Meditation Entertainment


the tedium of meditation gives rise to strange forms of subtle entertainment.

like the upper and lower teeth resting together so lightly that each heartbeat creates a tiny “clack.”











it sounds kind of ridiculous, but in a way it might be a practice of deep listening. giving attention to the subtle wonders that would otherwise escape our notice.











Undo (Revolution In The Garden With Eliana and Noa)


To tire,
to tire,
to sink down,
a huddle of wilting bones

to be borne up again
by friends.

to stay hip-cocked, ornery
and still, still
breathe deep into the belly.

undo this world, please.

undo every lethal gas attack
the hoarding of clean air
the systematic flogging of our dead
and our living
and our in-betweens in prison,
now on strike, who knows how long.
i know that to undo would mean me too
me this bit of spinach stuck in the teeth of god
and of course that is ok.

here, let me

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The Buddha On Flowers

Death sweeps away

The person obsessed

With gathering flowers,

As a great flood sweeps away a sleeping village.

The person obsessed

With gathering flowers,

Insatiable sense pleasures,

Is under the sway of Death.

As a bee gathers nectar

And moves on without harming

The flower, its color, or its fragrance,

Just so should a sage walk through a village.

—The Dhammapada, translation by Gil Fronsdale


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Flowers, mom and dad at a dog park in Napa.

Obsession with sense pleasures be darned, getting outdoors today was such a relief.

Bodhidharma Breakups

Bodhidharma, who cut off his eyelids to stay awake and keep meditating

I heard a Buddhist sermon once, a dharma talk, in which the teacher described the night he came to know sleepiness.

He was at a residential meditation retreat, and though the students had been released back to their dormitories for the night, he decided to stay in the main hall, sitting.

This was no lark because, as you know, at meditation retreat centers they do not mess around when it comes to mornings. 4am, your ass is up. No caffeine, either, or hardly none. Accordingly, come 9 or 10pm, you are tired. Eleven, sleep-heavy chin sinks to your chest, bounces back up like a car on hydraulics. And this is Theravada tradition, eyes closed. By midnight even the insomniac practitioners are bobble-headed with drowsiness.

But this teacher, on this night, was fighting the nods, battling the bobble-head, determined not to succumb to sleepiness, but rather to observe it. To remain awake, taking note of experience.

Finally, dizzy with darkness but stubborn and still curious, he decided to open his eyes. Not just open, but saucer and bulge them, two peeled grapes in his sockets, letting the light steep them and the cold air gently bite.


Like this, he stayed awake, sitting.

Ten minutes.




Until eventually he felt the first wave. An enormous wave, engulfing him from the bottom up, his folded legs, his butt, hips, flowing warm and heavy and sweet up his torso, shivering his shoulders and face, and wicking up and off the crown of his head, into the air above him.

He withstood it, but minutes later, another wave came. Again he fought, saucered his eyes wider, prying the lids open with his fingers. Again it traveled up his body and through the crown of his head.

A first wave; a second; a third.

And then it stopped. He was awake. Three waves, that was it. Over. For another couple hours, he stayed and sat peacefully, gently electrified, without effort.  From then on, he recognized sleepiness in a totally new way.

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Empty for Trayvon

buddhist monk meditating

At this morning’s meditation, the still-fresh news crawls my skin like a tiny spider — down the neck, the right arm, until it drops, gently threading down from the tip of a finger.

Departure of imaginary spider creates a ghost imaginary spider.  Her double-absence haunts the mind more.

Trayvon’s killer has gone free.  Black lives again mean nothing.  9am morning meditation, I sit powerless.  Fatigued.  Trying to get free, be nothing.  I know I am doing it wrong.

I can’t

he can’t

we can’t

we can’t

we can’t…

…powerless for now.

Protecting Ourselves From Our Stories

Morihei Ueshiba
Morihei Ueshiba, founder of the Japanese martial art form aikido, which aims to let practitioners defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury.

On March 1st, exactly one year after R and I broke up, I drove to his house to pick up one last smattering of my belongings, left out on the porch for me in a Trader Joe’s brown paper bag. Anticipating that it might be difficult and I might get sad, I had asked a good friend to come with me. And though I did feel nervous and sad, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Right on top of the pile there was a favorite belt that I’d been missing for like two years! When R and I were still together I lightweight hounded him about that belt — was convinced I’d somehow left it at his parents’ house. Don’t know where he ended up finding it, but I was glad to have it back, and as my friend and I drove away from his street, I thought I felt okay.

Still, the bag sat at the door of my closet, untouched, for a long time.

Again, though, once I finally screwed up the courage to go through it, it wasn’t so horrible. A swirl of memories: pleasant, unpleasant, neutral. A lot of the stuff wasn’t mine, but some of it was. Pillowcase. (Useful!) Books. (Beloved!) The scarf on the header image of this blog. (Nostalgic!) And oh, what’s this? I recognized a notecard, some stationery of mine.

It was the birthday card I had written to R last year.

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RIP, Chinua Achebe

Even as we strive for liberation,
any truly emancipatory struggle must also be its own reward.

“To answer oppression with appropriate resistance requires knowledge of two kinds: in the first place, self-knowledge by the victim, which means awareness that oppression exists, an awareness that the victim has fallen from a great height of glory or promise into the present depths; secondly, the victim must know who the enemy is. [They] must know [their] oppressor’s real name, not an alias, a pseudonym, or a nom de plume!” —Chinua Achebe (Nov. 16, 1930 – Mar. 22, 2013)


via Julia Wallace of SU/LU.


Working-Class Self-Activity, Reform, and Ableism


Reform and revolution: I’ve got questions; you’ve got answers! (?)

From Truth and Revolution, which I’ve mentioned here before:

‘Working class self-activity is working-class autonomy — autonomy from capitalism,’ argues [Lee] Holstein. Her problem with advocates of trade-union reform efforts, such as Moody, is that they ‘mush together the reform and revolutionary aspects of resistance and insurgency, treating forms of resistance and insurgency which are confined within the framework of capitalism in the same way as those which break out of that framework.’ For Holstein, by contrast, ‘self-activity is not just resisting and attacking, but resisting and attacking in a way that undermines capitalist power, destabilizes its institutional framework, and foreshadows and demonstrates, in the form and content of the current struggles, the potential of the workers to be rulers.’ (284–85)

Two questions for today, and then I promise I’ll get back to grad school work. ;)

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Miso Soup


Tonight a friend who lives nearby, and who I haven’t seen in a while, came over to spend time because there’s been some violence in their house and they are feeling unsafe there. After we talked and drank tea and worked quietly at our computers, they left and I made myself an easy dinner: miso soup with sweet potato, spinach, and red onion. It reminded me of this poem, shared with me a few years ago.

Ame ni mo Makezu
by Kenji Miyazawa

not losing to the rain
not losing to the wind
not losing to the snow nor to summer’s heat
with a strong body
unfettered by desire
never losing temper
always quietly smiling
every day four bowls of brown rice
miso and some vegetables to eat
in everything
count yourself last and put others before you
watching and listening, and understanding
and never forgetting
in the shade of the woods of the pines of the fields
being in a little thatched hut
if there is a sick child to the east
going and nursing over them
if there is a tired mother to the west
going and shouldering her sheaf of rice
if there is someone near death to the south
going and saying there’s no need to be afraid
if there is a quarrel or a lawsuit to the north
telling them to leave off with such waste
when there’s drought, shedding tears of sympathy
when the summer’s cold, wandering upset
called a nobody by everyone
without being praised
without being blamed
such a person
I want to become

It sounds appealing, in a way, to melt into the “woods of the pines of the fields,” to become free from suffering by squarely facing pain, by knowing pain intimately, every day. To be “called a nobody by everyone;” to barely exist; to exist as friendly landscape, as natural shelter.

But is there a place here for community of emancipation?

Problems in this poem are either small enough to impact as an individual (through personal sacrifice, like The Giving Tree), or so huge (pre-industrial weather, no thought of a ‘climate change’ to reverse) that there is nothing to be done. What about the problems in the middle? Small enough that human action can have some impact, but big enough that it takes many many many humans, properly coordinated, to do it?

Isn’t that another way of feeling like a “nobody?” Seeing patterns of harm, knowing they can be stopped, but being unable to do it yourself, or even with your intrepid cohort?

I know the point is an attitude, an orientation toward the inevitable harshness of life. We feel, we cry, we try our best. We allow ourselves to be permeated by what exists, because this, as much as the ability to control or affect our environment, is part of our highest potential.

But I don’t know. I like to be effective. Don’t you?

Bro-ciological Study


Bro-Dependency is a new Comedy Central miniseries of shorts about two dumb bros, and it’s brilliant. I, a reluctant TV watcher (so addicting! nothing else in my life gets done), have so far replayed the first video, “Tacos,” three times. For me, the show could intellectually, culturally, and humorously rival Awkward Black Girl. From the casual racism and misogyny lying around like dirty gym socks (a mess both subtle and potent), to the obnoxious yet painfully fragile hetero-masculinity of its two heroes dudes, BD’s pitch-perfect acting, strong writing and sharp editing capture those ineffable qualities of bro-ness immediately recognizable to anyone who’s ever attended a frat party and felt like strangling themselves with a resistance band.


For example. On first look, Anderson’s laugh-cry (which was so effective in “Tacos” that it seems to have become a running joke for the series, with somewhat diminishing returns) might just seem to paint him as hollow and shallow. But I think this is more about nurture than nature: the sociology of bro-ness, beyond individual vacuousness. These guys spend so much time mocking and belittling what’s painful to others (like harassing the young man on the bike, or — personal-experience beef — laughing off feminism and spouting constant rape jokes) that when something deeply painful happens to them, they have ZERO IDEA how to handle it gracefully.

And although the idiocy is clear, it’s not so absurd or totalizing that we can write these people off. We, too, have our own avoidance maneuvers. Whether our veneer consists of sarcasm or spiritual materialism, when we focus overmuch on commanding, controlling, and dominating what’s around us we become kinda clueless in the face of internal crisis.

More thoughts later, maybe, but for now, can’t wait to see where this show goes. Mad potential, yo.