Inside the July 2013 Shambhala Sun magazine
Look inside the July 2013 Shambhala Sun magazine
This issue is all about your body — from pleasure and pain, to performance and path: Norman Fischer contemplates the deeper reality of the body, Karen Connelly feels the heat in "Flesh Sex Desire," Thich Nhat Hanh offers three exercises from well-being, and four individuals talk sports and mindfulness.
Plus: Andrea Miller speaks with Jane Goodall, Sumi Loundon Kim tells why (and how) how she quit Facebook, Ruth Ozeki's new novel is reviewed, and more.
this issue's editorial:
As Shambhala Sun Deputy Editor Andrea Miller relates, our bodies can be vehicles that spur us to awakening. Learn more about how the new Shambhala Sun investigates the power of joining body and mind.
It’s less than we think. It’s far more than
we know. Contemplate the deeper reality
of the body with Buddhist teacher
Body was 375 pounds. Ira Sukrungruang
bares his soul about their complicated
bad news is that everyone who is born will age, get sick, and die. The
good news is that this suffering can be the impetus for awakening. With Rachel Neumann on birth, Lewis Richmond on old age, Stan Goldberg on illness, and Brenda Feuerstein on death.
Desire is a large, hot fact of life, says Karen Connelly. Its Latin root explains why it is so compelling and magical—de sideris means "of the stars."
Four sports enthusiasts put their practice into play. Featuring Melvin McLeod on skiing, Liz Martin on golfing, Jaimal Yogis on surfing, and Laura Munson on riding.
Thich Nhat Hanh offers three exercises for well-being.
RELATED SHAMBHALA SUN SPOTLIGHT:
Feeling loved is what makes us emotionally secure, but what if we didn't feel cared for as children? Tara Bennett-Goleman on how we can develop a secure emotional base.
Also inside: "Through the Gateway of the Senses," by Francesca Fremantle.
Putting others first—it's the great switch that changes everything. It cuts samsara at the root and plants the seed of enlightenment. Sakyong Mipham on how to be a bodhisattva.
RELATED SHAMBHALA SUN SPOTLIGHT:
After the loss of her brother, Ellen Watters Sullivan encountered a family legacy of shame as old as the American South itself. Could she cultivate compassion for her slaveholder ancestors, their victims, and herself?
What if our online life gets in the way of our flesh and blood connections? Sumi Loundon Kim on how she cut the wireless tether. (It wasn't easy.)
The biologist and ethologist talks with Andrea Miller about the compassion of animals, the power of trees, what we can all do to effect positive change in the world.
Andrea Miller reviews new titles from Shozan Jack Haubner, Robert Rosenbaum, Michael Sowder, Sister Chan Khong, and more.
Shambhala Sun, July 2013, Volume Twenty One, Number 6.
On the cover: Dead Sea 6, 2011, by Spencer Tunick.
About a Poem: On Yunus Emre's "Those Who Learned to Be Truly Human" (July 2013)
Shambhala Sun | July 2013
About a Poem: Geoffrey Shugen Arnold on Yunus Emre’s “Those Who Learned to
Be Truly Human"
Those who learned to be truly human
found everything in being humble.
While those who looked proudly from above,
were pushed down
A heart that must always feel superior
will one day lose its way.
What should be within, leaks out.
The old man with the white beard
never sees the state he’s in.
He needn’t waste money on making the Hajj,
if he’s broken
The heart is the seat of God,
where God is aware.
You won’t find happiness
in either world, if you break a heart.
The deaf man doesn’t hear,
the blind man mistakes day for night.
Yet the universe is filled with light.
We’ve seen how those who came later moved on.
Whatever you think of yourself,
think the same of others.
This is the meaning of the Four Books,
if they have one.
May Yunus not stray from the path,
nor get on his high horse.
May the grave and the Judgement be no concern,
if what he
loves is the face of God.
To be truly human—have we ever been anything other than
this? And yet... and yet. Is the most simple always the most difficult? Never apart from my original nature, what kind of “learning” allows
me—liberates me—to be truly human?
Look to humility, Yunus Emre sings. But what is that? My
dictionary speaks of not being proud or haughty, yes, but also of submission
and ranking low. Is this why we find so little interest in humility today, but
instead seek our place among those who look proudly from above? How much do we
give for this fleeting moment of glory? We grow weary of tumbling down the stairs,
only to find that it is we ourselves who keep giving the push.
May I never lose my way, and so my heart. My gift to you is
to fill every crack so nothing leaks out. I respectfully plant the seeds for my
own patience; may it be resilient. My vow is to break my heart—ruined!
shattered!—so I will never break yours. To make my pilgrimage to the heart of
being and die there—not just once, but again and again. until the very sense of
returning is itself ruined.
May I be the deaf one who hears every sound, the blind one
who sees all the beauty and the bro- ken. I admire Yunus for offering clear and direct counsel to himself; I too need this. To love the path so deeply that we never want to part from it. To no longer be drawn to peer through the thin curtains into another’s house, to
escape into a different, better life. Even when we see that we can no longer stray from life’s
breadth and depth, may we love life and all that is true and be diligent so we never stray one hair’s breath.
My guess is that the truly humble never speak of humility.
Perhaps I’m wrong. In any case, I am humbled in the midst of this dharma—God’s
original face—by my own need for humility.
Poem from The Drop That Became the Sea, translated by Kabir
Helminski and Refik Algan. Courtesy of Shambhala Publications.
Geoffrey Shugen Arnold is the
head of the Mountains and Rivers Order
and abbot of the Zen
Center of New York
City. He also manages
the National Buddhist
Prison Sangha. In
full-time zen training
since 1986, he received
dharma transmission from John Daido
Loori Roshi in 1997.
His teachings have
appeared in various
Buddhist journals and
in The Best Buddhist
Writing 2009. His first
book, O, Beautiful End,
a collection of Zen
memorial poems, was
published in 2012.
Lost in Time (July 2013)
Shambhala Sun | July 2013
Lost in Time
A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING
By Ruth Ozeki
Viking 2013; 432 pp., $28.95 (cloth)
Reviewed by BRIAN BRETT
Inspired writers are the ones who walk sideways to what most
would consider the “real” world. At their best they can portray the confusion
that life is and make it feel more real than reality. Ruth Ozeki, a recently
ordained Zen priest, is still very much with this world, yet a spiritual
benevolence invests her novels with kindness.
In 1999 Ozeki wrote the bestselling My Year of Meats, a romp
through Japanese and american culture and an attack on the American beef
industry and its talent for scary hormones, such as DES, and feeding rendered
animal products to herbivores like beef cattle. It’s the story of an
androgynous six-foot-tall documentary filmmaker rescued from poverty by a job
directing a Japanese TV show, My American Wife. She soon learns, however, that
this show is not about shining a light on American culture but rather luring more
Japanese viewers into eating potentially tainted beef.
My Year of Meats integrates multiple viewpoints, fascinating
and sometimes flaky characters based on real people, and current political
issues. This previewed an approach that would grow through Ozeki’s ensuing
novels, All Over Creation and, now, A Tale for the Time Being.
All Over Creation tackles farming and genetic modification. A group of dedicated anti-GMO radicals who call themselves seeds and drive a
biofuel car they’ve named “Spudnick,” which they run on liberated McDonald’s
french-fry oil, move onto the farm of two traditional older farmers they
admire—Lloyd and Momoko Fuller. Momoko is suffering from Alzheimer’s and Lloyd
rapidly develops heart troubles. Their daughter, Yumi, moves back home to help
her parents, and soon the family is tangled up with corporate spies and the
nuttier fringes of the anti-GMO movement as they battle the dreaded Cyanco and
its NuLife potato.
In A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki pulls out all the
stops with her new cast of beautiful, batty, and sad characters and a host of
worldwide issues. She immediately challenges the premises of fiction itself
when a character named Ruth finds some flotsam on the beach and takes it home
to her partner, Oliver, an eco-artist who sounds suspiciously like Ozeki’s
partner, Oliver Kellhammer. The flotsam is sealed in plastic bags within
plastic bags, all holding a sealed Hello Kitty lunchbox, which contains a “hacked”
copy of Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu. The novel has been cut out and
replaced with blank pages filled with a Japanese student’s English-language
diary. Inside the lunchbox are also a number of letters in Japanese, a thin
composition book, and an old watch. It’s quite the time capsule, washed up on
the shores of Cortes Island, British Columbia, a year after the tsunami that
This gives Oliver an opportunity to explain the currents of
gyres, which are controlling the ecology of the Pacific Ocean, and further
explain the mechanics of the Turtle Gyre that probably brought the package. At
first Oliver is more device than human being; that is, he’s a vehicle for
explaining various scientific principles. The reader is intrigued, however, by
Oliver’s design and planting of a brilliantly peculiar eco-forest as a
scientific/ ecological/artistic experiment. He’s charming, but he doesn’t come
alive until toward the end of the novel.
The diary begins elegantly. “Hi! My name is Nao, and I am a
time being. Do you know what a time being is?” We soon learn this is a being
who lives within time, which is moving quickly. In other words, we’re all time
beings. This was explained to Nao by her 104-year-old great-grandmother, Jiko,
a Buddhist nun who in her younger years had been a novelist, a lover of men and
women, and an intellectual anarchist feminist politically active almost a
century ahead of her time.
The mood of the novel shifts quickly when Nao announces her
intended suicide. Nao spent a privileged childhood in the silicon dream of
California, where her father worked for a dot.com success and was its Japanese
wunderkind. but then came the dot.com bubble, and her father had unwisely
invested everything in the company before it went bust, or so he says. now
they’re back in Japan and he’s become a “house ghost,” so crushed he’s incapable of looking for work anymore. He’s
already “accidentally” fallen in front of a subway train and then been billed
for the subway’s rescue costs.
Meanwhile, Nao is spending her spare time in Akihabara, the
electronics and manga heart of tokyo, where many of the zany fads of Japan
arise. She has a fondness for the district’s French-maid cafés and describes
how at her favorite one the predominant color is pink, and frilly skirts and
push-up bras are the standard. In the entryway there’s a naked sculpture in a
fountain—the hot spot glowing. yes, mighty tacky, and every hostess has a
price. But the café is an escape for Nao. She’s being cruelly bullied in her
new school, and Ozeki explores this with fury, especially in one horrific scene
in which Nao’s classmates have a funeral for her.
The diary is just that—a diary written in the first person. But Ruth’s voyage of discovery is told in the third person. Trying to decipher Nao’s life, Ruth fears that Nao was lost in the tsunami of 2011 that killed more
than 29,000 people. Ozeki points out, chillingly, that the coast of Japan is
dotted with ancient stone markers that state: “Do not build your homes below
here.” Most of those markers were ignored in the last century. The 2011 tsunami
washed up to the base of several markers.
Bullying, poverty, tsunamis, suicide, child prostitution—A
Tale for the Time Being grows even more complex, widening out like the
confusing world we live in. The opening pages are awkward to read. Ozeki works
so hard to make Nao’s child-voice authentic that it seems boring and dumb, and
oliver’s initial deus ex machina appearances don’t help. Yet the novel grows
more fascinating within pages.
The eccentric characters of Ruth’s home island soon enrich
the novel, especially when they gather at the local post office. They are so
island, so funny. Cortes Island, like a few of the san Juan islands and some of Canada’s other Gulf Islands, has a classic island atmosphere, where hippies,
rough-and-ready oyster fishermen and loggers, and the retired wealthy with
their beachfront mansions collide. Ozeki manages to have fun with the community
of Cortes Island—rednecks and philosophers alike—yet with a gentle fondness. It’s a rich picture but it isn’t cruel.
The novel keeps growing richer, especially with the
appearance of Jiko, who has become a ghost in Japanese history, a ghost that
even disappears on rRuth’s computer screen. One day Ruth finds one mention of
Jiko on the internet, but by the next day that mention has disappeared
permanently, and this is where the novel takes a mystical turn, and we start
encountering quantum mechanics and a magical raven.
Better still, we discover the austere yet rich world of
monastery life. The ancient dying Jiko proves to be one of the most magnificent
Zen creations I've encountered, on a level with some of the masters glimpsed in
the writings of Gary Snyder and Peter Matthiessen. She’s a caricature and yet
so perfect a caricature, so simple and beautiful, that she is invested with
life and warmth and devious humor, and the pages glow whenever she appears.
At this point the novel takes another twist. We discover
that suicidal tendencies run in Nao’s family, and the composition book found in
the Hello Kitty lunchbox belonged to Nao’s great uncle, who was a Heidegger
disciple cruelly “volunteered” as a kamikaze pilot in WWII. He wrote his last
notes in French so they would be somewhat safe from the prying eyes of his
Nao learns that this quiet man recognized that he couldn’t
kill, so he vowed to steer his plane into the waves at the fatal moment. In an
odd way, this tragic passage gives inspiration to both Nao and her troubled
father. He realizes how terribly he has abandoned his daughter and wife and
attempts to turn his life around, while at the same time we realize that he was
actually fired from his cushy job because he was attempting to sabotage his
computer programs that would be used for drone killing and various other kinds
of hi-tech warfare.
While I won’t reveal what ultimately happens to nNo, her
father, Jiko, and Ruth, I will say that each of these characters is invested
with life. It’s a quirky, deep, occasionally hilarious, and occasionally
depressing montage of a novel. A sneaky charmer.
Its only serious flaw, aside from the clunky
characterization of Nao and Oliver at the beginning, is that it’s a bit of a
jumble and all the leaps aren’t smooth. I would have liked a little tighter
editing. For instance, as part of an explanation of events, we are given a
too-long lecture by Oliver on Schrodinger’s cat (a famous physics problem) and
quantum physics. It’s a clumsy attempt to over-explain information appearing
and disappearing in the novel. But this is a mystery that doesn’t need to be
tidily tied up.
Still, A Tale for the Time Being is such a romp—so unafraid
of the disasters of life, so full of delight—that it’s well worth the read.
Forget the easy escape route of quantum mechanics; the novel more than supplies
enough old-fashioned reading magic.
Brian Brett is
the author of thirteen
books of poetry, fiction,
and memoir, including
the prize-winning Trauma Farm and
the recently released Wind River Variations.
According to Brett, his novel, Coyote, A
Mystery, might or
might not be (as
Salman Rushdie would say) the story of an
ecoterrorist who’s an
incarnation of Hotei,
the Laughing Buddha.
Brett lives with his
wife, Sharon, on Salt
Spring Island, British
Columbia, where they
farm garlic, pussy
willows, and eggs.
Collage by Megumi Yoshida / Source print by Katsushika Hokusai
Books in Brief (July 2013)
Shambhala Sun | July 2013
Books in Brief
By ANDREA MILLER
ZEN CONFIDENTIAL: Confessions of a Wayward Monk
By Shozan Jack Haubner
Shambhala Publications 2013; 240 pp., $14.95 (paper)
If you want to hold on to your misty-eyed notions about the
peace and purity of monastic life, don’t read this book. But definitely read it
if you want gritty truth steeped in wicked irony and really grotesque potty
humor. “Shozan Jack Haubner” is the nom de plume of a Buddhist monk living at a
monastery in California, and in Zen Confidential he unpacks his spiritual
journey. Readers of the Shambhala Sun will already be familiar with some of his
misadventures, including all-time side-splitter and cringe-inducer “The Shitty
Monk.” Haubner is the son of conservative Catholics—his father manufactured gun
barrels— but he grew up to ditch Jesus, major in philosophy, and pursue a
career in stand-up comedy. In one of my favorite essays in the collection, he
explores what he calls “the abortion koan.” Doubting the accuracy of a pregnancy
test, the monk-to-be insists that his snarly girlfriend pee on a second wand.
When she holds the results up to the light, he knows one thing with absolute
certainty: He will never have sex again. “As always,” he writes, “the only
thing I was really wrong about that evening was that of which I was most
WALKING THE WAY: 81 Zen Encounters with the Tao Te Ching
By Robert Rosenbaum
Wisdom Publications 2013; 384 pp., $17.95 (paper)
Taoism and Zen go back a long way together. In the fourth
and fifth centuries, when Buddhism was taking root in China, Indian scholars
struggled to explain Buddhist concepts in Chinese and found the best way to
do it was by using Taoist terms.
Linguistically joined at the hip, the
traditions influenced each other, and in the sixth century Taoism significantly
contributed to the emergence of Chan, later called Zen by the Japanese. In Walking
the Way, Robert Rosenbaum offers original Zen-infused commentary on the
eighty-one poems of the Tao Te Ching, as well as engaging personal anecdotes to
illuminate them. Rosenbaum is a senior teacher of dayan qigong in the lineage
of Yang Meijun and received lay entrustment in Zen from Sojun Mel Weitsman of
Berkeley Zen Center. He’s also a neuropsychologist, psychotherapist, and
behavioral medicine specialist and the author of Zen and the Heart of
HOUSE UNDER THE MOON
By Michael Sowder
Truman State University Press 2012; 85 pp., $15.95 (paper)
House Under the Moon is a collection of Michael Sowder’s
poems about spirituality, meditation, and fatherhood. Sowder is the founder of
the Amrita Sangha for Integral Spirituality, an organization dedicated to
exploring and teaching the practices of the world’s wisdom traditions, so it’s
unsurprising that his poems borrow from various religions, including Buddhism.
In his poem “Hiking at Oselong, Tibetan Buddhist Monastery of Andalucia,”
Sowder writes: “Buddha left his family, like Mirabai, Indira Devi, Peter, and
Paul. I followed that call once, crushing hearts like soda cans, but then came
home.” Pages later, we find “The Fourth Noble Truth,” in which Sowder describes
his one- year-old son running off with a map he’d snatched from a car. The poet
concludes: “Clutching your booty too tightly—map of Mt. Naomi, veined as any
heart—you had no hands to spare, and your face met the cement... It takes time,
my son, to learn to break a fall by letting go of what you want.”
THE SUPREME THOUGHT: Bodhichitta & the Enlightened Society Vow
By Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
Dragon 2013; 87 pp., $22 (paper)
“Basic goodness” and “enlightened society” are key concepts
in the Shambhala tradition. However, “good” here does not mean good as opposed
to bad, but rather “pure, intrinsically good.” That is, despite our struggles
and confusion, there is something essentially good about our existence as human
beings. “Conventionally, society, politics, and human interaction might not be
described as good or pure,” says Shambhala Sun columnist Sakyong Mipham
Rinpoche, writing here under his full Shambhala title, Kongma Sakyong II Jampal
Trinley Dradül. “But when society develops confidence in basic goodness, that
goodness can manifest and emanate into all fields of human activity. Having
confidence and inspiration in the message of basic goodness, a good society can
dawn here on Earth.” The Supreme Thought can be purchased through Shambhala
Media at shambhalamedia.org.
99 BLESSINGS: An Invitation to Life
By Brother David Steindl-Rast
Image 2013; 128 pp., $14.99 (cloth)
Brother David Steindl-Rast is acclaimed for building bridges
between religious traditions. A Catholic monk of the Benedictine Order, he has
studied extensively with Zen teachers and is the coauthor, with the late Robert
Aitken Roshi, of The Ground We Share: Everyday Practice, Buddhist and Christian.
In 99 Blessings, Steindl-Rast offers a series of original interfaith prayers.
Pithy and lyrical, they celebrate everything from sparrows to birthdays, from
hidden things to fresh linen. To learn more from Steindl-Rast, you might wish
to check out the course on awakening the heart and mind that he and Zen teacher
Paul Haller will be co-leading from June 28 to July 5 at Tassajara Zen Mountain
DEEP RELAXATION: Coming Home to Your Body
By Sister Chan Khong
Parallax Press 2013; 40 pp., $14.95 (cloth)
When I have trouble sleeping at night, I move from my
regular bed to the bed in the guestroom, and sometimes just this change of
scene helps me nod off. But if not, I have an even more effective tool in my
pajama pocket: deep relaxation, as taught by Thich Nhat Hanh’s closest
collaborator, Sister Chan Khong. Her deep-relaxation technique involves finding
a comfortable position, closing your eyes, focusing on the breath, and
releasing the tension in your body from head to toe. If you wish, you can then
go deeper by focusing on a part of your body that needs special attention or
healing. But deep relaxation is not just helpful for falling asleep; it’s also
an excellent way to take a breather when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Khong
suggests dividing a stressful workday into segments and doing short sessions of
deep relaxation between each segment. When you do this, she says, you’ll come
to your next activity with increased freshness and effectiveness.
On the cover:
By Spencer Tunick
Self-published in a limited edition of 1,400, 2013; 112 pp.,
When we were looking for a cover for this, the “Body” issue
of the Shambhala Sun, we knew we wanted to avoid easy, clichéd imagery—and what
could be more clichéd than the way popular media and advertising represent the
body? We were looking for something fresh and real, pointing to the common
identity we all share by way of our human bodies. We chose “Dead Sea 6, 2011”
by Spencer Tunick, the longtime video artist/photographer whose first book, European
Installations, has just been released.
Tunick has been documenting the live nude figure in public,
with photography and video, since the early 1990s, organizing nearly one
hundred site-related installations that make use of volunteers sometimes
numbering into the thousands—all nude, unless you count the occasional bit of
The artist describes his “human installations” as a combination
of performance art, photography, sculpture, and land art that transcends the
sexuality usually associated with the naked form. His aim is to reveal
abstract “new shapes” that challenge our views of the body and also ask us to
consider the complexities of presenting art in public spaces.
Of course, not everyone is willing to go there with Tunick;
his choice to work with as unusual and controversial a medium as nude bodies
has resulted in five arrests. But in May 2000, the Second U.S. District Court
recognized that his work should be protected by the First Amendment. The
Supreme Court then ruled in Tunick’s favor too, allowing the May ruling to
stand and the artist to freely organize his work in New York City’s streets.
Self-published in a limited edition of 1,400, European
Installations can be ordered from spencertunick.com.
Try a Little Tenderness (July 2013)
Shambhala Sun | July 2013
Try a Little Tenderness
It’s not a luxury to feel loved and cared for—it’s what
makes us emotionally secure. If it didn’t happen when we were children, says
psychotherapist TARA BENNETT-GOLEMAN , meditation can
help us develop a secure emotional base now.
When I was seventeen, a couple hired me as a mother’s helper
to take care of their infant. One night the parents were out, and the baby and
I both fell asleep early. A few hours later, the infant’s hysterical crying
woke me. When I went into the baby’s room and lifted her into my arms, I could
feel her poor tense body shaking from crying so much. Holding her close, I felt
such warm empathy for this baby I loved, and I tried to comfort her with my
voice. Suddenly, I felt a strong wave of tenderhearted compassion, almost like
a surge of energy that seemed to flow out of my heart into her body. as soon as
this happened, the baby melted in my arms. Her tiny body became heavy and limp,
and she fell fast asleep.
Such moments are routine for parents caring for an infant,
but as I was still a teenager, I had learned something new about compassion.
that was the first time I had experienced so vividly how expressing a sincere,
tenderhearted love just might help someone find security.
Tara Bennett-Goleman is a psychotherapist and the author of
the New York Times bestseller Emotional Alchemy who teaches workshops
internationally with her husband, Daniel Goleman. She draws on her studies with
Buddhist masters, including Sayadaw U Pandita, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, Nyoshul
Khen Rinpoche, and Adeu Rinpoche, in her new book, Mind Whispering: A New Map
to Freedom from Self-Defeating Emotional Habits, excerpted in this issue. The
book weaves together Eastern and Western approaches to the mind, the science
of habit change, methods from cognitive therapy, and the wisdom teachings
that horses whisper to us.
Illustration: Katherine Streeter
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