Archive for the ‘Diary’ Category

Seeing Fear

September 1, 2014

If you make a habit of cultivating daily periods of silence in your in your life, through meditation or some other practice, you will inevitably discover that fear is the motivation for much that you do. Not the roaring terror of imminent death but rather the low simmering fear that is insecurity. It is a fear so familiar and “comfortable” that most people never notice it at all. They only see fear as fear in situations where the heat gets turned up by events in the world around us and the subtle fear becomes terror.

I found myself in just such a high heat situation while lying in bed at night, in a small, some might say primitive, cabin, riding out Hurricane Iselle. Having grown up in New Orleans, I was familiar with Hurricanes. I had been through a few near misses. I had seen the devastation. However, I had never been through the eye of a Hurricane, which, it turns out, is a completely different beast. In the center of the storm the wind consistently rages at or above hurricane force of 75 miles an hour. It is loud and relentless. The house vibrates as it sways and flexes in the wind. Debris constantly pelts the house on all sides. On top of the raging noise of the storm one also constantly hears the roaring of much stronger gusts of wind moving along the ground, accompanied by the pop and crack of shattering trees. It is a primordial sound. It is the sound of death in the form of some impossibly large winged creature devouring all in its path. The roof ripples and screams under the onslaught and adrenaline floods the blood stream. This cycle repeats for hours upon end and one is complete exhausted by stress and fear.

Fortunately, it has been my practice for some time now to recognize mind states, such as this one, as an opportunity for self examination. Recollecting my practice, I looked deeply at the fear. Why was I afraid? It was not a long contemplation. Once I peeked below the sensory overload, it became immediately apparent that what I was afraid of was death. More specifically, that I, Paul, would end. With this bit of insight came the recollection that I am going to end at some point anyway. None of us can escape death. Further, and perhaps more significantly, I am not that important. What is important is the degree to which I am transformed by love and compassion. The rest, the “things” of this life, are fleeting. They are the result of living in this particular body, in this particular time, in this particular country. As soon as the body dies, those things will cease to be valuable.

I found this insight, for some reason, comforting, and I soon dropped off to sleep. Later I awoke to the storm raging overhead, and decided to relocate to the relative safety of the bathroom. However, the worst of the fear was gone. I was able to sleep, on and off, throughout the remainder of the storm.

Of course, I still have fear. Foolish, I know. I certainly have not learned to truly love others, to offer compassion and understanding before judgement. Nevertheless, I have faith that if I keep walking along the path, trying to recollect the Buddha and the Dharma, that at some point Love and Compassion will replace fear.

Peace, Paul

Praying for Others

February 11, 2013

Lately I have taken on the practice of praying for others as part of my daily Buddhist religious routine. I write the names of individuals, for whom I am praying, in a little notebook, which I keep on my bed stand. The notebook contains the names of those who have died, who are suffering illnesses, or loss, or difficulties in life, people who have harmed me, people I have harmed, people who are challenging and generally anyone who comes to mind. The list contains people I know, people I do not know, people involved in tragedies, animals, and others.

The notebook resides on my bed stand because praying for others is one of the last practices I do before going to sleep. There is nothing elaborate of fancy about the practice of praying for others.  It is simply an opportunity to reflect on others’ suffering, to see their suffering as real, and offer a prayer, a thought, a desire, that they be freed of suffering and the causes of suffering.  For those who are close, it is a time to reflect on real and concrete ways I might alleviate their suffering.

The list changes over time as new sufferings arise and old one’s are resolved.  There is always suffering and beings who need our prayers, our thoughts, our compassion and concern. Often there is very little we can do for those who are suffering. But what little we can do, we should do. As Mother Theresa has famously said, “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”

Namo Amida Bu!

Peace, Paul

“So Much for Prayer”

May 12, 2009

Here is an intense video on the realities of the war in the middle east, the so called “Holy” Land.

Mother’s Day for Buddhists

May 9, 2009

Mother’s Day for Buddhists
Honoring one’s parents is an important part of Buddhist teaching. Mother’s Day would be a good time to call your parents’ attention to this fact

Christianity and Torture

April 22, 2009

More of the “Torture Documents” from the Bush Administration have been released to the public.

I am not sure which is more disturbing, the torture itself or the fact that it was authorized and applied under administration of a self proclaimed evangelical conservative Christian.

Christianity is, after all, a religion based on the teachings of Jesus who was brutally tortured and executed at the hands of the Roman Empire.

Jesus was:

– Flogged

– Beaten, Mocked, and Humiliated by his prison guards (Don’t forget that crown of thorns!)

– Physically Broken Down (Carrying that cross couldn’t have been easy.)

– Executed by means of Exposure, Suffocation, and Accumulated Bodily Harm (Crucifixion is the punishment for sedition.  It is meant to be slow. It is meant to send a message to the population at large.)

Additionally, many of the early followers of Jesus were likewise tortured and crucified.  

Did we as country, under Christian leadership, abandoned the message of Jesus and instead embrace the ethic of the Roman Empire?

Peace, Paul

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

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

How Hawaii is Different

January 27, 2009

It seems that we are having a bit of an outbreak of “Rat Lung” disease here on the Big Island.  (Yes, humans can get this meningitis like disease.) Unfortunately the local paper doesn’t seem to think it is important enough to report on. Here is the article from an Oahu paper.

This disease has been affecting people in the area of the big island known as Puna. Now if we were on the mainland, and this disease had put 8 people in the hospital, some in a coma, then you can be sure there would be a national stink.
In Hawaii, we are left to rely on gossip and prudent action.

For our part, we aren’t eating any raw greens for the time being.

Peace, Paul

Buddhism and Vegetarianism

January 4, 2009

I confess that I have often been disheartened by the refusal of Buddhist practitioners to embrace vegetarianism as part of the Buddhist tradition.

However today I cam across some statements from H.H. the Karmapa on Vegetarianism and the Kagyu lineage. HH the Karmpa

These are bold statements, and gives me hope that the Buddha Dharma does indeed hold the key to liberating us from the environmental and violent morass that we have created for ourselves on this earth.

Peace, Paul


December 27, 2008

It has been pouring down rain since Thursday evening. I guess this not surprising since the Hilo area is supposed to get around 300 inches of rain a year, and it is the rainy season right now!

The nice thing about the rain is that it keeps you indoors. I have used the time for retreat: meditating, reciting mantra, and studying Buddhist texts.

In the Lotus Sutra the Buddha’s compassion is compared to rain, falling equally on all beings. I think I will take this latest deluge as very heavy dose of compassion and a reminder to keep the Dharma at the heart of my life.

Peace, Paul