Sunday, March 28, 2021

Oh, Joshua Tree


I had to get away for a bit. One of the places that I love in all of the world is the desert, specifically Joshua Tree. What an incredible piece of earth that place is.

I wrote about it in my second novel "Talking to the Moon." Jory, the father of character, loves Joshua Tree because he adores the moon. Joshua Tree looks like the moon, a far away, enchanted place.

I found spots to meditate and simply relax. The desert is deadly in Summer, but nine months out of year, it's pretty amazing. 

 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Tough Week


 It's been a rough week. The killings in Atlanta have been devastating. I'm hurting, my friends are hurting, my community is hurting. I facilitated an impromptu meditation session to help ease our suffering. Just sitting together, albeit virtually, helped a lot. 

When I take refuge, I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. Sitting in a group helped me see how truly valuable a Sangha, or spiritual community, is. Sharing communal pain was truly an act of community.

We are a social species. Our ability to survive is by forming groups, communities. Gathering together is a deeply human act.  Let's be human.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Heart Center

 I had the pleasure of doing a reading at Spoken Interludes. I read a new piece called Heart Center, touching on Buddhist topics like impermanence, the suffering of death, and Kuan Yin, goddess of compassion. 




Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Speaking at Spoken Interludes on March 7

 When Delaune Michel invited me to do this event on Sunday, I actually got real emotional. I remember when I was asked to do this legendary literary salon almost 20 years ago. I was younger and knew that Spoken Interludes was a REAL big deal. 

It was validating to be asked, considering that there were many others who DIDN'T ask. I changed a lot. I'm reading an essay on leading a Buddhist death ritual for a friend who was passing away. The essay will be the first time I'd read it out loud. Reading something publicly makes a piece of writing real for me. It's not just tucked away in a computer or in my mind. It's a living, breathing being. It becomes alive somehow.

Please join us. It's FREE. Register HERE


Friday, February 12, 2021

Me Talking About Death as an Affirmation of LIfe

(The Catacombs in Paris)
 

I'm honored to have been the inaugural interview for the Death and Dhamma podcast. Take a listen. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The End of a Novena

 

Tonight we had the last session of a Novena for an uncle who passed away (non-Covid).  I hadn't done a rosary in quite awhile. I used to do it when I was a practicing Catholic. It was like riding a bike meditating to the litany of prayers. I visualized lifting my uncle's soul to heaven.

In Buddhism, there is a tale of hungry ghosts who are liberated from their ghostly status, elevated to their next incarnation through prayer.

I used a rosary that I got when I visited the Vatican in 2019. I got them blessed at St. Peter's Basilica. I didn't think I'd ever use them. I remembered that the rosary was actually inspired by mala.



 At least that's what Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in her memoir Eat, Pray, Love. I was not surprised by this, the story of Crusaders venturing East then seeing Buddhists and Hindus using prayer beads, eventually bringing it back to Europe. I don't think the Catholics want to make this connection. They want to believe it was an original invention by St. Dominic.

Regardless, fingering beads in prayer just feels spiritual to me. And it can also help with a nervous habit. If it brings comfort, its fulfilled its purpose. 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

My Second Mid-Life

 Over the holidays, some friends died. Not of Covid, cancer. They were around my age. As we older, the body becomes more frail, more diseased. This is a fact. Old age, sickness, and death are three of the "sufferings." Birth is the fourth.

When I was younger, and peers were dying of AIDS. I felt as I do now. I had a mid-life crisis. In my twenties. When so many were dying in their forties, 25 was mid-life.

In my fifties, I'm in my second mid-life. I'm trying not to have a crisis. I had one already. I'll aim to have a mid-life catharsis--let go, just let that sh*t go.



  

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Countless Disappointments

I'm prepping for a new course I'm teaching called Buddhist American Literature. I'm reading African American Buddhist Charles Johnson. His work is incredible salve during these hard times. I'm also watching a lot of movies during this Covid time. I saw Ma Rainey's Black Bottom based on the play by August Wilson.  

After reading Johnson's story Night Hawks, I see they were friends. There was something magical about discovering this happenstance. Here is what Johnson wrote of Wilson in Night Hawks:

"How many times had his heart been broken? He could not remember the countless disappointments. Like so many writers and artists I've known, his art was anchored in lacerations and a latticework of scar tissue."

Let our sadness be a spark in the night time.

A Lit Path, 2017




Sunday, January 10, 2021

Thriving While Sad

Artist at Rest, 2020

It is a new year, and I'm terribly sad. Over 350,000 people have died of Covid and the Capitol had been attacked. I am angry, sad and frustrated. A New Year is always a good way to start new things, so I'm going to sit with these feelings of malcontent. As a Buddhist, I know I can feel all of this Moment but not allow it to control me, force me to do something I may regret later. 

It's been months since I'd posted. I, like so many others, got caught up in the business of surviving. This year, I want to do more than merely survive. I want to thrive, which means, I think, leading my best life while all appears to be dismal. 

Let's try this experiment.

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.