Zen Chalice, The Podcast Episode 1

If You’re Lucky Your Heart Will Break by Uuzennie Listen on Posterous

*J. Andy Lambert*

Dad and Husband.

Unitarian Universalist Zen Buddhist.

Blogger: Zen Chalice & The Transforming Man

Add me to your circles on Google+ Andy Lambert

Lax Vegan. Occasional Sculpter. Seldom Home Brewer

Alive, Awake, Alert, Enthusiastic!

Beart de réir ár mbriathar! -Action to Match Our Words

Advertisements

I’m an ENFP, big suprise…

I’ve uploaded my Myers-Briggs results here mostly for my own edification.

My_Myers-Briggs_Results.pdf Download this file

A View from the Driver’s Seat

My wife recently posted this, and it was grand.

 

I do feel like I’m driving the “get healthy and trim" bandwagon these days.

 

However, it feels more like a big body 1950s era convertible. It wasn’t long ago I had a crisis of faith, if you will.

 

My weight stayed pretty stable around 370 most of the Summer. This was a major bummer. That wasn’t intended to rhyme, but it did, look at that!

Now it's going down again. I'm happy about this but I'm no longer doubtful about my success in any way. I've turned a corner.

The fat me is in the rearview mirror. The more he recedes the more I can see the road in front of me instead of the fog of history and failures of the past that had clung to me. 

Now, I know that NOTHING has changed, and everything has. 

I now see he benefit of going "all the way."

I'm not looking forward to the next ten pounds anymore (though I am more on that in a bit) I'm looking to the healthy me at the completion of this phase of my life.

I will be a normal BMI. I have no doubt of that. Not only that but one day, and one day soon, I will be a marvel of good health. I really already am, other than my blood pressure. Even that I'm not terribly worried about as it will most likely go down when my dairy intake disappears. Why am I confident of this?  

Watch Forks Over Knives, then come back…I'll wait.

Done? Okay, good. Now that we are on the same page: My blood pressure will decrease on it's own once my dairy intake can be discontinued.

I look forward to good, no, Outstanding health, in years to come. I will not settle for less than outstanding health. After all, I know how to gt there and I you can join there as well. 

As for the next ten pounds: When I hit 100 pounds lost, I'm getting a Nook Touch. I've waffled on an eReader for years. I even had a Kindle for a short, turbulent period but it, like so many things from that time in my life, was nothing more than an illusion. The Nook is the best eInk has to offer. Yes, it's extravagant, but my wife suggested it and my therapist approves.

So, I'm driving down Route 66 to Healthytown. 

Wanna come? There's plenty of room. It seats about 20 so come along and bring your jukebox money.

Me less 90 pounds,
~Andy

*J. Andy Lambert*

Dad and Husband.

Unitarian Universalist Zen Buddhist.

Blogger: Zen Chalice & The Transforming Man

Lax Vegan.

Sculpter.

Home Brewer

Alive, Awake, Alert, Enthusiastic!

Add me to your circles on Google+ Andy Lambert

Guest Post: TMcG from Full Contact Enlightenment takes on Online Teaching

This is part of the Precious Metal Blog Swap for which I have yet to send off my entry to (whoops) It'll be in tonight, I swear.

So here's Tanya:

There has been quite a bit of discussion as to whether distance teaching or online practices dilute the face-to-face transmission of the teachings and I'll admit to being of two minds in my opinion on this. 

Pro mind:
Growing up, I lived in a small town where the teachings weren't readily available and any drop of dharma that I could get my hands on was like Kool-Aid to a thirsty third grader. I devoured anything I could find and some of it was either way too advanced or came out of a more new-agey approach to meditation, usage of power crystals and other such approaches to Buddhism that were more out of selling me products than providing a path to self-discovery, kindness and compassion. Had I been able to access a teacher online, I may have had a way to connect with teachers and an online sangha and develop a sense of community with others who could help share their experiences of having teachers, sanghas and centres to assist them. 

Online teachings give many access to a larger variety of teachers and teachings and serve to help educate other dharma centres in how they operate, their protocols around community activities such as funeral services, weddings and generally all matters of life and death and everything in between. I subscribe to many many newsletters from other traditions as a means to obtain ideas for my home centre and sangha – something that wouldn't be possible if we were to only rely on paper subscriptions to newsletters. 

Sharing of content is another bonus to online teachings as it's much easier to spread a video, blog post or podcast than it is to photocopy, mail or ship off a DVD. The dharma is able to flourish via technology now more than ever and spreads faster than a sneeze out of the master's nose. 

In addition to this, for many it is financially impossible to be able to travel to follow one's teacher. Online teachings and communities help many maintain closeness to the teachings without the necessity of taking out a bank loan to benefit from what is now available online. 

Con mind: 
I don't think the online experience is the same as direct, face to face teachings that you have to make the effort to get out to the dharma centre for in a blinding snowstorm, to sit for 4 hours in a stinky meditation hall and to not be able to press pause when you don't catch what the teacher is saying. I hear you saying – wait, what is the con to being all cozy at home, tucked under a blanket and listening to a You Tube video of your benevolent guru clearly via your highspeed internet connection on your crisp Macbook Pro? The drawback to this is that the dharma becomes instant and can easily be taken for granted. The 'always on' culture that we can be swayed by does little to encourage us to emerge from our cocoon and make the effort to participate in our learning experience. Add to this the very experience of traveling in that snowstorm, sitting in the stinky meditation hall and straining to hear a garbling teacher and the ability to work with each of these annoyances. When all one experiences is the comfort of home, it's hard to fully be engaged on the Buddhist path that speaks so much to traveling beyond suffering. 

Beyond this, the experience of being with a teacher in 'meat space' allows you to sense the full nuances of being in a spiritual relationship – of being a part of this global Buddhist sangha. As much as I like video chatting with my family, it's no replacement for time spent in their company. 

We can use technology as a crutch and get further obscured by the digital raft that's supposed to carry us to the other side, but is instead making us feel bogged down by the incessant flood of information coming at us on a daily basis. Personally, I have a bulging RSS reader full of new and saved articles from Buddhabloggers and Buddhist magazines all begging for my attention. I have a zillion podcasts waiting to be listened to as well as hours upon hours of  You Tube videos marked to watch from a long list of pixellated Rinpoches, Tulkus, Lamas, teachers and students. It will take several lifetimes just to make it through all of these and there comes a time when letting go is the most sane option rather than to even attempt to keep up with it all. 

Now more than ever, we are encountering the Buddha, Dharma and sangha in different forms but regardless of whether we are engaged in face to face, real time encounters or timeshifting our studies and practice into the great digital beyond, I personally think it's important to remember our intention, our motivation and not to lose site of the essence of the teachings and not to get too hung up or attached in whatever form the messenger appears in. 

Logging off. 
Tanya from Full Contact Enlightnement

You can find Tanya's blog here

Gassho.

~Andy

zzzZazenzzz

The difference is amazing. It really is.

On Tuesday, I had a weird dream/nightmare. I woke up and was so terrified & distraught that I couldn't force myself to rollover and get out of bed. As a result, my sitting didn't happen. My day was okay, I guess but there was something unsettled about it.

This morning, I awoke and felt refreshed rolled over and got out of bed and I felt pretty good.

Zazen was especially restless. I stood up and was quite grumpy about my "bad" session.  

Today hasn't been especially productive, so far In fact It's been quite the opposite.  I'm not stressed about it, though. 

I'm not looking to gain benefits from my sitting Practice while I'm doing it. When I sit, I just sit.

I don't count my breath. I don't do koan work (as I have no idea what that is, honestly). Though I am reading the Boundless Way edited Book of Mu, so maybe I'll get an idea?

I just sit and stare at a spot on my wall. Sometimes my mind is like a hurricane, all tempest and rolling thunder. Sometimes it's quieter like a summer storm. I've never hit still waters for more than a second or two before the tide turns, but it does happen now and again.

Out here, right now, am I still doing zazen?? 

Maybe I am.

My wife noted that I was complaining a bit much about something that our son did, by accident, after I was done sitting this morning.

Zazen let me shut my mouth.

I think that's the thing that happens most often is being able to just shut up. 

No one else may notice it, but I do.

Gassho.

Of My liberal religion

First me let me start off by defining a word. A word that has a nasty connotation here in Texas.

Liberal:

favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs (according to dictionary.com)

synonyms include:

 
1.  progressive  broad-minded, unprejudiced.  beneficent,charitable, openhanded, munificent, unstinting, lavish


1.  reactionary. 8.  intolerant. 9, 10.  niggardly

Hmmm….seems that liberal might have been unfairly maligned, huh?   

As a Buddhsit, I feel liek we've been trying to re-invent the wheel. There is a place for shikentaza and koan practice and sesshin, certainly?

But is there any reason that that same place can't host pot-lucks and classes on druidic shamanism?

I really don't see why not.

Maybe it's because I'm attached to the forms of Christianity but the manners and the whole attitude of the Zen Center system as it has come to be in these United States is entirely too solemn and almost a farce of itself. I respect anyone who can take themselves that seriously. I admire anyone who can approach their practice with such single-minded focus. I can't. I need more.

I need a welcoming smile and a friendly conversation. I need someone to show me around and answer questions and not two Wednesdays from now when the next class. Why not now? 

So I've found myself attending and now joining a Unitarian Universalist Church. My family likes it. It's welcoming to families. My wife likes it, it's familiar and doesn't require a Japanese/Chinese/Pali glossary. 

So have we given up Buddhism? Nope. It's our worldview. I haven't given up Zen practice, either. I'm not interested in the strict monastic type practice that is the rule at most Soto zen centers. I'll do Rohatsu sesshins and half days , if they'll have me, as I do feel like I might eventually leave home if Mountains and Rivers or Boundless Way or one of the other truly American Zen orders will have me as a student then teacher from faraway Texas.

I might even try and get a Dokusan in here and there with the teacher there. She is a good teacher and they have a good Center, I just don't think that type of practice is for me. I'll sit and I'll listen and I'll read.

My sangha however will be the sangha of the world in the microcosm of my Church family. 

I'm a UU Zen Buddhist. I'm not the first and I won't be the last but I do feel like I fit into the puzzle, here.

Gassho.

The long term…

In Buddhism and Zen, in particular, we're trained to live in the moment. To make each and every moment the best it can be as it's all you've got.

However, it would be an extreme view and not of the Middle Way to completely disregard planning for the future.

I've been confused most of my life. I've always wanted to help people but I've never been sure how best to do that. 

I've waffled between three basic career options for years:

1. Educator

2. Cleric

3. Attorney

I have never worked as any of these on a career path. I have substitute taught and I'm a NALA certified paralegal. 

As for the the Cleric…well I've finally found a religious path that appeals to me and feels right. Unitarian Universalism always sounded like where I belong and now it feels like we've finally come home.

So at 31, I'm college educated, but my Interdisciplinary Studies Liberal Arts degree isn't worth the price I paid for it. I make less that $15 an hour at a job that is stressful and unfulfilling. I don't even consider my job as any sort of career. It's just a job. A low-paying one at that. I'm one of the "under-employed." Did I mention that I have an alternative certification under the W. Bush-era "No Child Left Behind." As it turns out, there was no shortage of high school social studies teachers.

I pursued the attorney thing a bit I went to night school to get a paralegal certification as a stepping stone to a career as a paralegal. What they don't tell you is that all paralegals start out as $9 an hour file clerks or receptionists and work their way up to paralegal, regardless of education. I can't afford a cut in pay, so, no. In order to go to law school that would put us another 40-50K (conservatively) in debt. I don't have the temperament for personal injury, criminal defense, or family law, either. So that leaves me to what?? Legal aid? Procedural law? Environmental Law? None of these is very lucrative and that means my wife would shoulder even more of my debt that she already has. 

I would love to teach. I like anything to do with knowledge. I love to write (obviously). I really enjoy pedagogy. There's really nothing wrong with teaching. However, I would need to go back and get a standard high school certification, or a masters and possibly a PhD to teach at the college level. While neither of these would be particularly arduous, Is it worth it financially? I mean you can't put a price on doing what you love, but I don't know if I'm ready to put us another 20-30K in debt for PhD and then try to find a local job. My wife will be a ChemE in two years (hopefully). A ChemE's best job market in the US (possibly the world) is right here in Houston, TX. 

So…we come to the least explored..Cleric. My earliest career suggestion came from my much beloved Senior minister growing up. He was certain I destined for ministry. I have the skill set for it. I'm a good speaker. I can write. I'm out-going and friendly and I love scholarly writing and critical analysis of literature. 

Unfortunately, God never spoke tome and he still doesn't. If he's out there, we aren't confidants. Moreover, I've come to believe that He's irrelevant to our own spiritual growth and development. God may or may not be there to to help out in some far distant magical/mystical way that we don't understand (not likely) but we have to do all the driving, regardless. 

That's why Buddhism speaks to me and why I chose it as a framework for my Spiritual Path. Unfortunately, the organizational forms that Buddhism has taken the west are not conducive to raising a child/family life and INTEGRATION into your life. I understand that Zen/Buddhism is a path of renunciation, but in the modern sense I don't think this is true. The Middle Way means, tome, fully integrating Practice in your lief and that means Life as it is, not going to live on a mountaintop or even doing a sesshin every month. An occasional retreat or Sesshin is fine but 2-3 a year?? Comeon who has the vacation time for that? Unless you're a Cleric then it's part of your job to be the best _________ you can be.

So I'm a Buddhist. I'm still not sure where I want to go with that. Soto Zen, organizationally, is austere and adult oriented. It's not a place for kids. It could be, but it would take offering other programs and most Soto centers are too focused on the Path and the practices prescribed by Sotoshu to walk the path to offer those. HZC is trying but once a month doesn't cut it.

Unitarian Universalism is the first religion I have encountered that resonates with me whole-heartedly (like Zen) and also appeals to my needs as father. Also, I'm really not a quiet introspective person and Zen Practice tends to infuse everything else that happens at the Zen Center with a sense of solemnity that seems almost fake. I'll never quit zazen or give up my Buddhist understanding in how the Universe works and the UU doesn't ask me to.

So this has become a TLDR post and I'm sorry, Shane.

My point is that every option available to me seems like another mountain to climb and right now I'm already climbing the mountain to good health….

One could visualize life as a mountain to climb with no top.

Ever onward and upward! Excelsior!

Sorry I channeled Stan Lee for a minute there.

This post was more about my lief than Buddhism but it informs everything I do and my decision making is based on Buddhist principles and ideals. 

Have advice?? Leave a Comment.

Gassho.

Previous Older Entries