I wanted to share with you some pieces of writing that have come my way in the past while which I think are very important for our sanghas to pay attention to. As someone who tries to be very mindful of inclusion when I see a new face attending sangha events or retreats, I think there is quite a ways to go for our groups in truly embracing the concept of embracing all individuals without prejudice. In discussion groups it’s very easy to maintain one’s ego and be quite limited with out own experiences, projections and perceptions and we owe it to our sangha-mates, as well as society as a whole to truly listen, not judge and accept that our point of view should be fluid and not fixed.
It’s with this intention of encouraging discussion both online as well as within our various groups that I wish to share these two important documents.
First off, I was contacted by Shaun Bartone who shared with me a paper they had written titled ‘Conduct Unbecoming: a Trans*Queer Experience of Dharma’. It’s a powerful and finely executed piece of writing that cites Nine Inch Nails, Foucault, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and Noah Levine. Yes. You read that correctly. You can’t fault me hoping with ever bit of my being that Shaun will start a Buddhablog
After reading ‘Conduct Unbecoming: a Trans*Queer Experience of Dharma’ , it broke my heart to know that in BUDDHIST GROUPS we are not demonstrating compassion and understanding for individual experiences of the Dharma. Take this even further that this is even within the LGBTIQ sangha. *Mindblown*
My experience as a trans*queer meditator in Buddhism has yielded a certain experiential truth: 1) I have a particular perspective on Dharma and the meditation experience as a trans*queer person; and 2) this experience is not well understood by other Dharma practitioners, even those members of the sangha who identify as LGBTIQ….
The resistance I feel from my sangha friends toward my trans* experience of the dharma is too much like the resistance I get from the straight world. The straight world doesn’t tolerate gender ambiguity, or the idea that there is no fixed identity. But the Buddhist world is equally offended that I ask questions, that I insist on the reality of my trans*queer experience. What I get from my sangha friends is the same kind of fixed, rigid thinking about experience, the same kind of resistance to change that I get from the straight world.
Now to direct you to Transbuddhists.org for some hope…
We are a small collective of Buddhist practitioners from different traditions who seek to address systemic exclusion of transgender and gender nonconforming people from Buddhist spaces. Through our Developing Trans*Competence guide, our website, and in-person workshops, we work to support all sanghas in having the information and resources they need to be welcoming to trans*people. We serve as a forum for trans* practitioners to receive help with challenges related to residential practice logistics and community-related issues. We believe that the refuge and connection available through shared dharma practice hold great healing power and are dedicated to making them more accessible.
We recognize the interconnection of struggles experienced by individuals of all social identities, including races, classes, sexual orientations, gender identities, ages, abilities, cultures, and ethnicities. We stand in solidarity with and support other efforts to make Buddhism more inclusive in this country.
Their group has created a downloadable booklet titled ‘Developing Trans*Competence: A Short Guide to Improving Transgender Experiences at Meditation and Retreat Centers‘ which you must read, share and spread widely. Bonus points if your sangha or retreat centre uses it in a discussion group. Extra bonus points if your sangha/retreat centre puts the suggestions within this guide into practice.
I also must draw attention to the Appendix within this document as it features an excellent list of resources by those who are working toward greater inclusion based on race, age, gender and disability as well as a list of additional reading materials on trans and gender non-conforming issues.
I implore you to read both of these pieces and do what you can to begin to work towards inclusion. If you have any questions, please leave a comment on this post and I will work to obtain some answers or feedback or please email transbuddhists- at- gmail.com.
I am here as an ally to help work towards sanghas that are understanding, compassionate and safe. May this post be the start of the greater discussion both online and in our various face to face groups.
This past weekend I spent some time watching teachings from Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and it was precisely what I needed. You know that awesomeness when causes and conditions come together to bring some delicious teachings to your computer right at the time when you need to hear those specific teachings. Yeah. It’s a nice bit of auspiciousness when it happens. Usually I get cat videos.
It’s that time again when in order to not look like a slack blogger, I fill this space with some links to things that will delight, educate, enlighten and otherwise distract you from my slackness as a blogger. I know you’re used to this by now.
- This post. Oh my. This post. Everything that Nat writes is golden but this post hit me coming from the place of having grieved for a dharma teacher and friend. That connection you have with emotions and the human experience when you read the tender words of another. Yup. This post did it for me.
- Yes. The Norman Fischer fangirling continues. On March 14th, he gave a talk at the University of Toronto on the necessity for love and compassion (based on his recent book “Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong” which I went dried-shit-shick crazy over). Global Mind Body - a delightful looking non-profit online yoga and meditation community broadcast the talk live and also have made it available on their site which you must check out or you can watch it right here but personally I’d head on over to their site since there is quite a bit of content you will no doubt enjoy, but hey, if you’re lazy watch it here. Who am I to judge you. Bookmark their site and go there eventually. Really. You should.
- I posted the trailer for this film a little while back but wanted to share it again because it looks so interesting.
As the outside world eagerly looks for a cancer cure, Tibetan medical doctors in the Indian sub-continent diagnose and treat cancer patients every day. The Legacy of Menla is a fresh portrayal of cancer, from the perspective of Tibetan Medicine.
Be sure to follow The Legacy of Menla on Facebook to get all of the latest updates on this film.
Things are heating up for Montreal-based Buddhists these days. Despite the bone-chilling temperatures, there are events and activities set to spring upon us.
- Joseph Goldstein will be in Montreal for True North Insight’s 10th anniversary and offering a talk meditation workshop on Saturday, March 15 from 10 am-4 pm (Space for the talk on Friday has been filled). To register online click here. Do check out the True North Insight website as they have a few video teaching available and there are additional events and retreats coming up.
- Gisele Laberge of the Montreal Shambhala Centre will be facilitating a One Year to Live program again. Don’t miss this as I found it to be such a rewarding and enriching program when I completed it several years ago.
- From what I’m seeing, it looks like we can look forward to Khandro Rinpoche in Montreal on the 9th and 10th of August. Oh the warmth. I feel it already.
- Now I need to give a shout out for Montreal Dharma Punx. I need some inspiration. I need some conversation. I need some motivation. I need a LOCATION. If you are interested in sitting and have an idea of where we can meet, drop me a line either via email or our Facebook page.
Indie Spiritualist is the first book from Chris Grosso, a multi-faith, multi-disciplinary chap who runs a website of the same name. I say multi-faith in that much of Chris’ belief system has been formed by many different religious and spiritual traditions as he has taken the approach of seeing what fits or doesn’t fit for him. I say mult-disciplinary in that Chris can be described in many ways – musician, writer, tattooed dude, skateboarder, recovering addict, super-fan of all kinds of musical styles, husband, father, brother … and on and on. The guy is diverse. These interests all form the crux of the book which is a compilation of short stories relating his journey both as a recovering addict, as well as someone who has worked with intense suffering only to then embark on a path of self-inquiry and spiritual inquisitiveness to discover a more meaningful life.
The book recounts Chris’ journey – all of the pain, suffering, low times and serious issues with addiction. His journey was a cycle of detention, detox, rehab, release, suffering and repeat on a path littered with some scary, dark places. He hit rock bottom and yet was able to discover and tap into the wisdom to know that a new way was necessary in order for his survival.
Don’t be fooled. ‘Indie Spritualist’ isn’t all doom and gloom though. There is a brightness and a humour within the pages which comes from Chris’ personality and his unique and somewhat self-effacing voice. He is a humble fellow and conveys his personal joys with the same attention to detail and integrity as those of his lowest and most embarrassing experiences. It is an unflinching look at both the beauty and the grotesque and is a brave work in this respect.
The book speaks to those who aren’t really into the new-agey approach which made it right up my alley. It is an accessible spiritual book for both youth and those who are young at heart. Be warned, there’s quite a bit of reference made to bands, authors and films and not to suggest that this book may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s truly going to resonate for those who are familiar with alternative culture in some way. If you don’t know who Slayer, Jason Voorhees, Bukowski or 108 are, you might not be quick on the uptake for getting a few of the references.
‘Indie Spiritualist’ is about recovery. self inquiry and how to live an authentic life. Chris’ approach is to encourage readers to find their own path and roll their own spirituality, rather than adopt something that doesn’t speak to them. No bullshit. No dogma. He shares many of the teachings that resonate with him as well as recounts experiences and mentors that helped him on his spiritual path.
Of all of the chapters, the one where he speaks to his heart connection with Ram Dass is the one that stands out to me as the most profound and where Chris’ connection with a spiritual teacher shines through. I would have enjoyed a larger section of the book being devoted to the teachers and books that influenced Chris in one area rather than appearing in unrelated short stories, but that’s just me and my anal-retentive style manifesting itself. Also, as a Buddhist, I would have liked to have seen a dictionary of terms given that there was a bit of lingo that was outside of my personal framework. Perhaps the intention is to inspire the reader to go and do some spiritual seeking and research, but for those who are already dedicated to a particular tradition, it would have been useful to have some of these definitions available. Again, that may be my anal-retentitiveness speaking as well as a bit of laziness (we all have our weaknesses right?).
An interesting feature of the book is the inclusion of links to Chris’ original music, several You Tube clips and a great list of suggestions on books, movies, music and practices that he’s into. I really liked this multi-media approach and found that it added much to the experience and helped to discover more about Chris Grosso – both past and present. (This aspect of the book negates my previous mention of wanting a glossary of spiritual terms as the multi-media bits really spoke to a universal language).
‘Indie Spiritualist’ is an important addition to the modern-day spiritual bookshelf in that it provides a glimpse into the journey of someone who isn’t just practicing from one spiritual tradition, such as Noah Levine and Brad Warner (fellow Buddhists), but the journey of Chris Grosso, who is unabashedly a multi-faith practitioner sampling and cultivating wisdom from many spiritual traditions. It’s not preachy, but rather demonstrates how he has found his own path and he encourages readers to try the same approach for themselves. He has a warmth and a passion for sharing his story and this comes through within Indie Spiritualist. His goal of helping individuals accept and love themselves as well as to break free from suffering is essential in our world and I’d encourage you to either read the book or gift it to someone who is currently seeking a new way of breaking free from addiction, despair or of embarking on their own path of self-discovery.
So much of his story resonated with my personal journey and just as Chris mentions in the book how much he enjoys meeting and hearing about those spiritual practitioners who may not fit the mold of the ‘peace, love, long-haired hippy spiritual practitioners’ but rather are into loud music, black band t shirts and skateboarding, I felt the same kinship in reading his book. Chris is very humble and self-effacing but he should be very proud of this book. I look forward to reading more from him both on his website and hopefully in future books.
*Also, I had no idea that Krishna Das was in Blue Oyster Cult. I have to thank this book for this illuminating fact!
I’m currently reading Chris Grosso’s book “Indie Spiritualist” and very much liking what I’m reading so far. Over lunch today I watched this interview by Elephant Journal’s founder Waylon Lewis and think you might enjoy it as well.
They cover Chris’ upcoming book, overcoming his past struggles with addiction which form the basis of his book, a few suggested resources to help with recovery, several books and authors that he’s into and touch upon how awesome it would be to read ‘The Tibetan Book of the Living Dead’. Oh my. I’d buy that graphic novel
I’ve been spending quite a bit of time on the web these days both for my 9-5 as well as in helping my sangha update our website. That hasn’t stopped me from some things crossing my path in the online realm so here’s a few things I wanted to share.
- This post titled ‘Violence, Blood, Broken Bones and Other Joys of Meditation’ over at the Indie Spiritualist puts it out there. PS- I’m on Chapter 5 of his new book and it’s super good.
- Tashi Mannox, an artist that I hoot on and on about on this blog will be in North America delivering a workshop and a presentation at the Rubin so if you can, do check him out. Here’s a short film on his work:
- Mondo Samu is starting a group with the incredibly smart acronym of M.E.A.L.S. – Mindful Eating and Living Sangha which will be a year-long book club that will:
- Recite the Five Reflections
- Share a Mindful Eating Experience
- Read and discuss the book Savor, by Thich Nhat Hanh
- Practice Mindful Movement
Mondu states that:
My hope is that this year-long grassroots-group exploration will deepen my own practice further, help others establish mindfulness as a way of healthy living, and – hopefully – encourage them to go out and spread the practice through starting similar groups the following year, and so on. If successful, it could see a viral growth since those who complete the year, may hopefully create groups of their own and repeat the process, again and again.
If you are so inclined, do get in touch with him. He’s doing great work with online Buddhist communities and this should be an interested exploration.
- I feel this way about my dogs… Just had to share it.