News Getting You Down? Don’t Check Out! Just Witnessing Helps

An awful lot of my friends have been complaining lately about how overwhelming and depressing it can be to read the news. I sympathize; right now the headlines seem like an endless litany of reports about situations that are already incomprehensibly bad, or examples where hope for positive change appears to be swirling inexorably down the drain.But wait! Before you decide to check out - to deactivate your Facebook account, stop checking the news, or absorb yourself in activities that make … [Read more...]

The World Is Burning and Yet I Garden: Reflections after a Session on Climate Change at the Soto Zen Buddhist Association Conference

I feel that it is very important to say something right now, but it is very difficult to do so. I don’t think it’s so much that I can’t find the words. That’s not usually a problem for me. What’s difficult is to even get in touch with my current experience. Part of me is reeling from overwhelming shock and grief, another part of me is dumbfounded with confusion and disbelief, and yet another part of me continues to energetically and joyfully live my life as if the other two parts don’t even exist … [Read more...]

It’s OK When Things Suck

Buddhist practice doesn’t get you out of experiencing, and feeling the pain of, old age, disease, death, change, loss, trauma, and things being different than how you would like them to be. It also does not relieve you of being a limited being who needs to work hard to overcome harmful habits of body and mind. In short, Buddhism does not help you avoid times when things suck. And sometimes they really, really suck.What Buddhist practice gives you is the ability to stop resisting the s … [Read more...]

What in the Hell Is Happening in Our Country?

As I sit down at my computer for a day of work, I take a sip of coffee and yield to the temptation to check Facebook and see what's going on.All I can think is, "Oh God, not again."Two more black men shot dead by police in as many days.While the country still reels from the slaughter in Orlando. Which happened even though Sandy Hook should have been the absolute end of the line for this nonsense.Shock, disbelief, and outrage surge through my mind and body. The scariest part is … [Read more...]

Ten Ways to Energize Your Meditation

Most forms of meditation, by definition, are pretty boring. If a meditation technique was entertaining or exciting, it wouldn't be meditation! Typically, in meditation you notice when your mind is wandering and then shift your awareness back to some simple meditative object like your breathing, or sound, or a repeated phrase. This is what triggers your body's relaxation response as opposed to it's stress response (which gets triggered a great deal in daily life).At the same time, meditation … [Read more...]

Not Just Guns and Madmen: Our Whole Society Is Insane

Just about every blogger will have something to say in the wake of the Umpqua Community College shooting. Some will just be sad, others will point out this or that as the primary reason for such a tragedy.I just want to point out how screwed up this is. This is insane. This is a sign of the decline of our society. Seriously, folks.Without excusing anything, I ask you to imagine the mindset of these mass shooters. They are not just crazy. Maybe most have some degree of "mental illness," bu … [Read more...]

We’ve Got to Passionately Love Life Itself

I've heard folks speak in placid tones about suffering and destruction due to climate change, widespread poverty and inequality, and the mass extinctions of species. It's as if they have passed judgment on humankind and decided the degeneration of our societies and the degradation of our environment are fair punishments for our misdeeds. They seem to think we might as well resign ourselves to our universal comeuppance because we deserve it.I understand it can be easier to resign yourself th … [Read more...]

I’m Afraid You’ll Stop Reading this Blog If I Talk about This

On New Year's Eve, 2014, I found out that we have two years - until 2017 - to cut carbon emissions, or risk catastrophic global consequences from climate change. As I heard the sounds of fireworks going off outside, I was reading Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. A knot started forming in the pit of stomach as I read: "In a 2012 report, the World Bank laid out the gamble implied by [the 2-degree Celsius] target [laid out in a non-binding international agreement a … [Read more...]

Cognitive Dissonance: Being Culpable for Life’s Destruction

From a very early age I sensed there was something wrong. I remember being around ten years old, cradling the tiny body of a dead bird. It was so small it fit easily in the cup of my child-sized hands. The bird had died after hitting our cabin window, and although I was horrified by its fate and my part in it, however indirect, I also relished the opportunity to view the bird so closely. It was an iridescent yellow-green color, and its feathers looked looked like fine hairs. The coloring over … [Read more...]

The Problem Is, Most People Hate Themselves

Brittany is a new friend of mine who lives outdoors with her big black dog, Padfoot. A couple weeks ago we talked for almost an hour, sitting outside a Starbucks. Her main teaching of the day was this: a big factor in the persistence of homelessness is that people get sucked into self-hate and can't find their way back out. And that one of the most helpful things we can do is express our unconditional love for people no matter what their situation.I met Brittany when she came to my downtown m … [Read more...]