I stand by Black Lives Matter.

Despite all that I hear about black on black or black on white crime, I stand in solidarity with BLM. I do so because the causes and foundation of racism in the US have never, ever been fully and openly addressed. The deterioration and disintegration I have observed over the past 40 years have convinced me that the war on black people has resulted in the unraveling in the inner-city of their culture, communities and values. I do not believe that the people residing in ghettos are inherently more violent or prone to criminality. I believe that by marginalizing, demonizing and disenfranchising poor blacks this country has created the environment and circumstances which has resulted in the devastation we see today.

My personal experience in the inner-city lead me to the conclusion that we over-incarcerated, under-educated and created the conditions upon which gangs can freely infest and prey upon the communities. But the gangs are in fact the product of the conditions I have cited. Gang kids are not born, they are created.

Chicago police historically and relentlessly preyed upon lower-income blacks. They committed crimes including torture against young black male suspects. They framed them for crimes they did not commit. They took payoffs to let gangs operate. They robbed drug dealers and resold the product they stole and spent the cash. One elite special operations group of the CPD has been implicated in significant series of serious crimes including attempted murder for hire on a police officer.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/08/chicago-police-charged-wi_n_846528.html

Chicago is just one of many departments that committed crimes against the community they swore to protect. While victims were many and diverse, the bulk of the crimes were committed against black men.

There are more good cops than bad cops if we use a yardstick based on intent. But if we use a different measure which requires a good cop to be intolerant of bad cops, we have a serious shortage of good cops. We need to challenge police officers to rise up intellectually and spiritually to actively do the Right Thing. When what is intolerant is police misconduct and when peer pressure weighs against misconduct, then we may see a seismic shift in policing practices and an end to the need for BLM.

We can not change people’s racist attitudes but we can diminish their impact. We cannot fix the stubborn racist black or white who tenaciously clings to his hate. But we can deprive him of permission so that he acts alone if he acts at all. Racist should be as afraid to come out of the closet just like a pedophile. It should be a source of shame in the presence of our society to proclaim your racial animus. Lest we forget what community norms result in, remember Emmett Till, a 14 yo black boy beaten to death.

http://time.com/4399793/emmett-till-civil-rights-photography/?xid=time_socialflow_facebook

We are the frontline of defense against racism and its harm to our entire way of life. No more uncomfortable laughter at cocktail hour racist jokes. No silent acquiescence to locker room chatter about “those people”. Our young white athletes and students need to be given our permission and encouragement to stand up to this insidiousness. Power to the people ought to mean all people. You may just be the best example of a human being that some people ever see.

Be humble, you may be wrong.

I saw this saying, Be humble, you may be wrong, about a year ago and decided to make it my slogan for a while. Participating in 12 step recovery, practicing meditation and studying Buddhism has taught me some seemingly very important things.

It started with learning something about humility. I abandoned drugs in the throes of despair and surrender. It was obvious that all my intellect, physical strength and wealth of experiences were fruitless in salvaging my spirit from addiction. I feinted right and ran left. I dibbled and dabbled. I abstained and indulged. No matter my will, I could not pull myself out of my bondage to substances.

So when I finally gave up and returned to a 12 step program which had previously kept me sober for 14 years, I did so feeling humiliated. But that feeling was transformed in short order to humility. I recognized that my way of viewing the world could be bettered. That was to be the tip of the iceberg.

Over a period of time and spiritual meditative practices I experienced a reversal. At first it was quite subtle and subsequently a deep reversal in the way I viewed life. I became certain that a new course was right. There were many paths ahead. Forks in the road awaited me often. I inched my way forward, afraid to make a (another) wrong move. There was certainty only in my sentiment that my previous path was not right. I worked to let go of my belief system and adopt a healthier one.

I left Tucson AZ. about 4 years ago and returned to Dallas TX. Shortly after I relocated I found my patience was running out in traffic. I was getting increasingly angry. I sought a mental health counselor. I said to her “I am hardwired for aggression”, She replied, “it is not a hardware problem, it is a software problem.” In that moment I felt that there was new hope that I could indeed reprogram myself. And I have come a long way.

I read an article on the Art of Being Wrong. I recognized myself in said article. Essentially, I do not know “right”. What I have learned is how wrong I was. I now am learning and gaining significant proficiency, thanks to all that has happened over the past several years, to simply be wrong. The author Henry Shukman, asserts that success is to not have a “right view’, but to give up any view. It is enough for me now and I am comfortable with the realization that I was clinging to wrong beliefs. Beliefs that did not bring about happiness, did not make me a worthy companion and restricted my capacity to grow spiritually.

I counsel many people on a variety of subjects, mostly legal and spiritual.I knew instinctively all these years to distinguish what I thought with what I knew. I learned early on that stating my beliefs as facts was a non-starter. It eroded whatever credibility I had. It alienated the clients I worked with. So, when sharing with others I was careful to differentiate between fact and opinion. I held other persons opinions to the same standard. What I did not do, was to tread as cautiously inside my own thoughts and feelings about myself. I made my internal life a grand story and then acted it out in real time.

Meditation has taught me to scoff at my internal dialogue. I watch my thoughts like a good movie. Good or bad, it will end and some new dialogue or feelings will rise up to occupy my time.  I refrain from clinging to any thoughts. Some thoughts and feelings are so powerful I feel that require my full attention, even obedience. But practice has proven that the best approach is to watch my thoughts as one would watch clouds. They are not to be grasped, held or fondled. They are simply objects to be observed as they float in and out of my purview.

Odds are that I will continue to make proclamations which are simply wrong or at best, useless. It is better for me to remember that I am a wounded healer and that my wounds can distract me from viewing situations objectively. I am a warrior who needs to remember that if all I have is a hammer, I will treat everything as if it were a nail. If all I have is a sword I will cut what offends me.

So to return to the beginning, I am learning to be humble, because I may be wrong. In fact, the likelihood is that unless I pause, I am likely to be wrong. Maybe not about facts but certainly my perceptions.

 

 

Transformation

So there is a story behind every transformation. Every Anglo who walks into a Buddhist temple is a possible even probable story of transformation. Not because entry to a Buddhist temple is required but because it usually signals seeking and dissatisfaction.

I have come to a spiritual awakening of sorts through significant dissatisfaction(s). It starts in 1982 with a dependence on cocaine to alleviate the emotional pain associated with a lost love interest. I twisted the age old adage that “time heals all wounds” and decided if I could use coke to numb my pain it would eventually pass. It was a flawed plan.

A year after I put that plan in motion I was ready to enter a treatment center for drug abuse. I spent 3 weeks there being introduced to 12 steps and the underlying foundation of a belief in a higher power. My initial reaction which I openly expressed went like this. “If it will take God to keep me clean, then I am hopeless.” But I decided to try the 12 step programs because I really didn’t have a better plan.

Putting myself into close proximity to the people in AA and Narcotics Anonymous made me want what they had. I found a willingness to pray just because it worked for them and I had nothing better. I spent the next 14 years in recovery and I practiced and eventually believed that there was a higher God-like power and it was helpful to pray to said power.

In the process I undertook tasks that had once seemed impossible. I started school, I went to sleep at regular hours and I exercised consistently. I, a high school dropout, got through law school. I, an incurable insomniac, began to sleep. And I became a regular in the gym and on the triathlon circuit.

But, complacency eventually became my constant companion. I got cocky and believed that I had molded myself into a normal guy. Time though has shown that I am not normal even at my most normal. I can mimic a community. If it is a criminal community, I’m in. Recovery? OK. PTA? I’m good. I won’t blend in but my behavior will comport to societal norms.

So subsequently I drank and then drugged again. If I missed doing a drug in the first go round, I got to it this time. I wouldn’t even try in this story to recount the horrors of my addiction. That is a book in and of itself. Nope this is about the spiritual transformation that then occurred over the next several years.

I went back to 12 step meetings. I sought mentors and sponsors. I inadvertently read books about transformation, starting with Eckhart Tolle. I taught myself to meditate. I sought a meditation teacher and wound up practicing with Ajahn Sarayut a Buddhist monk from Thailand. (ajahn means teacher in Thai)

I was teaching Ajahn how to navigate amongst Anglos and he taught me meditation and the practice of Buddhism. After 2 years spent constantly studying with each other, we undertook to open a new Buddhist temple in Tucson. I subsequently felt compelled to continue and deepen my practice by becoming ordained. To serve as a temporary Buddhist monk required the permission of my family, shaving off my head and facial hair and living exclusively in the temple and having no physical contact with females. I was allowed to eat the single meal of the day that monks eat, I wore only the saffron robes and I participated in twice daily chanting and meditation. I learned to chant in Pali. (The word Pali is used as a name for the language of the Theravadan Buddhist scriptures.)

I sought training with other teachers as well. Jack Kornfield, Lila Wheeler, Eric Kolvig, Lama Marut and more. I crossed the country to spend days in lectures to attend silent meditation retreats.

I “unordained” and returned to my family a little after 4 months. Ajahn completed my training as a teacher of meditation and provided me with a letter of introduction to the Buddhist Center of Dallas when we subsequently relocated to Dallas TX. I have been teaching meditation at least 3 times weekly for the past 4 years in and around the area.

I have left behind my drugging and drinking. I have long left the world where I owned adult entertainment nightclubs and websites. I am an infrequent participant in the firearms world where I made a living for so many years.

Everyone American I meet in the Buddhist temples is a seeker. None of us were born into Buddhism. To arrive here we had to have dissatisfaction with whatever came before. Some will embrace Buddhism and others will simply develop a mindful meditation practice. We are driven consciously or unconsciously to seek answers to our discontent. Some find what they are looking for. Others do not. But the practice of mindful meditation will facilitate or perpetuate transformation to all who practice it.

I hate you and everything you stand for. Or I love you, go away.

How can we live together while we disagree about things that are so personal? I am pondering that maybe it is time to separate myself from social media civil discourse. It is way past ugly now. Many of my friends are staking out positions which do not allow for acceptance of differences. There is little effort to understand opposing viewpoints. Considerable effort seems to go into seeking memes to post to Facebook which seem to glorify, justify and promote our opinions.

The Buddha taught among many other things, Right Speech. “It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will.”

I myself am losing perspective and have difficulty staying on the path. I find that the community I reside in influences me tremendously. I spend a great deal of time with recovering addicts and alcoholics and I remain free of intoxicating substances. I stay close to my spiritual community and that results in a concerted effort to practice spiritual principles. But here on Facebook I have many friends beyond those communities I hold you in great affection and even admiration. But since your instinct is to be “right” and you are closed to living civilly with those that think “wrong”, you create an ambiance of polarization and intolerance. Whether it be guns, religion, gay sex, or abortion et al. These are hot topics and engender strong personal beliefs.

Passion is not the enemy. Intolerance and lack of acceptance are the foes. We have not and will not force agreement so we are challenged to work spiritually and practically to live harmoniously. Alternatively, just dismiss this rant and seek out your next meme to launch your next attack. Sadly, many of the people we are attacking reside amongst us. The Buddha did not suggest that if the object of your ire lived in another country, we were free to speak harshly and self-righteously.

Do we really need enemies? Do you let others decide they are your enemies because we are so powerless that if a cult or sect or organization has extremists we define their members by the worst of them.

Buddha said “Speak only the speech that neither torments self nor does harm to others. That speech is truly well spoken. Speak only endearing speech, speech that is welcomed. Speech when it brings no evil to others is pleasant.” Trump scares me. I am often tempted to verbally crucify him. I did throw dirt at Ted Cruz and Greg Abbott recently. It came so easy. But while I do not like that propensity I have refrained from attacks on most of my social media community. I issue the challenge to all to dig spiritually to ascribe to and practice better behavior in speech and writings. Loving kindness towards all sounds silly in our Western civilization. But it is integral to spiritual practitioners everywhere. So if ever there was a moment of spiritual challenge, that moment may be now.

Transitions

So if you know me it is no surprise that I am writing about transitions the day my pal Jerry died. But the subject is not really about Jerry but about me. I have been transitioning before your very eyes. Social media, specifically Facebook has been the playground you can see me play, fight, grow.

When this all started, I had issues and my issues had issues. I had skills but I had at least one specific deficit, dealing with pain. Jerry’s dying has given me an opportunity to see my own transformation. Sometimes I am directly connected to my shifts, at other times I find myself merely a keen observer.

Like everyone I know, I have suffered losses in my life. Family and friends die Colleagues die. Physical, psychological and emotional pain are often my constant companions. I have mad coping skills sometimes. I am seriously good in a crisis. Like everyone I know, I also must suffer through loss. It is inevitable.

What is weird to watch is a pronounced absence of a type of suffering which I experienced which I think was caused by two things. A lack of tools and spiritual ignorance. That type of suffering has evaporated. In its place, for now, is an acceptance of thoughts and feelings that previously went undetected, ignored or silenced.

While I find nothing positive about Jerry’s death other than a release from physical suffering, I do find that the journey has been with purpose. Jerry’s death in my life has brought about a willingness to be present with my feelings. I am willing to cry (while still thinking “if you make fun of me crying, I will kill you). I am willing to just be. I have demonstrated to myself and others that I can subjugate my anger and fears in order to be of maximum service to others. Subjugation, crying, acceptance, and being present were not concepts I was interested in exploring before.

Facebook creates this public arena for pain and suffering, joy and happiness and kids photos. In the past, if someone close to me had died, I knew instinctively to share. But I didn’t always know with whom. Or if I knew, either I couldn’t find said person to share with, or I waved off the idea. When my boarding school roommate died years after school was out, I felt quite alone because no one in my world knew him and I couldn’t find anyone that did. Eventually over the years, I heard from two people who went to that boarding school with us, and have reconnected. They helped me bring closure to losing my roommate some time back and now, today, they help me embrace my new loss.

Some of Jerry’s friends are my friends. Facebook has become an outlet for the community to grieve. I do not feel alone in the least. ( I will overeat today. Powerless to resist food when hurt.) Unlike the past where I felt a loss of this type was my loss, today I see it is a community’s loss. It is a loss to Jerry’s community and family as well as to my community and family. My friends who never knew Jerry are still sharing their intimate acquaintance with experiencing losing a loved one.  They are empathetic and sympathetic. If I made this about me it would also be about how shallow I could be.

I am uncertain of the value, especially in the long run of exposing ourselves on social media. But in this moment it is quite apparent to me that it is serving me constructively. This blog is a way to harness the thoughts and feelings that come in waves. And then the blog will post to Facebook. Then I think I shall revisit my pain in a healthy way in days ahead versus the neurotic coping I see in people who can only see their pain in a very small context.

Pain and suffering are not the only feelings that are arising. My friends and I share joy, passion and anger also. And in some slightly more mature way than before, I am here for all of it. Sometimes I gloss over Facebook posts about new boyfriends/girlfriends. I skim over hundreds of photos my daughter posts from Korea. And most recipes and book reports go unread. But many life events are noted. Many of those I reply to. Sometimes I even get the right feeling to match the event when I post. (Sometimes not)

So I post photos of my family, friends and I, having fun, surgery, passages and disasters. I sell and buy stuff from Facebook. This is not intended as a promo or an advocacy of the utility of Facebook. It is merely to observe that I am transitioning before your very social media eyes. But big shout out to 12 step recovery, meditation and Buddhism for facilitating the change for others to observe. By the way, if you scratch your head and think, “I don’t get it”, that’s cool too. If you think, “Bull, Facebook and social media are for sissies” or some such, I hear ya. I do not think I care that much what you think.

Today is my little brother Ricky’s birthday. I woulda forgot without the FB  reminder. I texted him a greeting as a result. Sometimes I give a birthday shout to mere acquaintances. It just seems reasonable since I was already at the computer and seems a nice thing to do. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers have been lost. Pets have died and I sent condolences to the owners. I am not half-bad at it and sometimes I say something which strikes a chord with someone in the midst of their own difficulties.

Meditation has shown me that feelings and thoughts arise, and they depart. I have no investment in managing or controlling when and how. I need not crumble in the face of great emotional pain. My feelings are simply appropriate and to be expected. My anger is especially interesting as I struggle to put it in perspective without nurturing resentments or feeling guilty. It is just anger I feel. I am not the anger. But it is only by observing these thoughts and feelings that I resist the time old tradition of acting as badly as I feel. Interesting to watch people I resent and know in my heart that most of what I feel is all about my choosing to feel that way. Just as I can choose to feel pain without embarrassment and joy without clinging, I can also let anger arise and leave without the need to exacerbate it.

I hope my growing up in public serves more than a voyeuristic moment for the observer. I hope it stimulates interest and action to spiritual pursuit. Maybe it will encourage the practice of metta.  Metta, loving-kindness meditation, is the simple practice of directing well-wishes towards other people, and all living beings. It would be reasonable to think, if Ken can do it, anyone can.

Jerry Cichon passed away today. He was like a brother. We traveled what was frequently and arduous and tortured spiritual journey together in AA and elsewhere. After the 3rd or 4th hour of talking our way up a mountain, you tend to go deeper, to connect deeper. The small talk is long out of the way and straight talk kicks in. I may have known Jerry better than even my oldest friends because Jerry was so raw when we met. I was his lawyer, friend and brother. He was my first new friend in my new sober lifestyle who died in such a way (cancer) that sometimes it felt like we faced it together. It was not sudden for Jerry. It was not without great suffering. But as with most things in his new sober life, Jerry saw it was an opportunity to practice his spiritual and religious beliefs. Circumstances preclude me from sharing with his family the many things he shared. Such a day may come. Jerry said to me in recent days that I was spiritual perfection. Imagine that. Even if it isn’t true, can one man say anything kinder to a pal?

Hurt people, hurt people.

The title is a statement about what hurt people do to others. Hurt people in turn often hurt other people. So follow along as we stroll through my mind, surprised by what we might find.

I was driving to my AA meeting this morning and as usual I was watching the car behind me to monitor how close it followed me. I get agitated if I am tailgated. I decided I should really just look forward and wondered why I pay so much attention to the cars around me. It struck me that I have always driven this way. I walk this way. I am in a constant state of vigilance.  I wondered how did I get this way. I had sudden recall back to 1966. I was standing in the hallway of my high school. I was supposed to be in class but I had pretended I was going to the toilet so I could stand in the hallway. 

A young black kid approached whom I recognized from another class. I said hello to him. He didn’t say a word but he quickly struck me in my chest and knocked me down. Some change fell out of my shirt pocket. He picked it up and walked away without ever saying a word. I was stunned by the swiftness and the silence of it. I never told the school just as I never told them about the other assaults on me. Importantly, I was not stunned by the violence of it. 

I have tried to remember the number of times I was robbed or assaulted in high school. I can recall only a few. Maybe 20 or so. A lot of it was black on white crime but I had my fair share of white on white, greaser vs Jew assaults. But the assaults started with my dad when I was about 4. It continued in grade school as I was jumped by other kids starting in the second grade. The assaults increased when I lived on the streets. Most didn’t result in much harm. I either escaped quickly, bluffed my way out or won against the attacker(s). I would guess that I could have avoided some of these encounters had I been where I was supposed to be and generally speaking less openly. Like do not hang out on the streets at night, do not go to the go-carts without an adult, and do not walk by the drug store that the Catholic kids have claimed for themselves. Do not talk back when tough kids threaten, don’t mock hoodlums and don’t scoff at threats.

As an adult I faced dozens of violent incidents working with street kids. Kids that I talked with one day could be dead the next, always from gang violence. What is manifestly clear to me is that hurt people, hurt people. Abused children often become abusers, sexual victims especially men, become sexual predators. It probably always has been and probably always will be.

So, is there a way out of this hyper-sensitivity and vigilance which I practice without intention? If my experience is any measure, the answer is no. At best damaged people will find healthy, new ways to cope. They will find mentors and techniques which will serve them well. Or they won’t. And they will suffer addiction, institutions, incarceration or simply have a gnawing sense of insecurity which follows them into everything they do. 

If you have a friend or family member like me I would look for opportunities to introduce them to 12 steps, or meditation or something which has been shown to successfully be a catalyst for change. I am convinced I will have to live with my demons despite every effort to shed them But I am also sure that my demons serve me well at times. I have known danger was imminent when most others were unaware. I have been heard by very damaged humans who could otherwise not hear. I have intervened and helped facilitate change in the lives of persons believed to be beyond reach.

My demons will go anywhere with me. Physically or mentally or spiritually they have staked a claim to a portion of my brain, heart and soul.  Dark alleys or sunlit mountains, they have treaded fearlessly with me. (Along the road of happy destiny)Always protecting and always threatening my well-being.  And it is this awareness that grants me an ability to understand that hurt people, hurt people. 

Can a Jewish lawyer and handgun expert be a Buddhist monk?

The Thai monk, AjahnSarayut Arnanta of Tucson AZ. posted a photo of us together one day on Facebook. He made an accompanying comment which I wish toordination day address. “When you hang out with the monk, you do things like the monk.”

It is true that the time I spent before, during and after living in the temple had a profound effect on me and the way I do things. I do things differently than I used to. It was almost 3 months of living in the temple before I stopped hounding the monks about how they should run the temple. Then I had an epiphany and realized that I could best serve the temple by offering simply and only to do what was asked of me….nothing more. The next 45 days were spent practicing humility and service and meditation.

I wish there were opportunities like that for other spiritual seekers. Unless and until you take the vows of a monsatic, and wear the robes and live amongst fellow monks 24 and 7, I do not know that you can understand the power inherent in such an experience.

The monk seemingly assigned to monitor my behavior in public was Ajahn Preeda Jaiboon. Although he didn’t speak English he was relentless in guiding me in the protocols of monastic life. (For instance I never did master the proper way to wear my robes in the formal fashion.) He had great patience, warmth and humor. I am not sure the monks could be as satisfied by having the likes of me in their midst. I am hard for any Anglo to manage, so what a challenge it was to provide the appropriate environment for an American who was a lawyer, pistolero, head of household and older than the oldest monk by 10 years.

Given the opportunity I would re-enter tomorrow to complete the transformation that began with the shaving of my head and eyebrows, followed by the recitation in the Pali language of the vows which were to bind me to the monastic community and the Buddha.

I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail than to attempt to do nothing and succeed.

I dared to become a Buddhist and then to become a monk. As a novice monk, I took vows, chanted in an ancient language, Pali, every day twice a day. I never ate past the noon meal. I didn’t have physical contact with my wife and daughters. I never wore jewelry, I slept in my robes, and never appeared in public without being fully arrayed in the saffron colored robes. I left a large house and bed to sleep nightly in a small room on a small bed. I never gave that much effort to being a religious Jew. I was never inspired by Judaism to expend the energy to ever be referred to as a “good Jew”.  I do not expect to become enlightened before I die. But my death will be all the better for my Buddhist practices.

When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/die.html#CMBWztwhxSbD32cD.99
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/fail.html#7RyPuLbbsdfTLErv.99

Imagine that….I lead mindful meditation

As there are in most people’s lives, I have people who come and go. Some recent acquaintances and some long standing. Most old friends have never seen me in my new environment. Even my old, (40 plus years) friends back in Tucson may never have seen me directing meditation for a group. And the Chicago friends, fuggedaboutit.

So what? Well I find I straddle between who I was, who I am and who I am becoming. Not only is it a transition, it is a laborious process. Imagine that I arrived  in Dallas with a letter of introduction from a Buddhist monk in AZ to the Buddhist temple in Dallas. The letter was written in Thai so I will have to guess what it said. I think it went something like this. Ken Goldberg is competent to lead Westerners in meditation!

How had my life come to this? Dozens of hikes up and down the mountains with the monk. Days spent learning meditation on the mountains, in the desert and in the non air-conditioned Buddha Hall. I accompanied the monk to art fairs, grocery shopping, community meetings and finally as a novice monk. My head and eyebrows were shaved, I was assigned a bed in the hall, and typically I was in the Buddha Hall by 5.30 AM chanting and meditating with fellow monks.

This post is not for those who have come to know me in the recent past. What would you care my journey. This is for the old crowd. To them I say, Imagine that….I lead meditation, in a Buddhist temple. With the blessings of the monks. I know darn well, not one of you, not ONE, ever thought this day would come. And with good reason. This day had no business coming. It was not on the itinerary or flight plan. My orbit was not scheduled to come into retrograde Aquarius with a Sagittarius moon or some such. Nope, live fast, die young and have a good looking corpse.

If anyone had told me I could modify my life in this way, I would have scoffed. If someone called me sweet, I would have mocked them. I would be derisive to those that had not learned to fear me.

You are welcome to join me every Wednesday night at 7 PM at the Wat Dallas at 8484 Stults Road for meditation. Ends at 8 PM. Or join me Tuesdays at noon,  Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas community mental health center at 8140 Walnut Hill Lane #200 Dallas, TX 75231‎ for meditation. That is an invitation you never saw coming.

Right Action for me, today, in this moment.

I had a chat with a friend this morning. The subject of truth-telling came up. I advised that since I took Buddhist vows I have not lied. The Buddhist vows or “precepts” are as follows

1. Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami: I observe the precept of abstaining from the taking of life.

2. Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami: I observe the precept of abstaining from stealing or taking that which is not freely given.

3. Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami: I observe the precept of abstaining from sexual misconduct.

4. Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami: I observe the precept of abstaining from lying or gossip.

5. Suramerayamajjapamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami: I observe the precept of abstaining from intoxicants.

Since I declared my intention to practice Buddhism I have tried to adhere to these vows. I fail at times but not for lack of trying. Neither I nor anyone in my immediate family has purposely violated the first precept and so much as killed an insect since we formally took the precepts.

Why would a Jewish-American choose the practice of Buddhism? Why would a man with my history undertake any religious practice?  I heard the Buddhist pronouncement that life was suffering. As Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote “The search for a spiritual path is born out of suffering. It does not start with lights and ecstasy, but with the hard tacks of pain, disappointment, and confusion. However, for suffering to give birth to a genuine spiritual search, it must amount to more than something passively received from without. It has to trigger an inner realization, a perception which pierces through the facile complacency of our usual encounter with the world to glimpse the insecurity perpetually gaping underfoot. When this insight dawns, even if only momentarily, it can precipitate a profound personal crisis. It overturns accustomed goals and values, mocks our routine preoccupations, leaves old enjoyments stubbornly unsatisfying.”

I experienced this and now I confine myself to behaviors and undertakings which increase the likelihood of success without regret. That would be success without the accompanying dissatisfaction at having had to harm anyone financially, psychologically and emotionally. I live with those very type of regrets as relates to my 2 former spouses and anyone else who drew close enough to my flame to get burned.

It is 20 years ago today that I was wed to now ex-wife Laurie. I would have to look far and wide to find someone more deserving of  great kindness and happiness. Despite believing that, I let myself slowly drift from the straight and narrow and into a spiritual abyss which I did not escape from for many years. I can say with certainty that she gave me every opportunity and resource to live a normal rich and rewarding existence. She offered solid ground upon which love could thrive. So here is what I learned. I had demons which lurked, waiting always to undermine good choices. I had unresolved issues which were always waiting to manifest in my behaviors. I had mental-illness ready to unravel any progress I might exercise.

And but for 2 little girls, now my daughters, who needed me less than I needed them, I would have spun out. But God gave me strength of character to protect the weak and needy. While my attributes were inadequate to bring me salvation, my resolve to act honorably was resolute enough to bring me to a place of willingness to take the actions needed to protect them.

Thus is born the seeds of sobriety and Buddhism in my spirit.