Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How We Represent Ourselves to Others

These beautiful necklaces were made from prayer beads. The focal point on one, the endless knot, represents the endless cycle of life while the lotus, on the other, represents the flowering of enlightenment. Tassels found on most Buddhist prayer beads are reminders of constant change within what appears to be changeless, the illusion of separateness, and the undivided unity of the eternal or divine.
What we choose to wear is an expression of our beliefs about who we are. It conveys a message to people around us. Sometimes it is very straight forward for example a T-Shirt slogan.  I saw a T-shirt the other day on a woman that read, "I'm a Bitch!"  Wow!  That was some message.  Something I see often in my neighborhood are the pants below the underwear.  I keep thinking that it is a fad that will pass away but the fad has lasted for at least a decade now.  The message... available for sex?

Our daily practice should not harm others and cultivate wholesomeness in ourselves.  In Buddhism, this practice extends to the most mundane exercises in our lives including how we dress and how we represent ourselves to others.  These ideas should motivate every thought and every action.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Jogini a Symbol of Feminine Power

In Hindu and Tibetan Tantric mythology Jogini represent the triumph of the feminine over demons or over the heart and the mind.  Part of this concept is to have mastery over ones sexual desires and not to be an undisciplined emotional and hedonistic disaster.  Respect for the feminine spiritual teacher is a necessary part of every beings path to spiritual enlightenment.  Sadly, in modern times the term 'Jogini,' has become synonymous with young girls being forced into prostitution in India.  Sexual slavery is the antithesis of feminine power and of the enlightened mind.  I believe that as women become more respected and empowered, our global community will begin to heal and become more balanced.  When Buddhists pray for the enlightenment of all sentient beings, this development of moral reasoning is really what they are praying about.  As we become more aware, we naturally act on that awareness and create a better world for all of us to live in.

Long may the Jogini dance on the head of her demon foe!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Have we ruined our world?

Manufactured Landscapes by Edward Burtynsky
I wanted to add this you tube link to a river in Kathmandu.

This morning my 10 year old accused me and the last few generations before me of ruining our world.

"Have we?" I asked.

"Mom, you and your generation and the generations before you are responsible for all of the garbage and global warming... "  He had more to say, but this was the essence.

What have we done?

I asked him to look around him and said, "If I have contributed to the decay of the world then so have you. Look around you.  Everything that you have is made by machines with plastic parts and consumes fossil fuels."  We went hunting around our home for an object completely untouched by modern technology.  I found pottery made by my friend, but the wheel it was turned on was electric and the clay arrived boxed in plastic.  There are few places in the world where everything is entirely industry free.  Perhaps somewhere in the Amazon or high in the mountains of Nepal.  Even though the jewelry we buy is entirely hand built, torches are used to solder the pieces together.

He is right, we are no longer able to live in this modern world without touching objects made by machines and it is ruining the air we breath and the environment that we live in.

Please rent Manufactured Landscapes on Netflix, photo above, It is an astounding film!  It shows the monumental physical damage we have done to our landscape.

Right now in Nepal, Global Warming is causing the glaciers to recede leaving longer dry seasons.  A friend in Nepal just wrote me that they have had no rain for 3 months.  People will die of starvation this year because their crops will not have enough water.  How unfair that people who have barely had access to modern technology will suffer so much for the excesses of the rest of us.

We can not turn back the clock but we can make an effort to change our future.  Technology may have gotten us into this mess, but I think that responsible technology is also our only way out.  Reduce, reuse, recycle, buy natural handmade products, and advocate for the development of clean energy alternatives.  It's not easy in our modern society and it will take a daily commitment make a change.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Buddha in front of the Christmas Tree

Buddha in Meditation in front of the Christmas Tree

So many of my good friends from around the world have sent me Christmas Greetings.   I am grateful to be remembered at this time of year by people who do not share my ethnic heritage and am deeply impressed by their thoughtfulness.

Our global greetings, blessings, prayers and well wishes are the same no matter where we are from.

Peace, Health and Prosperity!

May we be the conduit by which these prayers are made manifest throughout our world for the benefit and well being of us all!

Wishing you all a happy Christmas, Losar, Lunar New Year, Eid-al-Adha and Kwanzaa!  (I'm a little late for Chanuka and Diwali but I hope that it was spectacular!)

And Happy Holidays to all of you who's traditions I have yet to discover!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gun Control and Mental Health Care

When I am at home in the US people always ask me if I am afraid to travel by myself in Nepal.  When I am abroad foreign friends say to me, Aren't you afraid to live in the US.

On December 14, 2012 two schools that were attacked by insane people.  One was in Sandy Brook Connecticut  and the other in Chengpin Henan, China.  In the US the man carried a gun.  In China the man wielded a knife.  The 22 children in China survived but 20 children in the US did not!

This following statistic is from the CDC and includes the number of all deaths in the US attributable to firearms whether accidental suicide or gun violence in 2011: 31,347 people.

This is from the Wall Stree Journal, 8 December 2012 -
"The reported number of people treated for gunshot attacks from 2001 to 2011 has grown by nearly half."

We need access to affordable mental health care for the health and well being of our entire community, and we need effective gun control in the US now!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkey Disasters

Every year Thanksgiving is a bit of a nail biter.  It is not the emotional dramas that play out between family members and guests, but more a question of the special dietary concerns of each person plus the timing!  It is not that I try to please everyone at once, but I do like to have at least something on the table that each person can eat so sometimes I have to be able to put a last minute item on the menu.  Some years the problem has been teenagers who are vegetarian but don't really like vegetables and some years it is allergies and gluten free diets or people who can't chew or digest seeds or just need everything pureed.  But usually, the culprit is the turkey.  MSG, salt or other solutions, hormones, antibiotics, inappropriate feed mixtures or just the simple cruelty of how the turkeys are raised creates a toxic disaster that some of my friends and family will not tolerate.

For the cook however, organic free range turkeys have a few issues beyond how dry they are.  First of all the price!  I could get an average 13 pound grocery store turkey for $13 or I can get someone's free range pet for $70.  One year we bought an organic turkey that seemed reasonably priced but when we got it home we found that had no legs. ???   Another year I received and organic turkey frozen solid the evening before Thanksgiving.  A very nice and expensive gift, however, if you are gifting a frozen turkey, think 3 days in advance at least.  My hands got freezer burn trying to get the giblets out of the neck.  Lots of running water was involved.  Two years ago I got a fresh free range turkey from a local farm.  It was not just covered with pin feathers!  It had full feathers good enough for a quill pen protruding from the wing tips.  I worked on the turkey for two hours with a pair of pliers before I could cook it.

This year I have solved the problem.  Only omnivores are coming for dinner.  I don't even have to buy Himalayan sea salt to brine the turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sudenly Singing Bowls!

I have sold singing bowls for years.  I encountered them on my first trip to Nepal in Patan Durbar Square.  Pradeep, the singing bowl man, sat in front of a thousand bowls where the Patan Museum is now.  Usually, we would not negotiate in public.  Instead he would take me to his warehouse and I would sit on the floor with a cup of tea and play every bowl one at a time and choose the most harmonious bowls.  It took hours.  Most of the bowls that I found were Nepalese singing bowls.  They were large and dark, the color of tarnished brass.  Some of them were even painted dark around the bottom with a kind of tar like substance.  I have also seen the same substance on metal water vases when they have cracks in them.  Another style that I often saw were the thin golden colored bowls from Bhutan.  They had a lighter vibration, a thin but soothing sound.  Then I discovered the Manipur singing bowl and fell in love.  These were usually short golden bowls with multiple harmonies.  They were clearly well used bowls!

Over time one supply after the other of these old bowls has dried up.  Now it is extremely expensive for me to get the older bowls.  I do find some really fantastic bowls that have been formed in the original way out of the old broken bowls. Don't worry, I have saved one special old bowl for myself, the rest have gone to people who will cherish them.

Recently in the US bowls have been used for healing.  It has been interesting to watch the mythology of these bowls explode in the last 20 years.  I can't tell you about all of the present uses of the bowls because the stories vary from person to person.  What I find very interesting is that in the last month I have had more demand for these bowls than at any other time during my past 20 years of doing business.  What's going on?

Below is an explanation of singing bowls for those who are not familiar:

At the forefront of this picture is an old Tibetan singing bowl with two reconstituted bowls behind it.  Old bowls like this one are not being produced anymore.  There are new shinny bowls with interesting decorations but the metal composition is different, so is the tone.

‘Old’ means that no one really knows when it was made but perhaps between 1800 and 1950.  When you find old bowls the edges are smooth from use.  There are usually identifying marks on the bowl.  These ,marks are like putting your name on your lunch box.  Usually it is a couple of hash marks or a simple design.  I sometimes see names carved on the outside of a bowl instead of patterns. 

Other than clothing, a prayer wheel, and a prayer mala, the singing bowl might have been a monk’s only possession.  Everything that the monk needed he could obtain with his bowl because it was his begging bowl and the bowl out of which every meal was consumed.  It very vividly represents both the physical life of the owner in providing for his physical requirements as well as the spiritual life of the owner as a meditation tool.  Bowls were also used to present offerings and anything that is given as an offering should be given in a harmonious vessel.
When a high ranking teacher passed away, his bowl may have been used to help find his reincarnation.  They might take a few bowls to a potential candidate and ask which of the bowls belonged to him.

This antique bowl and similar bowls were created in the monasteries of Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and northern India.
Each bowl was individually spun and hammered from a combination of 7 metals called "bell metal."  These metals are gold, silver, mercury, copper, iron, tin, and lead.

Each bowl produces a unique set of harmonies when it is played.  To play the bowl hold the bowl in an open palm.  Do not clasp the bowl with your fingers because it will dampen the sound.  With your dominant hand, hold the stick straight up and down and drag the stick around the outside of the bowl firmly, in a clockwise rotation.  If your bowl doesn’t play rotate the stick faster and more firmly, if it rattles, slow down.  You may strike your bowl gently to fix a focal point in meditation or to end a meditation but you should not hit your bowl every time you play it.  Larger bowls are often played by simply striking the bowl with the heel of one's hand or using a felted dowel. It is believed that the many harmonic sounds from the bowl are the vibrations of the prayers which are chanted as the bowls are created and that it's resonance should magnify and carry your prayers and intentions while you are meditating with the bowl.