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.


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Thoughts on a Virus

Self-Portrait, Lotus Festival, 2017
The Coronavirus would be my second plague. My first was AIDS. Back then, I'd heard the average age of death for a gay man was 45. I felt middle-aged in my twenties. Middle-age can be startling--forcing me to ask serious questions of my life: Am I doing what I should be doing? What makes me happy?

Now, I am middle-aged again. Amidst Covid-19, I ask similar questions: Am I doing what I should be doing?  What makes me happy?

Today, I add these questions: Am I being helpful enough? Has my creativity helped anyone? Have I served?

I don't know the answers, but this new virus is making me think. The worst case scenario is two million Americans will die.    Will I be one of them? If so, would I be okay with that?

The short answer is: Yes, I would have to be.  I recognize that at 52, I surpassed the old estimate of dying at 45.  I published books, something that I didn't know was possible for me. I got an MDiv in Buddhist Chaplaincy--also another surprise in my life. So many surprises.

I wonder what surprises are left?  Maybe I die--surprise! Yet, there's a part of me that still might have a bit of survivor's guilt.  As a gay man, did I cheat death? Will Coronavirus even the score? I don't know.

I just know that I'd been gifted with 52 years on earth so far. Whether I get another year or decade or several decades, I can't say. I guess, for now, I get to see another spring. If I'm lucky, maybe summer. If I'm really lucky, another fall.


Monday, January 20, 2020

On Retreat with Bhikkhu Bodhi

I was reading The Noble Eightfold Path, which was the first discourse of the Buddha.  I'd read various translations of it, but the one by Bhikkhu Bodhi is my favorite.  I've read his translation at least three times.  I was reading it again when a notice popped up on Facebook that Bhikkhu Bodhi himself would be leading a retreat on the Eightfold Path in La Puente at Lankarama Temple.  Well, I just couldn't believe my karma!


It was a five day retreat filled with meditation, dhamma instruction, pali chanting, blessings and offerings.  It was a great way to start the year.