Sitting a Three Day Sesshin at Oak Tree in The Garden

Sitting Zazen for Extended Practice

It is really easy for me to be seduced by the couch and practice is one of the things that I can build up a lot of resistance to even though I have been doing it for a long time. I have so many  examples of how much I benefit and it’s even better when I can have the company of other people sitting. So I was glad when I had the opportunity to sit a three day Sesshin lately with Oak Tree in the Garden. And yet even as I was preparing to head out I was thinking of excuses for cancelling at the last moment. (wtf?)

We are often encouraged to indulge by advertising: to eat what doesn’t satisfy any nutritional need, to buy what serves no purpose, to want what we can’t afford now and even when experience shows us these things lead to despair that *ping* in our brain that happens when we follow an urge feels like satisfaction. I watched a show on the science of fast food; apparently the “stomach share” is how fast food companies look at us. It was frightening. The worst thing was I started craving junk food while watching the show! I know it is fun to commiserate with others about our favorite snack food and how we are “going without”. We know it is ridiculous in our part of the world to do something like that. The only real “problem” of food is the lack of it and it still is in many places in the world.

So why is it so hard to do what makes us really feel better? Is it really a corporate master plan to ruin us?

It helps to understand the success of marketing when trying to change behaviour. We do have to be a bit of a bore to pursue practice and to make change happen. When confronted with the onslaught of advertising that encourages instant gratification, heck it makes it seem like a virtue, well, it helps to commit to practice for change.

It also helps to practice. Establishing good habits may not sound like fun but it really makes more fun possible. The other problem is that we have been convinced of a lack of time. I am happy to say I have been reminded what a difference a day makes, or recently, three days. 😛

“OVER 2500 YEARS OF CUSTOMER SERVICE, THE GOLD BUDDHA AWARD FOR SESSATION OF CRAVING, COUNTLESS BEINGS SERVED. GET YOUR SLICE OF CUSHION NOW! RIGHT NOW. REALLY NOW. THIS IS BIG, BIG REALLY REALLY F-ING BIG!!!!”

 

Can Poverty be Re-branded?

“Sometimes when it feels like things are falling apart it’s just things falling into place”.

This inspirational saying brought to mind the Monty Python skit of “Catch that prize!” where if a contestant could catch, say a refrigerator, dropped from a fourth story window he could keep it. It is annoying how many pithy sayings there are for things falling apart.

I went to a lecture titled, “Is poverty a disease? Could treating poverty work like medicine?” Dr. Gary Bloch, a nice young  doctor who works out of a hospital in T.O. in an area with a lot of homeless people using the ER. *

I am biased, three times around the big C has introduced me to lots of doctors, I have found many doctors, young white males in particular but not exclusively, to possess large egos if not pugnacious attitudes of entitlement. I have read a bit about what internships are like, so I add exhaustion as an excuse for some of them, and then there are the ones who really want to do good… and this guy is one of them. But he is still coming from a culture (medical professionals) that looks at everyone as a set of symptoms.  It is also a culture that is very difficult to enter because of the costs of medical school. Why money should be allowed to be a deciding factor in who might want to be, or might be able to be, a doctor is another question. Most doctors tell me that I can discuss only two things per visit. However, if one of them is about O.H.I.P. the clock seems to fly out the window. Sorry I am griping. 😛

At the very end of the lecture I got to say my two cents worth. My heart was pounding so hard once I decided to try to speak that I might have not heard all of his lecture.  I brought up the Harris government, 25 years ago in Ontario targeting single mothers, reducing their family benefits by 1/3 OVER NIGHT and then standing back to watch the fallout. All the tax payers who could accept the cost of constant road repairs before they accepted the cost of social repairs? Well, if driving over the bodies of welfare mom’s had caused a bumpy ride to work they still might have supported this bludeoning of Family Benefits. I’m not sure but the effects were not as immediate as a bitter cold winter on ashphalt so they weren’t too bothersome. But a large number of women and children fell through the cracks. “Falling through the cracks” meant they went missing in the minds and hearts of the society that they belonged to. And many ended up in peril.

Harris’ cuts weren’t even cost effective, they shifted the expenses to totally ineffective services and removed large numbers from the data for political purposes only.  Add mismanagement of support payments, often those coming after a forced combative situation, a stipulation of receiving benefits was legal action against the absent partner, and voila, many families found themselves unable to pay rent. Their next step was into homelessness. There were piles of cheques for support that were months late and yet they sat unprocessed. Miscommunication, hostility and ineptitude turned up the heat on fathers who were labeled and threatened for being “dead-beat dads” which did not help moms and kids either. Many of my peers who didn’t have any other support network to help them were lost as the stress of jumping through hoops and sorting through requirements turned them back either to abusive situations or bad choices or emotional collapse and mental breakdown. The resulting years have led to the cost to taxpayers in law enforcement, incarceration, emergency services and health costs all skyrocketing and all caused by the repercussions of what were applauded as reforms twenty-five years ago.

I ended my diatribe with “Poverty is not a disease, it is a crime.” and I got applause.  (That was a bit frightening actually).

However quietly, fearfully we do it, we need to speak up about the things that maintain poverty so we can talk about the things that can alleviate it. Poverty is a crime being committed against the most vulnerable, and it is global. It is endorsed by the most wealthy and most priviledged. Poverty makes possible all sorts of abuses of human rights and so often leads to violence and even war. But I worry about calling it a disease. People living with poverty are already in isolation.

*I wrote this draft perhaps five years ago never publishing it.  If you go to the link for Dr. Gary Bloch you will see he is doing many positive and constructive things and lecturing other doctors. Maybe he is changing the culture from within? As I said, he is one of the good ones.

Digesting the jagged

I am sick of war. I am tired of us and them.  Let’s focus on what it is like to be human. Fear feels the same for all of us, suffering from violence feels the same for all of us. We need to stop feeding into what fuels violence and what always incites it. And what that is, is a sense that we are different in important ways, that we are entitled in some way that others should not be (because of this and this and that) and some people are just too different to be allowed to breathe.

 

All people die when one person dies and how everyone dies is important. We don’t want assault rifles in our clubs or our homes .  We don’t want assault rifles killing anyone anywhere anymore people of the world. We are sick of the war on this and that.  We want peace with this and peace with that and peace with each other.

 

This is when I am usually informed that I have missed the point. Eat your point. Break it into all its tiny pieces so you can swallow it. Stop sticking it in my face. Yes, I am angry. But I use words.  I am heartbroken but when I feel this way I cry.  I don’t fight.

 

When we all feel better we can talk calmly about how we are not so different. We can talk about loss and fear and how we want to share a better world.  And those jagged pieces that we both have had to swallow, we can digest and perhaps even come up with legislation to improve things.  How’s that for extreme radicalization?

I am not going to say I laughed my head off…

I have an overdue library book.  Unfortunately I can’t find it.  I couldn’t even remember what the name of it was.  I usually just scoop up three or four paper backs at a time at random; it is the only way for me to overcome a bias that ends with me reading the same type of books (and even the same book) over and over and never EXPANDING MY MIND.

I asked the librarian what the name of the book I seem to have lost is, get this, it’s title is:

LOST AND FOUND IN PRAGUE.

Is that  funny?  Should I move to Prague?  Besides now having literally fallen on my face, this new phase of my life is seeming all too literal!

Metaphorically speaking…NOT!

 

Thing Two for Beating the Winter Blues!

OVER EATING!

We had our first Fake Xmas Dinner. The Totally Fake Xmas Dinner is in the Spring when we can get everyone together in one place.

I made my version of Jamie Oliver’s Turkey Wellington. I could not find puff pastry. I tortured several stock boys (I am a sexist when it comes to grocery stock jocks, I always let the girls flee) and still they could not tell me where it was to be found, so I had to settle with frozen pie shells. They did reluctantly confess as to where the dried Porcini mushrooms were and yet I had to torture NOT ONE, but THREE of them to finally zero in on the treasure. It seems the SUPER GROCERY STORE GODS only allow their minions small sections of the map to find the golden fleece…
turkeywellington (2)
The turkey breast had a bone in it so I had to de-bone it myself and that meant it wasn’t all nice and neat like the one Jamie had to stuff . I used lots of skewers. Then I decided I could not use the mushrooms inside as some people do not like them and in fact are loathe to eat them, so I used mashed potatoes. The mushrooms were a side dish. Yes there was bacon but that was a secret because, for no particular reason (not religious, I checked) some people no longer eat pork, even though they love the taste… Am I evil?
The whole thing came together somehow. Daughter made gravy, traditional stuffing, and mashed potatoes. We had roasted cauliflower too and then son-in-law asked, “Hey, are we eating all white tonight?” I did serve individual ramekins of mac-n-cheese, which I learned, from a rap song on the Xmas compilation CD someone gave me, is traditional African American Xmas food, particularly when served with “Collard Greens” which I did not serve. **sad face icon** Young son said, “I’m not white” and no one argued.
The long and short of it is, I have been stuffing myself  TO THE GILLS with leftovers. It has caused me to sleep and sleep and sleep which is great because one of the symptoms of Seasonal Affected Disorder is not being able to sleep. So I am making a note to self: replace clothes with stretch fabrics and pants with draw strings.