Would I ever return to being a Buddhist monk?

The question has been asked of me many times. I have asked me many times. Here in Thailand there is opportunity to ordain again. But here in Thailand I do not think so.

In case you did not know, I was ordained as a novice 10 years ago. I lived in a Thai temple in Arizona for a little over 4 months. I lived there with 3 Thai monks, two who were bilingual. I was a bull in a china shop but I was serious and dedicated. I had planned to stay longer but some events required my attention and I could not do so as a monastic.

Monks live by very strict rules. 227 rules actually. They affect every area of life, dress, eating, grooming, traveling, socializing and much more. As I am in Thailand for my first time if I were to ordain, I would be limiting my ability to travel around. New monks are generally required to be in the company of a senior monk. They rarely can travel at night. They cannot go to entertainment venues, such as a Muy Thai match (Thai martial art)

As it is, I am very connected to the things that matter most to me about being a monk. I am with them constantly learning more and more about the history and ceremonies and teachings of the Buddha. My constant companions are monks who are all in university and are preparing to graduate. Each one has been in the monastic life for at least 10 years, starting when they were as young as 12 as novices.

Traveling and eating together I am constantly asking them questions. And they are practicing their English so they are forcing me to think about how I explain many things including English slang. Sometimes we have to resort to an Internet translator.

The monks are also teaching me some basic Thai words, and how to get around and how to integrate into a monastic community as a lay-person (non-monk). They are telling me stories about their countries of origin, Myanmar and Laos.

As part of the monastic community, I arise at 4.45 AM or earlier so I will chant the morning chants with them. I help clean the temple grounds and then go out on the alms rounds with them. I know the difficulties I would face were I to try walking barefoot for 2 miles everyday to collect alms/food. I usually have morning meals with the monks. Their last meal must be completed by mid-day. But unlike them, I can leave the temple in the late afternoon and get something more to eat. But of course I too must be in bed early to rest up for the next morning. So what would I benefit from ordination. Probably ego. As a lay-person I am essentially an attendant to the monks until the completion of the lunch meal. Then we often go out touring in the afternoon or helping me with errands like immigration.

If I travel Thailand as a monk I will be presented with the difficulty of eating my meal before noon. We have had to cut short some morning touring to eat and sometimes they just pass on the meal because it got too late, which would make me crazy. They cannot wear sunglasses or play musical instruments. Their robes are well-suited for most days but quite another matter in very hot or very cold weather. Monks generally hang their robes out around the temple to dry. I go to a laundry service because underpants should not be part of a temple clothes-dry line.

The monks wear sandals or flip flops when walking after alms. They have walked many miles with me that way. I am quite spoiled podiatrically speaking, and suffer if I do not have my vibram soled shoes when walking on hard surfaces.

In addition, while I am proficient at certain Pali chanting, I do not have it memorized, I am also not conversant with many additional chants used by the monks for specific moments. There is the blessing given on the alms round many times but sadly I do not have any skill in chanting it……yet. Pali is considered the language of the Buddha and was used to teach the Buddha’s lessons to his listeners. From Britannica “Pāli language, classical and liturgical language of the Theravāda Buddhist canon, a Middle Indo-Aryan language of north Indian origin. On the whole, Pāli seems closely related to the Old Indo-Aryan Vedic and Sanskrit dialects but is apparently not directly descended from either of these.”

So the truth is, at least for now, I have many of the benefits of being a monk but not the limitations. As a first time visitor to Asia, I think it is best for all that I not ordain again. Perhaps my next visit.

An open heart? A heavy heart!

I been trying to write this post. I have the feelings clear but have struggled days/hours for words. I discovered over the years that I had a secret from myself. Something strange happens to me constantly. I have an issue with empathy or in my case, maybe over empathy.

Years ago, when I was small, I knew a psychological and emotional pain deep down. I was afraid of my dad, of other kids, and of teachers. So early on I began to empathize with suffering. Around the age of 17, I began to fill out physically. And then I began to fight back. But it was mostly psychological.

If I see a dead animal by the side of the road, I imagine their death and I pray it was swift and painless. I see so many dead squirrels and rabbits on my bike rides. Also armadillos, and opossums. I hit an animal on the highway in Missouri at 70 mph and it messed up my mind for hours.

When I see films of animals in the wild being killed I feel empathy and pain (and change the channel). As a lawyer, when I lost clients’ cases I felt empathy and pain. If they went to prison, I tell you it felt like a part of me went too.

The world is now experiencing a series of crises. And I have trouble on a daily basis with the consternation and frustration that I am losing the world I seek to occupy. In its stead there is an ambiance of fear, anger and open hostility towards the values and communities that I hold dear.

I am not aligned with conservative values and ideology. But I never harbored such hostility towards the actions and speech of the conservative leaders. At the helm, is now Trump.

I have spent the past 10 years doing the Buddhist practice of generating loving/kindness, and the development of compassion. I made tremendous progress in the way I thought and acted. I learned to pause when agitated. I learned to think before I retaliated. Retaliated for some offense that often was merely my perception and not reality.

I do not hurt any living beings intentionally. I do not feel superior rights to the animal kingdom. I have not earned the right to practice dominion over the earth and all beings contained therein. I do not believe that my need for gasoline means I can justify or support the military actions against oil states. It can get murky at times. Do I have an open heart for terrorists, child abusers, opioid manufacturers?

The Buddhas did not seem to be too troubled by the bad actor. They would continue to have compassion for the evil, mean-spirited, the greedy and the profane. I am no Buddha but I can aspire to be like one.

I do not know how long I will aspire to an open heart. I was on a good run until recent political events. But the Buddhist vows I took, which I take seriously are as follows

To refrain taking life
To refrain from stealing, taking that which has not been freely given
To refrain from sexual misconduct
To refrain from lies or false speech and To refrain from taking intoxicating substances.

Buddhism is a very moral practice as is 12 steps. The Buddhist meditation is to develop wisdom and reflect on loving kindness which is designed to develop compassion.  I am committed to grow in a moral and compassionate manner. Very much like other moral dictates found in religions.

What is your practice? Are you Christian? Jewish? Do you Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  Do you ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

Do you exclude foreigners as “non-neighbors”? Do you exclude homosexuals? Do you exclude criminals?   “When an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the LORD, am your God.”

Are you truly on the path? Do you know the path? 

The LORD said to Moses Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am holy.

 Each of you revere your mother and father, and keep my sabbaths. I, the LORD, am your God. Do not turn aside to idols, nor make molten gods for yourselves. I, the LORD, am your God.

When you sacrifice your communion sacrifice to the LORD, you shall sacrifice it so that it is acceptable on your behalf. It must be eaten on the day of your sacrifice or on the following day. Whatever is left over until the third day shall be burned in fire. If any of it is eaten on the third day, it will be a desecrated offering and not be accepted; whoever eats of it then shall bear the penalty for having profaned what is sacred to the LORD. Such a one shall be cut off from the people.

 When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not be so thorough that you reap the field to its very edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest.

Likewise, you shall not pick your vineyard bare, nor gather up the grapes that have fallen. These things you shall leave for the poor and the alien. I, the LORD, am your God.

 You shall not steal. You shall not deceive or speak falsely to one another. You shall not swear falsely by my name, thus profaning the name of your God.i I am the LORD. You shall not exploit your neighbor. You shall not commit robbery. You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your laborer. You shall not insult the deaf, or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but you shall fear your God. I am the LORD.

You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment. Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty, but judge your neighbor justly. You shall not go about spreading slander among your people; nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake. I am the LORD.

 You shall not hate any of your kindred in your heart. Reprove your neighbor openly so that you do not incur sin because of that person.

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

Keep my statutes: do not breed any of your domestic animals with others of a different species; do not sow a field of yours with two different kinds of seed; and do not put on a garment woven with two different kinds of thread.

 If a man has sexual relations with a female slave who has been acquired by another man but has not yet been redeemed or given her freedom, an investigation shall be made. They shall not be put to death, because she has not been freed.   The man shall bring to the entrance of the tent of meeting as his reparation to the LORD a ram as a reparation offering.   With the ram of the reparation offering the priest shall make atonement before the LORD for the wrong the man has committed, so that he will be forgiven for the wrong he has committed.

When you come into the land and plant any fruit tree there, first look upon its fruit as if it were uncircumcised. For three years, it shall be uncircumcised for you; it may not be eaten.    In the fourth year, however, all of its fruit shall be dedicated to the LORD in joyous celebration. Not until the fifth year may you eat its fruit, to increase the yield for you. I, the LORD, am your God.

Do not eat anything with the blood still in it. Do not recite charms or practice soothsaying. Do not clip your hair at the temples, nor spoil the edges of your beard. Do not lacerate your bodies for the dead, and do not tattoo yourselves. I am the LORD.  You shall not degrade your daughter by making a prostitute of her; otherwise the land will prostitute itself and become full of lewdness. Keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary. I am the LORD.  

Do not turn to ghosts or consult spirits, by which you will be defiled. I, the LORD, am your God. Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the old, and fear your God. I am the LORD.

Do not act dishonestly in using measures of length or weight or capacity. You shall have a true scale and true weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin. I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. Be careful, then, to observe all my statutes and decrees. I am the LORD.

Look up Leviticus 19:9–18: if you need verification. Examine the 5 Book of Moses

I close as usual with blessings for all. May all beings be free from all harm. May all being live their lives free from danger and may they be safe and comfortable,  Free from disease, disaster and pain. May all who have physical and/or mental limitations be aided by those who do not.  May all who are lonely find companions. May those in areas of great turmoil, famine and terror find peace and comfort and may those who create conflict and suffering be transformed.

I rested on my laurels, turned out it was a cactus.

Everybody, without exception has struggled with relationships. That would include family, friends, lovers and colleagues, et al. Some relationships seem to evolve easily but all hit bumps on the road. Some relationships are a struggle from the beginning but we need to manage them and accommodate them because of circumstances.
 
I have days where I am in love with everyone I meet. My words flow smoothly and freely and none are offended. Other days I reflect on and wonder, what the hell happened?. Who are these people and why are they , “mad”, “disappointed” “hostile” with me.
 
I can let human interactions dictate how I feel about myself. I am constantly examining how, what and why did I do, say or act in a certain way. Was it right? Selfish? Judgmental? Kind? Compassionate? You get what I am saying.
 
I know I am a good person but I also know I am capable of insensitivity, cruelty and obliviousness to the feelings of others. I know cause they often tell me so. But I am none of those behaviors purposely. So it is imperative that I do a self-inventory, daily to see how I am behaving, growing, or stagnating. Then you hear me write about coping fatigue. Meaning I am tired of examining my actions and motives. I just want to show up and let life unfold without effort.
 
But when I meditate and sit mindfully, I see clearly, it is my circus and they are my monkeys. Without vigilance I can be exasperating and difficult to the very people I cherish or seek positive interactions with.
 
IT is not enough to be smart and sensible. “Compassion and wisdom need to function together, combined with skillfulness, tolerance and patience. If we give ourselves the time and space to really observe our own thoughts and actions, good can come about. We give ourselves and others a lot of space in which to function properly; rather than act selfishly, we act selflessly.” VENERABLE KHANDRO RINPOCHE
 
I am tired of coping, seriously. I tire of going to meditation, the gym, AA meetings, and bike rides in the hellacious heat. But the reward is a healthier spiritual, emotional and physical life. Relationships can adversely affect or compliment this life and the effort to improve them is valuable and necessary.

You may be right, I may be crazy

I spent my teen years strolling the streets of the south side of Chicago. All times of day and night. Stoned, sober, rain, shine, cold, hot it just did not matter. If I could avoid home, I did. What I marvel at now is how scared I was much of the time.

I was fascinated by the streets, the sounds, the smells and the sights. I can recall walking alone and fights breaking out in alleyways between 2 guys for reasons I know not. Police cars would cruise by real slow measuring up whether to stop and frisk me. I was often carrying marijuana and I was always scared of a police search. ( I calculate that I have been stopped and searched by police over 40 times.)

Another common sight was groups of young boys on their stingray bicycles with banana seats and high handle bars with colorful streamers at the handle bar ends.

Frankly I have always found the inner-city of Chicago to be fascinating and terrifying. Gardens growing in front of small older homes next door to boarded up homes with fallen chain link fences and discarded beer bottles. (Homes there now often sport a large red X sign on the building front. Chicago assigns red “X” signs to tell firefighters and other first-responders that it is structurally unsound and should take precautions when responding to emergencies there. It’s also a reminder to anyone who might wander into this vacant building that they should stay out.)  Older Black women are watering those pretty gardens or sitting on porches with their hand fans. At the end of the block is a park with young men playing basketball, while another group sits on the park benches drinking wine and smoking pot.

I knew all the gang signs in case I was challenged, but frankly I was either simply chased or ignored. But I knew that a any teen boy or a woman alone were likely prey. The inner-city has no shortage of predators. But the more I lived there the more I saw why. Kids were being groomed to be hard. Show no weakness or you will be picked on. Look like lunch and you will be eaten.

For some, jail and prison time were like badges of courage and considered a necessary stop on the road to street success. The manifestation of toughness starts with the way you move and the way you dress. I certainly dressed for success. I wore sunglasses night and day, jeans and button down Italian knits, Florsheim shoes or sneakers. In jacket weather I wore leather jackets, one that went to the hips only and one that went to the thighs. I stole both jackets from parties I went to. I never had clothing money then.

My basic menu was a loaf of french bread and cream cheese. I bought the bread and stole the cream cheese. Sometimes I would be able to steal a pack of deli meat like bologna or roast beef (the cheap kind). My dining room was usually a park bench or some front stoop of a 3 flat. The other food source was going to restaurants and running out on the check. I did not really run, I kind of casually walked out as though I had just paid the bill. One time an owner followed me to the street. He let me know he had a handgun in his rear pocket and was screaming at me. I feigned confusion and luckily I had enough to pay the bill.

So I have flashbacks of days long gone. I still love the memories. Watching the world in my youth unfold in front of me taught me so much about life. I should have modified my behavior at times to respect my fear. I should have stayed out of inner-city alleys and taverns. It is only looking back that I can appreciate the value of following my curiosity rather than my fear.

My favorite book which I first read when I was about 9 years old was Knock on Any Door by Willard Motley. His description of Chicago’s skid row and lower-income communities was so graphic that when I was old enough to seek out those same streets, off I went.

I am now the book. Or a book. I am a story of sights, sounds and smells. I wish I had the skill to depict it as I experienced it. I wish we could grasp what abject poverty feels like in its glory and in its shame. Often imitated but never duplicated, the south side of our many large cities is a marvelous tapestry of brilliance, imagination and pain because if you look closely, beneath the fallen tear drops of grief are blood stains of violence covering crushed dreams. But keep moving and you will hear the beautiful staccato of jazz riffs and rap and then the rubbing sounds of local writers’ erasers as they craft great American songs and stories.

I’m not dead yet. I will be back.

 

Mom’s first birthday away.

I am not prone to melancholy. I am generally even keel. But today is the first time my mom is not around on a September 13th to wish her happy birthday. Today I am reminded that it took me too long to become the son she could be proud of. It took me too long to see the chaos and difficulties I imposed on my family especially back in the old days with jails, addiction and academic and economic failures..
I have no reason to fear going to jail again but I will fear that my mom is not around to bail me out. Because she is the only person I could trust to help me out of any jam. I rarely asked but she never failed.
I never fucked up enough for her to give up. She could be indifferent and aloof emotionally to family and friends. Why? I do not know. But she physically tried to protect me from bodily harm and tried to put herself between me and my father the one time when he seemed to have lost control while disciplining me.
My dad could be violent but the only time he put a hand on my mom was that day And that same day I tried to kill him. Yes, I mean that on that day when I was 10, I made an full on attempt to poison him. 
I never doubted from that day that if he got physical with her again, I would do him great bodily harm. But that was the only time he touched her in anger and we never had to find out if I could improve my plan.
I am in full-on melancholy that I made so many apologies and amends to so many people over the years and it never occurred to me to do the same for her. Yes, I changed and acted better and was a better son. But it would have taken many more years of right behavior to have begun to make up for what I put my mom through. Not just as a kid but with my divorces, money problems, fights with family members in front of her and more.
From early grade school my mom had to visit school teachers and listen to the myriad of complaints about my lack of scholastic accomplishments and my behavioral issues. She heard it all but all she seemed to remember from it was the part where they said I was smart and she did not dwell, at least openly, about what a shame my behavior was.
Nothing prepared my mom for taking me, when I was 17, to the Cook County felony courthouse and watching as the judge admonished us that I was facing 6 to 15 years in prison. What was she to think as the plainclothes Chicago Police officers warned her on the way out of the courthouse that I was living amongst a criminal element that would get me killed or result in further charges.
Imagine having a teen-age son who only comes home when he is physically broken with mono and has no place left to go. And imagine that shortly after you get him health care and bring him back to good health, he disappears back into the streets.
Yea, I owed. I will always owe.
Remember To Sir With Love. Some lyrics,
“And as I leave I know that I am leaving my best friend
A friend who taught me right from wrong and weak from strong
That’s a lot to learn, but what can I give you in return?
If you wanted the moon I would try to make a start
But I would rather you let me give my heart “
The melancholy is impermanent. It will fade. More often I will remember my mom’s last 5 days and how she looked so pretty to me. I will recall how I would talk to her early each day after the caretaker left and my sister had not yet arrived, I would speak to her. She was already in a drug stupor when I arrived so we did not converse. But in case she could hear me, I talked to her. I like to assume that somewhere in that drug addled mind she heard love from me and my sisters.
I tell you that she died the perfect death. She was getting good medical care. Her kids were with her. Her granddaughter was laying beside her and she just stopped breathing. It was a month ago.
The point is not that I suck at being a son or that I dwell in recriminations. The point is that when my best caretaker died, then did I have to face my fear of living without a security blanket. Now I know that when I am called to be an adult I am, more than ever, keenly aware of how much of a child I still am. The narrative about me as a son should highlight that when I stroll down memory lane, there will always be ample evidence that I am one of the lucky ones who got a mom who will always be remembered with great love and affection, because she earned it.

Thought I knew something.

I know things. At least I think I know or knew. I know things I do not care to share although I consider them important things to know. I know about the New Testament and I know about the first 5 books called the Torah/Pentateuch. I know about Buddhism and Islam and Hinduism. I know about good and evil and kindness and unkind. The list is endless of what I think I know. I know law, cars and handguns. I know heartache, joy, envy and admiration and more .
In a time far far away, I met Reverend Steve Swanson a Lutheran minister at the Resurrection Lutheran Church. His charity made me admire Christians. His willingness to support my efforts helping gang kids that were scorned and feared made me want to understand his kind better. I read the New Testament for the first time after I met Steve and Father Leslie an equally kind Episcopal priest.
The area of social services is filled with Christian organizations and people who give to those in need without regard for country of origin, race or religion.
So many kind and beautiful and loving people.
Today my experience with many Christians makes me wonder if I learned anything about Christianity. Their language is not of compassion and love but of anger and resentments. They post about the war on Christianity and Christmas. They say that the serious problems of today originate with a lack of their God in the government, and the schools and sexual freedom and socialism. Many freely post ugly memes about Muslims and Sharia law while hailing patriotism and military force.
It is not just a small group of religious persons I refer to. It is many I personally encounter and they seem more interested in getting me to take Jesus in my heart than saving people from abject poverty, hunger and violence. I am doing fine, worry about your Christian brothers and sisters from the south, clamoring for shelter
If I were ever to take Jesus into my heart, that moment passed when I left social services and Chicago and moved to the bible belt. Because today I am just an object tolerated and admired but not accepted and loved. (Most of my friends would surely dispute my characterization so please note these are my thoughts alone and not the opinions of management.)
I know nothing about a world where the environment and people are expendable. I always believed that entry to heaven was through good works not correct religion. All that I thought I know is in doubt.
Israel is not the Jewish homeland I thought it was. Religious Jews and Christians do not behave with the moral authority I once credited them with. My hate for Palestinians is long gone and my admiration for the Israeli military gone with it.
My father took me to the library every week since I was old enough to remember and made me read. I read hundreds of books as a child on many subjects. Tons of biographies and history. I went to school and sat in class bored but attentive. I passed every test ever given me including the law school admission test and the bar exams.
But despite tears spent in study and experience I am reduced to fighting for my intellectual and spiritual survivor with folks that have never said they needed to examine themselves in the course of growing up and getting right. They do not cite to me the Great Books as influences in their world views. I deeply admired the principles of the great civil rights leaders I read about especially Dr Martin Luther KIng Jr. I have never abandoned the idea of peace, love and understanding.
But the enthusiasm we shared in my younger days of saving people who had less than us is gone. There are no Dr. Kings or Rev Steve Swansons or Father Leslies. The churches of my youth like the University Church in Hyde Park seem like part of a fictional short story now.
I do not know you people who can argue for incarceration and walls. I do not know you who scoff at the destruction of wildlife and wilderness.
I am trained as a Buddhist teacher and could teach how to meditate and to incorporate a deep and abiding morality into everyday actions. I could teach techniques for self-liberation, developing compassion and freedom from craving. But, not much is more impenetrable than a closed mind.

“In the spiritual search doubt is beneficial, a closed mind is not. Doubt used wisely assists enlightenment; a closed mind assists ignorance.”  Ian Gardner

If there is a God, I thank her for the Greta Thunberg, David Hogg and other young people that stand up for the quality of life, liberty and safety.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  Jesus Christ   (No exceptions/no substitutions)

 

Not too late for redemption! If we dig in and let go of our fears of losing the United States to those people. You know them, the poor, smelly Hispanics coming here to take advantage of our wealth, education and generosity. I know they look different and speak a different language, but I know many of you will not park more than 100 steps in the supermarket parking lot in the heat. But you have bee told and it is true that many have braved conditions you would never ever submit to in order to become our neighbor. They walked and sometimes crawled through dirt, desert and water to slip under the barbed wires of the countries standing between them and us. And they will be so grateful that they will work harder and cheaper than anyone else you know. They will clean your toilets, wash your dishes, and care for your kids. They will work any shift at any job just to give their child good education.

Do not do it for them. Do it for you. For your country which will someday be Hispanic again. And you can take comfort knowing that you made sure your children and grandchildren are led by the Hispanic politicians who learned love and tolerance from us. The country will be led by well-educated, well-traveled Christians who will protect the air and water your grandchild will have.

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. Robert Louis Stevenson

Now it is time to plant the seeds that will surround our newcomers in the love and acceptance and tolerance that is the due of all who want and need what we have. And if the Muslim wants to obey Sharia Law, know that your Jewish Orthodox neighbor may still follow halakhah, Jewish Law. How can you demand adherence to your biblical tenets while ignoring mine? So if you believe the bible demands it then you should also live amongst those who will abide by it. Your neighborhood will deny gays marriage and abortion will be outlawed, in your neighborhood of fellow believes.

I will likely be found in a community of Buddhists, Christians and Jews, Gays and transgenders  and many others who believe in live and let live. I will thoroughly enjoy the ethnic food selection and the multitude of languages and cultures on daily display.

In exchange for your cooperation, I will personally stop the war on Christmas including continue to get students a week off for Christmas. I will demand children be given the right to silently pray in school and that they continue to have Sunday off to go to church!

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’

Martin Luther King, Jr.

In closing, I thought I knew much but I may know nothing.

Let us bow our heads and pray.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

God, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

What would Buddha do? Would Buddha kick your ass?

I seem to befuddle a number of you about how I self-identify as a Buddhist and a gangster (figuratively not literally). In fact, that is the tip of the yin yang universe I identify with. I also consider myself a warrior and a healer, a superficial intellect, a brilliantly poor student, and more. I have made peace with my inclinations and intentions which are almost always guided by principles of kindness/compassion and fairness.
 
I have no illusions about where I have been and where I am now. I do not practice Buddhism with an intention to become an enlightened being, escape suffering and find Nirvana. I practice Buddhism because I found it to be what I needed. I tested the practices especially meditation and I found them reliable and effective in alleviating the causes of my difficulties which are mostly self-inflicted and psychological. Sometimes it is also effective to bark and bite a motherfucker when triggered. May not be as socially acceptable but I can make it work for me.
 
Those friends closest to me report that I am generally more calm and patient since I began meditating. I am also older and less physically intimidating than I used to be. But I am sincere when you hear me say that I will fuck someone up.
 
The monks knew this about me when they allowed me to ordain and live among them. They had no illusions about my propensity for aggression and even violence. But to wrap myself in the saffron robes of a monk was like wrapping oneself in a reverse bomb suit used to protect a bomb removal expert. I found the robes contained the explosion within. It did not extinguish my ability to wage war but it surely ameliorated it. And although I am no longer living as a monk and I do not wear the robes, the effect was undeniably positive and enduring. It will take many more years before I will have as much experience in meditation as I do in martial arts. I can rely upon muscle memory when I draw my handgun. It takes far more effort to sit and eat mindfully.
I have an extensive vocabulary to convey hostility. The language of peace often leaves me speechless. I admit, love and peace do not need an extensive vocabulary.  But to be very clear, I am not without the tools of skillful speech. I safely navigated the inner-city for many years without being harmed or harming anyone. When I worked with street gangs, the kids responded well to the verbal deescalation techniques that I used. In fact they reacted far better than the myriad of mean drunks I have had to neutralize.
If you know me and are waiting for me to reside in a perpetual state of calm, then you are a believer in miracles, not conversions.  I have no plans to walk on water or levitate in this lifetime. What seems to be a safe bet is that I will keep practicing Buddhism, lawyering, fatherhood, 12 steps and bicycling.
“It is better to be a warrior tending to his garden than a gardener in a war.” Chinese proverb