Stream of Consciousness: Planting

Feminist Thought, Spirituality
A bitter heart is fertile ground for the dream of revenge. It can extend beyond heart and mind, into body, into world. Enact the vengeance, and the recipient may agree, yes, this is justice. Or she may not. Her family may agree, or they may not. Her friends may agree, or not. What if? The wronged heart, too, grows bitter then. Poison cultivates a new dream of revenge. Imagination and courage dance, a perverse action. Then. Pain inflicted on another. What if... Newly wounded burn with anger, rot with pain, and poison the ground for a dream. And so it is, the potential in actions born of bitterness. With life comes pain. But in pain, do you seek restoration or destruction? But what of a family, community, or nation? What is in the heart…
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Food for thought

Zaimu Challenge
The Japanese word for mission (shimei) means to "use one's life." For what purpose do we use our lives? For what purpose have we been born in this world, sent for from the universe? ~Daisaku Ikeda Some people spend years seeking, but never really finding, their mission. Others seem born understanding their place in the world. I believe each life, no matter how many breaths allotted on this this plane, is here to accomplish something. Perhaps  some are more fortunate than others in being able to discern (and even work to fulfill) their mission early in life. When you can't perceive your mission, you may feel your life is meaningless. But this is false. Reflecting on the events and the nature of your life can provide a window. Even when, or especially when, your overwhelming experience is pain,…
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The wise will rejoice

Zaimu Challenge
I watched a short video this weekend, and it featured excerpts from a piece by Buddhist philosopher and peace activist Daisaku Ikeda. I haven't felt anything resonate so deeply in a long time. I quickly jotted down all the words I could remember and then found part of the poem excerpted online: [caption id="attachment_3446" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Morning sky by nicole denise.[/caption] Quietly ask yourself if it isn't in fact true that each of us, before being defeated by an external adversary, is first defeated by ourselves. The weak in spirit, the cowardly, even before wandering reluctantly at the foot of the wall that towers in their path, shrink first before the sight of their own shadow. Terrified of illusory figures of our own creation, we are defeated by the bandits that…
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Puzzle Pieces

Zaimu Challenge
If you pursue a question or an idea and are open to the myriad whispering voices in your midst, it's almost miraculous how you'll begin to receive information, encouragement, something to bring you closer to understanding. Almost miraculous, but on further reflection, it seems more of an equation. The first part, of course, is the question itself. The curious mind, the curious heart, desires to know; to understand. If there is no desire, even if the information is close at hand, it remains invisible. Undiscovered. Present, but ultimately useless. It's a glass of water for one who has no thirst presently, and none approaching. So a seeking spirit is the first key. Aside from the question, there's the matter of receptiveness. This is related to a curious heart, but it's a separate consideration. Many…
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Artists for Peace

Zaimu Challenge
I think a lot about art for peace and scholarship for peace, and what it might mean to design a sustainable future. Lately it's been a mostly private investigation, but I may explore these ideas more publicly in the coming weeks. Today I want to share a quote from an open letter by world renown artists, fellow Buddhists, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. The letter is meant to inspire and provoke artists, but the encouragement is food for thought for us all. They share 10 points, ending with the hope that we live in a state of constant wonder. They begin with this: FIRST, AWAKEN TO YOUR HUMANITY We are not alone. We do not exist alone and we cannot create alone. What this world needs is a humanistic awakening of the…
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Getting Free

Personal Narrative
It's such an amazing feeling - freedom. Freedom from my own thoughts of limitation. Freedom from an old path. Freedom from what no longer serves me. I've felt this freedom in recent days, swelling in a joyful crescendo this evening. To celebrate and reaffirm my recent decisions, I started tossing and recycling items long outdated. Tomorrow I get to cart them away. There's new space in my garage where anchors used to be. There's new energy and mental clarity where there was once clutter and dread. It's wonderful. [caption id="attachment_3336" align="aligncenter" width="604"] Embracing my true self.[/caption] Even an individual at cross purposes with himself is certain to end in failure. Yet a hundred or even a thousand people can definitely attain their goal, if they are of one mind. ~Nichiren Although many quote this passage from Many…
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The Ethics of Jazz

Personal Narrative
When I talk about leading through art, one exemplar comes immediately to mind: Herbie Hancock. Many of a certain age are at least familiar with the jazz great, but may not realize the complex ways in which he weaves faith, daily life and art. To that end, I'd like to share the first in a set of his Norton lectures. Harvard University declares an annual Charles Eliot Norton Professorship of Poetry. Poetry, in this case, is broadly imagined, and professors represent various of the fine arts. In 2014, Herbie Hancock became the first Black American to receive the honor, and he titled his lecture series the Ethics of Jazz. (It's worth noting here, Toni Morrison is the 2016 Norton Professor and her lecture series opens March 2, 2016.) Hancock's opening lecture is…
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Lead Through Art

Personal Narrative
Before my blogging break, I had the wondrous opportunity to attend the Aspen Institute's Seminar on Leadership, Values and the Good Society. I found the experience a rewarding, albeit challenging one. It stretched me well beyond my introverted comfort zone. (Read my series about it here). The seminar was geared toward leaders, and I found myself uneasy that I was not a leader in the traditional sense. There was one professional artist - a novelist - in attendance, and she admitted she felt the same. It was something I pondered throughout the experience. I tend to take labels, categories and rules quite literally. And although I sometimes bend or break or mold things to suit me, other times I allow myself to feel confined and constrained. Quite often, the more constrained I feel, the more…
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Three Poisons

Text Talk
The past couple of days and today especially, my thoughts have turned to the three poisons. They are a subject of daily inquiry as I reflect upon what is good and how to create more of it in society. In Nichiren Buddhism, the three poisons are greed, anger and foolishness. In brief, greed is the desire for excess - more than one's share, to the detriment of others. Anger is grounded in ego. It's the distorted belief (and behavior) that one is better than others, and is often brought on by lack of self-confidence.  Foolishness is ignorance of the true nature of oneself.  It's unawareness or disbelief in the potential for enlightenment. I believe all of what ails society can be traced to one or more of these poisons. Today's session…
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On Reading and Pondering Deeply

Freedom Friday, Personal Narrative, Text Talk
Second Sokkai Gakkai president Josei Toda urged young people to read good books and to ponder things deeply. Even though Toda died in 1958, this advice is relevant today and is great encouragement for everyone. And, in fact, is a way to stay youthful despite your physical age. What makes a book "good" to begin with? Is it informative? Inspirational? Energizing? Does it make you see things differently? Laugh? Perhaps good books do all of these things. Perhaps something else entirely. A good book enriches me. It nourishes me in some way. A good books speaks to me, even if it's a psychological thriller with a love story at its center. A good book is not only worth reading, it is worth rereading. You come to it again to unlock new lessons, discover new…
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