Archive for February, 2009

Pancake Brunch

February 23, 2009

Sunday is pancake brunch day.  This tradition began in New Orleans where we would invite our neighbors over for homemade, from scratch, banana pancakes and long rambling discussions fueled by strong New Orleans coffee.  We continued the tradition at the Amida Hawaii temple in Kapa’au and 2 years later are still making and eating way too many pancakes on Sundays.

bo-lozoffThis past Sunday we were joined by Bo Lozoff, musician and founder of Human Kindness Foundation and the Prison Ashram Project.

Judy and I first met Bo in Tallahassee when he visited Lotus Lake Buddhist temple.  (He stayed in our house during his visit, as did so many other temple guests at that time.)  Anyway, a few years early, with a little help from Human Kindness Foundation and Bo’s example, I had begun my prison ministry at Wakulla C.I., just outside of Tallahasse.  It was a wonderful ministry which I maintained until leaving Tallahassee in 2006.  

Needless to say it was good to reconnect with Bo.  2009 is starting out strong, first a visit form our Dharma teachers, Dharmavidya and Prasada, in January and now this.  It is hard to imagine what March may hold in store.

Peace, Paul

Calm Abiding Meditation

February 14, 2009

What I am sharing with you is not the insight of some spiritual superstar, but rather the reflections of a dense and obtuse practitioner who has been practicing “in the world” for the last 24 or so years.  My practice has at times been very focused and at other times rather casual.  I have done a lot of different Buddhist practices, but I have always had Calm Abiding Meditation as part of my daily routine

Calm Abiding (Samatha) Meditation is one of the foundational contemplation practices of most schools of Buddhism.  It can be taught in many ways but usually involves awareness of the breath.

While the practice of Calm Abiding is often taught as a stand alone practice, I would suggest that it works better within a religious world view and in particular within the Buddhist Dharma.  The Buddhist Dharma places our lives within the context of a very large, spacious, and complex universe where change happens over vast periods of time and the goal is nothing less that the cessation of suffering for all beings.  (Buddhists are definitely not under achievers!) 

What is Calm Abiding Mediation?

First:   Calm Abiding Meditation is rejoicing in the fullness of the present moment.  It is both blissful and peaceful while also being very alert / aware.  Calm abiding is not the stupor state of escapism.

Second: Calm Abiding is possible even for people with full lives.

Third: I don’t know about anybody else, but personally, I was so busy trying to meditate that it took me forever to recognize that Calm Abiding is about Abiding in the present moment.  Sounds, sensations, sights, thoughts, etc are all occurring in the present moment.  There is a lot going on in the present moment and we really need to pull back and just appreciate and wonder beauty of each moment.

Fourth: Thinking is stressful. (That’s dukkha to you Buddhists.) Take a break from thinking and analyzing and judging everything. (Trust me, your thoughts will wait around for you.)  Give yourself some time each day to sense fully the present moment.  Listen to the ocean, or the wind, or the bird,s or the traffic, or whatever, with your full being.  Don’t think about it, just perceive.

Fifth: You are not your thoughts.  In fact, your thoughts are just a small part of your experience.  Unfortunately, we tend to obsessively focus on our thoughts.  We confuse our thoughts about who we are, with what we truly are.

Sixth: Calm Abiding is joyful.  Really!

Seventh:  Calm Abiding Meditation takes commitment.  You need to make time in your daily life to just be.  You really do need that 30 minutes, or more, each day with nothing to do but sit, breath, and be aware.  (It is only boring because we have become accustomed to having our minds stimulated non-stop.)

Eight:  As you grow your practice will grow and change.   Calm Abiding is only one part of the Buddhist Path.  Buddhism is a way of life which involves: faith, study, ethics, ritual, community, meditation, self reflection and transformation.

If you want to change your life, you need to be willing to change.  The Dharma can help you make that change.

Peace, Paul

Problems with Prisons for Profit

February 12, 2009


In my book, making money by imprisoning people is, at best, morally questionable. Yet this is exactly what privatizing prisons means. Prison corporations profit by incarcerating the most people, for the longest amount of time, while spending the least amount of money.

It is in the prison corporation’s best interest to have an ever increasing incarceration rate and a high recidivism rate. Reforming prisoners into well adjusted members of society is not good for the bottom line.

Obviously, having prisons that are for profit businesses leads to all the normal corruption and greed that we encounter in the corporate world. Here is an article about one recent case of corruption that has affected the lives of hundreds of youths:  Pa. Judges Accused of Jailing Kids for Cash.

Peace, Paul