests me more, though, is why Americans’ happiness is so closely tied to predictable environmental factors of any kind — financial, structural, social, or otherwise.

I wonder whether a Buddhist country, for example, where dominant cultural wisdom might encourage disaggregating happiness from material conditions, would show similarly strong correlations.

Anyhow, The City was my first stop back in the States, and even though I find it stressful and would never want to live there myself, it sure was pretty to look at for a week in early autumn.

Enjoy the photos, folks, and be happy.

SF Annual Homeless Dead Memorial

Reverend Hope at the Memorial Service For All Our Homeless Dead.

Last night, for the nineteenth time in as many years, San Franciscans assembled in front of City Hall for the Interfaith Memorial Service For All Our Homeless Dead, organized by Reverend Glenda Hope with SF Network Ministries, along with the Coalition On Homelessness.  Half a dozen laypeople and religious leaders — a rabbi; a Zen Buddhist nun; a housing activist; a Franciscan sister (my boss and roommate, Carmen); and more — presented poems and eulogies, mourning the dead and calling for justice for the living.  Alternating with the speeches, one person from a given neighborhood would read aloud a list of names: the recorded deaths of homeless people in that area, in 2009.  I think there were between 50 and 60, maybe more.  A singing bowl rang after each name spoken, including, hauntingly, a few nameless: John Doe Number 64 (ding), John Doe Number 67 (ding), John Doe Number 95 (ding) . . .

Evidently, over the years it’s become increasingly difficult or complicated to access information on homeless mortality.  In addition, the deaths of people living in single-resident occupancy housing (or SRO’s — basically hotel rooms) are not recorded.  So the actual death toll among the very poor or destitute is far greater than our reading reflected.

A man sang in a beautiful soprano; the lists of names were ceremonially burned.  All told, about 80 people gathered in the cold near-rain.  And though the memorial itself was lovely, the most moving part for me was knowing that this frail reverend, emceeing in a barely audible voice, has faithfully assembled people here on every winter solstice since 1980.  Almost twenty years of bearing witness this way, in this same place.

Pillow Talk, Pillow Action

Goodness gracious, people. A lot has happened for me since September. In college towns, big cities, and on tropical islands. With old friends, new friends, mentors, lovers, family, and the lifelong “domestic partner.” Painting bedrooms, taking walks, cooking soup, learning stick-shift, finding a twin spirit in my high school crush, getting (a) into art school and (b) certified in scuba diving. Another 10-day Vipassana course (this one in North Fork, California). Sleeping on the streets of San Francisco. Living and working in a street ministry. And all the while, continuing to open, open, open up.

Part of me feels like apologizing, and trying to atone for the extended absence by crafting some sort of meaningful, powerful narrative about the last three or four months. (Autumn. Wow. All of autumn.) The most insightful insights, the most surprising surprises, the most splendid splendors. But instead, in classic Kloncking fashion, I think it’s best to begin with the tangible. And colorful. And close to home. Less talk, more action.

I bought these gorgeous fabrics this summer, from a very kind, friendly shopkeeper near my flat in Barcelona. When my folks came out to visit me, my mom and I decided we’d use them for a pillowcase project. She taught me how to do it while I was home for Thanksgiving. Specifically, how to add on the invisible zippers. (Invisible yet pink! Ha!)

I wish I had thought to take some pictures during the sewing process because the best part of all was watching my mother as she modeled the stitching for me, guiding the fabric through the electric machine with such rhythm and confidence and obvious pleasure. Sewing was one of her main hobbies for most of her life — she made, mended and/or altered much of her own clothing. Her mother (my Oma) was a factory seamstress, too. So mama certainly knows her way around a Singer, even though hers mostly lies dormant these days.

It was beautiful to witness her work — like watching a cheery old former minor-league shortstop play catch with his grandkids. Graceful muscle memory. Alacrity. Plus, she’s an excellent teacher for a novice like me. I’m quite proud of our results.

It’s good to be back, friends!  Hope you’re well.  More to come.  Ps: many thanks to Kyle, who unknowingly gave me the push I needed to get this thing going again.  De-lurking in person is even more fabulous.