there is a path_wisdom

It is said that all the Buddha ever talked about was suffering and the end of suffering. In the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha laid out the diagnosis, the prognosis & the prescription to end suffering: there is a path. I don’t want to leave folks hanging, let’s get right into it – that path is the Noble Eightfold Path (ariya-magga in Pali, the language spoken in the Buddha’s time) & it can be explored in three different sections.

Discussing the Eightfold Path, folks often use term RIGHT (“right view,” “right speech,” “right livelihood”); I find myself using WISE instead. Right can imply wrong. Wise works just as well and allows for a little more subtlety.

The first grouping deals with the cultivation of wisdom or discernment (pañña) and is made up of wise view and wise intention. The second group is concerned with the cultivation of virtue (sila) and is made of wise speech, wise action and wise livelihood. The third is all about concentration and meditation (samadhi) – wise effort and wise mindfulness. Let’s check out wisdom.

1: Wise View: knowledge of the Four Noble Truths

(crying emoji!) If a clip of a half-naked Seth Rogan singing the “Age of Aquarius” is enough to lure anyone into learning more about Right View, then my work here is done. This is time well spent.

2: Wise Intention: motivation to resolve suffering – resolve, renunciation, loving-kindness

I’m not much of an Aziz Ansari fan anymore, but it’s a good clip. Apologies if that kicks anything up for anyone. I haven’t gotten around to writing up notes on supporting last weekend’s API Chaya / Project NIA training to address gender-based violence, support people experiencing harm, and support people causing harm to change. That’s a post for another time.

Right now is a chance to learn more about about the Eightfold Path! Here are a few places to start:

letting go

I’ve been sitting with the intention to write up a dharma talk. It’s my homework. For weeks now I’ve been talking ideas over with friends, listening to other people’s dharma talks and writing unending notes, getting nowhere.

Not nowhere exactly. I got nowhere writing the kind of talk I thought I should be writing, but I’m getting everywhere looking at clips of little videos, which I LOVE. I could do this all day. I have actually. I present the fruits of my labor: The Four Noble Truths in video clips.

part one: there is dukkha (suffering), it is to be understood

part two: the origin of dukkha is craving (thirst, clinging) it is to be recognized

part three: dukkha ceases with the relinquishment of craving, this is to be known 

part four: there is a path leading to the cessation of dukkha (=eightfold path) it is to be cultivated

Read/hear more about it:
There’s so much to learn and study about the Four noble/ennobling truths. Here are a few links to start with:

why do you want to apologize?

Apology Lab was deep. It was moving to be with so many folks ready & willing to explore vulnerability and undertake the process of accountability with themselves & their communities.

image of flowers. text reads: accountability is a practice, not an end

From lab notes, “Accountability is a practice not an end and it is a continuous process rather than an individual act.”

The work in the Apology Lab was based on Mia Mingus‘ framework of accountability.

She separates the accountability process into four parts: self-reflection, apologizing, repair and behavior change.

Read all about it on her blog & help build a culture of right relationship. Part one of her essay “How to give a good apology” is here and part two is here.

how to give a good apology

I’m honored to support the NYC Transformative Justice Hub by offering guided meditation and holding space at their event Saturday January 25th (noon to 5 pm) at Judson Memorial Church, Assembly Room (239 Thompson St, New York, NY 10012). Wheelchair accessible, childcare available. Although it is currently *sold out*, if you are a BIQTPOC (Black, Indigenous, Queer, Trans Person of Color) who would like to attend this event, please email NYCTJHub at nyctjhub@gmail.com to learn more about community tickets.

Description from the NYC TJHub website: “This political education workshop will consider the opportunities and challenges of offering a sincere and meaningful apology.

Drawing on decades of work done by Just Practice and the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective, this workshop will offer tools and practices for addressing harm we’ve inflicted and cultivating space for healing by making a good apology. For those of us working towards liberation, taking responsibility for harm that we cause is an opportunity to practice accountability and community nurturance. Instead of avoiding conflict and the wounds we’ve caused within our communities and movement spaces, we can learn to sit with our own complicated emotions, discern what responsibility is ours to take, and offer an apology without any expectations of others.

Light refreshments, vibe checkers + healing justice practice guides will be available.”

More information about NYC Transformative Justice Hub is available here: https://nyctjhub.com/public_events.html

meditation in an emergency

While I was off meditating in the California hills, the good folks at The Poetry Project put together a feature of some of the writing that was produced in our Meditation in an emergency workshop this Fall.

New work from Janae Brux, Anna Gurton-Wachter, E.C. Kane, Peter Bogart Johnson, Susana Malo, Ryan Nowlin, Victoria Ordway and Serge Rodriguez is now online at https://www.poetryproject.org/publications/work-from-meditations-in-an-emergency/.

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to share some writing & meditation practices with this group. It’s wonderful to see some of what grew out of our time together. Join us next week for a free reading from workshop participants: Thursday December 12th at 8pm. The Poetry Project is located at 131 E. 10th St. NYC. Facebook event details here.

Accessibility: St. Mark’s Church is wheelchair accessible. Please call The Poetry Project at 212-674-0910 in advance of events to arrange accessibility. Please note on Fridays between 8-9:30pm the wheelchair accessible all gender bathrooms on the ground floor are unavailable because another arts project has performances in the sanctuary. There are All-Gender bathrooms on the second floor of the church. To access Parish Hall, attendees must pass through the main sanctuary and a corridor. There are 2 sets of double doors and two single doors to go through. The smallest of these doors at the end of the corridor is 28.5 inches wide. The Poetry Project will arrange for an ASL interpreter for any event with one week’s advance notice.

NYPD Surveillance Films

I love libraries & archives so much!! The Municipal Archives recently released 140+ hours of NYPD surveillance videos dating 1960 -1980.

Why is this important? Chris Nichols notes, “The footage provides an extraordinary, never-before-seen visual record of one of the most tumultuous eras in American history. Among the highlights in the collection is footage of the first Earth Day march in 1970, a Nation of Islam rally, CORE and NAACP protests of segregation, Young Lords building occupations, early protests by gay-rights advocates, massive anti-war marches and demonstrations after the Kent State shootings in May 1970.” Full article here: https://www.archives.nyc/blog/2019/11/1/nypd-surveillance-films

Who watches the watchers? Check out the whole collection at NYC Department of Records & Information Services. There are some highlights and commentary from Gideon Oliver on Twitter here

New Yorkers’ busy schedules

Our writing & meditation class at The Poetry Project, meditation in an emergency, continues apace. We made lots of little books last week. Above is an image from one of my own. I’m so grateful to get to offer what I love with/for others who share my interests. Writing and book making for me are gateways into flow states. There was so much wonderful energy and focus in the room, I didn’t want to disrupt it by documenting for social media. Participants will be sharing some of their own work at an upcoming reading at the Project in December.

meditation in an emergency

“Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous” Frank O’Hara

Next month, I’ll be guiding a workshop at The Poetry Project, meditation in an emergency. I tweaked Frank O’Hara’s title because it feels especially apt, but the workshop’s got nothing to do with Frank O’Hara.

It will be a practical class, a space to explore the present moment– lived, bodily experience– within and through the vehicle of writing. Utilizing a variety of generative writing exercises, meditation practices and discussion, this 5-week class invites participants to anchor in the body, the breath, sound and sensation and to translate this embodiment into their writing practices. The focus of this class is cultivating mindful awareness and generating new material. Previous meditation experience is not required.

EVENT DETAILS: Thursday, September 19, 2019, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Parish Hall, St. Mark’s Church (131 E 10th St, New York, NY 10003)
Cost: $150 for 5 Sessions – 9/19, 9/26, 10/3, 10/17, 10/24.
Register online at The Poetry Project

Accessibility: Please call The Poetry Project at 212-674-0910 in advance to arrange accessibility. Please note on Thursdays & Fridays between 8-9:30pm the wheelchair accessible all gender bathrooms on the ground floor are unavailable because another arts project has performances in the sanctuary. There are All-Gender bathrooms on the second floor of the church. To access Parish Hall, attendees must pass through the main sanctuary and a corridor. There are 2 sets of double doors and two single doors to go through. The smallest of these doors at the end of the corridor is 28.5 inches wide. The Poetry Project will arrange for an ASL interpreter for any event with one week’s advance notice.

Nonviolent Civil Disobedience

Was feeling a bid judgey with that last post & all the conversations around what constitutes activism. I can cling very tightly to my own views. I’m grateful to be in community that allows me my struggles and supports my accountability and growth in the process. A friend shared a Dharma talk from Yanai Postelnik that helped me shift some of my thinking around the issue. “Love in the time of extinction” is available here on Dharma Seed.

I was feeling frustrated that what people call activism doesn’t seem like activism to me and that in these times stakes are high and more is necessary from all of us– more responsibility, more accountability, more action. That was my view. It might still be my view actually, but I can see now that what I consider effective action may not be possible or even desirable for everyone. We’re all coming from different places with different circumstances and different views.

I was lucky enough to attend another Civil Disobedience training yesterday with friends I respect and admire who’ve been at it for a minute (Seabrook, ACT UP) and really know the ropes. The training started by asking us to write down what we thought of when we thought of nonviolence. It was immediately evident how wildly different people’s perceptions of nonviolence are. Which brings up questions– what are we committing to when we commit to nonviolence, what are we assuming about others? Even when we use the same words and ostensibly share the same intentions, we may mean completely different things.

Operating within an essentially violent system, what is nonviolence? White supremacy is violence. “You don’t belong here,” and all forms of othering are violence. Weaponized bureaucracy is violence. Multiple mass shootings within a week is obviously violence. Ecocide is violence. Eating other animals is violence. When I advocate nonviolence, what am I calling for exactly? What do I expect of myself? Nonviolence as tactic in a larger strategy? Nonviolence as theory, philosophy, worldview? Acknowledging, importantly, that nonviolence doesn’t necessarily mean the absence of violence. Nonviolence can have a number of interpretations.

Indra's Net

Gene Sharp cataloged 198 methods of nonviolent action (all analog.) Reading through the list made my heart soar again and reminded me that there is a lot more that can be done under the umbrella of nonviolence than sign petitions, make calls, march, picket, lobby, occupy, teach-in, die-in, banner drop, boycott. Lots more.

I honor diversity of tactics and enjoyed brushing up on NVCD. AND I was also one of very few PoC in a mostly white room and very aware of the fact that how police bodies interact with black and brown bodies is very different from their interactions with white bodies. (The gentle handling by police of the latest white terrorist is just the most recent example.) So when it comes to risking arrest, I’m happy to let the allies do it. I’m not trying to go through the system because I already know that my experience would likely be very different. (Sandra Bland wasn’t released after a few hours.)

So what is nonviolence to me right now? My word was equanimity. Confronting unethical behavior, the unreasonable requests of those with institutional power, unjust systems– all the challenges we face now– with solidarity, compassion, recognizing our common humanity: that takes mad equanimity. I aspire to that. There’s flexibility in it, agility, responsiveness. Brick to window? Throwing our bodies upon the gears of the machine? Yes, absolutely if that’s what’s called for. Buddhists call this skillful means, upaya, in Sanskrit.

Accountability is what I keep coming back to. I need to be able to answer for myself, accept the consequences of my actions. Answer to my own conscience, to my ancestors, to future generations, to the people I live and work with, to my communities. I extend community to all who breathe, all who walk, roll, crawl or slither the earth, swim in the waters, fly through the air. We’re all one being, interconnected. Indra’s net. I choose nonviolence.

Dogen describes what I’m trying to get at better than I can:
“It is not only that there is water in the world, but there is a world in water. It is not just in water. There is also a world of sentient beings in clouds. There is a world of sentient beings in the air. There is a world of sentient beings in fire. There is a world of sentient beings on earth. There is a world of sentient beings in the phenomenal world.” (from Mountains & Rivers.)

Recognizing and honoring this interbeing and shifting the ways we are in relationship with each other (& with ourselves) is a practice of nonviolence. A practice of revolution.

“A non-violent revolution is not a program of seizure of power. It is a program of transformation of relationships, ending in a peaceful transfer of power.” –Gandhi, Non Violence in Peace and War