Zen Blog

This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey..... ”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

Tricycle’s Highlights From the Week

Nothing is permanent, everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—at Tricycle and in the Buddhist world this week.

The Winning Poems from Last Month’s Haiku Challenge

As moderator Clark Strand notes, the winning and honorable mention haiku for April’s challenge “captured the essential spirit of Nature’s most ubiquitous spring flower,” the dandelion. Read the winning poems here, and then submit your own haiku for a chance to be featured on our website and in the print magazine. 

Illustration by Jing Li

A Short Guided Meditation on Expanding the Visual Sense

In a new short audio practice, meditation teacher Lama Karma demonstrates the use of “panoramic vision,” a relaxation technique to help us take in our environment with increased openness and clarity. This is the second of a four-part series on Open Mindfulness, a framework that explores the yogic awareness practices of Tibetan Buddhism within the contemporary context of the mindfulness movement. Listen here.

Illustration by Angela Huang

A Teaching from Thaye Dorje, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa

In a reflection originally published on Thay Dorje’s website, the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa writes about the miracle of human life. Though our lifetimes are fleeting on a cosmic scale, we experience them as long and adventurous. Focus on this, he says, and you will be naturally motivated to make the most of life. Read the teaching here.

Photo by Khamkéo Vilaysing

A Dharma Talk on the Strength of Goodness

Meditation teacher Joshua Bee Alafia’s Dharma Talk this month focuses on dana (giving), sila (moral integrity), and bhavana (cultivation, meditation) as means for living as heart-centrically as we can. Watch this week’s talk, “The Strength of Goodness,” here.

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The Meaning of Fearless Mastery

By Leo Babauta

This week, we’ve opened up enrollment for my deepest program, Fearless Mastery. It’s 20 or so people coming together to support each other’s meaningful work in community, and to get supported by me and our other coaches.

The name “Fearless Mastery” brings up a lot of uncertainty in people, a lot of preconceived notions. So I thought I’d talk about what’s behind that name.

Let’s start with each word — Fearless and Mastery — before we talk about the overall idea.

The Meaning of Fearlessness

The word “fearless” might seem to imply an absence of fear … but what it really means is courage in the face of fear.

When I talk about “fearlessness,” I’m talking about the ability to be with your fear. To face it, to rest your attention on it, to stay with it, to become intimate with your fear.

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Why We Need Both Grief and Gratitude

I cry when I read the news periodically.

Graphic details of the war in Ukraine, disturbing reports of climate chaos, the racist mass shooting in Buffalo, New York here in the United States all remind me of the ignorance, hate, and violence in our world. It’s a lot to be with. 

Making space for the truth of our feelings is essential for keeping the heart healthy and finding a wise response in this complex world.

The pain is valid. The grief is valid. The anger, fear, and emotional exhaustion are all valid. 

I’ve been teaching this week in central Massachusetts, where spring is in full force: the trees are in bloom, the scent of lilacs fills the air, warm thunder showers roll through the afternoon. The other day, between retreats, I sat outside with a good friend, drinking tea and catching up about our lives.

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Can Mindfulness Change How We Interpret Emotional Situations?

Throughout the day, our brain must interpret the meaning of many kinds of emotional, physical, and social stimuli. Research in the field of psychology has found that people tend to have a default negative reaction to these cues, especially when it isn’t clear if a situation is positive or negative, or when the information we’re receiving about the world around us is continuously changing.

Nicholas Harp from the Psychology Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln says that our appraisal of stimuli or events is what we call our valence bias, which he explains “really refers to whether you tend to see these kinds of emotional ambiguities or uncertainties in a more positive or negative light.” Harp says that individuals who have a negative valence bias are at a greater risk of developing symptoms of mood and anxiety disorders.

The good news is that it may be possible for us to reduce our tendency toward a negative bias, and shift to a more positive interpretation of uncertainty. One of the ways that researchers believe we can achieve this change is through mindfulness practice.

A Look at the Mindfulness Literature

The number of articles published on the effects of mindfulness has grown exponentially in recent decades and has revealed the significant benefits that mindfulness-based interventions can have for our ability to feel and express our emotions. The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR) in particular has been well studied and demonstrates that mindfulness can improve our overall psychological well-being.

However, there are some limitations with this data. One problem is that studies have mainly focused on short-term outcomes of the MBSR program and have not assessed the long-term impacts beyond the end of the intervention. This means we don’t know whether participants will continue to practice mindfulness or gain any further benefits once their course is over.

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Kickstarter Campaign Raises Funds for Anthology and Documentary Honoring Red Pine, the Translator of Chinese Poetry and Buddhist Texts

The collection of poems and film will come out next spring.

By Alison SpiegelMay 19, 2022

Bill Porter (Red Pine) | Courtesy Copper Canyon Press

Bill Porter, the renowned translator of Chinese poetry and Buddhist texts who goes by the pen name Red Pine, is the subject of a new anthology and documentary, both titled Dancing with the Dead and set to come out in the spring of 2023. The projects come from nonprofit publisher Copper Canyon Press and production company Woody Creek Pictures respectively, two organizations that have teamed up on a Kickstarter campaign to ensure their work stays on schedule. The campaign aims to raise $80,000 by June 1 to fund costs associated with publishing the anthology, as well as research and post-production costs for the film. 

Porter is the author and translator of over twenty books and a beloved figure in the American Buddhist landscape. As Ward Serrill, director of Dancing with the Dead, points out, Porter’s biography also makes him a great subject for a documentary. His father was a bank robber, he flunked out of three different colleges, he lived in a Buddhist monastery for years, he was a popular radio host in Hong Kong, and he discovered hermits in the China’s Zhongnan Mountains after officials told him that there were no hermits to be found there. Using interviews, animation, archival footage of Beat poets, and footage from Chinese television productions on Porter, the film will tell the story of the translator’s life and contribution to his field. The anthology, meanwhile, will collect his poetry translations in the final volume of a series of books called “Essential Poems”—a series that includes writers like W.S. Merwin, June Jordan, Jim Harrison, and Ruth Stone.

Depending on the level of support, contributors to the campaign could receive an advance copy of the anthology,  a digital download of the documentary,  a collector’s edition movie poster, their name in the credits of the anthology and film, and even a dinner and private reading with Porter.

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