Monday, July 20, 2020

Self-Reflection

I picked up my camera, something I hadn't done in weeks, and turned the lens on myself. I'm sure many of us are doing some major self-reflection during this time of Covid. Lots of questions about the future are coming around, including: will I be alive by the end of the year?

I'm falling on my Buddhism to work through themes of impermanence, death, livelihood.  My biggest solution to all of this is...I don't know.  Live in the "Not-Knowing" was a big theme in American Buddhist Bernie Glassman's philosophy.

I simply don't know what's coming next.  Then again, I didn't know what was coming next without Covid. Things are always uncertain, unknown. Covid is just magnifying how fleeting we really are.



I don't know. I just don't.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Crowd Source, No Masks Required

During this Covid19 quarantine, I really miss crowds of people. No masks required. Some photos down memory lane.

Resist March, 2017

Ruby Ibarra Concert, Getty Museum, 2019

Bhikku Bodhi Buddhist Retreat, 2020
Lotus Festival, 2017

Circus Vargas, 2017
Fil-Am Veterans March, 2018

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

WRITE EFFORT Realized!


Last weekend, I completed my first full course of WRITE EFFORT: Creative Writing Through a Buddhist Lens. Yes, it was exciting to work with a wonderful group of writers. I see you Kate, Beth, Lizzy, Fred, Doug and Jonathan! Yes, I loved working with the fine literary organization Beyond Baroque, especially Emmitt Conklin. Yes, I loved integrating Buddhist thought with the craft of storytelling.

But what I really loved were the stories that came about. We are filled with an incredible amount of ideas and themes and characters. Inside each and everyone of us is at least one book. However, I think we need effort, mindfulness and concentration--elements of the Buddhist Eightfold Path.

It will be hard, there will be suffering (The First Noble Truth), but one can persevere.

Greater in battle
than the man who would conquer
a thousand-thousand men, 
is he who would conquer just one--
                                     himself.

                                 Buddha
                                           Dhammapada 
                                  VIII; 103

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

WRITE EFFORT at Beyond Baroque

I am absolutely thrilled to be working with the fine literary institution Beyond Baroque. I became familiar with them in the 1990s as I began my literary career. I am over the moon that I can teach WRITE EFFORT: Creative Writing Through a Buddhist Lens. Classes begin via Zoom on May 23.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Kababayan and Me

I was fortunate enough to be interviewed for the Kababayan podcast. Check it out.

Monday, April 06, 2020

I See You

The Therapist, Oil on Wood, 16 X 20, 2016
I see you.

You, the doctors and nurses watching patients and colleagues die.

I see you.

You, those who lost loved ones.

I see you.

You, the social workers and therapists and chaplains who'll absorb the pain. You're shell shocked, bewildered, confused.

I see you, the ones who've lost someone.

I see you, the ones witnessing the loss.

I see you, the one who've lost the words.

How many times can we say, "Condolensces; so sorry for your loss; if you need anything, call."

I see you.  I see you. I see you.

You are valuable. You are needed. You are amazing.

Monday, March 30, 2020

What I Think of When I Hear "Virus"

Nothing is more triggering to me than the words:  Flu-like symptoms. It was what I had to look for if I thought I may have been infected with HIV.

Maricon, 2017
"Flu-like symptoms" is being bandied about when it comes to Covid-19.  With Covid-19, I remember feeling abandoned, scared and alone during the time of AIDS.  I was a boy who grew into a man during the AIDS epidemic. It has carved me into a particular kind of person.

I saw AIDS destroy people, families and communities.  I could have been dragged into that.  I'm grateful for the gutsy, fearless queers and freaks and rebels and outsiders who said, Fuck This!

We will fight the assholes and take care of our own.

Yes, I was damaged, but I was put back together again.

I don't know how I'll weather through this pandemic. However, there's a part of me that feels strong, skilled because of what AIDS had done to me.

I learned to be here...for me, for you. For us.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Gardening in the Time of Covid-19

Gardening, 2020
In my attempt to enjoy what sun may come out in this rainy Los Angeles weather and maintain social distancing, I took to gardening again. That seems to be a huge part of my creativity these days.

Before we went into shelter-in-place, I visited a nursery by my work and picked up several plants. Choosing the flowers and designing the landscape was truly a creative and happy process for me.

I didn't think I had it in me to make flowers grow, but a few YouTube videos later I was doing it.

There's something about having your hands in dirt that's truly magical. Pulling the flowers out of their plastic containers and put them into the ground feels like an act of truly giving.

Within minutes of planting them, bees and butterflies were floating by to inhale them. I was doing this for our family home, a house my parents scrimped and saved to buy back in the 1970s. By adding flowers, I felt like I was giving a bit of my own signature to this family abode. It felt quite satisfying.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Stuck at Home or Home Retreat?

Malas at Diamond Zen Monastery

Last weekend, I went on retreat. I wasn't expecting to, but I saw that Lama Rod Owens was doing a home retreat, so I went for it.  Why not? I was going to be stuck at home for shelter-in-place. If I was going to be at home, I should definitely make use of it.

As I stated in my last post, don't waste this time. I can fight this situation or be frustrated with it or it can be used to benefit me and others.

There were about 200 people from all over the country on Zoom to participate. We were all in quarantine, but we all needed some spiritual guidance.

Who would have thought in Buddha's time that a sangha could gather like this?  We meditated and asked Lama Rod questions. The most beneficial part of the retreat for me was the discussion on intention.  Are we coming from a good place or are we coming from a place of trauma?

When I confront a coworker, am I reacting from trauma or from a place of kindness?

This got me thinking: when I create is it from a good place or a from a place hurt?  Maybe it's both, but if I want to heal and live a life free from pain, my place of creation should be a place of kindness. I don't want to be spurred on by pain.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Suffering

Mala--prayer beads 2017
There will be suffering in this life.  That is the first Truth of the Four Noble Truths. During this time, we'll witness suffering up close as the number of those infected rise.  Most will not die, but some will. Those who won't die, may still experience sickness.

There are "four sufferings." They are the suffering of birth, old age, sickness and death.

When the young Indian prince Shakyamuni left his home for the first time, he was shocked at what he found outside his palace walls. Part of what he saw were the sick and the dying.  Witnessing this started his spiritual journey to becoming a Buddha.

As days, weeks, months pass and the numbers rise, will the sickness and death spur us to be better, do better?  If not, this time would be worthless.