Buddhist Peace Fellowship protests Urban Shield, police militarization in Oakland

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Story and photos by Joshua Eaton. (Click here to view full photo set.)

Lifelong Oakland resident Maurice Johnson was leaving Starbucks on Sunday, Aug. 31 when he heard drumming and the sound of Japanese monks chanting the first line of the Lotus Sutra. Johnson then saw nine members of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF), all in meditation posture, risking arrest by blocking the Oakland Marriott City Center’s main entrance. A banner at their feet read “Evict Urban Shield.” On the other side the hotel’s front driveway, about 25 other BPF members meditated silently with signs that called for an end to police militarization.

The protest’s Buddhist packaging surprised Johnson at first, but he understood its message instantly. “They’re protesting the hotel giving them room, giving the police room,” said Johnson, 40, who is African-American. “And they’re training them — excessive training, actually. Sort of like an army, you know. Not police training, sort of like army training. It’s a big difference.”

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“All the Rage: Buddhism Wisdom on Anger and Acceptance” — Read the intro and Sylvia Boorstein’s contribution, “No Blame”

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Andrea, with the first copy of All the Rage — hot off the press.

The new Shambhala Sun book, All the Rage: Buddhist Wisdom on Anger and Acceptance, comes out next month (and is ready for online direct orders from the publisher now). Here, in the book’s introduction, editor Andrea Miller tells you what’s inside — and gets a bit personal about anger, too. You’ll also find a link to a sample teaching from the book, Sylvia Boorstein’s “No Blame.”

You would never peg me as someone who’d get in a fistfight, and you’d be right. But all the same, there was this one time more than a decade ago.

Urgently needing a place to live, I hastily signed the lease to a drafty apartment with sloping floors and cracks in the walls. I asked the landlord if I could move in on the last day of the month, and he said, “No problem.” But twenty-four hours before the scheduled move, the apartment’s current tenants apparently had a change of plans and the landlord asked if I could postpone moving by a day. At this point, though, I couldn’t; I’d already enlisted movers.

The landlord phoned again. “Okay,” he said, “the tenants who are in there now will empty a bedroom for you. You can pile your things into that room. Then the next day, they’ll get their stuff out and you can begin living in the apartment.” Though not ideal, this was workable.

At the appointed time, I arrived with a load of furniture. The promised bedroom, however, wasn’t ready, and the tenants were unapologetic, particularly the woman. Within a hot minute, she and I were raising our voices. Continued »

The “Seeing Fresh” contemplative photo of the moment…

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From author and contemplative photographer Andy Karr comes the latest “Seeing Fresh” contemplative photo of the week, submitted by (username) Magnitsky. Andy’s comment: “This is a hauntingly pleasing image: the light coming from inside some of the windows, and somber sky reflected in the others, all balanced with the expanse of dusk. It’s a lovely example of fresh seeing.” Continued »

Meditation inspiration: Pema Chödrön on “lightening up”

Time now for a little meditation inspiration, by way of Heart Advice, Weekly Quotes from Pema Chödrön:

“Discipline is important. When we sit down to meditate, we are encouraged to stick with the technique and be faithful to the instruction, but within that container of discipline, why do we have to be so harsh? Do we meditate because we ‘should’?

“How we regard what arises in meditation is training for how we regard whatever arises in the rest of our lives. So the challenge is how to develop compassion right along with clear seeing, how to train in lightening up and cheering up rather than becoming more guilt-ridden and miserable.”

Ready to get started? Then visit our special Spotlight page of Pema Chödrön’s best teachings from the Shambhala Sun, as well as our How to Meditate Spotlight, for plenty of helpful, plain-language guidance.

Jerry Granelli: Bringing The Real Stuff — and “Warrior Songs”

Meet jazz legend and Buddhist Jerry Granelli — soon to debut a World Premiere work at Naropa University.

“I didn’t come to the dharma looking to be a better musician,” jerry-granelli says Jerry Granelli. “I’d accomplished most of what I’d hoped for. But I didn’t know how to be a human.” At 72, the jazz drummer and music-and-meditation teacher is as vital and inventive as any artist could hope to be.

As a jazz musician, he made a name for himself young. That’s the 22-year-old Granelli drumming on Vince Guaraldi’s beloved “Linus and Lucy,” the Peanuts’ theme song. He played with the likes of Carmen McRae, Bill Evans, and Sly Stone, but by the time he met his teacher, Chögyam Trungpa, in the early 1970s, he was at a crossroads: tired, and perhaps even “done with music forever.” But Trungpa Rinpoche told him, “no, no, that’s where your real stuff will come up.” Continued »

RAIN Cools the Flames of Anger

Emily Horn teaches us how to recognize, accept, investigate, and not identify with our anger. From the September 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine, on newsstands now.


The best way to transform anger and other strong emotions is to befriend them. As with any relationship, it takes time to become intimate with the inner workings of our minds. To do it we need courage and strength. And we need the help of an effective technique.

Peeling away the layers of anger moves us closer to life and empowers us to stand up for justice. One of the most effective ways to deepen and transform our relationship with anger is a four-step mindfulness-based practice known by the acronym RAIN: Recognize, Accept, Investigate, Non-Identify. Here’s how it works. Continued »

Watch: “Hector” (aka Simon Pegg) goes to Tibet

pegg1If a good-natured, fun-loving film is your cuppa tea, you know Simon Pegg; think Hot Fuzz, Paul, Shaun of the Dead, and so on. Pegg’s latest star turn is in the title role of Hector and the Search for Happiness, in which he plays a psychiatrist who’s trotting the globe in search of, yes, happiness. Over at IndieWire, they’ve got an exclusive, newly released trailer for the film, which opens mid-month.

Click here to watch it. (Link opens in new window.) Could be a nice antidote to Summer Blockbuster Overload.

“That’s Not Very Buddhist of You”

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Photo by Nina Snow

“That’s Not Very Buddhist of You.” Have you ever had that accusation thrown in your face? Brad Warner has, and it’s made him think about what it really means to act like a Buddhist. It’s not as simple as right and wrong.

The other day, someone who attends the zazen classes I lead told me about an argument she’d had with her boyfriend. At one point in the argument, her boyfriend pointed out something she’d done and said, “That’s not very Buddhist!”

How often have all of us heard that one? These days the average person has been bombarded with enough media images of what the folks in Hollywood think Buddhism might be for pretty much anyone to start believing they know exactly what it means to follow in Gautama’s footsteps. Whether it’s Yoda from Star Wars, or Kwai Chang Caine from Kung Fu, or that supposedly Buddhist guy in the tissue commercials who gets horrified at the thought that his medicated hankies are killing poor innocent germs, it all filters into the generalized idea of how Buddhists ought to look, sound, and behave. And when we don’t live up to these idealized images, look out!

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Remembering Jim Woolsey, rock fan/producer and preserver of Tibetan literature

-1“He was one my dearest friends and father-figures and I don’t know what I’m gonna do w/o him now.” That’s how Mickey Melchiondo — aka Dean Ween, half of the team behind the beloved but no-longer-active band known as Ween — characterized his feelings about the passing of Jim Woolsey. But who was Jim Woolsey? How that question’s answered will, of course, depend on who’s being asked. Melchiondo describes Woolsey’s role as “assistant to the band,” noting that he “helped us establish our newsletter and mailing lists in the era before email.” Woolsey’s obituary, which ran on August 31, gives more of the story, referring to Woolsey’s work as the operator of a recording studio and then mentioning that, “In the 1980′s, he began traveling to Dharamsala, India to work with the Tibetan Library.”

This McCall’s story from 1993 tells us more about Woolsey and his role in what turns out to be a quiet but very sweet episode of dharma-and-pop-culture collision: Continued »

A vivacious new “Seeing Fresh” contemplative photo of the moment….

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From author and contemplative photographer Andy Karr comes the latest “Seeing Fresh” contemplative photo of the week, submitted by [username] Christiane. Andy’s comment: “There is nothing quite like the vivacity of patterns of light. I love the play of light and texture in this image. It’s a great example of fresh seeing.” Continued »

Slow down and enjoy the fruits of Labor Day — or Any Day

It’s Labor Day — a day when, hopefully, you’ll get a chance to slow down and enjoy the fruits of your labor. For many of us, though, not even a day off is really a day off. As Sakyong Mipham wrote in the Shambhala Sun:

“The speedy mind is like an internal combustion engine. So much effort goes into the energy it produces, creating the harmful, wasteful byproducts of exhaustion and pollution. Even when we’re reading a book or watching a movie, the idling mind of speed does not shut off. [...] If we’re always flapping our wings, endlessly trying to get what we need with aggression, we will always be exhausted. We’ll never find what we’re really looking for, which is our own contentment.”

Well, we hope you’ll find at least some of your own contentment today. So: enjoy, whether you’re working today or not. And in case you could use a little more encouragement, see Sakyong Mipham’s article, “Slow Down, You Move Too Fast,” here.

Transform anger in 4 steps with “The Poison Tree” — a teaching from our new issue

Illustration (detail) by Heidi Kalyani

Illustration (detail) by Heidi Kalyani

Anger is like a poisonous tree — you can prune it back, you can chop it down… or you can find ways to use it. In “The Poison Tree,” from our current, September magazine, Judy Lief explains how mindfulness undermines aggression, and then offers a four-step practice for working with anger.

“The Poison Tree” is now online for you to read in its entirety — just click here.

Like Thangkas You Can Hear: Buddhism & the Metal Underground

The cover of Sadhaka's "Terma" LP. Listen and check out some sample lyrics below.

The cover of Sadhaka’s “Terma” LP. Listen and check out some sample lyrics below.

“Buddhist Metal.” That’s… a thing?

Yes, it is.* And it runs the gamut. Some of it’s artier, some’s goofier, some’s pure expression, some of it is capable of conveying real dharma — if we’re willing to listen. Of course, it can be heavy, hectic, screamy music, so it’s understandable why many may not be so willing.

But there are rewards. Like a Buddhist thangka, the music can be fiery, contemplative, challenging, inspiring. If you like learning about music subcultures, this can be a fun one, whether you’re a metal maven or not.

And, while I do claim above that Buddhist Metal is “a thing,” that’s not quite true. It certainly isn’t a “movement” or an actual genre. It’s not a stitch as “established” as, say, Klezmer, much less Christian Rock. And I wouldn’t want my band to be pigeonholed as “Buddhist Metal” (it isn’t), so I’m not saying we should be slapping labels around all willy-nilly.

But there are a handful of bands that seem to be gravitating to dharma and its imagery — trading on its exotic appeal sometimes, sure (see my post, “Heavy Metal Dharma Thunder” for ten of the best and oddest uses of Buddhist imagery in metal-album art) — and they can be pretty interesting.

Okay, less talk, more rock. We’ll start with the dharmic “Cascadian Black Metal” band Sadhaka, and three others of note.

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Noah Levine: “Practice Is Politics”

Noah Levine — Buddhist teacher and frequent Shambhala Sun contributor (his latest, “A Refuge from Addiction,” can be found in our current issue) — on why our Buddhist practice can be seen as a form of engaged rebellion.

Buddhist practice is a political action. Training one’s mind, heart and actions in wisdom and compassion is the ultimate form of political rebellion. The spiritual path is an engaged act of going against ignorance and oppression. Perhaps this is why the Buddha referred to his path to awakening as having been “against the stream.” Continued »

Is there such a thing as “Good Failure”? Yes!

You may fail to change the system, but what if you’ve made life a little kinder or more beautiful? In her Shambhala Sun article, “Good Failure,” activist Courtney E. Martin writes, refreshingly, about reclaiming failure as the mark of a dream worth having.

“There are many disappointments in the life of a dedicated activist—so many lost children, killed ideas, thwarted plans. But the energy is not wasted if it is channeled in pursuit of good failures.” Like what? Read on. Just click here.