daecabhir: (Firefly Zen)
Five Refugees and a Bodhisattva
5RefugeesAndABodhisattva.jpg
Originally uploaded by daecabhir.

On September 22, I and five others from the Baltimore sangha traveled to Washington, D.C. I was there to take my Bodhisattva vow, while Frank, Jeff, Sue, Emily and Melanie were there to take their Refuge vows. The funny thing is, the way Frank conducts himself, I thought he'd already taken his Bodhisattva vow. Emily is Sue and Jeff's daughter, whom I first met when I coordinated her Level V in June. Melanie is my buddy, and a beautfiul soul.

Acharya Richard John was again the preceptor this year, as I took my own Refuge vows with him last fall. The Bodhisattva vow ceremony is at once both more formal and more relaxed than that of the Refuge vow ceremony, at least as performed by the Acharya. Taking the Bodhisattva vow is a very serious step on the Buddhist path, as the vow is basically making a commitment to put the good of others ahead of one's own wants and desires, a commitment to do no harm through action or inaction, and a commitment to work for the rest of this lifetime and in all future lifetimes for the benefit of others. It is not about making yourself feel good because you are helping others, it is about helping others because it is the right thing to do.

Part of the vow ceremony, which in our tradition is a closed ceremony (only open to those who are taking their vows and those who have already taken the vow), is an offering to the teacher. The offering should be something of value, but most importantly it should be an act of letting go of "attachment", in that what is offered should be something that is perhaps painful or not very easy to let go. From the Buddhist point of view, it is this attachment to material things, to the belief that we have a "self" that is somehow separate from everyone else, to the neuroses that we have created for ourselves, that causes us to suffer. I had a bit of difficulty with this, because so much of what I believed I am hooked by is not material, but then I realized that there are material things that symbolize my attachment to how I view myself, how I value myself.

So after 20 years, I parted with something that symbolizes my attachment to a concept of who I am or want to be, that symbolizes my habitual pattern of behavior that involves buying things to somehow make myself appear better or feel better. It caused rather a bit of a stir, and they had to bring in a sturdier offering table for it (and then Acharya John told me to go ahead and put it down next to the table): my Rickenbacker 4000 bass guitar. I bought it while in college, because I had this fantasy of becoming a bass guitarist, with all the trappings that came with it. Did I ever really make the effort to learn how to play it? No. Did I distract myself with fantasy, delude myself into thinking that "one day..."? Yes. Was it painful to part with it? Yes. Was it the right thing to do? Yes.

The reason maitri, or "loving kindess towards oneself" is stressed very early on in our tradition is that the Buddhist path of meditation is not a path where you try to "transcend" all the shitty stuff in your life, to obtain joy by somehow no longer feeling those things that have caused you pain. Quite the contrary - you come face to face with your own neuroses, your own embarassing habitual behaviors, your own dirty laundry, so that you can see what you are really doing, and then break the cycle of self deception, self distraction and sometimes self destruction. If you do not learn to love yourself - which is, from my own experience, the hardest thing I have to work with - then you will discover these things about yourself, and then beat yourself up for being a "bad person". Which totally misses the point.

So, when you take refuge, you receive a refuge name. And when you take the Bodhisattva vow, you receive your bodhisattva name. The names are usually given by the preceptor based on their experience with you, and are usually intended to point out qualities within you that may need to be developed (wait for the irony, it's coming), and can be used as part of one's practice to help uncover one's own buddha nature. My refuge name is Jigme Chodzin, which means "Fearless Dharma-holder", and Acharya John made it clear to me that he'd served me up a pretty tall order there. My bodhisattva name is "Champa Riwo", which means "Maitri Mountain" - see the irony here? Something I need to work with? Needless to say, I'll be contemplating that name for years to come.


daecabhir: (Sick)

I actually arrived home in Fredneck late Sunday evening, but I've been playing catch up with everything but sleep. I haven't dug deeply into the psychology of why the first three nights home I was avoiding going to bed, but I have my theories. Thankfully last night I went to bed shortly after I got home and let the sleep meds take effect, but I woke up this morning feeling like gum on the bottom of someone's shoe. After eating breakfast I went back to bed for a few hours, and woke up less tired, but still feeling physically tired. Another sick day logged, go me.

As proven out by last Fall's dathun (one month group meditation intensive retreat), and the Warrior Assembly from whence I have returned, residential retreats have their version of "con crud". Lack of sleep and fatigure create a fertile ground for the microbial nasties that ride along with the many people who come to the retreats. About half way into the retreat, I was fighting a head and chest cold, causing me to miss one of the morning practice sessions. I thought I had overcome the worst of it before coming home, but apparently that is not the case. I will probably venture forth a little later today to pick up some echinnecea tea and Cold-Eeze, but will not be heading to the meditation center. My body needs rest, and I need to listen to my body.

Warrior Assembly is the culmination of the Heart of Warriorship and the Sacred Path Shambhala training curricula, and is held at various Shambhala land centers each year - this year it was held in Poland, France (Dechen Choling), Colorado (Shambhala Mountain Center) and Vermont (Karme Choling). We had about 150 participants from as far away as Australia, and about another 30 staff members. We did a fair amount of sitting practice, study, and work around Karme Choling, including listening to talks given by the co-directors Acharya Eric Spiegel and Ms. Mary Campbell. The teachings during the course of the 10 days of Warrior Assembly helped to tie together the teachings from previous training levels, and caused me to appreciate not for the first time the brilliance of the Shambhala training. It was, overall, a very fruitional experience.

I, like many others, spent the week on an emotional roller coaster, sometimes going through a whole cycle of emotions in the space of a day. This is one thing that can happen when you participate in group meditation retreats... in an environment of intensive practice, it is possible to relax to the point that one will drop the barriers we as human beings tend to erect between ourselves and the rest of the world to protect ourselves from being hurt. Learning to do this helps one to open up to the feelings of others and cultivate compassion, but it also exposes you to the rawness of your emotions and the emotions of others, and that can be both deleriously joyful and incredibly painful. It can also be bloody exhausting.

Well, that is enough for now I reckon. I have other thoughts on my changing life, my attitude towards my activity on the 'net, and my joining the Dorje Kasung while at Warrior Assembly, but those are for later.

daecabhir: (Enlightenment)

One of the things that Shambhala has brought into my life is poetry. Apparently Buddhists are rather attracted to poetry, or so it would seem from simple observation. Perhaps it is the vividness of experience captured in the words of the poet, or perhaps it is the willingness of the poet to expose their immediate feelings through meter and verse. The origins or spiritual leanings of the poet do not seem to be important - some of the more powerful poems I have been fortunate to encounter are from decidedly Christian poets, who seem to have touched the heart of their connection to their deity. Often the poem offered by a fellow practitioner is timely and appropriate, even if the one offering the poem is not aware of that fact.

Mary Oliver is a favorite amongst the locals, and we've shared a few of her poems during our Wednesday evening study group. Inspired by a poem from her collection Dream Works, I purchased a copy. As is my wont, I fanned through the pages, and let Fate decide which poem I would read.

As well you know, Fate has a sense of irony, if not outright humor. I ended up on The Journey, and was stopped in my tracks. Given the current circumstances, this is poignant to say the least.

daecabhir: (Calvin's Selective Reality)

So, yesterday was the 42nd anniversary of my escape from the womb. At 10:21 AM, in Washington, D.C., on July 25, 1966 my mother gave me perhaps the greatest gift I have ever received - life. Thank you mother, not only for the nine months of gestation that you endured, but the decades of love thereafter as well. It was passing strange this year, as I received more birthday wishes in one day than I had in the past five years. I am not sure what I did to deserve the notoriety (or is it infamy?), but I was really, truly blown away by the number of people who wished me well, and the variety of places where those birhday wishes were posted (one of particular note, from a Twitter pal, is this Bitstrip.

In other news, [livejournal.com profile] ravynmaniac has taken posession of a townhouse less than 10 minutes away. She'll be packing and moving some things this weekend while I am in Baltimore doing a Shambhala Art training intensive. Not much else I can say about it really, other than it is good that she found a place that she could afford which will accomodate her needs. I doubt I will begin to sort out my own life until after Warrior Assembly in August.

I am sitting at a table in the third floor "suite" in my friend Cynthia's "old" house. That is, the one she used to live in befoe she bought the one next door. She's renting out room in the house and I suppose that if I were the one moving out I would probably have looked into renting this space. Cynthia lets me crash here for training weekends so I don't have to commute from Frederick every day. At some point I should take her and her mom out to someplace nice for the number of times she's put me up.

This weekend is a Shambhala Art "intensive", which combines the first two levels of Shambhala Art training into a single weekend. I'll post more on this later, but I've been waiting for the opportunity to pursue this particular set of teachings, and tonight's opening talk and exercise was very promising. And yes, in case you're wondering, I have invested and will be investing a good deal of time to pursuing dharmic studies. This is the path upon which I find myself, and it is a path that has brought a great deal of clarity and sanity to my life, even if it has also brought the inability to delude myself as well. It doesn't mean I don't do stupid things or don't try to avoid unpleasant situations - it just means that I can't hide from the fact that I am doing something stupid or avoiding unpleasantness. Frome somewhere in the midst of that wisdom may eventually arise.

Anyway, I should go to bed now. Thank you again to everyone who wished me a happy birthday, or who has wished me well in dealing with the upheavels in my life. Your support helps, it really does.

daecabhir: (Coffee Failed - Use Jumper Cables)

So, like, I've been busy as hell at work. Deadlines that looked reasonable are now looming fifty feet high and fifty feed wide, approaching at an alarming rate. Mostly generating documentation that should have already existed, along with operations engineering plans, which I haven't done in ages. By the end of the day, my brain is pretty damned crisp. I need a vacation - hopefully Warrior Assembly in August will not leave me feeling like a wrung-out dishtowel.

Judging by the e-mails and LJ comments I have received, the announcement has left a number of folks wondering just what the hell happened. However, the responses have been very supportive of [livejournal.com profile] ravynmaniac and I as we try to make our way through this, for which we are both deeply grateful. We're currently in the process of finding a place for [livejournal.com profile] ravynmaniac to rent, and muddle through the details that we need to organize before sitting down with a mediator to work out the legal end of things. The most important thing is that folks not worry about us... we're working together on this, and we're both intent upon getting through this with our friendship intact.

This weekend I'll be in Baltimore participating in a Shambhala Art intensive, which is basically Shambhala Art I and II in one weekend. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche taught that art provided another avenue for developing mindfullness and awareness, for connecting with the primordial nature of mind. The director for this weekend is apparently most excellent, so I am looking forward to finally being able to start the Shambhala Art training. I'll post here after the weekend to let y'all know how it goes.

On that note, I should get my ass into the shower and into the office. More later - TTFN!

daecabhir: (Firefly Zen)

If you have ever wondered what comes out of these Shambhala Training weekends, the poem below is an example of the creative energies that seem to get unleashed as a result of intensive meditation practice.

My mind is such a handy tool
For filling in the gaps
It seeks them out
However small
And fills them just like that

My mind is such a busy tool
It seems it never rests
Always working
Never stopping
Just filling in the gaps

My mind is such a care-worn tool
Honed by years of use
Yet it seems
To have no edge
Its cutting days have past

My mind is such a simple tool
Well-suited for its task
Building ego
Closing doors
And filling in the gaps























The above was composed on I-70 westbound, somewhere between Rte 29 and Rte 75, on the way home this evening. Perhaps I'll share another snippet later, along with some thoughts on this weekend.

daecabhir: (Mellow)

So I am back home from Shambhala Level V, the final level in the Shambhala Heart of Warriorship path. "Final" is of course, a relative term, as the "path" never really ends... and there is a second course of training for those who wish to expand their practice further. I'll expound a bit more this week on my experiences, thoughts and feelings that have arisen out of the Heart of Warriorship program and my association with the BSMC sangha. Suffice it to say for the moment that the weekend had some very potent experiences, while at the same time presenting some stark reminders that this indeed a path, from which we occasionally wander and to which we hopefully remember our way back afterwards.

The Balticon 41 post-mortem was this weekend, which provided ample opportunity to see how even if one spends a whole day steeped in dharma, it is very easy to fall back into our habitual behaviors almost unconsciously. I have many thoughts on Balticon, which I will also post (probably f-locked) sometime this week. The winds of change are blowing, and I reckon folks will either trim their sails and ride the wind, or be blown ashore.

So now I must check on my jeans in the dryer, and get in the shower, so I can get work. I will be starting to apply the brakes to this runaway train, now that Balticon and the Level V training are behind me (for now). Life needs to slow down a bit.

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Daecabhir, Lord of the Leaping Shadows

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