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A Picture Worth A Thousand Words

I thought that this was important enough to share. Sometimes a picture IS worth a thousand words. In this case, it speaks more loudly than words ever could. The article can be read at Post Internazionale.


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Remembrance Day & Christmas; This is Where We Draw The Line

redpoppyI’m tired of all of this crap about putting up Christmas decorations being disrespectful of veterans.

Not donating to veteran’s charities, not advocating for better care of our veterans so we don’t need charities, not wearing a poppy, and not stopping on November 11th to remember the sacrifices that have been made by Canadian soldiers is disrespectful of veterans.

My parent’s generation will not know the devastation to their school chums like my generation does. In fact, as a child growing up in Canada, I was often told to go into the military for the free education, after all, so the logic went, we’ll never go to war.  Oh, how so much can change in a few years.

I, unlike my parents generation,  have classmates I’ve known since I was still shedding milk teeth who have come and gone from active and brutal combat in the Middle East. Those people who will forever remain kids in my mind,  will never be the same, and it’s heartbreaking.

I have worked in the country’s most culturally diverse region, with the highest population of new immigrants and have seen the way that a wave of newcomers from war-torn and poverty-stricken countries have begun to change our Canadian culture. Some of these things are positive, and some are not.

Let us not forget that the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country suffered a lifetime of war-ravaged memories so that we could celebrate Christmas, and every other holiday known to religious and spiritual people from around the world.

Whether you like it or not and whether you are Christian or not, North American law is based on ancient Judeo-Christian ethic, and that very foundation, combined with secularized politics has kept us living in peace. It’s worked so well, that Canada is seen as a haven to  many people from other countries.

That we do not have the problem of raping, murdering and torturing fellow citizens in our streets is a testament to everything that our veterans fought for. It is a testament to having an equal rule of law for everyone, and religious laws that must obey the law of the land.

So don’t start some privileged bitch and whine campaign about Christmas decorations being an evil against veterans. Put your money where your mouth is and do something to continue to make our country better; vote, volunteer, donate, take to the streets to demand political and social reform.

Take a look at how you live your life and what you take for granted on a daily basis. Men and women went to war so we have the freedom to celebrate, stroll through the  streets, admire the beautiful decorations, take time to visit and spend time with friends or not  (because we all have the freedom to choose, thanks to our veterans) without having to fear for our lives.

Don’t minimize the service efforts of our veterans by using faulty logic so you have something to feel important and indignant about. Get off your ass and do something for our country instead.

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The Lazy Buddhist

"You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour." ~ Old Zen Saying~
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
~ Old Zen Saying~

I’m a lazy Buddhist.

Some days I’m more of a lazy Protestant, Hindu, Jew, Taoist, Muslim or Catholic. It just depends on how I’m feeling. I like to go with the spiritual flow, if you know what I mean.

How can I be all of those things? Well, it’s kinda like this;  I really struggle to wear the uniform of any single religion. I’m spiritual, and have found a home in my Buddhist practice. It  brought me to a much deeper understanding of my Protestant roots, and my academic study of religion.

But I’m lazy about it.

Today I put off a full day of meditation because I woke up with the same headache and sniffly nose that I went to bed with last night.

Mind you, I could have taken a seat in the meditation hall full of decongestants with a side of tissues, but it was so very much easier to stay in bed and cuddle with my 1500 count, aubergine-coloured sheets.

Granted the other folks attending today’s retreat are thankful that I didn’t come and clutter up their atmosphere with sniffles, bacteria, and a high level of shifting on my organic buckwheat hull-filled cushion, I could have gone.

Instead, I got up, had a glass of water and went back to bed, where, my body and mind rested for 5 more hours.

As usual, I made my way to my preferred coffee shop, sat back, and read the news. The piece that caught my ever-distracted eye was in the Focus section of the Globe and Mail. Crushed, by Erin Anderssen was a bell back to some thought about my own practice, and how, when I need it the most, I abandon it like a kitten distracted by an ant.

I have been worrying a lot lately. A lot. Worry is something that used to drive me toward my goals and accomplishments. Now it just drives me to bourbon, quick fixes and eventually, back to my breath.

Friendships wax and wane. Everyone has their own problems, and let’s face it, even though you may ask for someone to share their perspective, decisions have to be made with your very own unique concoction of rational thought and intuition. I tend to go heavy on the rational thought, and overboard on the intuition.

In the past, decisions that I’ve made from a place of fear or worry have been quick fixes that offered only temporary satisfaction.

For a week I’ve been stewing over something pretty hard. A simple ten minute session on my cushion mid-week, just before bedtime,  offered some release, and the most solid night of sleep I’ve had in months. I woke up with a new perspective.

So today I missed a great opportunity to share sacred, even holy, space with other people who know the power of practice within the safe space of a sangha. Instead, I chose to rest my own body and mind.

I felt guilty about not going, but then I decided to be at peace with peace. Both at letting myself get some solid rest, and for making a decision that wavered contrary to popular opinion. Just to be sure, I did some math, and realized that both my intuition and rational thought process were right on the money.

This week I had expressed my fears, hopes and thoughts to my friends, soliciting their perspectives and advice. They offered support  when I had come to a conclusion, and confided that with regard to this matter that was on my mind, I had made a poor decision before. I had to agree, and then, after calming my mind, I had to disagree.

This is life. Lived uniquely on our own, despite being surrounded by people; some caring, some sent teachers, and some we will never know.

Am I a lazy Buddhist, or am I just one who, working intensely with human loss each and every day, needed some space?

Breathing room and solitude are often mistaken for sloth. Don’t let anyone else’s ideas fool you.

When in doubt, hit the floor and give yourself ten for  zen. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.


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Summer Harvest

Quan Yin
Quan Yin (Photo credit: Robbi Baba)

It makes me nostalgic to  know we are at the waxing of our summertime. Already I am mourning the late 9pm sunsets and my walks around the lake.

With some home reno’s complete, I’m feeling the urge to nest, to put up my home preserves, and tuck in for a long, cozy winter.

There is something entirely instinctual about the way that I feel, preparing my home for the winter months and looking forward to the crackling of the fireplace.

My old cat is stretched out on the new hardwood floors, chin flat and legs splayed, a lazy intent toward the door, and who may or may not be at the threshold.

My neighbours, Pakistani Muslims who arrived via a four year stay in Singapore have collected our cast off television and glass-doored cabinet, in preparation for their  first ‘Canadian’ winter.

How they came to collect my furniture is an odd story. I was reading David Shields’,  “How Literature Saved My Life”, when the two new neighbor girls came out to play.

Frolicking in their lemon-drop yellow and candy-floss pink dresses, I smiled behind the pages, thinking how lovely it is watch the innocent freedom through which young children experience the world.

After a few rounds in the evergreen and dogwood mini-forest, the girls disappeared back inside their home to return in a few seconds, plastic golf-clubs waving in the air, madly chasing a squirrel that appeared out of nowhere.  My attention completely left the book, which expounds quite broadly on the topic of mortality, survival and the meaning of life, to follow these pastel angels waving their Fischer Price weapons in the air.

The squirrel skittered through the underbrush, and scampered up a tree. I could almost feel his little heart pounding as he raced to escape death by pretend-five-iron. “We must throw something at him,” the young candy-floss enrobed huntress said to her older lemon-drop sister, “Can you find a big rock?”.

My stare must have put a wrinkle in their aura because they both turned around and saw me staring at them. I got their cold shoulder, and they wandered back to their patio where I could no longer witness their attack.

Cookies make everything better, so, I slid open my patio doors, and padded to the kitchen in my bare feet. I placed two of my freshly baked, half-cookie-half-brownie delights on a beautiful plate, and carried them over. Thus are all great neighbours made, are they not?

I introduced myself to Mom, to make sure the cookies were ok, and we began a conversation out on the grass about how they are settling in, where the girls will go to school, and whether or not they needed the cabinet and television I wished to give away.

I can’t help but reflect on the play-psychology of those young girls, out for blood with their toy golf clubs. Our survival instinct is intricately tangled up in our genetics like our hair colour  and the contour of our noses.

As I prepare for winter, preserving the harvest and deciding on committing to a relationship so I have someone with whom I can hibernate  during the cold  months, I will wonder at how deeply instinctual and evolutionary is our need to love and to fight.

Yesterday I was the recipient of a Quan Yin statue at my temple. An omen for sure. The goddess of compassion, the image of whom I’ve kept in my office as I carry out the truly earthy  work of caring for the dying, the dead and bereaved.

Tonight she sits as the guest of honour on my buffet, reminding me of the cycle of life; spring, summer, autumn and winter, reminding me that we are all, indeed, in this together.

Tonight I wonder at the immensity and the simplicity of it all; candy-floss and lemon-drop dresses, little girls with golf clubs, squirrels readying for winter, a Buddhist and Muslim living side by side as neighbours, and my open heart.