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Inside the September 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine Print



Look inside the September 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine

FEATURING: Judy Lief, Norman Fischer, Emily Horn and Melvin McLeod on working with anger; Jack Kornfield on how to join the call for peace in Burma; Insight meditation teacher Gina Sharpe gets real about racism; Noah Levine's prescription for "Refuge Recovery," Thich Nhat Hanh's answers to children's questions; plus, book reviews, "About a Poem," and more.

Click titles below to read excerpts and select complete articles.

this issue's editorial:

All the Rage

Andrea Miller on how anger manifests in our lives. What good is it doing?


special feature section: discovering the wisdom of anger

How to transform anger from a cause of suffering into the powerful energy of compassion.

• The Angry Buddha

The buddhas are angry about the suffering of samsara. Melvin McLeod on the enlightened power of no.

 

• The Poison Tree: How to Transform Anger in 4 Steps

Anger is like a poisonous tree—you can prune it back, chop it down, or find ways to use it. Judy Lief offers four Buddhist techniques to work with our anger. 

 

• How RAIN Cools the Flames of Anger

Emily Horn teaches us how to recognize, accept, investigate, and not identify with our anger.  

 

• Abandon Hope & Other Surprising Slogans to Help You Handle Anger

Zen teacher Norman Fischer applies five surprising mind-training slogans to anger and other strong emotions



features

• There Is a Path that Frees Us from Suffering

Insight Meditation teacher Gina Sharpe is working to create a truly inclusive sangha. The place to start, she says, is facing the truth that even Buddhist communities aren’t free from the suffering caused by racism. Andrea Miller reports.  

 

• Is Nothing Something?

Children’s questions reveal that they, like adults, are grappling with the human condition. We’ll all benefit from Thich Nhat Hanh’s answers to their questions.  

 

• A Refuge from Addiction

Taking refuge in the Buddha means taking refuge from our suffering. Noah Levine offers Buddhist principles and practices to help people free themselves from the suffering of substance abuse.  

 

• On Track with Paul Newman

Paul Newman was one of the world’s biggest stars. But according to former employee Michael Stone, he was also someone who could sit still and watch the rain fall. 


other voices

• Obstacles on the Path

In meditation, you can’t just pretend obstacles aren’t there, says Sakyong Mipham. You have to relate to them.  

 

• Buddhists Betray the Teachings

A religion known for nonviolence is being used to fuel a genocidal campaign against the Muslims of Burma. Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield urges us to join the call for peace.  

 

• Nothing Special 

No one wants to be just another person in a world of seven billion people. Geri Larkin on what happened when she embraced being ordinary.



reviews & more



• Books in Brief

This issue’s roundup features books by Tom Robbins, Peter Matthiessen, Nyanaponika Thera, and more.


• About a Poem

Willis Barnstone on “Our White House,” by Charles Baudelaire




Shambhala Sun, March 2014, Volume Twenty Three, Number 1.

On the Cover: Yanluo, King of Hell, China, 1523 CE. Royal Ontario Museum Gallery of Chinese Architecture. Photo by Rajeshwar Chahal

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All the Rage (Editorial; September 2014) Print

Shambhala Sun | September 2014

All the Rage

If a kid is cute enough, their anger is also cute. I used to know a little girl like that. About eighteen months old, she had curly hair and dimpled arms. She never seemed to cry or scream, and she liked to be picked up and cooed over by adults, even strangers. Yet I remember being at a dinner party once when she saw her mother hold someone else’s baby, and in a flash her brow furrowed into unadulterated rage. I laughed as this tiny girl in a velvet dress charged her mother like a bull.

This was an it’s-funny-because-it’s-true situation. The little girl’s anger held up a true mirror to our adult anger. From my grown-up vantage point, I could see that what she was mad about didn’t really matter. Likewise, most of what gets us adults riled up is equally unimportant.

The little girl’s anger was a disguise for other, more vulnerable emotions. She was jealous, and underneath that jealousy she was hurt and afraid. She loved her mother more than anyone else and, moreover, she depended on her for everything. The thought that she could be replaced by another child was terrifying to her.

Adults also get angry when experiencing softer, more vulnerable emotions. Hurt, sadness, despair—they’re so painful that we try to protect ourselves from them with anger’s fiery energy. But adult anger isn’t funny. At its best, anger is a formidable tool that shows us when something is unjust and needs to be rectified. Much more commonly, however, anger is simply an ugly and destructive force.

Recently, I edited the anthology All the Rage: Buddhist Wisdom on Anger and Acceptance, which will be released by Shambhala Publications in October. While I was putting together that book, as well as this issue of the Shambhala Sun, I gave a lot of thought to anger and how it manifests in my life. I became curious about what it would be like if I stopped getting angry in the face of my soft, uncomfortable feelings, and so I experimented. The first time was when I went to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan.

On the first floor I saw personal artifacts from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—photos of newlyweds, worn shoes, menorahs. I had that bittersweet feeling I always have when seeing the photos and belongings of people long dead. But I also felt a thread of dread. I wondered who died before the war that was to come and who had to suffer it.

On the second floor, dedicated to the Holocaust, anger immediately bubbled up in me. How could one group of human beings do this to another? Then I came to the section on children and I felt like my chest was going to burst with rage. Instead of protecting children, the Nazis had targeted them—starved, tortured, and killed them. The anger just kept pounding through me.

But what good was it doing? Suddenly I realized that there was a hard nugget of violence in my anger, which if given the circumstances could explode. Taking a seat, I stripped my anger to the sadness behind it. I inhaled and exhaled and discovered that my soft, vulnerable feelings were bearable after all—maybe more bearable than the fire I’d been trying to cover them with.

Whether angry or grief-stricken, I do not have the power to travel back in time to rescue those children. I do not even have the power to rescue all of today’s children from painful circumstances. But I could—when I left the museum—be a little less angry and a little more full of compassion for the human condition. That, I think, is the place to begin in doing good.

—Andrea Miller, Deputy Editor




From the September 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

About a Poem Willis Barnstone on Baudelaire’s “Our White House” (September 2014) Print

Shambhala Sun | September 2014

About a Poem
Willis Barnstone on Baudelaire’s “Our White House”

 

Our White House

Outside the city I have not forgot

Our white house, small but in a peaceful lot,

Her chipped Pomona and her old Venus

In a skimpy grove hiding their bare bust,           

And twilight sun both dazzling and superb

Behind the pane where its immense eye burned

Wide open, and the intense curious sky               

Pondered our long silent meals and the eye

Of sun mirrored in candlelight to merge   

On frugal tablecloth and curtain serge.

 

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) is often called the father of modern poetry. A drunk, a sinner, and a street stroller, he was also an impeccably dressed dandy and an unusually courteous gentleman. He was sentenced to prison for a year for his “obscene” writing, specifically his series of poems alluding sympathetically to Sappho and her lesbian friends, but the sentence was commuted. Baudelaire wrote about the lowest ranks of society—the beggars, the blind, and the freezing prostitutes and sneak thieves on winter streets. A master of sonorous prosody, he rendered many poems hard to forget.

In “Our White House,” the poet speaks as a city man, off to the country to visit his maternal refuge, probably on a Sunday evening. Baudelaire’s twice-widowed mother, whom he adored, was Caroline Archenbaut Defayis Aupick. She angered him by not turning over all his inherited estate, but her prudence ultimately guaranteed him a lifetime allowance to carry him through the years. They also fought because she didn’t approve of his “black Venus,” Jeanne Duval, on whom he lavished moneys he didn’t possess, and because of his dissolute ways that led to his early death. But his mother was loyal to him and his art, and he died in her arms in hospital. Then in her remaining years, she devoted her life to editing his work and enhancing his name, making him the most fabled poet in the French language. In many ways Baudelaire was closer to his mother than to any other person, as we may observe in their silent dinner in this short poem.

The first lines reveal Baudelaire’s nostalgia for their modest house with rundown neo-classical statues. Our white house is peaceful, he states. “Her chipped Pomona and her old Venus” and the skimpy trees are a sorrowful patch of nature. But then, the poet declares the grandeur and beauty of the sun and intimately humanizes the heavens, speaking of the “curious sky.” He also reveals the material setting of the table, citing the “frugal tablecloth.” The poem ends not with drapes made of linen, cotton, or silk, but cheap serge curtains.

The power in the poem resides in its understatement. Baudelaire is writing a poem about his mother’s house, which is also about him and his mother and their full relationship. To do so he paints the sun and sky, the garden, the table, and the candlelight of intimacy, and only then does he yield one key personal phrase: “our long silent meals.” The voyeur sun witnesses the scene.

On a personal note, Baudelaire is a French poet I’ve been attached to since my student years in Paris. One afternoon in my room on la rue Jacob, a young woman, whom I’d seen for only a few moments at a cafe, came to the door with the unexpected gift of a pre-war leather-bound edition of Baudelaire’s poems, and then she left. I now take this same volume to France each summer and, though the Baudelaire corpus of poetry is not large, I never finish reading it.

 

Willis Barnstone’s many books include The Restored New Testament, The Gnostic Bible, and the volume of poetry Moonbook and Sunbook. He lives in Oakland, California.




From the September 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

RAIN Cools the Flames of Anger (September 2014) Print

Shambhala Sun | September 2014

RAIN Cools the Flames of Anger


EMILY HORN teaches us how to recognize, accept, investigate, and not identify with our anger. 

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

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

 

1. Recognize Anger

The first step of the practice is to recognize the many forms that anger takes. The energy of anger can move from irritation to resentment to rage. One form can fuel another in a fiery chain reaction that takes just seconds to explode.

We must be willing to face the demons that lie inside us so we are not controlled by them. There are many moments when anger arises without being recognized. Because we fear the intensity of anger, we allow it to build up over time, but pushing anger away or denying it only causes unconscious aggression.

Anger doesn’t just disappear when we start to meditate. But with mindfulness practice and the support of others, we can recognize it more quickly when it arises and have the presence to respond appropriately.

 

2. Accept Anger

Learning to accept anger is the second aspect of RAIN. Nonjudgmental acceptance melts the frozen and unconscious aspects of anger and cools the heat of active anger.

It is natural for our protective instincts to arise in certain circumstances. These are an important part of our evolutionary history. Befriending anger requires us to welcome our survival instincts as they arise. You don’t need to judge or condemn them.

We must learn to accept not only our personal anger but also the collective anger that permeates our world. Patience and forgiveness, for both ourselves and others, are important practices to help cool the flames of aggression.

 

3. Investigate Anger

The third step is to investigate the nature of anger. What is this energy that morphs and changes? That can burn like fire and harden like ice?

When you recognize anger is arising, you can use your attention to zoom into all the different layers and forms of anger. This includes bodily sensations, thoughts, and the whole range of feelings on the anger spectrum.

Is the anger light, dark, murky, or hot? Where is it felt in the body? What happens to your breath when you’re angry? What are the themes of your thoughts?

By applying your curiosity directly to the feeling of anger, you can change a potential damaging moment into a powerful experience of energy. This will create wise change.

By investigating anger you begin to notice how anger morphs into other emotions. You see the subtle ways you identify with your anger, and how the intensity of anger is like a glue that sticks you to your storylines. This leads to the final step of RAIN practice.

 

4. Not Identify with Anger

When we practice non-identification, we set aside the stories we tell ourselves about our anger. Focusing on the movement of the breath softens our identification with these stories so we can simply be with what’s happening.

When we move beyond our personal story, we open into awareness. Non-identification brings the understanding that anger arises and passes away. In that moment we become even more intimate with anger.

We burn out quickly when we identify with our anger, when we don’t recognize how it is driving us, when lack curiosity and investigation. But when we befriend anger, it fuels empowerment, resilience, and change. It deepens into non-separation and living in less harmful ways. Learning to use RAIN—recognizing, accepting, investigating, and non-identifying—turns the suffering of anger into a conscious and workable energy. Through the art of mindfulness, we see the harm that our anger has caused and use it instead to power our lives for the benefit of all.

 

Emily Horn is an Insight Meditation teacher and the community director of Buddhist Geeks, which explores what it means to be a Buddhist in this high-tech world. She lives with her husband in Asheville, North Carolina.



From the September 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

Books in Brief (September 2014) Print

Shambhala Sun | September 2014

Books in Brief


TIBETAN PEACH PIE
A True Account of an Imaginative Life

By Tom Robbins
Ecco 2014; 384 pp., $27.99 (cloth)
 

As the celebrated author of the novels Skinny Legs and All and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Tom Robbins is known for his extravagant, humorous metaphors and for juxtaposing the absurd and the lyrical, the sacred and the profane. But these are not just tricks he saves for his fiction. Tibetan Peach Pie, Robbins’s meandering life story, delivers the same punchy style. I particularly enjoyed the chapter “Now Showing: Satori,” in which Robbins recounts a fleeting but powerful experience of sudden enlightenment. It was in 1966 when he was driving through a blizzard. He could see virtually nothing except swirling snowflakes and then suddenly he caught sight of a huge painted golf ball outlined in white neon, announcing the presence of a driving range. For some reason that glowing white circle made him, for the next twelve seconds or so, “a free spirit in the oneness of the whole enchilada, seeing the world—material and immaterial—for the all-inclusive miracle it is.” Of course, he continues, “I’m all too aware of how woo-woo this sounds, but it was as real as a stubbed toe and as lucid as a page in Hemingway.”

 

IN PARADISE
By Peter Matthiessen
Riverhead Books 2014; 246 pp., $27.95 (cloth)

Peter Matthiessen was the acclaimed author of The Snow Leopard and Shadow Country, as well as a Zen priest in the White Plum Asanga. In April, he passed away while awaiting the publication of In Paradise, his final novel. The inspiration for In Paradise was Matthiessen’s own experience at Roshi Bernie Glassman’s “bearing witness” meditation retreats in Auschwitz. The main character of the novel is Olin, a Polish-American historian who ambivalently joins a bearing witness retreat because he’s researching the suicide of a Holocaust survivor. Over time, however, he comes to realize that his motives for attending are both layered and deeply personal. In Paradise does not flinch in tackling painful questions: What is at the root of our seemingly endless fascination with the Holocaust? If we bear witness, what exactly are we bearing witness to? And what can a non-Jew with no personal connection to the Holocaust contribute to the understanding of such a horrific legacy?

 

NIGHT BOAT
By Alan Spence
Canongate 2014; 454 pp., $15.95 (paper)

This is one of the most enduring stories about Hakuin Ekaku: There was a beautiful young woman who got pregnant and when her parents insisted she reveal the father, she named Hakuin. Irate, the parents showed up at his door with their accusations, yet all he said was, “Is that so?” After the birth, Hakuin accepted the baby and took good care of him, despite the fact that this cost him his reputation. A year passed and finally the young mother confessed to her parents that Hakuin wasn’t really the father but rather it was a man who worked at the fish market. Now, full of apologies, her parents returned to Hakuin’s door, claiming they knew the truth. “Is that so?” Hakuin said again and freely handed the child back. Today Hakuin is celebrated as the reviver of the Rinzai Zen tradition and is recognized as one of the most influential Zen masters of all time. Night Boat is a superbly written novelization of his life. Alan Spence, an award-winning Scottish poet and playwright, is also the author of The Pure Land.

 

LEONARD COHEN ON LEONARD COHEN
Interviews and Encounters

Edited by Jeff Burger
Chicago Review Press 2014; 604 pp., $29.95 (cloth)
 

This hefty volume is a fascinating collection of more than fifty interviews with poet, singer, novelist, and longtime Buddhist practitioner Leonard Cohen. Conducted between 1966 and 2012, these interviews delve into everything from Cohen’s loves and lyrics to his personal financial crisis. But Buddhist readers will be particularly interested in the material that relates to his Zen practice. In one television interview from 1997, Cohen shows journalist Stina Lundberg Dabrowski a slice of his life at Mount Baldy Zen Center in California. He offers her a nip of whiskey, shows her the correct posture for meditation, and explains why he sees his monastic residence as a “kind of hospital up here in the mountains.” He’d always felt a chronic dissatisfaction, even anguish, and nothing really helped. Finally, he was driven to the cure of Zen. “You learn how to sit,” he says, “you learn how to walk, you learn how to eat, you learn how to be quiet… And you have the opportunity for self-reform.” Besides, he adds, without this discipline “I’d be lying in bed watching television, scratching myself.”

 

THE YOGA SUTRA OF PATANJALI
A Biography

By David Gordon White
Princeton University Press 2014; 288 pp., $24.95 (cloth)

With roughly seventeen million people regularly attending yoga classes in the United States, yoga studios are cranking out teachers. The required reading in almost all of the teacher training programs is the same ancient text: the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. This is curious, because the lion’s share of today’s yoga classes are almost exclusively focused on postures, stretching, and breathing, yet the Yoga Sutra’s 195 abstruse aphorisms say next to nothing about these practices. The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: A Biography is a lively account of this sutra’s unlikely history and how it has variously been interpreted, reinterpreted, ignored, and hailed. The colorful characters on these pages include Vivekananda and Krishnamacharya, two giants in modern yoga, as well as literary figures such as T.S. Eliot. There is also Alberuni, a Muslim scientist and scholar who translated a commentary on the Yoga Sutra a thousand years ago, and the outrageous Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, who fused the principles of the Yoga Sutra with Western ideas of the occult.

 

THE HEART OF BUDDHIST MEDITATION
The Buddha’s Way of Mindfulness

By Nyanaponika Thera
Weiser Books 2014; 288 pp., $18.95 (paper)
 

The late Nyanaponika Thera was a German-born Theravada monk who cofounded the Buddhist Publication Society. He was the teacher of Bhikkhu Bodhi and other contemporary Western Buddhist leaders, and his book The Heart of Buddhist Meditation, first published in 1954, was instrumental in introducing Vipassana and mindfulness to the West. As Sylvia Boorstein remarks in the foreword of this reprint: “Apart from the meticulous yet accessible writing style with which the venerable Nyanaponika builds every point, I feel a warmth and friendliness in his tone that makes me feel as if he is talking to me.” The Heart of Buddhist Meditation includes the highly influential Maha-Satipatthana-Sutta and the Greater Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness, as well as an anthology of other texts on right mindfulness, which have been translated from Pali and Sanskrit with notes.

 

SIT WITH LESS PAIN
Gentle Yoga for Meditators and Everyone Else

By Jean Erlbaum
Wisdom Publications 2014; 200 pp., $19.95 (paper)
 

For over three decades, Jean Erlbaum has been teaching yoga at meditation retreats, and the feedback she has gotten year in and year out is that a body free of pain and tension helps the mind become quiet. To address this concern, her new book presents poses and self-massage techniques that can be practiced before or after sitting practice. At the heart of this book is the idea that yoga does not have to be separate from meditation, as it is itself meditative. “When we pay full attention during a forward bend,” says Erlbaum, “we can drop all memories of how our back has been, judgment of how it should be, worries about how it may get worse, or fantasies of how to make it better. All there is in that moment is the stretch, the breath, and any physical changes or insights as they occur.” In short, Erlbaum posits, “Yoga can bring us into the authentic embodiment of each moment.”

 

BY ALL MEANS
A Zen Cautionary Tale

By Edward Brown; illustrations by Margot Koch
Missing Links Press 2014; 112 pp., $19.95 (paper)
 

From Edward Espe Brown, the author of The Complete Tassajara Cookbook, comes By All Means, a quirky tale dedicated to “grown-ups of all ages.” It is about the real-life adventures of a pig puppet named Ponce as he develops a touching friendship with Edward. Edward rescues Ponce from the jaws of a cat, then gives him a place in the world when he brings him into a family of stuffed toys and collaborates with him to teach Zen to children. For anyone who has ever looked into the sad eyes of a stuffed animal and had their heartstrings pulled, Edward’s words will hit home. “Ponce’s little piggy pain was really my own gaping wound that hurt so much that sharing it with anyone was problematic. Still Ponce was willing to let me share my big pain with him, while I pretended that it was his—and as long as I was pretending I really believed that it was Ponce’s pain. Ponce was a real friend in that regard.”

 

LIVING IN BALANCE
A Mindful Guide for Thriving in a Complex World

By Joel & Michelle Levey
Divine Arts 2014; 330 pp., $18.95 (paper)
 

From family matters and health concerns to making a living, human life has always been stressful, and now we have the added stress that comes with ubiquitous technology. To help us find balance in such challenging times, Joel and Michelle Levey synthesize the wisdom of myriad spiritual traditions with cutting-edge science. A wide variety of principles and practices are presented in Living in Balance, so there is something here for everyone. And the authors encourage experimentation: if we’re mindful of what resonates with us, we can each find our own unique mix or “playlist” of insights and tools, which can most effectively help us find harmony and deeper connections. “This book will be of use to anyone interested in exploring and transforming the mind,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama writes in the book’s introduction. “As more people achieve some degree of mental calm, insight, or the ability to transform negative emotions into positive ones, there will be a natural reinforcement of basic human values and consequently a greater chance for peace and happiness for all.”

 

JAPANESE IKEBANA FOR EVERY SEASON
By Rie Imai and Yuji Ueno; photography by Noboru Murata
Tuttle 2014; 144 pp., $24.95 (cloth)

It is believed that ikebana, or Japanese flower arranging, first came into being in the sixth century as flower offerings to the Buddha. For a contemporary taste of this art form, check out Japanese Ikebana for Every Season. This book explains basic ikebana techniques such as how to trim, bend, and shape plant material and how to boil, pound, or burn stems in order to aid water absorption. Then the book goes on to showcase fifty-three evocative arrangements, with tips for recreating them at home. According to Rie Imai and Yuji Ueno, observing and mimicking nature is at the heart of ikebana. Yet “ikebana is not simply nature transplanted into a vase.” It is, rather, flowers and branches plucked from nature, then restructured, combined with a container, and presented in a new (indoor) environment. In effect, it is an interpretation of nature infused with the arranger’s sensibilities.




From the September 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

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