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…”

Cultivating the Courage to Be Generous

Developing and cultivating a heart that is inclined toward generosity is not easy. 

It requires a certain vulnerability. It requires a certain faith. It requires so much dharma, really. 

It’s no mystery that Siddhartha Gautama and his wife Yasodhara (I like to call them “the collective Buddha”) taught generosity first whenever traveling to a new town or village. It requires so much generosity to practice. We have to be generous to ourselves; we have to commit to being authentic and actually undergo this purification of the heart, this journey into healing each wound of the heart and having the courage to face them.

Presence requires generosity. It requires courage. It requires a commitment to coming back into the now.

There’s a really beautiful passage where the Buddha is talking about generosity, and he says, as you’re washing your alms bowl in the river, just having the generosity of thinking of how the debris and grains of rice can feed the river life; just having this generosity that everything we do can affect others in a positive way if we have the mind to offer it that way. 

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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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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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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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Writer Marie Myung-Ok Lee on the Enlightenment of Just Showing Up 

In a recent episode of Tricycle Talks, novelist Marie Myung-Ok Lee shares how Buddhist rituals of repetition inform her writing practice and her approach to parenthood.

By Marie Myung-Ok LeeMay 18, 2022

Marie Myung-Ok Lee | Photo © Adrianne Mathiowetz

When novelist Marie Myung-Ok Lee began writing her latest book, The Evening Hero, she didn’t expect the research process to take her to North Korea. The novel follows the story of a middle-aged Korean American, Yungman Kwak, grappling with memories of war in a rapidly changing world, and Lee has been working on it for 18 years. “I’m the kind of writer where once I get an idea, I have to be all in,” she shared with Tricycle editor-in-chief James Shaheen on a recent episode of Tricycle Talks. “I feel like I can’t write unless I can be embodied in what’s happening.” In order to accurately depict the daily life of an obstetrician, Lee ended up shadowing a cohort of medical students on their OB/GYN rotation, sneaking into medical conferences, and eventually helping a midwife deliver a baby. But her research didn’t stop there—at some point she realized that she had to travel to North Korea. Through a combination of luck and perseverance, she and her mother were able to enter North Korea in 2008.

For Lee, writing—and all the research it entails—is one way of honoring her ancestors, and her practice of showing up at her writing desk every day is fundamentally connected to her Buddhist practice. In a recent episode of Tricycle Talks, Tricycle editor-in-chief James Shaheen sat down with Lee to discuss her new novel, her experience raising a child with severe intellectual disabilities, and her own journey through diverse spiritual traditions. Read excerpts from their conversation below, and listen to the full episode here.

On her practice of writing every day

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