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Triumph of a Zimbabwe Dreamer

By body brilliance, body mind spirit, Cosmic Care, Human Rights/Justice No Comments

Any time anyone tells you that a dream is impossible, any time you’re discouraged by impossible challenges, just mutter this mantra: Tererai Trent.

Of all the people earning university degrees this year, perhaps the most remarkable story belongs to Tererai (pronounced TEH-reh-rye), a middle-aged woman who is one of my heroes. She is celebrating a personal triumph, but she’s also a monument to the aid organizations and individuals who helped her. When you hear that foreign-aid groups just squander money or build dependency, remember that by all odds Tererai should be an illiterate, battered cattle-herd in Zimbabwe and instead — ah, but I’m getting ahead of my story.

Tererai was born in a village in rural Zimbabwe, probably sometime in 1965, and attended elementary school for less than one year. Her father married her off when she was about 11 to a man who beat her regularly. She seemed destined to be one more squandered African asset.

A dozen years passed. Jo Luck, the head of an aid group called Heifer International, passed through the village and told the women there that they should stand up, nurture dreams, change their lives.

Inspired, Tererai scribbled down four absurd goals based on accomplishments she had vaguely heard of among famous Africans. She wrote that she wanted to study abroad, and to earn a B.A., a master’s and a doctorate.

Tererai began to work for Heifer and several Christian organizations as a community organizer. She used the income to take correspondence courses, while saving every penny she could.

In 1998 she was accepted to Oklahoma State University, but she insisted on taking all five of her children with her rather than leave them with her husband. “I couldn’t abandon my kids,” she recalled. “I knew that they might end up getting married off.”

Tererai’s husband eventually agreed that she could take the children to America — as long as he went too. Heifer helped with the plane tickets, Tererai’s mother sold a cow, and neighbors sold goats to help raise money. With $4,000 in cash wrapped in a stocking and tied around her waist, Tererai set off for Oklahoma.

An impossible dream had come true, but it soon looked like a nightmare. Tererai and her family had little money and lived in a ramshackle trailer, shivering and hungry. Her husband refused to do any housework — he was a man! — and coped by beating her.

“There was very little food,” she said. “The kids would come home from school, and they would be hungry.” Tererai found herself eating from trash cans, and she thought about quitting — but felt that doing so would let down other African women.

“I knew that I was getting an opportunity that other women were dying to get,” she recalled. So she struggled on, holding several jobs, taking every class she could, washing and scrubbing, enduring beatings, barely sleeping.

At one point the university tried to expel Tererai for falling behind on tuition payments. A university official, Ron Beer, intervened on her behalf and rallied the faculty and community behind her with donations and support.

“I saw that she had enormous talent,” Dr. Beer said. His church helped with food, Habitat for Humanity provided housing, and a friend at Wal-Mart carefully put expired fruits and vegetables in boxes beside the Dumpster and tipped her off.

Soon afterward, Tererai had her husband deported back to Zimbabwe for beating her, and she earned her B.A. — and started on her M.A. Then her husband returned, now frail and sick with a disease that turned out to be AIDS. Tererai tested negative for H.I.V., and then — feeling sorry for her husband — she took in her former tormentor and nursed him as he grew sicker and eventually died.

Through all this blur of pressures, Tererai excelled at school, pursuing a Ph.D at Western Michigan University and writing a dissertation on AIDS prevention in Africa even as she began working for Heifer as a program evaluator. On top of all that, she was remarried, to Mark Trent, a plant pathologist she had met at Oklahoma State.

Tererai is a reminder of the adage that talent is universal, while opportunity is not. There are still 75 million children who are not attending primary school around the world. We could educate them all for far less than the cost of the proposed military “surge” in Afghanistan.

Each time Tererai accomplished one of those goals that she had written long ago, she checked it off on that old, worn paper. Last month, she ticked off the very last goal, after successfully defending her dissertation. She’ll receive her Ph.D next month, and so a one-time impoverished cattle-herd from Zimbabwe with less than a year of elementary school education will don academic robes and become Dr. Tererai Trent.

I invite you to comment on this column on my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/opinion/15kristof.html?_r=1&em

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Alan is also the author of the Free report “Body Breakthroughs for Life Breakthroughs: How to Peak Your Physical, Emotional, Mental, Moral, and Spiritual IQs for a Sensational Life” available at www.throughyourbody.com

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The Tao Of Twitter

By body brilliance, body mind spirit, Conscious Living, Cosmic Care, Energy, Fun and Fabulous, Passion, Spiritual Intelligence, Strengths, Values One Comment

by Lama Surya Das

The TAO OF TWITTER is—like a standup comedian’s good one liner, haiku poetry, and the old fashioned singing telegram—rich with the magical power and incandescent immediacy of nowness, which is part and parcel of the power of Tao. People are genuinely feeling this invisible yet palpable pulse, its heartbeat the ambient chatter of hyper-connected mini-commentators and 24/7 viewers surrounding us all on a level playing field. This river of participatory being-in-touchness helps an increasing number to experience being part of ongoing public dialogues they’ve long been struggling to access in a traditionally stratified and hierarchical media environment reflective of society-at-large. Side by side rather than top down, social networking opportunities amplify and strength the possibility of virtual community and mass action today; whether for good or ill time will tell.

Though lacking the juicy face-to-face energy of more intimate interpersonal relations, this Paower—the evident, undeniable Tao-power surging in the very heart of the zeitgeist, like some sort of mystical relational growth hormone—is found flowing right though us individually and collectively, coursing through our fingertips at this very moment. Moreover, it’s totally here and now, on the sociopolitical, educational and spiritual dimensions, visible and invisible, outer and inner. Seize this moment, and connect with the timeless. It’s now or never. Here is timeless beauty. The very spirit in the machine.

Thousands of people are tweeting prayers to a website in the Old City of Jerusalem (http://twitter.com/theKotel) to be printed out and placed between the two thousand year old stones of the Western Wall, which is the last vestige of King Solomon’s temple. The Tao teachings point out that you don’t any longer have to try to get into the flow, Joe; it’s right through you every moment. Like the timeless Tao—the fundamental energy or spirit of the universe, well expressed in the wisest book ever written, Lao Tsu’s Chinese classic, over two millennia in age yet totally timeless—the Tao of Twitter is closer to you than you yourself are most of the time. Though you may feel far from it yourself, it is never far from you. It is the amount and quality of attention you bring to bear here and now that counts. This is wisdom’s timeless, evergreen secret. Help yourself.

Without opening your door,
you can open your heart to the world.
Without looking out your window,
You can see the essence of the Tao.
~Tao Te Ching”, chapter 47

In Korea, text messages sent to millions of cell phones significantly influenced a national election; Switzerland too is experimenting with direct communication to the Thumb Generation. The felt thrust and torque of tuning in to this subtle, invisible yet powerful magic is driving the new media, especially since the recently burgeoning phenomena of social networking. The mutual reciprocity of this instantaneous connection is showing up as dynamic power, from social networking’s power in influencing significant political events in Iran to everyman becoming a writer, communication and commentator far beyond the major media outlets—as has been much commented upon lately. There is no headier brew than finding oneself part and parcel of the greater participatory mandala of people exercised within by nowness.

The young people and their tribal communities are thriving in this new, level playing field of media and communications. The prana (vital force of life energy) may be very thin in cyberspace, as John Perry Barlow famously opined, but ubiquity of spirit can more than counterbalance that qualitative limitation. Science and spirit are nowise at odds with each other; one rightly considers heaven, what it is and how to get there, while the other deals mainly with solving more practical engineering problems here on earth. Utility, speed and opportunity rule this new e-world in our digital over-information age. Not unlike in our own celebrity culture, sizzle and buzz often outperforms substance—at the moment at least.

I believe that technology is pure spirit. It is not just a tool but can be a transformative force. Some experts, such as Ray Kurzweil and Ken Wilber, say that The SingularitY (when computers evolve to reach the level of the human mind and its evolving consciousness) is all but imminent, and that technology will be integrated into all facets of the world, including consciousness. Kurzweil, a noted technology thinker, has extolled the coming of ultrasmart machines, saying they will offer huge advances in life extension and wealth creation. “Something new has taken place in the past five to eight years,” Eric Horvitz of Microsoft has said. “Technologists are replacing religion, and their ideas are resonating in some ways with the same idea of the Rapture.” The neuroscience-minded monk and meditation master Dalai Lama of Tibet has suggested that, given the proper conditions, a person could be reborn as a computer. (“Consciousness could take rebirth with the support of the five elements <—earth, water, fire, air and space—>in the form of a computer; why not?”) This raises the evergreen question of human identity. I feel it’s worth looking at the emergence of this new social networking industry along with the entire realm of instant communications and explore together its potential and possibilities in terms of authentic interbeing and synergy, so we can co-create a more deeply interconnected community, society and world. Education is the silver bullet to alleviate many of our societal ills, and modern media communications exhibit all the various characteristics of both the best and the worst of traditional delivery systems. Like thought, tools are good servants but poor masters. The Singularity that forward thinkers apprehend may very well put such dichotomies to the test.

American democracy is at risk because of our withdrawal from public life coupled with the coarsening of collective consciousness. Like fanaticism, apathy comes at great cost. No one can do it all, alone, but no one is exempt from participating. In this instant-communications age, spiritual seekers have greater mobility and can more easily link personal beliefs and practices to broader political, social engagement and intelligent, nonviolent activism to make a difference in today’s volatile world. Today we have the enhanced ability to mobilize swiftly as a group through new technology. New technology and media communications are easily applicable to my own mission of transforming the atmosphere of spirituality in this country by providing a reliable refuge and spiritual solace to seekers, and furthering a truly “higher education” based upon universal metawisdom-for-life training. Like Gutenburg’s printing press, industry’s original killer app—whose first and most popular and lasting product was nothing less than The Bible—these new developments are presently being applied to content distribution. Some people (as in, businesses) try to avoid a trend and hold out with their old way of doing things (imagine a newspaper that doesn’t post any content on a website or a radio station that doesn’t have their stream online, which there are some). It is imperative to adapt the way you do things in order to stay in “the now” of the competitive environment, speaking practically.

There are interesting philosopher-teachers who are learning to leverage the new media, such as Ken Wilbe and Eckert Tolle, pushing the envelope, seeking better ways to transmit their redaction of the perennial philosophy’s edifying universal message. It’s important to understand, however, that just as newer and faster may not necessarily be better, the power of now is not necessarily an unmitigated good. Distance learning tools including streaming media are just one more modern wave of the stream of consciousness constantly reaching, straining forward and evolving like plants stretching for the sun. When we truly awaken from the sleep of ignorance and delusion, the dream of the separate self and its vestigial tail-like victim story, we realize that we have been knocking on the door from inside all along and need go nowhere special, lack for nothing! It is all within. One click of your red shoes—or mouse, as it were—and you can get where you’re going on this worldwide web facet of Indra’s all-embracing Net.

On the downside, I instinctively fear—perhaps incorrectly, afflicted as I am by anachronistic habits and conditioning, not to mention the unfair onslaught of grey hairs obscuring my vision—that the speed, relentless tsunami-like pace of new media’s technological developments and rising popularity of social networking is not only daunting but conducive to mindlessness as well as other unintended counterproductive side effects. For example, the fractured concentration and ADD-enhancing nature of instant communications coexistent with epidemic multitasking—including the CNN crawl diverting our attention from the main screen, the remote control bar and the split screen, the hundreds of channels to surf constantly though in an orgy of shopping mania; all this conspires to further entrain an already attenuated attention span for most of us while we incessantly seek instant gratification without ever quite finding it. Somehow, the “medium is the message” aspect of such must be overcome and balanced—or at least skillfully modulated—to help us be enlivened through the Tao of Twitter and embody the centeredness spiritual aspirants seek to experience as a serene refuge amidst the welter, burgeoning diversity and mindless cacophony of modern experience. Who today knows the bliss and simplicity of just doing what you’re doing, wholeheartedly, one hundred per cent and one single moment at a time?

Act without doing;
work without effort.
Think of the small as large
and the few as many.
Confront the difficult
while it is still easy;
accomplish the great task
by a series of small acts.
~Tao Te Ching, chapter 63

IM, text, Blackberry;
tweet to your heart’s content.
This is the Tao of Twitter,
the Zen of Now.
Many are called,
But few awaken.
The Secret is being fully present.
And aware. Nothing new
under the sun.

Article originally found at: http://www.kenwilber.com/blog/show/539


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Alan Davidson is the founder of ThroughYourBody.com and the author Body Brilliance: Mastering Your Five Vital Intelligences, the #1 bestselling Health & Welness book and winner of two National Book-of-the-Year awards.

Alan is also the author of the Free report “Body Breakthroughs for Life Breakthroughs: How to Peak Your Physical, Emotional, Mental, Moral, and Spiritual IQs for a Sensational Life” available at www.throughyourbody.com

Love Your Way,

www.ThroughYourBody.com

1103 Peveto St.
Houston, TX 77019
713-942-0923

Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer’s Quest to Find Zen on the Sea

By body brilliance, body mind spirit, Breath, Conscious Living, Cosmic Care, Emotional Intelligence, Environmental Care, Fun and Fabulous, Moral Intelligence, Passion, Vision No Comments

This week with speak with the author of Saltwater Buddha, Jaimal Yogis.  Jaimal, a Zen surfer and journalist, wrote Saltwater Buddha to chronicle his late teens and early 20’s as he learned to surf and delved into Zen.  He shares with us some of the highlights from this time of his life, and also shares what a powerful metaphor the ocean has been for his spiritual life, especially given his passion for surfing.  He also shares some prescient observations about what it’s like being a young Buddhist, and what he notices that is different about the young generation of up-and-coming practitioners.

Vince: Hello Buddhist Geeks.  This is Vince Horn and I’m here today with our special guest.  He’s joining us from the West Coast, Jaimal Yogis. He’s a Zen practitioner, surfer, journalist and author of a recently released book called Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer’s Quest to Find Zen on the Sea.  Did you find Zen on the sea, Jaimal?

Jaimal: Yeah.  I mean in a manner of speaking, I think, in the same way that surfing for me is just part of my practice.  It’s just like coming back to meditation cushion every day.  And, then in it’s literal meaning, it’s being beyond this kind of concentration that is… sort of encompasses everything.  I wouldn’t have claimed to have found what the mantra is sort of referring to.  But, I do find that returning again and again into the water like a daily baptism for me.  It’s just a way to get back to sort of rinse clean and literally kind of washes… feels like it washes my thoughts into a more ordered manner or something like that.  So, it’s just another meditation practice and I think having a physical practice is really important as a mediator: something that keeps you connected to nature, something that keeps you in good health.  And surfing is a wonderful type of meditation as well because there’s a lot of movement and you are doing this thing where riding waves and you’re kind of emerging with your element like your medium, but, you also just a lot of waiting around.  So, there’s a lot of time where you’re just sitting looking at the horizon and, you know, you can focus on your breath sort of be in that appreciative space which I think appreciation is very close to our true nature.  You know, the more appreciative you are, I think, the closer you are to being in that natural mind.  That’s what I found, you know, that big enlightenment.  It’s definitely a daily, literal that keeps me sane. [laughs]

Vince: I figured because Saltwater Buddha is really kind of like an autobiographical work, you wrote about this particular period in your life where you were exploring Zen meditation, you know, in your late teens and 20’s and also at the same time exploring surfing.  So, yeah, given that it’s such an interesting combination, it’s one that as a Buddhist practitioner, I’d never heard before.  So, I was wondering if you could say a little bit about the time that you wrote about in this book and some of the highlights that you found most pressing during that period.

Jaimal: Sure.  It’s a broad topic.  The book covers a pretty large span of time.  It starts off when I ran away to Hawaii at the age of 16 and I was sort of a mischievous teenager getting into trouble, you know, experimenting with… just pushing the limits of the law, basically.  And so, I was on probation for getting a DUI and stuff.  And I figured I wasn’t sort of living my truth at that time.  I wasn’t living my potential really.  And, I think that dreams can play a big role as guidance.  And I started having these dreams about water and about waves and about islands.

And this was going back to sort of a flashback in time for me when I was living in Azores, Portugal.  My dad was stationed there where I lived close to the ocean.  And then we moved inland.  And so there was something about that time period, that connection that I had with the ocean that was coming back to me.  Then, ten years later, and that was all I knew at that point cause I was really at this point in my life not that connected to myself and to my heart.  And so all I had was this glimmer but I needed to change and it came in the form of this… of water, these dreams of islands.  And so, I took off.  I went to Somalia.  I ran away.  I left this memo hence on my bedroom that was saying that I’m somewhere in the world.  And that created a lot of havoc and it wasn’t the most compassionate thing to do to my family.  So, what it did do is it stirred things up enough… it was kind of like sometimes you just need to make a break, or really make a big change in your life to get on to a different path.  And that was really the beginning of my spiritual path.  And that’s where the book starts.

And when I go to Hawaii, I happened to take Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse with me.  I had been around meditation in my life cause my parents were meditators and that’s where I got my name.  I was named after this Indian guru in the Sikh tradition but I never really had done any of it myself.  And so, surfing was this incredible challenge for me that I too on I decided to stop doing any drugs or I was going to change my life and surfing was this challenge that I took on to help me and it seemed like a creative thing to do and I was also reading about the Buddha’s life or Herman Hesse’s sort of adaptation of the Buddha’s life and I also began meditating and so they kind of just always melded together and I saw these parallels.  I think because surfing is a, is an incredible challenge, people do it for 10, 20 years and you still feel very far from mastery.  It’s similar to meditation in that way in that you can do it every day for many years, it’s still, like your mind is always learning a new challenge and the ocean is always throwing in a challenge and I sort of see the ocean really as a metaphor for the mind and that was the way that my practice developed over the past ten years where I was, I ended up living in a Buddhist monastery going and traveling to different surf places, but I think because I began my past with these two things, sort of growing up together, meditation and surfing, they just blended together and I use the ocean as a metaphor for meditation and I use surfing as a sort of a tool for meditation.  So, I could say more about that, but I don’t know, is there a particular part of the book that you wanted to hear about, I could talk about it.

Vince: No, I think what you just said gives a nice kind of overview of the kinds of things and we can go more into the specifics and you started talking a little bit about the ocean and how it’s a metaphor for meditation and how meditation is a tool for surfing and so on.  I mean, that’s one thing that struck me, I mean, this is a powerful and ancient theme in almost all the world’s traditions, at least the ones that are probably near the ocean where you hear about the waves and the ocean and it’s usually used as a metaphor, right?  Like, it’s a way to describe something, but I’m thinking for a surfer, it must be a little bit more real for you, it must be a little more tangible for you and I was wondering if you could say a little more about that particular metaphor?

Jaimal: Yeah, there’s a few metaphors that get thrown out there a lot in mystical traditions.  One I really like is that we are like waves in the ocean.  A wave is basically a, it starts with wind blowing on the surface of the ocean, it trims up some ripples and those ripples become a veil to catch some more of the wind’s energy and the wind is basically pumping energy into the water, and it begins to spiral and it becomes this thing, it takes form.  It comes into being, at least, appearance-wise, of a separate kind of entity traveling across the ocean.  You see the swell, swells pick up on the feet and they travel hundreds of miles until they break shore.  Energy in motion stays in motion until it hits the sand and then the waves kind of take its most hard form and it pitches into that beautiful concave thing that we see on the beach and surfers love to ride.  The neat thing about that is that waves look so, like a portion of water that’s moving across the ocean, but what’s actually happening is the wind is just transferring, wind energy is just transferring between molecules.  So, if you leave a little stick on top of the ocean floating and a wave moves by, the stick will stay in one place and the wave will just pump through it.  It’s completely energy and it’s similar to the way we are, you know, it’s like we feel like we’re kind of like this separate mass.  We feel like there’s a veil between us and nature or something, like we are independent.  Like a wave, there’s no one atom or molecule that was in me or you when we were babies that’s in us now that we can replenish many times over and what holds us together is sort of mind or our memories and thoughts and similarly with the waves, it looks like a separate thing, but it’s never ever a part from the ocean then this thing that encompasses all the waves and so it’s a great metaphor, right?  It’s like Buddhists talk a lot about how you do have a self, it’s not, but the self is illusory in some sense and how is it a illusory?  Well, because it is connected to all things and all places.  That does seem like an abstract concept and I think if I wasn’t a surfer, I would take that wave metaphor and I would get it and be like “oh, that’s a good metaphor”, but it wouldn’t really think in deep and when you are following a wave and you’re studying them obsessively as surfers do, you really start feeling how these, how this energetic body of water works and how these things really can have individual character and also be part of the sea.  And I think it just deepens the metaphor and makes it much more real and it continues to come back to you every day as well.

Practice is very repetitive and it’s made that way on purpose.  We have to be reminded of these things every day.  Why?  Because our patterns are so ingrained that it takes an incredible amount of energy to change our habits.  And so, being reminded of that metaphor every day is something that I’m incredibly grateful for.

You don’t need to be a surfer to be reminded of that but you can find your own metaphors, you know.  I love that quote, that the earth speaks Dharma. You know, I think, whenever you’re outside and you’re just sort of connecting with the natural world in a way that deepens your relationship to it, you find these Dharma metaphors.  And this one is a good one that you can use but it’s not the only one.

Vince: Thank you for that.  It’s cool.  And just so people know and your book is really… it’s chockfull of metaphors along those lines.  It’s really deep in that way.  It’s a really interesting and complex metaphor itself, the entire book.  So, yeah, thank you for that.

Jaimal: Thank you.

Vince: So, you’re 29 right now and you’re going to be turning 30 pretty soon.  So, you’re kind of part of this… we could call younger generation in the Buddhist world.  And one thing we like to touch on a lot here in Buddhist Geeks is how Buddhism is being understood and practiced by people that are in the younger generation: the kind of third, fourth generation of Buddhist practice here in the West. And I think part of the reason is just because I’m young and I’m interested in that.

Jaimal: Uh, huh.

Vince: And then part of the reason is because people have really responded to it, the times that we have explored that.  People that listen to the show really find that interesting.  So, given that you’re part of this kind of younger generation and given that you started in your late teens and have been practicing now for over a decade, I figured it would be cool to get your take on what it’s like being a younger Buddhist and how it’s maybe distinct from past generation.  Cause we clearly live in a very different time.

Jaimal: You know, the main generation that I’ve watched that isn’t my own is my parents’ generation then.  There’s an obvious difference that they were getting interested in practice in the 60’s and so, you know, is sort of related with drugs and the political movements that were happening at the time.  There was such upheaval world and I think it was probably a very exciting time to be part of it.  And a lot of sincere practice going on… But it was almost like there was a huge… just like everything was getting through the pot, like “free love” and “meditation” and “screw Nixon.”  And these were part of it.  There’s nothing actually wrong with that.  I think there was a lot… a huge emphasis in that generation on these new experiences.  We’re not going to be part of the mundane world.  We’re going to do something utterly different and it’s about breaking down the system.  And I think, especially, because of a lot drugs, it was like the spirituality was associated with them saying that it was supposed to be like fireworks and crazy trips and, you know, sort of give all a high.  That’s one way to go about it.  But, what I see in this generation that excites me is that there really seems to be a desire to live in the world and take the structures that we have and infuse them and be able to bring practice into them and bring a truthful balance way of life into the world that we have.  And in doing so, you know, make the world a better place.

I think we needed that ruckus break from the more sort of entrenched pattern of norms that was happening back in the 50’s and 60’s to give us the gift of being able to now, in this generation, sort of say, “Well, it’s not all bad.  Maybe, I want to live and have a normal job and have a family and also live in a way that is true and in a way that’s in harmony.”  And I think that’s neat too because there really isn’t anything about practice that I think should make every day life so bad.  I think what practice in its most profound sense just makes the most mundane things like kind of juicy… just having an English muffin with your grandma kind of a thing.  Like, that moment is just as full as being at the Dead concert.

Trying to integrate practice into the everyday is…that’s how it becomes grounded in a society, in a culture and begins to become sustainable.  Because we’re still really in this process where Eastern thought and ideas and practice are just kind of trickling in to our society and in some ways they become like pop sort of wisdom.  And that takes its effect.  But real practice, that happens on an everyday level and really that’s still trying to be worked out, I see people doing that in a really beautiful way in our generation.  And hopefully that will continue.

But there are challenges.  I still find being a young Buddhist that I’ve sort of drifted in and out of having a really tight knit community of like-minded, similarly aged buddies to practice with.  When I lived in a Buddhist monastery when I was 18, it was this amazing time where all of a sudden it was just sort of the way that it worked.  Everyone was getting out of high school and for some reason there was this group of guys and girls who were really interested in like practicing a lot.  And we would go on retreats together and just to have that, those group of people who weren’t interested in partying a lot and, like our college years.  And here we were, we just wanted to go up to the monastery and be quiet and then talk about it.  And that was such a powerful time to have those three or four years where I had community in my early 20’s.  And it really laid a foundation and I’m still friends with all of those people.  And we now are busier and we have jobs and partners and whatnot.

But Kerouac, I remember, said like 18 is such a great time to practice the dharma and I think you are in kind of like a fearless, really open space at that time.  A hopefully, idealistic space.  Yeah, I could say more about that but I think community is really important and I’m glad to see things like Dharma Punks and other young practice groups springing up.  And I’m hoping Saltwater Buddha will bring some like minded, water folks together who are spiritually minded because there’s a lot of them out there that surfing is kind of like something has a little bit of like a too-cool-for-school attitude that when you join you’re a little bit cautious about letting people know your true self.  So I’m hoping this will help people take down their guard a little bit and just get together and sit together or whatever it is.

Vince: Nice.  Would you say that part of the reason you wrote the book was to actually get this kind of material out to the surfing community itself, more so than say the Buddhist community?

Jaimal: No, it was both.  It was…  I think a lot of surfers have an interest in Buddhism but maybe they’re always surfing so they haven’t really delved in.  Surfing is one of those things that tends to take over your life.  So I definitely…I hope people who are sort of wanting that introduction could get it through this. And that surfers who already had a Buddhist practice are [duking] it.  But I also thought, hoped, that Buddhist practitioners and really anyone would just kind of relate to the water metaphors.  And that’s been true.  I get more letters probably from people who are just sort of like, “I don’t meditate, I don’t surf, but there’s something about this metaphor that I really connect with.  It’s helping me in my life.”  And I think there’s something universal about water.  We are made of water.  Life is made possible by water.  It really is like this special, magical juju that just makes life on earth possible.  Life as far as we know it, possible.  It has all these incredible properties that no other substance on earth has.  And we use a lot of water metaphors in our life.  We’re always saying, “I’m in the flow today.  I’m drowning in work,” these things are close to us in our language.  We come from the sea original.  And so I’m just kind of hoping to tap a little bit of something in our collective unconscious about something that we all already know but maybe need to be reminded of.

Vince: Well, thanks Jaimal for taking the time to join Buddhist Geeks and share a little bit of about your book and also about your perspective as a young Buddhist practitioner.  It’s been really cool talking to you and wish you the best moving forward.

Jaimal: Thanks so much Vince.  This seems like just a great show.  I’m really happy that it’s out there and yeah, … keep on trucking.

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Interview Originally Found at Buddhist Geeks Here

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Vaclav Havel: Moral IQ & ‘Era of Disgust’ in Political Compromises

By body brilliance, body mind spirit, Cosmic Care, Emotional Intelligence, Fun and Fabulous, Mental Intelligence, Moral Intelligence, Passion, Strengths, Values, Vision No Comments

PRAGUE — It was supposed to be an interview about the revolutions that overturned communism 20 years ago in Europe. But first, Vaclav Havel had a question.

Was it true that President Obama had refused to meet the Dalai Lama in Washington?

Mr. Havel is a fan of the Dalai Lama, who was among the first visitors to Prague’s storied castle after Mr. Havel moved in there as president, the final act in the swift, smooth revolution of 1989. A picture of the Dalai Lama is displayed prominently in Mr. Havel’s current office in central Prague.

Told that Mr. Obama had made clear he would receive the Dalai Lama after his first presidential visit to China in November, Mr. Havel reached out to touch a magnificent glass dish, inscribed with the preamble to the United States Constitution — a gift from Mr. Obama, who visited in April.

“It is only a minor compromise,” Mr. Havel said of the nonreception of the Tibetan leader. “But exactly with these minor compromises start the big and dangerous ones, the real problems.

“This is actually the first time I really do mind something Obama did,” Mr. Havel said. He minded it “much more” than Mr. Obama’s recent decision not to station elements of a missile-defense system in the Czech Republic, a move that several Central European politicians criticized but that Mr. Havel noted was ultimately “an internal American decision.”

One day after his 73rd birthday, with a half-drunk glass of Champagne at his side in midafternoon, the man who steered the Czechs and Slovaks out of communism showed that his morals, and his sense of mischief, were intact.

His country has been in the news — in Europe, at least — these days because Mr. Havel’s successor as president, his fierce rival Vaclav Klaus, has puzzled and irritated European leaders by raising last-minute objections to a treaty designed to consolidate the power of the European Union and give it more heft on the world stage.

Mr. Havel said he had not criticized his successor on the advice of Madeleine K. Albright, the former secretary of state whose Central European roots have made her something of a mentor for several regional politicians.

But Mr. Havel’s reticence did not prevent him, during a 45-minute interview, from aiming squarely at what he called the current “era of disgust” in Czech politics.

“If you look at the C.V.’s of current Czech politicians, you see that most of them are in their 50s,” he said. This means they matured in what he called “early normalization,” roughly from 1969 to the mid-1970s, when the Soviet-led invasion that crushed the brief Prague Spring reforms of 1968 gave way to a dull and autocratic regime dependent on Moscow. “One of the darkest periods” of national history, Mr. Havel said.

In his view, those years have marked many current politicians, leaving them prone to conspiratorial thinking and acts of petty deceit. Compounding that, he said, is “some kind of existential crisis” caused by a global pursuit of materialism and by the specific Czech legacy of 40 years of Communist government.

Indeed, the contrast between the atmosphere in Prague today and during the magical autumn of 1989 and the Velvet Revolution could scarcely be greater. Today, the city is a freer, far wealthier place than 20 years ago, with private property restored and millions of tourists proving an economic if not aesthetic boon to one of Europe’s most beautiful capitals.

But as an exhibit at the Old Town Hall reveals, the spirit of 1989 was humane in a way rarely felt since. In grainy black-and-white photographs, the show traces the arc between the first demonstrations against Communism here in 1988, through the mass exodus of East Germans via the West German Embassy in Prague in August 1989, to the fall of the Berlin Wall and then the Velvet Revolution itself.

As Vaclav Maly, then a dissident with Mr. Havel and now auxiliary bishop of Prague, notes in the introduction to the show, “It is good to realize that once there were times when we were not afraid to show feelings, and did not take considerateness and kindness to be a sign of weakness.”

Asked for his favorite memory of the Velvet Revolution, Mr. Havel said it was the mass gathering on Letna Plain above Prague in late November 1989, when 750,000 people gathered in freezing temperatures. “It was so cold, there were too many speakers, but I looked out and felt that something was definitely changing, that it was a turning point,” he said.

The discussion turned to present-day challenges, including the intentions of Russia. Mr. Havel recently joined other Central and East European leaders and intellectuals in appealing to the Obama administration not to abandon the region and to be wary of resurgent Russian imperialism.

“I truly believe that we should not treat Russia as a handicapped person,” he said in response to the suggestion that Russia cannot be expected to reach democracy swiftly after decades of Communism.

“It’s a partner country like any other, and the broader human principles or standards apply to Russia, as they apply to Burma, Brazil, the Czech Republic or any other country.”

Article from New York Times and can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/14/world/europe/14iht-havel.html?scp=2&sq=Alison%20smale&st=cse

Image obtained from http://www.tibetoffice.ch/news/hhdl_visit_prague_2008.htm

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Tibetan Glacier Melting: The Thaw at the Roof of the World

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SPEAKING this week at the United Nations, President Hu Jintao of China declared that his country “fully appreciates the importance and urgency of addressing climate change.” As well it should. China is beginning to realize that it has a lot to lose from the carbon dioxide that the world so blithely emits into the earth’s atmosphere.

Mr. Hu’s words made me think back to a day not long ago when I found myself on a platform 14,000 feet above sea level, surrounded by throngs of Chinese tourists in colorful parkas. A chairlift had brought us that much closer to the jagged peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and the glacier that cascades down its flank. People cheerfully snapped photos of the icy mass, seemingly unaware of the disaster unfolding before them.

Because of climate change, the roughly 1.7-mile-long Baishui Glacier No. 1 could well be one of the first major glacial systems on the Tibetan Plateau to disappear after thousands of years. The glacier, situated above the honky-tonk town of Lijiang in southwest China, has receded 830 feet over the last two decades and appears to be wasting away at an ever more rapid rate each year. It is the southernmost glacier on the plateau, so its decline is an early warning of what may ultimately befall the approximately 18,000 higher-altitude glaciers in the Greater Himalayas as the planet continues to warm.

Because the Tibetan Plateau and its environs shelter the largest perennial ice mass on the planet after the Arctic and Antarctica, it has come to be known as “the Third Pole.” Its snowfields and glaciers feed almost every major river system of Asia during hot, dry seasons when the monsoons cease, and their melt waters supply rivers from the Indus in the west to the Yellow in the east, with the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Irrawaddy, Salween, Mekong and Yangtze Rivers in between. (The glaciers on Jade Dragon Snow Mountain contribute much of their water to the upper reaches of the Yangtze River.)

From a distance, Baishui Glacier No. 1 looks as immovable as the defiant mountain above. In reality, it is a fluid field of ice and rock in constant downward motion. Scientists speak about the reactive behavior of these glaciers as if they were almost human. The Tibetan and Naxi peoples who inhabit this region treat them, and their mountain hosts, as embodiments of deities and spirits.

Now, a growing number of glaciers are losing their equilibrium, or their capacity to build up enough snow and ice at high altitudes to compensate for the rate of melting at lower ones. After surveying the Himalayas for many years, the respected Chinese glaciologist Yao Tandong recently warned that, given present trends, almost two-thirds of the plateau’s glaciers could well disappear within the next 40 years. With the planet having just experienced the 10 hottest years on record, the average annual melting rate of mountain glaciers seems to have doubled after the turn of the millennium from the two decades before.

Moreover, temperatures on the Tibetan plateau are rising much faster than the global average. A good portion of the area’s existing ice fields has been lost over the past four decades, and the rate of retreat has increased in recent years.

The slow-motion demise of Baishui Glacier No. 1 will have far-reaching consequences. In the short run, there will, of course, be an abundance of water. But in the long run there will be deficits. These will have national security consequences as countries compete for ever scarcer water resources supplied by transnational rivers with as many as two billion users.

It was not so long ago that the Tibetan Plateau was seen as a region of little consequence, save to those few Western adventurers drawn to remote regions that the early 20th-century Swedish explorer Sven Hedin once called the “white spaces” on the map. Today, these white spaces play a crucial role in Asia’s ecology.

Sadly, it may be too late to change the destiny of Baishui Glacier No. 1. But President Hu, by promising this week to try to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product and to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption, signaled his willingness to act. China can’t solve this problem alone, and President Obama’s scheduled visit to Beijing in November presents an opportunity to forge a bilateral alliance on climate change. After all, the ice fields in the majestic arc of peaks that runs from China to Afghanistan are melting in large part because of greenhouse gases emitted thousands of miles away.

Orville Schell, the director of the Asia Society’s Center on United States-China Relations, is the author of “Virtual Tibet: Searching for Shangri-La From the Himalayas to Hollywood.”

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Alan Davidson is the founder of ThroughYourBody.com and the author Body Brilliance: Mastering Your Five Vital Intelligences, the #1 bestselling Health & Welness book and winner of two National Book-of-the-Year awards.

Alan is also the author of the Free report “Body Breakthroughs for Life Breakthroughs: How to Peak Your Physical, Emotional, Mental, Moral, and Spiritual IQs for a Sensational Life” available at www.throughyourbody.com

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