Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking back, Walking Forward

I have a little New Year's Eve ritual. I like to spend some time looking back on the old year, taking a broad sweeping look, like I'm flying overhead looking down at the landscape. And some years there are more clouds than others obscuring the view. I see quite a few stars this evening.

A lot happened in 2009. As the result of a "health opportunity" that generally goes by the name of cancer in late 2007, I realized in 2008 that, "news flash: I was mortal". It was time to wake up and do what I really wanted to do, instead of thinking about it, writing about it, imagining it, or being afraid of it. The penny finally dropped that I should get on with life, in a get out there and do things sort of way. Some of that self absorbed, self consciousness and fear dissolved with the surgeon's stitches. So 2009 was the year when I decided to get up everyday (well not everyday, but you know what I mean) and create some art. I needed to show and display my art and meet other artists. I needed to take risks and get uncomfortable. 2009 was the year I looked in the mirror and said who cares if I look stupid. Vanity and vulnerability travel in the same make-up bag.

It was also a year I did a lot of deep spiritual housekeeping. I worked earnestly and made peace and forged a heart connection with my 94 year old mother. I gave up blaming her and grumbling about her and said the hard things to her that needed to be said to move forward. To her credit she was open and ready for the healing to take place and our last months together were warmed by feelings of deep connection. I think the wanting and needing something from each other somehow dissolved. We had deep conversations about her impending death and it was the most peaceful experience I have ever had, to sit with her as she died on August 29th.

We finally decided to sell our house and move from the city to a smaller island than we live on now. We worked hard to get the house ready and put it up for sale. It was a spiritual experience to travel the road of big monetary transaction with integrity. But we negotiated it in a way that felt good and on Dec 16th we signed the final inky flourishes to the sale documents. House sold, time to move on. I have to say Mara made a big visit the night after we signed those papers. Every fear I've had about my health came to visit. Doubt and terror are not at all fun to share the pillow with. It felt pretty clear that the only way out was through the little burning, toxic pit. I found the where-with-all to sit with it and consider my options. Fear was feasting on speculation. Instead of pulling the covers over my head I worked to get a felt sense of what it would be like to throw the deal, stay put and be safe. Mara left empty handed.

I gained more confidence in my art this year by devoting more time and attention to it. "What we feed, grows stronger." I learned a little bit about hitting my stride. I learned not to throw myself into fits of despair when things didn't go my way ( a long standing habitual tendency of mine).

And so 2009 has been a time of great learning and looking forward. Things didn't always go my way but I learned to work with that. I worked to resist collapsing into a little heap of "I can'tness" at the first sign of trouble. Oh maybe a few times but who's counting? I worked with my tendency to obsess over things when they didn't go my way. This is such a strong, alluring tendency for me, one of those things I know in my head to be unwholesome but man, it can grab hold of me and take me on a big old chase.

And the Dharma has remained central and strong in my life. I didn't find a Sangha to sit with in 2009 but maintained my own practice and am connected to a number of "Buddhist" friends and my monk friend.

As I look forward to the new year I have new plans to address some health and stamina issues so that I might do more out in the world. We will move to Salt Spring Island in March after living in our wonderful urban home for the last 13 years. And of course based on impermanence and the fact that we are not in control of the big picture I can look forward to the adventures of another year. As my Zen teacher always says "we do our part and the eternal (or whatever you like to call it) looks after the rest."

May you experience happiness and health and the fruits of your good training in 2010. May we be good company to each other as we walk this path together. Bows to you.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Blue Cake With Sprinkles At Zendotstudio

I felt I couldn't pass up posting today. How self absorbed is this? I just realized it's my blog's birthday! I posted for the first time last year on December 3oth. So here it is this toddler blog with a mouth full of pablum, smooshing pureed peas into its metaphorical little scalp and shrieking with delight.

And like any good toddler I've fallen down, had a tantrum or two (usually about my mother), gurgled and cooed when things went my way, put a pot on my head and acted the fool more than once. I have gotten into the crayons and paints. And I've messed around with the language spewing out all kinds of babble and unintelligible sounds. What do you expect from a toddler? Gosh, it's freeing to have low expectations. Takes that self imposed, prideful pressure off.

It's interesting to think back. Taking stock is a good Buddhist practice, I think. ...Looking at what we have done, what worked, what we might like to alter. How else can we grow and change and learn? How do we adjust our course? Become wiser? Honest reflection is the answer I think. And while it is human nature to have blind spots, things that we just don't see, if we look at our past actions they can help clarify what is important to us and help us decide how to move forward.

Interestingly, I think I applied much more care when I began blogging, spending more time composing and working on each piece of writing. I had lots of Dharma topics rolling around in my head that I wanted to write about. After a few days I started to write 100 days of Dharma which was a real exercise in discipline. There were many days I wondered "will I have anything to write about?" Surly the well is dry by now. But always something came to mind. It was an exercise in faith as well as discipline.

In the summer I did 30 days of small art projects which was again an exercise in discipline, this time in the visual department, rather than word sculpting. This was much more difficult for me. I found (and not to my surprise) how much time I would spend creating something that pleased me. There was much more critical judgement of the little pieces on my part. No dashing off a little work in 10 minutes (occasionally perhaps). I learned that acts of spontaneous creation were not my forte. But it is interesting to learn how we work, where we cling and get stuck, where our strongest expectations lie.

And in the great tradition of "how do I know what I think, until I see what I say" I learned a lot about my own human experience through blogging. I mined the depths of the every day. I got to be a little less self conscious by spilling the contents of my spleen and other internal organs onto the page.

And I have connected with lots of kindred spirits out here in the blog bog. I am awed by the vastness of the blogosphere and feel like I live in some tiny constellation in the vast dark universe of blogs. I am constantly discovering new blogs and from the very beginning (and much to my surprise) I was blown away by the creativity and imagination I had somehow discovered. I travelled oceans and continents to arrive at amazing and inspiring sites. This has been heartening to me, discovering these unknown treasures, a thriving counter culture of creativity and awareness. It exists slightly apart from the mundane world I live out on the street, that can often seemed filled with consumer consciousness and disregard for the things that seem deeply important.

In some ways I think the focus of my blog has shifted toward my visual art. I blog less than I did when I started. I had to look at the fact that I didn't want to just blog because I wanted to post everyday. I got to examine my motives. I got to look inside and see if I truly had something to share that day. And I found a balance between the real world and that of the deep blue computer screen.

So come and share a slice of cake with me. If I was all grown up I'd choose a cake that was a sumptuous dark chocolate with a middle layer of cheesecake and preserved cherries. But I'm a one year old and I want a blue cake with sprinkles and gummy bears. And I'm going to lean over and take a big bite out of the middle of the cake and then I'll probably try and stuff some ofthat ungodly blue icing up your nose. I will be giggling and sporting a blue icing mustache. What, where are you going?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sukkha, Dukkha & Cranberry Sauce

I have fallen down the rabbit hole of family and holiday events and become only an apparition in the kingdom of blog. It has been a happy kind of falling. And where is the Dharma in that? Things are flowing smoothly along. I have less grist for the Dharma mill, less to blog about.

I remember my Zen teachers saying, when things are going well, we just go about our lives. We don't give it a lot of thought. It's when things are difficult that we really look to the Dharma to help us out, to light the way, to make us feel less crazy. Is that selfish or bad or just human nature?

I am savouring this time of things going well. Perhaps that is the Dharma of it. When we know that things don't have to be this way, that things don't always go well, it allows us to appreciate the preciousness of those times when all seems right in the world. And we've all been served our helpings of Dukkha in large or small dishes at some point.

It is a real joy to have our daughter, who lives several thousand miles away, home for several weeks. It warms my heart that the little girl who grumbled that her mother wouldn't buy jelly dinasour fruit snacks like all the other "normal" moms, way back when, is now studying to be a nutritionist. Cancel sugar, flour, animal products of any sort. Mom can now learn a few tricks from her. Tables turn, their contents get shaken up.

So when she suggested we have a "raw" Christmas dinner I extracted the dehydrator from the cupboard and we got to work. Here's a picture of dinner. We dressed it up in a suit and took it to see Santa Claus! Okay so no Santa Claus but it's cute anyway, complete with raw cranberry sauce, a version of mashed potatoes (made from raw parsnips), a raw stuffing made with mushrooms and a cashew cream and a dehydrated burger impersonating a turkey created from the loins of some shitake mushrooms, a few nuts and lots of herbs that smell like Christmas (sage, rosemary & thyme). Simon and Garfunkel did not drop by. Probably the no turkey thing kept them away.

There has been much visiting and chatting and just quiet sitting around. No rushing about, no packing in of thousands of events and activities, no dreaded or difficult visits with family and friends. We had a heart warming visit with family just before Christmas when we gathered to scatter my mother's ashes. It wasn't a sad event at all. We scattered ashes, we visited, we had dinner together and then we looked at old pictures of mom/grandma and listened to some recordings of my mother talking about her life that I had made a month or two before she died. Everyone wanted to hear what she had to say. It felt like sharing a very deep experience of getting to know my mother.

The lovely gift of the season has been this simple sense of easy togetherness, a few gifts, some tasty treats. And what does a budding nutritionist give their parents for Christmas? How about "Dr. Jensen's Guide to Diet and Detoxification" & "Dr Jensen's Guide to Better Bowel Care" (some interesting photos here, not recommended for the squeamish and a section that qualifies for the comment, kid's you might not want to try this at home). And I haven't even got to the "Encyclopedia of Natural Healing". I might even get healthy yet! " It is both a hoot to get these, an expression of caring and an invitation to better health.

I will end with a quote from Bernard Jensen from his "Guide to Diet & Detoxification": "Nature's creative power exceeds man's inclination to destroy." This seems like an optimistic world view, perhaps a vision for planetary detoxification?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Opening Presents & A Dart To The Heart

This little painting is a work in progress, as we all are. And like us, it feels like it is vulnerable and standing on the edge. Like us, it can go in a variety of directions. The moment always holds both danger and possibility. As my Zen teacher says, "we have more options than we think.

But I will pull back from the brink of the metaphorical. This mixed media piece is a continued exploration of a matte textured background in shades of grey combined with a shiny, drippy enso. This enso has a hint of ultramarine blue with some chartreuse and black. The line drawing of the Buddha still needs work, some refining (as do I, which is part of what always makes us a work in progress!). As I say this I am conscious of that Zen idea of holding 2 seemingly contradictory possibilities in our minds at once. We are fine just the way we are AND we can do better. Is that confusing? Only if we want to carve the world into opposites.

There is so much at play in creating a painting that parallels our everyday life. We are always exploring the background, don't you think? Feeling and creating and responding to the texture of life around us, to what life brings to us, to what we encounter. We move from dark to light and back again (like the little yin/yang amoebas). And like this line drawing of the Buddha we are continually inventing ourselves, drawing some aspects of our character with deeper and more definite lines, erasing and lightening the traces of what doesn't work for us, if we are attentive and skillful enough.

And the recycled pattern pieces in this work open a conversation as we might expect words to do. The dart to the heart... I liked that idea for a variety of reasons I don't need to explain, the piercing of the heart, that tender, vulnerable part of us. But the idea of the "dart" is used in Buddhist thought. The first dart is regarded as the event or instance of suffering. The second dart is the mental anguish we create or "add on" to what happens to us. The idea here being that pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. The other pattern pieces that found their way into this work are the little cutting line scissors that the Buddha holds and the words "back facing" which can speak to us in different ways.

So while life and art talk back and forth to each other, sometimes whispering, sometimes shouting, I never start a piece with an intention to "say" something. I become aware of some hinted at meaning as if I was an independent observer. Life imitates art. Who said that? And there is the natural synchronicity of things if we are willing to just look. It is happening all around us, all the time, the conversation between what goes on in our lives and the small things that pop up; our thoughts, our dreams, how the colour of our shoes matches the scarf of someone that we are drawn to, how a line in a poem that we read in the morning, somehow fits perfectly with something that happens to us later in the day.... It is about being open and aware and receptive to life with a capital L. It is after all the season of presents (presence). And as with all presents, they require opening.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Did the Buddha Wear Nail Polish?

A few days ago Marguerite from Mind Deep posted a list of 15 Buddhist Blogs by women (thanks for including me, Marguerite!). So it got me thinking about the gender issue as it relates to practice. Do we relate to practice in a different way? Are there aspects of practice that call out to us more, as women? Is it a non issue? How does that relate to annata (no self)?

So it seemed good to have Green Tara here to keep us company for this conversation. You've seen her before if you pop by here on a regular basis. Tara is regarded as the female Buddha of Compassion. Green Tara, specifically, is recognized as a protector against fear (I have some experience with this!)

I have never really thought about it but at a recent art show (and on several other occasions) people have commented that my Buddhas have a very female look. I was surprised by this when it was first pointed out but could see it immediately. One idea of the spiritual life that I like, is that we are energy having a human experience. And if we're born here as women well then some of us are having a more feminine experience of that energy. We all have masculine and feminine energy and perhaps it's simply a continuum and each of us lie somewhere along the scale. But for me, there are definitely differences in this energy. And I don't think this stands against equality in the social/political realms. We can be different but have equal opportunity.

So it is interesting to look at the Buddhist women blogs and explore the differences (and similarities) in our practices. A couple of observations, I have made in my short life as a blogger : I have noticed that about 90% of the comments left on my blog are by women, as are the little pictures of those who sign on as followers. So I assume that what I say has more interest to women?

Personally I also notice (as my daughter would describe it) that my eyes glaze over when the discussions of Buddhism become more theoretical or move away from an everyday life focus. I have wondered if this was a male/female difference or just a personal difference. I've always regarded it as a bit of a personal obsession on my part. I don't really know the answer to that one. I know I am strongly drawn to any Dharma that explores how it relates to everyday life.

When I think about the gender thing in relation to my own Buddhist practice experiences I notice that The Zen teacher that I studied with for 4 years was a woman. Some of my favourite Dharma books are from Joko Beck, Pema Chodron, Tenzin Palmo and Lama Tsultrim Allione, all women. I must say that Ezra Bayda and Tarthang Tulku are also big favourites of mine and last time I checked they were both still men! As a slightly interesting aside, someone told me they'd heard that Dzongsar Kyhentse Rinpoche was seen wearing nail polish and quoted as saying he was coming back next time as a woman (is this hearsay or gossip?).

So in the spirit of exploring, I am reposting Marguerite's list of Buddhist Blogs By Women. I know I'm putting on my invisible hiking boots and packing a bag of cyber gorp for the trip. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What the Buddha Sewed

Here's a new bit of art (16x16" mixed media). It builds on the "Blue Enso Buddha" I did a while back. I've been working with texture, something I've always loved but never seemed to be able to execute to my satisfaction. Ah the distance between expectations and results! Often a very long car trip between the two. But the first step is to wake up at the wheel and realize we're stuck somewhere on that dark little stretch of road . Mostly we start honking & complaining or put our foot wildly to the floor and hope by some miracle we end up where we want to go. Or maybe our style is to put the car up for sale and say we're never going to get there anyway, what's the use?

But in reality it's not about the expectations or the results. We can waste a lot of time and energy getting hung up at those little detours. It's really about the process, the open road, (please no tickets for an over metaphor violation!)

It's about keeping our eyes on the here and now. By simply doing our work, focusing on the task, whatever it is, we not only enjoy the journey but we build patience and perseverance. These are the gifts of any continued work. And in time we'll get where we're supposed to be going. It might be a destination we never imagined. The principle of the spiritual life at work here is: ultimately we're not in control. We do our part and the rest takes care of itself. It takes most of us humans a life time or three to get this.

In addition to my work with texture, old sewing pattern pieces have been calling to me lately. I bought a few, ages ago, at Ruby Dog's in Vancouver, because I loved their transparency and the words and symbols on them. I knew they'd find their place someday. Recently they have surfaced on the top of the flotsam & jetsam pile and I am delighting in them. In fact I think I might have to get me down to a local thrift store and snag a few more!

The other element of this painting is the enso (Japanese for circle) which symbolizes enlightenment, strength and emptiness. Creating an enso is a whole meditative practice, a serious calligraphic art but my relationship to them is simply personal. I have no training in the traditional aspects of how to execute them. I have been mixing my "enso" paint with a gooey substance called tar gel and love the shiny, viscous quality that materializes. I like the juxtaposition of the shiny raised enso against the matte textured background. It's a strange pleasing tension, a slightly surprising combo, not intentional in any way but the result of messing about with materials. It is a following of an intuitive sense, I suppose. So much of what we do, we don't really understand.

So that's been the studio fun lately, following this thread of texture and pattern bits and tar gel. It feels personal and authentic which Leslie Avon Miller talks about on her blog when describing her "mark making" process. It's as if after some time, things start to come out of you, that are you. They are not repetitions of things you have seen or art work you admire, but your own unique voice. It takes time to get there. Lots of just mucking about, lots of false starts, frustration and exploration and garbage cans full of stuff. And we can't make it happen, force our will on it. It's like anything we do in life really, perhaps all of life, for that matter. It takes time for things to brew and steep, to percolate and mature, like any good life sustaining drink worth it's sipping power.

It's also about developing an inner confidence. Not in a prideful way, but in a way that we come to believe in ourselves, in a way that we trust and have faith in what is happening inside and around us. Our friend, the Tibetan teacher, talks about this inner confidence in relationship to our attitude toward life; how we need this to develop our practice. We become the little zen "engine that could". It is not enough to get caught up in the suffering. We need to apply this antidote of inner confidence. And the close room-mate of this inner confidence is faith, I think; faith in the fact that life is not out to get us and that life unfolds as it should, bringing us what we need.

How is your unfolding process going? Things coming out crumpled? Still tumbling around in the dryer? Or perhaps you're holding up something lovely that you never imagined you owned and are as surprised as if you were looking at the laundry of a complete stranger?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Double Tall Eggnog Latte with a Slice of Dharma

Custom Buddha Boxes Created for a Customer to share with friends & family

Last night we attended the final talk of a 4 part series by a Tibetan teacher. The talks were based on the teachings of Dodrupchen Jikme Tenpe Nyima. We started by going around the room and each reading a portion of the text. There was something simple and lovely about this. Then Kalzang gave a little talk based on the text. He told a wonderful teaching story about a Tibetan lama, who was confronted by a thief. The thief asked the lama his name which turned out to translate as "golden leg". The thief poked him in the leg with a needle and the lama cried out and winced in pain. "You don't have a gold leg. You are the same as me. You wear a sheepskin coat, you ride a horse, you eat meat," the thief chided him.

At that point, the lama realized the truth of what the thief was saying and bowed to him. In an instant he saw his pride in his position, his belief that he was somehow better and different than others and he saw that his behaviour did not always correspond with the Dharma. After that, as the story goes, when reciting the names of his teachers he added the thief in as his root teacher because he had helped him see the truth.

It was a great tale and posed the question to us, when someone tosses an uncomfortable truth in our face, are we willing to look or do we just feel righteously indignated? Do we criticize their behaviour (how rude of that person to say that to me!) or do we lob an insult of equal weight back in their direction (your mother wears army boots!) Can we, are we willing to learn from these encounters? Or do we simply want to protect our vulnerable little self, build a larger protective shell around our delicate coating of ego? Can we accept that tapping on our shell, do we let it crack open and grow and expand to become our true self?

It is pretty humbling to face the truth in this way. An encounter with a neighbour years ago showed me that I had a lot of anger inside. Her "poking of me" offered insight into the depth of that anger and how close to the surface it was actually riding. I liked to think of myself as kind and quiet, reasonable and gentle. But I got to see the unforgiving, prideful, vengeful side of me, how I clung with great self righteousness to my position. It was a very painful picture to behold! Yet it was the beginning of my sincere dedication to the Dharma.

I see these events as some of the most difficult teachings. Teachings that are really thrown in our face, most often by people we find difficult. Our habitual way is to grumble about these people and justify our own behaviour but if we really are dedicated to the work of the spirit (in whatever tradition that might be) we will sit up, pull out the thorn, mop up the little pool of our own blood, and have a good look at our bruised egoic self. What made me so angry, so defensive? What truth am I avoiding about myself? It is really the work of going deeper, the work of purifying the heart. It is one of the most difficult things for us to do, to bow down and say thank-you to those who have criticized or offered us the bitter taste of humiliation. It is one step on the journey toward loosening the grip of the self; a step toward true freedom. We can use these painful experiences to help us see who we really are (or who we are not).

So where will we find our teaching today; when we get cut off in traffic, when a shop keeper treats us with indifference or rudeness, when our mother-in-law offers us unwanted advice? Where are the frayed edges of our tolerance? I suspect we will all meet this teaching out in the world today, in big or small ways. Are we willing to mix the bitter taste of this offering with our double tall eggnog latte?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Impermanence in a Scrap of Paper

I am in a bit of a time lag here. I will rewind myself to Saturday because it seems worth mentioning. On Saturday we went to see the monks dismantle their sand mandala. It was a strange and crazy day and so we were late arriving and the gallery was full. We watched from outside the glass doors of the gallery until some folks left and there was space for us inside. I could watch myself feeling dis- appointed that we'd been late and couldn't hear the talk about the meaning of the mandala and the explanation of the ceremony. We had visited the mandala often during it's construction and sat a number of times for the morning chant. We had long been anticipating this event. There we were on the outside looking in. But somehow there was such good energy surrounding the event, so many smiling faces, that it was easy to let go of the disappointment and just watch; to see without hearing, to watch the babes in arms, the little girl standing and twirling a long strand of her mother's hair, the restless grown-up or two that moved back and forth through the crowd.

And finally the monks got out their big sheep skin duster (which amused me) and swept up the mandala, 3 weeks of painstaking, meticulous work swept up like a messy floor or a dusty table (ah I see it now a ktel commercial, if you buy 1 of these mandala sweepers right now, we'll throw in another one absolutely free. Operators are standing by to take your order.)

But in seconds the lama pulled his duster skillfully outward from the centre and the once beautiful detailed patterns and figures were gone, gone, gone. In an instant he had sliced through our cherished ideas that we can, that we should, hold on to things. If we're listening with our eyes the tiny motes of dust remind us that the stories of how we are and how life should be are just that; insubstantial, impermanent clouds of thought we gather around us. The dust of of impermanence, of changeability, mutability floats through the gallery settling invisibly on everyone.

In one moment life takes one form and then shifts to something different the next. One minute we are breathing, the next minute we aren't. One minute we love our partner, the next minute they have angered us or hurt us deeply. One minute our children are tiny and need us, the next they have moved out and have a life of their own. One moment something is filled with beauty, the next moment it is a grey amorphous mass (ah artists you know how this can happen!). This is the truth, yet we resist it with great effort. It scares us, unsettles us. We want to think we can hold on to things, the things we love and cherish, that they are solid and substantial and will be there for us when we think we need them. We spend a lot of time and energy on these holding on projects.

The monks want to remind us that this is not how the world works. They want us to get it at the deepest level, that everything is always in flux, down to the tiniest of particles. And that's okay. It is our wanting to grasp on to the log that is floating downstream that causes us to suffer. We need to learn this everyday in small ways so that when the time comes to really let go and move on from this world, we won't be shocked or surprised, that we will understand it as part of life. Understanding impermanence offers us the opportunity to appreciate the bittersweetness of what is here now. Enjoy. Drink deeply and let go. That is what the particles of sand are whispering to us.

At the end of the ceremony at the gallery, little bags of sand were offered to those who came to view. You can see me in the photo up above, collecting my little grains of greyness in a scrap of paper, from Barry Till, the Curator of Asian Art. I have them at home sitting under my fat orange, happy Buddha in the dining room, reminding me of the wonder and impermanent nature of my world.

Friday, December 4, 2009

String For Your Finger & Gold Mining in Tibet

I am just unravelling a little metaphorical string for your finger, if you live in the Victoria area. Zendotstudio is warming the apple cider and setting out the treats for Sunday's Open House & Art Sale. Hope to see you there!

Some new work is on display, and some great studio clear-out treats, as are some custom Buddha Boxes for a happy customer that bought 4 last year and wanted some more for this Christmas. It was her great idea last year to use 4 similar 6x6 paintings and give one to each friend. This year she has requested 6 for her sisters and friends.

It's an interesting way of joining and connecting people together with small hand made treasures. I thought it was a brilliant idea. Two good friends and myself have bought the same scarves (different colours) when shopping together but I haven't done it as an intentional way of joining friends together through gift giving. Kind of like each person has a piece of the puzzle. I love it because it expresses the sentiments of generosity, kindness and acknowledges the connection that we have to each other.

On that note we went to hear the second talk by a young Buddhist teacher last night. He spoke about loosening the grip of self centredness that we have and practicing generosity and loving kindness. He also talked about working with our habit of choosing comfort. His talks are based on a text by Dodrupchen Jikme Tenpe Nyima. The written handout exhibits the depth and breadth of the teaching. We get to experience first hand the courage and equanimity of this young man who has only been speaking English for 5 years and often consults us listeners for help with words.

We have heard some interesting and heart tugging stories of his life in Tibet and his ongoing commitment in working for the Tibetan cause. We have learned a little about the history and geography of Tibet: all the stories you might expect to learn from the news outlets but don't. Last night he spoke briefly about how several Canadian companies are working with the Chinese to extract gold from Tibet. He talked about how the villagers have been displaced and now have no place to grow food and means to look after themselves. We never hear these stories on the evening news. He used the story as an example of how when business and self centred interests are used as the bottom line, we can cause harm to others, either wittingly or unwittingly.

And even though you could feel the deep sadness that he felt for Tibet's plight, you never once sensed animosity. He said he approaches protests not in the spirit of hating the Chinese but in the spirit of wanting the Chinese Government to recognized the Tibetan's as human beings. It was interesting to see how he balanced his political activism with the Dharma.

We will hear his last talk next Thursday before he heads off to Nepal to visit his teacher who is 90 and unwell.