2014 October 13

Wisdom

hustle

2014 October 8

Book Review: “The Buddha Walks Into the Office”

lodro

This book came to me at the ideal time having started a new job and all of the neurosis that can follow from this kind of  transition. Oh yes. It’s easy to get caught up in all kinds of thoughts, feelings, emotions, fears and habits.

“Will they like me?”
“Am I doing good work?”
“Can I keep up?”
“What if I fail?”

This job market is flip-flopping-floopy crazy, so it’s no wonder we’re all either scrambling to keep the job we have, grasping for that elusive dream gig, or spending our 9-5 in samsara and silently cursing our bosses and co-workers. No matter how Buddhist you are, however compassionate you feel that you are, when confronted with deadlines, egos and unreasonable demands, you are bound to suffer. Suffer hard.

Lodro Rinzler is that cheerful, bespectacled, bow-tie wearing classy chap who writes for the Buddhist millennial set. He’s written a book titled, “The Buddha Walks into the Office: A Guide to Livelihood for a New Generation” that seeks to help readers navigate through the common issues encountered at work. Jerkface bosses. Loud-mouthed colleagues. Killer deadlines. The ever-present question of “What is Right Livelihood exactly?” It’s all in this book and – more.

With the familiar format many Buddhist books take in moving from Hinayana to Mahayana to Vajrayana teachings, the book is a call to action for a bit more mindfulness, compassion and fearlessness at work. Lodro explores many of the teachings from Shambhala, it’s founder Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and it’s current head, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche as he explores how we can be good Buddhist workmates. The book is funny, charming and smart. Lodro’s warmth and compassion shines brightly as he delivers insight and explores what it means to be a leader even when we aren’t holding the title of CEO. 

Many of Lodro’s personal life experiences help illustrate the concepts presented within “The Buddha Walks into the Office” – some are hilarious, others are quite touching. Ever present in the book is the inherent desire that Lodro has for people to find their calling and live a life of purpose when it comes to work. This is very much a part of his life as the founder of the Institute for Compassionate Leadership, an organization that helps develop young, compassionate leaders (hence the title!).

The importance of meditation runs heavily throughout this book as do many Shambhala terms and teachings such as that of basic goodness and wakefulness. Bonus points for several geekier and pop-culture based references such as the chapter titled “Wielding Your Speech Like the Hammer of Thor”.

Topics such as deep listening, Bodhisattvic activies, the lojong slogans, the six realms, the paramitas and yes, karma are all explored skilfully and with the goal of showing how they apply in our cubicles.

The thread of hopefulness is woven through this book despite Gen Y’s seemingly dreary job prospects. I’m heartened by Lodro’s optimism. This book is the ideal gift for the Millennial in your life who is going through a career crisis.

Shantideva’s wisdom figures prominently within the pages. How can you go wrong here? I especially love Lodro’s mention of how the workplace “is the perfect battlefield for unleashing your personal weapon: the bomb of bochicitta.” I want the t-shirt now. “Drop bodhichitta bombs. Not F-Bombs.”

While there are a few practices offered within “The Buddha Walks into the Office“, this isn’t the sole focus of the book. There are several exercises for self discovery and details on several meditation-based, contemplations and Buddhist-inspired practices, but the majority of the suggestions relate to actually practicing while at work. He writes, “If you can shift your view so that your work is spirituality, then you can bring your meditation practice off the cushion and live your hours at work with meaning and purpose.”

I REALLY enjoyed Lodro Rinzler’s The Buddha Walks into the Office,” but I’m a bit biased in fangirling over all of his writing. It’s authentic, fresh and delivers a fun take on the Dharma which helps it to be accessible to all. Do pick it up. It’s a delightful and fun read with quite a bit of substance to it. If you’re a boss, you need to read it. If you’re an employee, you need to read it. It really does offer new insight into what it means to be a worker and leader. This book could very well make us happier at work and in turn, make the world a much better place.

Yes, the book is that powerful!

 

2014 September 20

Random Linkage: Late September Pumpkin Spice Edition

randomlinkage

It’s been a little bit since I’ve posted one of these random linkage round-ups of things that caught my attention. Said attention has been quite busy and poor little Full Contact Enlightenment gets such little contact.

Well here we go.

  • I’m currently reading Lodro Rinzler’s latest book “The Buddha Walks Into the Office” and no joke, it was a big help after what was a very trying week. I’m currently really appreciating how certain books are entering my life at the time when I need them most. Check out this snappy little video for Lodro’s book and do check it out if you are feeling the weight of the work on your shoulders.
  • Here’s the story of one man’s year of a digital detox. It’s tempting… very tempting. We’ve all been there right?
  • “Off the Cushion”- Danny Fisher’s new podcast has launched. I’m really looking forward to checking it out. Have you heard it yet?
  • I’m terribly disappointed to hear that the Buddhist Geeks Conference is going on hiatus, if continuing at all. I always “viewed from afar” via the power of technology (how geeky huh!) and found the conferences to be so nourishing and enriching. Sad emotions here folks.
  • The mighty Sumeru Books blog recently posted a link to an interview with Canadian media personality George Stroumboulopoulos. There’s a pronounced Buddhisty-flavour to many of his answers.
  • I think I want one of these Spire.io’s. As a “not very mindful desk jockey,” I sure could use one.
  • Kayla from It’s Not in the Cards has a great video featuring a few Buddhist and Spirituality books that she recommends. There are quite a few good one’s that made the cut.
2014 September 14

Book Review: “Turning Confusion into Clarity”

Foundation Practices for Dummies

Yongey Mingur Rinpoche’s latest book “Turning Confusion into Clarity” did just what the title promised.

Well, at least the first two sections….

As a student and practitioner who is getting ready to dip a toe into ngondro practices (steady there, I still have a little ways to go), this book came at the right time as I study and meditate upon the four common foundation practices (those involving contemplation upon precious human birth, impermanence, karma and our ever-loving dear friend – suffering). As mentioned in a previous post, I underlined a good majority of this book.

Mathieu Ricard provides the foreword, and rightfully so, as he is a student of Yongey Mingur Rinpoche’s (who in turn, is also the heart-son of several of Ricard’s root spiritual masters). He speaks greatly to the importance of these advanced teachings and cites other prominent teachers who have written similar works and focused on these teachings throughout their lives.

Based on a series to talks delivered in 2004 in British Columbia (yay Canada!), “Turning Confusion into Clarity” features many personal stories of his life and those of Yongey Mingur Rinpoche’s father, Tulku Urgen Rinpoche and his brother, Tsoknyi Rinpoche. Other great teachers he studied under and the great masters from before his time such as Tilopa and Naropa are prominent within its pages as well.

Rinpoche shares his heart and speaks to experiences from his spiritual path and his experience of ngondro.  Overall, this book is a humorous and joyful glimpse into both his early days as a young monk and as a present-day teacher and author. The personal stories really do make the book one which is a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Part One of the book lays the groundwork and is titled “Entering the Path.” It’s an examination of what materials will be covered and speaks greatly to the nature of mind, and its movement from confusion to clarity.  The four thoughts that turn the mind to dharma are featured as well as a note on empowerments and transmission. Rinpoche then gives provides and overview of the four practices of the unique ngondro, setting the stage for a more in-depth examination in the chapters to follow.

Meditation is examined fully in “Turning Confusion into Clarity” in that Rinpoche both provides advice on how to do it- both from a physical and mental standpoint. Several meditation and contemplation exercises are offered throughout the book and serve to develop the stability and understanding required for the more advanced practices that a student will encounter on the path.

Part Two gets into the Four Common Foundation Practices and has a chapter dedicated to each: precious human birth, impermanence, karma and suffering. This provides details on the first part of ngondro or the ‘common’ or ‘outer’ ngondro. I found this section of the book to be extremely powerful as Rinpoche’s ability to tell magnificent stories of the joys and pitfalls for Buddhist practice shines through. He is adept at expressing the challenges of Western students and cites many references that resonated personally with me.

This section of the book also gets into topics such as the six realms of samsaric experience, practicing with the eight freedoms, the four restrictive conditions of the human realm and some of the most profound writing I’ve read on impermanence in my, well impermanent life. It’s strangely comforting to hear the stories of Rinpoche’s panic attacks and fear of death given that I too have these issues present in my life. I love this section for what it offered to me.

The chapters on karma and emptiness were also highly informative as oft-misunderstood terms by non-Buddhists and Buddhists alike. To have it distilled in a way that made sense made it an important read, and again, hearing Rinpoche speak to his own confusion of these concepts, only to be told by his teachers that many students get tripped up by it, was heartening.

Part Three is where things get “whoooshbang! Woo hoo. Strap in and put on your flight suit because we’re going on a wild ride. What is that glowing mechanical bull doing here? Zip Zap Wowsa” kind of stuff. These are advanced teachings folks so be forewarned. If you are not into getting to know ngondro, then half of the book isn’t really going to be your cup of tea, at least perhaps at this point on your path.Don’t be afraid though, and go in with an open mind.

Personally, I’m looking forward to this book evolving with me (and me with it) as I move through the practice path. For now, I’m content with reading and becoming aware of these advanced practices, without engaging just yet. “Patience young grasshopper,” I whisper to myself.

Reality check.  This book is ‘A Guide to the Foundation Practices of Tibetan Buddhism’ and not meant to substitute the fine wisdom of a teacher’s guidance. I read it knowing that most of what has been described it not yet for my consumption, but rather for reading through for when the time is right. The materials became a bit overwhelming at times, but it was good to have some exposure to these teachings and visualizations. In a nutshell, this section contains several chapters where Rinpoche introduces the various ngondro practices such as refuge, purification mantra and guru yoga.

Back to the mundane reality of writing this book review…

Overall, I wholeheartedly recommend “Turning Confusion into Clarity” for those students who are serious about Tibetan Buddhism and have some semblance of an interest in learning more about the foundational practices. It’s not a book for beginners. Nope.

In my case, the book presented itself at the right time. It’s good to know the general direction of where I’m headed, so “Turning Confusion into Clarity” is a great roadmap for my journey towards ngondro. No doubt, I will be using it is a reference along the way.

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2014 September 1

Currently reading: ‘Turning Confusion into Clarity’ by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

confusion_clarityI have been enjoying to no end the latest book from Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche titled “Turning Confusion into Clarity”.

It’s one of those ‘Oh look. I highlighted everything’ kind of books. It’s one of those “I know I will be referring to this book often in my life’ kind of books. It’s one of those ‘Hey this book is making me talk to myself because it’s so good’ kind of books.

Really. It’s that good.

In a strange and auspicious coincidence, I’m currently doing work with the Four Foundations and this book came onto my path just at the right time. I’ve always been a big fan of Rinpoche’s writing and his openness about his panic disorder has always endeared me to him.

*fellow panic disorder sufferer- raises hand*

So stay tuned for a blog post on this book shortly. I’m about halfway in folks.

2014 August 29

Take the Buddhists Bowling: A repost from ENGAGE!

Take_the_Buddhists_Bowling___Engage_

I asked Shaun Bartone from ENGAGE! if I could re-post a recent post that really resonated with me. Uggh. All of it. Give it a read through and let me know if you feel this way too.

Take the Buddhists Bowling

WE COULD STOP PUTTING LIDS ON OURSELVES

It is as if we were extraordinary children, possessing all sorts of genius, and we were being undermined by the society around us, which was dying to make us normal people. Whenever we would show any mark of genius, our parents would get embarrassed and try to put the lid on. I don’t particularly want to blame our parents alone; we have also been doing this to ourselves. When we see something extraordinary, we are afraid to say so; we are afraid to express ourselves. So we put lids on ourselves—on our potential, our capabilities. But in Buddhism we are liberated from that kind of conventionality.

The Heart of the Buddha: Entering the Tibetan Buddhist Path by Chögyam Trungpa, page 6

But in Buddhism we are liberated from that kind of conventionality. How I wish this were true. It’s another one of those things Chuggie said that never gets lived out in real life. I’ve been with Buddhists of various kinds, mostly on the East Coast. I knew a few in western Massachusetts, only two personally, and one in Boston. I know about a dozen in Fredericton, NB, and have met hundreds in Halifax. My experience thus far with Buddhists is that they are highly conventional, fearful, repressed, over-controlled and controlling. There is little of the sense of unconventional play and imagination that Chuggie so gleefully describes. Most of the Buddhists I’ve met are quite bourgeois, obsessed with professional success and social status, trying desperately to appear as normal as possible. Those of us who choose not to appear normal, or who couldn’t even if we tried, are treated like errant children or the mentally ill—shunned, chastised, pushed aside. This is a typical problem in many Buddhist communities that I’ve participated in.

But enough complaining. I propose a solution, one that I am trying to enact in small ways. It’s the practice suggested by Dzogchen Ponlop’s Rebel Buddha: see the path of Buddhism as a path of questioning, of challenging convention and the status quo. Very few members of the group who supposedly follow DPR’s legacy, take this challenge seriously. Few of the practitioners I’ve met so far seems to have a fucking clue as to what “rebel Buddha” really means. Or what they think of as “rebel Buddha” and what I think it means are glaciers apart.

So I’ve started to question, question, question everything; push back against conventionality, repression, the obsession with social status, hetero-normativity, white-male dominance, and the intense desire to CONTROL EVERYTHING and everybody. That’s one desire that never seems to be challenged—the desire to CONTROL. We Buddhists are good for tackling desires for pleasures of the flesh, like sex, food, and entertainment, but we utterly fail to even notice the high-octane drive to control, to succeed, to pass (for normal), to achieve, and to be accepted and liked by the mainstream. That’s where Rebel Buddha comes in, not to save the day, but to fuck shit up. Break the barriers of conventionality, repression and control. Talk about sex. Loudly. Be openly, defiantly queer. Go ahead and fail at being a Buddhist. Practice Buddhist tantra in the sangha by performance of the abject—the deliberate violation of social norms as a spiritual practice.

I’ve heard sangha members complain in anguish about the homogeneity of their membership: no young people, no people of colour, no queers, no working class, no immigrants. They always attract more of the same: older (and I mean “near retirement” older); white, anglo, upper-middle class, professional, straights or homonormative gays. Well, I’ve got one of those handy-dandy 12-Step clichés for ya’ll: “Keep doing what you’ve always done and you’ll keep getting what you always got.” We have to break down the culture of conformity within sanghas. That sends a message to others who visit your sangha that “difference is accepted and cherished here.” Allow difference to surface and flourish; allow non-conformity, challenge your own status quo, renounce your incessant urge to CONTROL EVERYTHING. Loosen up a little. Let shit happen. Be the “extraordinary children, possessing all sorts of genius” that Chuggie says is our legacy and our birthright from Buddhism.

As DPR has said repeatedly, we have to get away from directing everything toward shrine rooms and retreat centres. That attracts a certain kind of person—straight, white, middle-class conformists—and we have enough of those already. The Buddha “met people where they were at.” He didn’t preach the same message to everyone. He had different teachings for different people depending on what they needed and what their capacities were. Want to attract the working class? Try mindfulness bowling. Want to attract immigrants? Ethnic groups coalesce around their ethnic food (just ask my Italian relatives). Want to attract young people? Go to the next free punk show, stand near the mosh pit and chant along with the band. Want to attract queers? Go to a queer sex workshop and talk about queer tantric practice. Want to attract creative young adults? Go to the next Reclaim the Streets protest and hold an in-the-street meditation session. Meet people where they’re at. Speak their language. Instead of trying to get them to the shrine room, make wherever they’re at “the shrine.”

But first and most importantly, liberate yourselves from conformity. DPR patiently tries to teach people that social conventions are the most rigidly solidified forms of delusion that we suffer from. Every moment that we become aware of and challenge these rigid social norms—of class status, racism, sexism, materialism, and other social conventions—is a moment of awakening. And yet we barely notice them and never challenge them as Buddhists. Blow off your own lid. If you don’t see the need to challenge your own social conventions and free your own mind, you’re never going to liberate anyone else. And you’re never going to have any kind of compassion or solidarity with marginalized people who really do challenge the status quo.

[Note: I've been listening to the Beatles' experiments with psychedelia while writing this, especially George Harrison's Indian raga.] Oh, and this, “Take the skinheads bowling” by Camper Van Beethoven:

2014 August 21

I’ve missed you…

when in doubt use a photo of a lotus

 

My gosh friends. I’ve been busy… but also not busy.

I started a new job a month ago where pretty much all I do is read, read, read and write, write, write. This is making a limited amount of energy or overall desire for writing here on this stinky old blog. Add to that the book editing process and really quite honestly, I’m thinking about doing a podcast for the next few months until this book is birthed.

So yeah. Busy but not busy. I had a great exchange with my Practice Instructor and she was such a big help. I’m studying the Four Immeasurables right now and while she is a remote instructor, her advice really hit me. Like hit me hard. It was the advice from a spiritual friend that you just absolutely needed to hear at the moment you needed to hear it.

If anyone knocks the validity of a remote teacher or spiritual friend, I say to them – bah my good friend. Bah. I adore my practice instructor (in Seattle) and treasure her as much as if she was right down the street.

Other than that, the trend on this blog has been lately to be posting a wonk-load of book reviews and while I really enjoy it, I’ve realized I’ve overextended myself in trying to read ALL THE DHARMA BOOKS. So less reviews, more personal practice and study and more personal blogging. I want to go back to the kind of posts that likely brought y’all over here in the first place. There are enough book review sites. There aren’t enough struggling to get on the cushion, whiney girl, Gen X-er Buddhist blogs out there. In advertising, we call this the USP- Unique Selling Proposition. It could also be my elevator pitch if you are of the start-up variety.

Other than a new job, great help from my practice instructor, turning down the book reviews and turning up the personal posts… not really much else going on around here.

How about you? What have you been up to?

I’ve missed you.

2014 August 11

Book Review: ‘Be Nobody’ by Lama Marut

I have to admit to not being familiar with Lama Marut before coming across his recent book ‘Be Nobody.’ Much like the book ‘The Novice’ by the Naked Monk aka Stephen Schettini, which I reviewed a little while back, it is the story of a ‘religious seeker, finder and then leaver of the cloth’ (monk robes to be specific).

It’s the ideal book for those who define themselves as ‘spiritual, but not religious’ but beware, Lama Marut tackles that very principle of self-definition that we humans are apt to put upon ourselves. The overreaching theme of the book is to ‘undo’ the isms and break free from religious labels as these can only further our feelings of ego identification or separateness from one another.

He takes the wisdom from many different traditions be it Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity and distills it into a book that recommends a new way of being nobody. A way to dismantle the self and be awake. As a ‘religious hybrid’ who studied many traditions both personally as well as academically, Marut is well-versed in both the practices as well as the study which goes with these religions. He uses many stories to help illustrate his message.

‘Be Nobody’ covers a lot of (mainly Buddhist) ground. From the self, no self, interconnectedness, the skandhas (I absolutely adore his mention of the mental afflictions and the metaphor of having a ‘rage in the cage’ style wrestling battle with them), a healthy dose of Shantideva, empathy and guru yoga amongst so many other topics. Believe me, the book gets into it all!

rage

One area of ‘Be Nobody’ where I kind of tuned out was the section on flow states and play and how these work to help us lose our sense of self. I’m not sure why I checked out during this area, but I think it’s just because it’s less of an interest to me than the more ‘dharmic’ materials in the book. I can fully see how it relates to losing one’s sense of self, it just stuck out for me as a section that was tacked on as having some spiritual significance rather than the meaty (and in my opinion more relevant) bits that the rest of the book offered up.

One of the best parts about ‘Be Nobody’ is the pop culture references. I’m a big fan of his use of personal and real-world examples to help support the main principles of the book so any mention of Captain Kirk, song lyrics or movies certainly captures my attention.

Another positive aspect of this book is the ‘Action Plan’ found at the end of each chapter which offers suggestions for how to apply the elements into one’s life. These concrete instructs allow people to put the teachings into practice as a means for transformation. At the end of the book is a set of meditations from the Vijnana Bharvanva Tantra aka ‘Methods for Attaining the Consciousness of the Divine.’ I didn’t go beyond reading these but do plan to revisit them at a later date.

Quite often in ‘Be Nobody,’ Marut speaks to society’s obsession with social media and the correlation it has with the increased levels of depression in our world. He feels that the narcissism that is being demonstrated by living in the ‘iEra’ is something that is quite worrisome.

Overall, ‘Be Nobody’ by Lama Marut was a great read and one I’d recommend to Buddhists, non-Buddhists and those looking to become less Buddhist and more of a nobody. I highlighted a good part of the book and plan to later go back and do some of the meditation practices when I have some time as well as to read the end notes and citations which are chock full of great articles and books.

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