Friday, September 2, 2011

Women = ?

If we believe in true equality, we can not treat women as second class citizens. Please defend women's health and safe families by standing up for fair legal rights.  Society at large, and children in particular, need women who can make choices about their own fate.  Please support Planned Parenthood in our protection efforts, at

Thursday, July 28, 2011

True Grit

"How miraculous.  Chopping wood.  Carrying water."  - Zen Master Layman Pang.

The precious thing about ordinary life is its bareness, its grit, its simplicity. 

Nothing special.

Now is it.

That's why it's delicious.

- Charisa Smith...Kiyo

Friday, July 1, 2011


"If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark."

- St. John of the Cross.

How much time do we spend trying to figure out how to make things go well. . .How to get someone to respond just how we'd like them to, or the way we think we need them to respond?  How often do we get upset when some mishap, or someone's complications, foil our best-laid plans?  How many strategy sessions have you sat through-- for work, for play, for relationship gain or improvement, for personal effectiveness?  Have you ever thought, "I could get so much done if it wasn't for [X person] or [X situation] slowing me down and getting in my way?"

No worries-- you're certainly not by yourself.  You are in very good company with me and many other people across space and time.

It's not that wandering around without a thought about next steps is the best way to function.  But rather, leaving behind our expectations and our desires for stability can ensure us far more happiness and effectiveness.  It's so funny that we don't get it by now, but nothing can be perfect, and the best laid plans can fall through.  Murphy's Law is well known for a reason. . .Anything can happen.  To put it blankly, we are not in control.  

A well-known Buddhist teacher (I believe it was Sylvia Boorstein) said that "Having expectations is like signing a contract with disappointment."  I heard this ingenious phrase at a time when I learned that several people close to me had cheated on their partners, either in their past, in the present, or at both times.  I just couldn't believe that someone I thought I knew so well, and someone who seemed to have so much integrity, could be capable of actually cheating on a partner. 

When that phrase about expectations was taught to me, I realized how much of a pitfall I'd created by going around expecting the people close to me to share my sense of ethics.  I continue to seek close company that is honest, trustworthy, and ethical, but I really can't expect everyone else to behave like I would in certain situations.  Julie Myoko Terestman, a Zen teacher and advisor, reminded me that I just "never know the whole situation," and that I should try not to judge when I hear of something that sounds hurtful and offensive to me at first blush.  How good to hear.  How true to know. 

Further, Roshi Pat Enkyo O'Hara pointed out recently in her "Zen and Intimacy" workshop that contrary to popular belief, it's not the task of our intimate partners, friends, and family members, to make us feel happy and safe.  When we step back and think about it, how preposterous is it, really, to think, "[This person] doesn't make me feel good all the time.  They aren't doing what I want them to do.  I need to make them do what I want, so I can be happy." ? 

We, alone, are responsible for our own feelings, and intimate relationships are not a channel for possession of others or for unfettered influence over others' actions and emotions.  Many wise ones say that "You can't truly love anyone else until you love yourself. . .People search so hard for someone else to make them happy.  We have to realize that what we seek is inside ourselves." 

Too many of us believe in the fairytale concept of an intimate partner who will come into our life, passionately sweep us off our feet, diminish many of our problems, and make our lives safe and happy.  Zen Life Coach and advisor Nosan Lawrence Grecco points out that "Relationships are not a way for us to get all of our needs met."  I felt very liberated when I heard him say that.  If the opposite was the case, how would anyone ever have a "good" or "functional" relationship?

Not only are expectations of other people a sure way to stand in line for a miserable life, but trying to rely on events and outcomes is also a no-win situation.  Buddhist wisdom instructs that impermanence is a Dharma Seal, one of the fundamental tenants of enlightened truth.  It's scary, but we can never truly be safe.  Things will never be stable and predictable.  Of course, to get through life, we try to act in ways that benefit others, ourselves, and the environment.  We try to find a modicum of stability in order to function and be healthy, enjoying as much of life as we can.  But we cannot wait for everything to get organized, to work out our way, or to go according to plan.

It's simply the nature of the universe -- the world spins, nothing stands still.  Everything is born each minute, as particles transform and evolve with changing time and space conditions.  Everything dies each minute, for those same exact reasons.  In Buddhism, we believe that there really is no birth and no death.  Impermanence reigns, and we are also all interconnected to the point where in some small way, all that we are and all that we do continues to have an impact on everything else in the world.

Closing our eyes and walking in the dark can mean saying hello to contentment and ease.  Realism with a hearty dose of wonder, generosity, and hope can bring us a much more balanced life.  I invite you to search for ways that you can dim the lights of control-ism --Yes, I've created a new "ism"--  in your life.  Where can we afford to loosen our grip on outcomes and the behavior of others?  Where can we slacken the reigns of our perceived influence and power over life?

True, the lights will be dim.  The lights may be off.  But at least we have a grip on reality, and we will no longer walk around trying to force our neurotic flashlight to cast an obnoxious glare on the world.  So many unknown events await us.  So many unpredictable people can bring us expansive experiences of joy, discomfort, peace, anger, passion, disdain, excitement, sadness, confusion, and love. 

I look forward to walking with you.  If we bump into each other, I'll give you a hug.


I'm gearing up for an evening of mingling with authors and publishers for the 2nd celebratory event in the 2010 NY Book Festival-- a reception at the famed Algonquin Hotel in midtown Manhattan.  Again, I'll be promoting Blending Colors From Life, which won an Honorable Mention, along with my 2nd book concept, involving the survival stories of brave women who have touched my life.  Hoping you all have a wonderful Friday.  All the best.


Tonight I'm going to the 1st celebratory event for the 2010 New York Book Festival.  It's a party and author reading at Cornelia St. Cafe in Greenwich Village.  I won't be reading, as Blending Colors From Life received an Honorable Mention as opposed to a higher prize.  Yet, I'm happy about the honor, and I'm excited to promote Blending Colors From Life and my second book, which will contain the survival stories of brave women who have touched my life. Sending all of you metta and peace.


"Living in the world yet not forming attachment to the dust of the world is the way of a true Zen student."

-Zengetsu, Chinese Master.

From ancient and modern wisdom, we can take time to learn that each moment is fleeting, and that "it is always right now."  Our challenge then becomes making each "now" worthy of being our last, while relinquishing expectations about loss and gain.   We can not can take wealth, fame, or success along with us in death.  Our conduct and generosity at each moment alone are of true consequence.


President Obama has pledged to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'.  Right now, the Senate is considering legislation that would make good on this promise.

Please click on this link to add your name to the list of steadfast people who want to end such an oppressive policy.

We are the ones we've been waiting for.

"We must be the change we wish to see in the world."  -Ghandi


American lawmakers have made a strong statement about openly gay individuals living proudly and out loud.  It's 2010, it's long overdue, and


May 27, 2010
House Votes to Allow Repeal of Ban on Gays in Military


WASHINGTON — The House voted Thursday to let the Defense Department repeal the ban on gay and bisexual people from serving openly in the military, a major step toward dismantling the 1993 law widely known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The provision would allow military commanders to repeal the ban. The repeal would permit gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military for the first time.

The provision was adopted as an amendment to the annual Pentagon policy bill, which the House is expected to vote on Friday. The repeal would be allowed 60 days after a Pentagon report is completed on the ramifications of allowing openly gay service members, and military leaders certify that it would not be disruptive. The report is due by Dec. 1.

The House vote was 234 to 194, with 229 Democrats and 5 Republicans in favor, after an emotionally charged debate. Opposed were 168 Republicans and 26 Democrats.

Supporters of the repeal hailed it as a matter of basic fairness and civil rights, while opponents charged that Democrats and President Obama were destabilizing the military to advance a liberal social agenda.
“On Memorial Day, America will come together and honor all who served our nation in uniform,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a floor speech, noting the symbolic timing of the debate. “I urge my colleagues to vote for the repeal of this discriminatory policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and make America more American.”

Separately on Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved a similar measure allowing the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The vote, in a closed session, was 16 to 12, with one Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, in favor of the repeal, and one Democrat, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, in opposition.
Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the committee, said he believed that the full Senate would support permitting the repeal.

Like the House amendment, the Senate measure would allow Pentagon leaders to revoke the ban 60 days after the military study group completes its report and Mr. Obama, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, certify that it would not
hamper military readiness and effectiveness or “unit cohesion.”

Mr. Obama and Mr. Gates favor repealing the ban, as does Admiral Mullen, who, in testimony before the Armed Services Committee in February, called for a repeal.

But chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines have objected. In letters solicited by Senator John McCain of Arizona, the senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, they urged Congress to delay voting on the issue until after the Defense Department completed its report.
After the committee vote, Mr. McCain said he would continue to fight a repeal when the bill reached the Senate floor. “I think it’s really going to be really harmful to the morale and battle effectiveness of our military,” he said.

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, who sponsored the repeal measure, said, “The ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy doesn’t serve the best interests of our military and doesn’t reflect the best values of our country.”

“Bottom line,” Mr. Lieberman, added, “thousands of service members have been pushed out of the U.S. military not because they were inadequate or bad soldiers, sailors, Marines or airmen but because of their sexual orientation. And that’s not what America is all about.”

The Armed Services Committee approved the broader policy bill by a vote of 18 to 10, with Mr. Webb and Senator Scott Brown, Republican of Massachusetts, who also opposed the repeal, supporting the broader measure.

With liberals in Congress being asked to vote on an unpopular war spending bill, Congressional Democratic leaders have been pushing to finally do away with a ban that many in their party view as discriminatory and unpatriotic.

The Senate approved the spending bill Thursday night and the House is expected to vote on it early next month.

As the House headed toward the vote, the debate was often emotional.
In a floor speech on Thursday, Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, denounced the policy that requires gay men, lesbians and bisexuals to keep their sexual orientation secret if they want to serve in the armed forces.

Mr. Frank noted that the Israeli military, which he called “as effective a fighting force as has existed in modern times,” does not bar gay men or lesbians from service. Mr. Frank, who is openly gay, also said that he would be criticized — rightly, he said — if he were to suggest that gay men and lesbians be exempted if a military draft were needed.

Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, the No. 3 Republican in the House, accused Democrats of trying to use the military “to advance a liberal social agenda” and demanded that Congress “put its priorities in order.”

Other Republicans said the military was a unique institution and its rules sometimes had to differ from civilian society.

“We are dissing the troops, that is what we are doing,” said Representative Howard P. McKeon of California, senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee.

Republicans also questioned if the military leaders who would have to make the final decision would be able to resist pressure from the White House to lift the ban.
Democrats who backed the repeal compared the vote to the racial integration of the military and hailed the action as allowing all Americans who wanted to serve to do so.

“In the land of the free and the home of the brave, it is long past time for Congress to end this un-American policy,” said Representative Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat who is openly gay.
Democrats accused Republicans of mischaracterizing the proposal, by suggesting it would unsettle the troops. “This policy will happen only when the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stay that it is the right thing to do for this country,” said Representative Robert E. Andrews, Democrat of New Jersey.


Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" today: Call your Congress members now!

Congress is scheduled to vote on repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" as soon as this week. Please call your Congress members immediately.  Clicking on the link above will give plenty of information to assist with your calls.  The previous blog entry also provides more information.


This is an historic moment.  The Obama Administration has made a strong statement about its commitment to repealing "don't ask, don't tell"-- a discriminatory anti-gay measure enacted under the Clinton Administration (a wholeheartedly disappointing move during the Clinton years, to say the least).  In law school, I was part of the Students Against Military Exclusion (S.A.M.E.) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense.  This lawsuit sought to ban military recruiters from Yale Law School's campus because of the military's decision to deny openly gay individuals the right to serve in the Armed Forces.  The 1995 Solomon Amendment stated that any law school that refused to allow military recruiting on campus for the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. of military attorneys, would risk losing all federal funding.  Yale Law School fought back to honor diversity and to uphold its own non-discrimination policy in the face of military recruiters.

The S.A.M.E. suit, in which I was a plaintiff, was denied a hearing in the U.S. Supreme Court because the Court upheld the Solomon Amendment in the Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (F.A.I.R.) decision.  Yet, I (along with many students, university administrators, advocates, and members of the general public), feel strongly that the Court erred in F.A.I.R.. 

The United States rose to "superpower" status on the backs of countless Native American bodies and on the soil of indigenous territories lost, at the expense of the human rights and labor of scores of African-American slaves and their descendants, and due to the struggles and sacrifices of myriad immigrants who continue to be treated inhumanely and flat out unacceptably.  Women in the U.S. didn't get the right to vote until 1920, even though we toiled for, taught, fought for, and gave birth to, this and every other nation.  Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Americans have likewise been an integral part of U.S. history since this country was a mere blip on the horizon.  For too long, we were shamed into hiding our personhood and our light.  Subjugating oppressed peoples has unfortunately been nothing but the "American" modus operandi (m.o.).  Yet, too many drops of sweat and tears were shed by a rainbow array of heroes and heroines to give each and every person in the U.S. the right to express themself and make an honest living.  I hope that by now enough of us recognize that we must make smarter decisions about who belongs here and how to treat each other with respect.  It is our responsibility to treat one another just as we would like to be treated.  No less.  

Many Americans are proud to wake up in a nation where we can exercise free speech when we want to change ideas, actions, hearts, and minds.  When we are wronged, we even jump on the lawsuit banwagon because we see it as our birthright.  We claim our freedoms every day.  Yet, children of the Clinton era learned that telling LGBTQ Americans to "act straight" was the best our President could do for our people.  Bush era youth have grown up thinking that leaders of a wealthy democracy can utter homophobic jargon and call it public policy. 

 The status quo is simply not good enough.  It is time to mobilize more strongly than ever to send a clear message about the true meaning of equality and opportunity.

Now is the time to organize and join a cause to ensure that U.S. policy-makers vote to repeal "don't ask, don't tell."  The Human Rights Campaign does amazing work.  Stay tuned.

Obama endorses 'don't ask, don't tell' compromise in Congress
The Washington Post
By Michael D. Shear
Monday, May 24, 2010; 8:36 PM

President Obama has signed on to a "don't ask, don't tell" compromise between lawmakers and the Defense Department, the White House announced Monday, an agreement that removes a key obstacle to repealing the military's policy banning gays and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces.
Under the compromise, finalized in a series of meetings Monday at the White House and on Capitol Hill, lawmakers will vote in the next several days on a repeal of the Clinton-era policy. If it passes, that action would not go into effect until the Pentagon completes a study about its impact on the troops.
In a letter to lawmakers pushing for a legislative repeal, the White House wrote Monday that "such an approach recognizes the critical need to allow our military and their families the full opportunity to inform and shape the implementation process through a thorough understanding of their concerns, insights and suggestions."

Gay rights advocates hailed the White House decision as a "dramatic breakthrough" that they predicted would dismantle the policy once and for all. In a statement, Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said the announcement "paves the path to fulfill the President's call to end 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' this year and puts us one step closer to removing this stain from the laws of our nation."
The move also injects a highly controversial social issue back into the national conversation, even as lawmakers begin to gear up for their fall reelection campaigns.

Conservative lawmakers have vowed to fight the effort to end the policy. Arizona Sen. John McCain (R), who had previously supported repeal, said at a recent congressional hearing that "Don't Ask" was "imperfect but effective" and that "we should not be seeking to overturn."
Several conservative Democrats in Congress have said they would oppose a repeal unless military leaders made clear that they approved of such a change. That signal has been on hold as the Pentagon completes its study of the ramifications.

At the same time, liberal lawmakers had been pushing for an immediate repeal. The White House endorsement of the compromise is designed to satisfy both concerns and earn their support for a deferred repeal.

"We can live with this, and we're asking enthusiastically members to support and vote for it," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.


Here is a link to a WAMC, Northeast Public Radio (NPR) story on my book and NYC book release event.  Thanks so much to journalist Dave Lucas for his interest and chronicling:

I give heartfelt thanks to all those sincere friends and loved ones who came out to support my book signing yesterday evening.  Mr. Malloy would be so proud to know that we are spreading news of his work, art, and life across the country.  It was a pleasure engaging in storytelling with you, and your sharing revealed true gems of wisdom and discovery.  Your encouragement moves mountains, and I look forward to keeping you in the loop.  Peace and gratitude.


Today is the day of my 1st NYC book signing: 4-6pm at Hue-Man Bookstore & Cafe in Harlem.  I look forward to seeing you.  Come share knowledge and wonder! You will have a chance to tell your unique story, too.  Let's make history together.  More details on the homepage.


Dear friends,

I am truly anticipating tomorrow's NYC book release event at Hue-Man Bookstore and Cafe in Harlem.  This will be an exciting first time for New York audiences to share Tom Malloy's story, and to learn about how each one of us can be a gifted storyteller if we believe in the story we are conveying.  I look forward to reading from the book, viewing watercolor paintings, engaging in audience participation, inviting guests to put on their Historian Hats, and answering any questions you might have for me.
 If you're able to come out, please do so.  I promise to make it worth your while, and with your help we can make history.

 Hoping to see you soon.


"The self says, I am;
The heart says, I am less;
The spirit says, you are nothing."

-Theodore Roethke

Once we strip away all the concepts that create the "self" that we cling to so tightly, what is left?  What is the "self," really?  Who told you that you had to wear those labels?  How have the labels worked out for you?  What makes us poise ourselves against one another, especially those who are different?  How old was I when I realized that someone else using my toys meant that there were fewer toys for me?  And why did I think that was actually true?  

What is jealousy but the idea that there is a "limited pie" in the universe?  If we think that resources are limited, we will see someone else's piece of the pie as taking away from our shielded slice.  But if we reside in abundance, rather than lack, then no one else's share will appear to be taking from our own.  The world is an overflowing fountain of resources.  If we care for what is here for us, we will have precisely what we need to make it through our lives, and to care for generations to come.

Egos are such a huge part of our culture.  We can't wait to add an experience to our resume, a person to our Facebook friends list, a possession to our assortment of stuff, a compliment to our self-perception.  Yet, in the quiet hours, most of us only seek companionship or inner peace.  Those things can't be gained through the ego's maneuverings.  True friends love us for who we are.  We are capable of living with, and loving, ourselves, only when we search deeply for a connection with our source. . .with the reason we wake up in the morning. . .with our commonalities in this world.

I invite you to smile at yourself today.  Breathe deeply.  Notice, and count, your exhalations --one through ten, then back to one again--, while not forcing a certain pace of breath.  One of my favorite songs is "Be Still" by Kascade.  The refrain says, "The more we think, the less we know." 

Zen teaches us that true meaning is found when and where concepts fall away, where notions can not reach, and where intellect can't penetrate.  At their core, feeling and experiencing leave ideas behind.  Feel your way through life more.  Stay awake when you reflexively get distracted.  Bring yourself back.  Ask, "Where am I, right now?  Where is my mind?"  Soon, you may realize that you are part of everything else.  Knowledge of our unity can make us feel truly alive.


"With Right Effort we can see that every action matters and each moment of our whole life is important; actively commit to waking up to the lives that we live each day; return to our path of awareness even when it does not seem clear."

- Angel Kyodo Williams (African-American Zen priestess).

There is no dress rehearsal. Time passes whether we want it to or not. Let's show up for our lives. They are what we make them.



Last night, my family Ruben and Ivy shared Harvest Fields Community Church in the Bronx with me. What a wonderful, electric, and awesome experience. Much love to you and your families. ♥


*Save The Date* - My 1st NYC book signing is on Sat. 5/22 from 4-6pm at Hue-Man Cafe & Bookstore in Harlem. A week away! Come check out the riveting story Blending Colors From Life: Trenton's Own Watercolorist, Tom Malloy, and share laughter, watercolor paintings, spiritual reflection, and wonder.


"Greed is present at all those times when we could have made room for other people in our hearts but instead remained stubborn or indifferent, withholding of our love as if it could get used up if we were free with it."
- Angel Kyodo Williams, African-American Zen priestess.

Let's get free, people. Let's get free.


"If you want to free yourself from the harshness of the world, clear harsh thoughts from your mind. Clear anger with forgiveness, confusion with orderly thinking. Clear restrictions with an open mind..."

- Iyanla Vanzant (The May 2nd meditation in Acts of Faith: Daily Meditations for People of Color).

I really needed to read these words.


It is my great pleasure to tell you more about my first NYC book signing. The second edition of my book, Blending Colors from Life: Trenton's Own Watercolorist, Tom Malloy, is out and available for sale. It is a fascinating biography of African-American artist Tom Malloy. By reading it and attending a book signing or workshop, you will share a remarkable life story in American history, a romp with Tom's quirky wit and wisdom, and a lesson on spiritual strength.

I would be honored to see you and / or your friends and families on May 22nd in Harlem. The event will be child friendly! It will be a chance for storytelling, sundry questions and answers, and learning more about the writing process. Feel free to spread the word, and to email me at with any questions.

Thank you so much for your support and kind attention.    

SATURDAY, MAY 22ND, 2010 FROM 4:00-6:00PM

2319 Frederick Douglass Blvd
(Between 124th and 125th Streets. A,B,C,D or 1,2,3 trains to 125th St.)
New York, NY 10027



You will need your audio on, as this is a song.  If you can listen to the whole thing, please go for it.  This says just what I need it to say.  I have loved this song since childhood.  Kermit the Frog does it best.  Sara McLachlan's a great second choice here, though.  Nothing wrong with being a dreamer.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


The New York Times recently published an editorial about a bill that I've had the pleasure of working on for some time. Re-Direct New York legislation (S6711-B), sponsored by Senator Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn), brings our state a step closer to true justice for youth by reimbursing local governments sensibly for community-based programs for youth and alternatives to detention, rather than only reimbursing for dangerous detention facilities as it does now.

Please read on to learn more, and contact your legislator to support this critical measure. We spend exorbitant sums (over $200,000 per year per youth) to incarcerate one child, which puts them at risk of assault, gang involvement, staff abuse, and educational deprivation. A U.S. Department of Justice investigation laid bare heinous abuses of youth in upstate juvenile prisons. Local detention is also gravely detrimental. Community-based programs are more effective, cheaper (average of $5,000-$17,000 per year per youth), better for public safety, and enable youth to dream of success and find concrete ways to avoid criminal involvement. Governor Paterson's budget proposes to gut crucial youth programs, and we can change that decision.

See your child in every child. Positive change happens in the lives of at-risk youth every day. You can make the difference.

New York Times editorial:
New York State Assembly website, where you can find your Assembly member by zip code:
New York State Senate website, where you can find your Senator by zip code:

Reach me at


"Walk like a free person." - Thich Nhat Hanh. Do you feel enslaved by your own thoughts? Captured by your own special Boogeyman/woman? You are not! You are free! Guess what? Thoughts are not facts. Feelings are not facts. (Ezra Bayda). They are exactly what you make of them, and what you let them be. If you focus keenly on each task at hand, and notice your thoughts gently then let them pass on by like clouds coasting past the majestic mountain of your mind (and not getting stuck there on the mountain), you can indeed walk like a free person. It's not easy, but anything worth doing is worth doing poorly! (Roshi Bernie Tetsugen Glassman). Go ahead. I dare you.

"First LGBTQ Federal Right in U.S." - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: FRI., APRIL 16TH, 2010

I am so proud to say that President Obama has finally executive-ordered the first lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) federal right. (If you believe I misspoke and that there was another one first, please let me know. I do not know of any).
It's long overdue and we have miles to go, but what a wonderful thing this is.
Let's savor this moment. Definitely motivation to keep striving!
------Original Message-------------------------------
From: The Washington Post
To: Charisa Smith
ReplyTo: The Washington Post
Subject: Breaking News: Obama orders hospitals to grant same-sex couples visitation rights
Sent: Apr 15, 2010 7:47 PM
-------------------- News Alert: Obama orders hospitals to grant same-sex couples visitation rights
07:34 PM EDT Thursday, April 15, 2010 --------------------
President Obama signed an order Thursday night requiring hospitals to allow gays and lesbians to have non-family visitors and to grant their partners medical power of attorney. The president ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to prohibit discrimination in hospital visitation. The memo is scheduled to be made public Friday morning, according to an administration official and another source familiar with the White House decision. An official said the new rule will affect any hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding.
For more information, visit

"Wisdom Warrior" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: MON., APRIL. 12TH, 2010

"Wisdom is the brave warrior who will carry us into the sun." - Sade (singer). Wise ones say that silence can sometimes be the best possible answer. Thich Nhat Hanh and other Zen teachers emphasize "deep listening." The more we talk, the less we inherently listen. Inviting others to feel free around us is a great gift. How can someone feel truly free to speak their mind and heart if they hear us talking more than listening, and even far more than they talk themselves? Let's have the wisdom to use words judiciously and to choose silence out of wonder and care. "Not-knowing" is a fundamental principle of Buddhism and Zen.

"Awaken, Awaken, Awake" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: WED., APRIL 7TH, 2010

"Being one with the water, the fish doesn't think in terms of being either wet or dry or even of swimming in water. From the beginning we are intrinsically the enlightened state." - Roshi Bernie Tetsugen Glassman, Zen Master.

How many times a day do we wake from sleepwalking, only to realize we've been here, alive, the whole time? Probably not nearly enough. All we'll ever need is inside of us. Right here, right now. Let's not miss life's moments.

"Each of us should strive to awaken. Awaken. Take heed. Do not squander your life." - Zen expression, repeated at the end of most meditations.


"Ignorance creates greed by breeding the idea that we are fundamentally lacking something..." - Roshi Bernie Tetsugen Glassman. How many times have we gone overboard, all because we needed "that something"? Felt utterly alone in the midst of friends? Indulged to fill that void? Will the craving to feel, know, gain, and achieve ever cease?

Emotional malnutrition--as I have decided to coin it--is actually optional. At the NYC Buddhist Forum on March 20th, senior Shambala Center teacher Joseph Mauricio also pointed out this cycle of desire, binging, and dissatisfaction with whatever we currently have. Earlier, I complained to my friend and advisor, Corey Roberts, about receiving unwanted sexual advances in professional settings. I know that I come across as friendly and enthusiastic, but I just can't believe the fact that so many people assume that my demeanor means it's okay for them to put the moves on me. Corey likened most people to roaming nomads in the desert. He said that the world is unfortunately so bereft of kindness that when these thirsty, weary nomads see true kindness staring them in the face, they can not believe it could be the real, pure thing. Convinced that sincere friendliness must be a mirage, too many acquaintances think that I must be offering sexual energy instead. This saddens me unfathomably, and I realize that I need to be more vocal about my platonic intentions as soon as I suspect someone may have the wrong idea, if I want to avoid feeling intruded upon and in need of a constant shower. I will have to get over the disappointment that I must continually "set people straight" if I choose to maintain my personality. I can only hope that in time, sincerity will become as viral as lust and anxiety.

I am so glad that Zen accepts that perfection is the here and now. Can we try to believe that the current ingredients of our lives are precisely what we need to create each daily feast? Striving, craving, searching, and desires are "inexhaustible" (The Four Vows). We do not need to gorge on anything in this world-- be it material or intangible. It is possible to free ourselves from that feeling of persistent lack. Seize the day. Be grateful. See a need, an opportunity, and act. Make the most of each present moment.

It truly is always right now.


Last night my yoga teacher mentioned a famous, misunderstood yogi who he studied under. This famous yogi said that yoga can make us "bulletproof." But not because we build armor to shield and desensitize ourselves from emotion, pain, disappointment, and harm. Instead, he meant that yoga enables us to get so deeply in touch with ourselves, with our vulnerability, and with our souls, that we can withstand anything, resting in that intense inner beauty no matter what. That yoga class was such a transformative experience. Definitely the best one I've been to.
Feeling helpless, crying at seeing someone get stomped in the midst of a crowd, going home from yoga class, made me ache. I suit up with my armor, to engage others, in order to protect those in pain.
We're here. It's now. Let's suit up.


"Whether tainted or free of all tarnish, There is [one] mind: Whether one stands or falls, It is with the same body." - Princess Yodo, Japanese Zen nun. Are you the same person as the person in your childhood photo? Yes. . .and no. Where would I be if my father wasn't born? Would your day have been as meaningful if that person hadn't annoyed you? Everyone can be our teacher. Interdependence reaches all. Savor it and see what it has to offer :-)

"Original Spirit" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: FRI., FEB. 26TH, 2010

"Only when one finds the original spirit of human beings, which is non-existence, and is able to use it at one's disposal, [does] the life of a human being open up. When that happens, one becomes an independent being who is not being swindled by environments, and thus whenever, wherever, and whatever kind of life with whatever shape of a body, one leads one's life, one finds nirvana." - Kim Ilyop, Korean nun and woman’s rights activist (1896-1971.

"City Council fails to properly address gangs; new bill could target Black and Latino teens" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: WED., FEB 24TH, 2010

City Council fails to properly address gangs; new bill could target Black and Latino teens

By STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff
Published: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 7:08 PM EST

On February 11, the New York City Council voted 38 to 9 in approval of a bill, Intro 1-2010, that would crack down on gang initiation activity and prevent gangs from recruiting new members.

This new legislation creates a Class A misdemeanor penalty for what it dubs “criminal street gang initiation.” Those who are charged would face as much as a year in jail if convicted of initiating a person and if the initiation created a risk of “physical injury.” So what’s the problem with this bill? The New York Police Department and prosecution don’t have to prove with witness testimony that the injury took place during initiation.

Vagueness permeates this bill and it leaves a lot of questions open to a plethora of answers. One question, however, has been asked multiple times since news of the bill’s passing broke: Will this bill unfairly target Black and Latino teenagers in New York City? Two people answered with a resounding “yes” to that question.

Charisa Smith, coordinator of the New York Task Force on Racial Disparities and the Juvenile Justice System, spoke of the myriad of ways in which this bill can be a problem. “I think it’ll really allow for an undesignated level of restriction without any guidelines,” Smith said. “They can make an assumption as to what a group is going to do. The policies are, if you see this kind of behavior, you must do this. [It] leaves you with a broad range of possibility.
“It’s going to widen the potential load of alleged suspects,” Smith continued. “It’s gonna really confuse young people, because how do you avoid it?”

Smith isn’t the only one who sees holes in this legislation. Marquez Claxton, a former NYPD officer and City Council candidate, thinks the bill could be a good thing with clear regulations and directions, but sees parallels with another NYPD practice.

“The expressed sentiment behind it is a good thing,” Claxton acknowledged. “But the concern would be the application of the law by the police department. The real problem comes with how they enforce it. Will it be equally enforced or will it be targeted enforcement? If this is done the same way as stop and frisk, we have to look at the legislation with a skewed eye.”

Last year, police officers stopped a record 575,000 people under the stop and frisk policy, in which officers stop, detain and/or pat down people in the streets. Almost 90 percent of those who were stopped under the policy were Black or Latino. The NYPD claims that the practice has stopped and prevented crimes, but many groups, including the ACLU, say it unfairly targets ethnic minorities and violates basic civil liberties.

Many fear the same when it comes to bill Intro 1-2010. “First of all, teenagers gather in large groups to begin with,” said Smith. “When people are gathered in a group, it’s unclear as to what’s going on. Young people in Black and Latino neighborhoods are going to be forced to live in fear of the police more than they do already. There’s not enough safe havens for Black and Latino teenagers to go. It’s kind of an accident waiting to happen.”

Council Member Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn echoed similar sentiments after the council announced the vote. “I don’t think it’s going to deter one gang violation,” he said.
“The collateral damage isn’t worth it.”

The “collateral damage” that Williams mentioned would more than likely be the result of a law open to police interpretation. Not only could it have bad consequences for innocent teens, but the teens that are actually out gangbanging could get away with crimes if they hire the right representation in court.

“A good law is not this vague and open-ended because a good law doesn’t want enforcers to interpret it so widely,” Claxton said. “It’s too open-ended and it’s not specific enough, and it makes it that much more difficult to be enforced. You stand a risk of having individuals who should be prosecuted beating these cases because the law is poorly written.”

So the law could be a disaster two-fold. It could unfairly target Black and Latino teens and it could be a blessing to those who are actually in gangs. City legislation must go back to the drawing board.
Attempts to contact the NYPD were unsuccessful.

"Clairvoyant Cops: NYC Gang Bill a Step in Wrong Direction" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: THURS., FEB. 18TH, 2010

Clairvoyant Cops: NYC Gang Bill a Step in Wrong Direction

By Charisa Smith

February 18, 2010

It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to see a new series called Psychic Cops launched on A&E, considering recent gang-related legislation passed by the New York City Council. After all, its Psychic Kids series about inherited psychic abilities is already a hit. In this new series, cameras could follow New York Police Department officers who City Council members apparently believe are so clairvoyant that they can tell when a group of people is a gang. Even more remarkably, these “psychic” police officers could decipher whether this group of people committing an alleged crime were involved in a gang initiation.

This scenario is as ridiculous as it sounds. But it has become a reality in New York City, where on Feb. 11 the city council passed in a vote of 38-9 the bill Intro 1-2010, which creates a new Class A Misdemeanor penalty for “criminal street gang initiation.” The bill defines a “street gang” as “a formal or informal group of three or more persons who engage in certain activities, one of which involves a criminal purpose.” A person charged under the law would face up to one year in jail for the initiation of a person into a criminal street gang if it created “a substantial risk of physical injury.” To convict, prosecutors do not have to prove with witness testimony that an injury took place during the gang initiation. The bill’s sponsors proudly tout the fact that law enforcement would not need the testimony of a victim to prove this crime occurred.

A hypothetical look at this law in action conveys our city’s dilemma. An African-American male stands by his apartment building, speaking informally and animatedly with three African-American male friends. Their conversation is casual and none of the young men are gang-affiliated. But their predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhood has been labeled a gang hotspot by the NYPD, and members of their community are stopped and frisked regularly. Suddenly, a police car screeches to a stop and two officers jump out, their guns drawn and yelling. They arrest the young men and charge them with “gang initiation activity.” The young men vehemently argue that they were not committing a crime, and that the police have no proof of any gang activity. But their case goes to trial, and without a witness needed to attest to what was taking place that day, all the young men face one year in jail under Intro 1-2010.

Scenarios similar to this one take place in cities that have implemented similar gang-related legislation. Sponsors of the New York City law, including council members Maria del Carmen Arroyo, Peter F. Vallone Jr., and Domenic M. Recchia, Jr., and Speaker Christine C. Quinn, are trusting that NYPD officers can properly perceive a group’s “criminal purpose”; the actions comprising a “gang initiation”; and a risk of injury to another person without having witnessed any acts and without intensive fact-gathering, let alone an actual inquiry of the people involved.

This overarching faith in police raises deep Constitutional issues about potentially wrongful arrests without probable cause, and unfairly lowered burdens of proof for prosecutors at trial. I am currently the Coordinator of the New York Task Force on Racial Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System, a coalition that has worked for the past two years to communicate with decision-makers in governmental agencies including the NYPD to eliminate the overuse of juvenile arrest, incarceration and racially biased policies and practices. Police officers from diverse parts of the City have expressed a desire to use different, more constructive strategies than arrest. While the police often have the chance to stop crime with resourcefulness rather than handcuffs, NYPD policies already leave little leeway for alternatives; and Intro 1-2010 makes their job more difficult.

It is more than likely the NYPD and prosecutors will fall short of the new law’s expectations. The city’s district attorneys stated in testimony that the definitions of gang-related crimes as presented by the bill were imprecise and overly broad. The result would mean shifting valuable human and financial resources away from the few individuals who actually commit gang-related crimes to the many who may be perceived to be, wrongly. Intro 1-2010 will widen the net of “suspects” — which undoubtedly adversely affects low-income communities of color who are already subject to intensive police scrutiny — while also failing to address the root causes of criminal gang activity.

Furthermore, the bill is another step in the wrong direction during a budget crisis. By dictating that “criminal street gang initiation” activity is now punishable by up to one year in jail, New York City will be adding to the exorbitant cost of detention, which is currently $200,000 per year per youth. What is the social cost of this price? Recidivism rates as high as 81 percent for girls and 89 percent for boys. By comparison, community-based programs cost as little as $10,000 per year per youth, yield recidivism rates as low as 15 percent, and teach youth the skills they need to become productive and law-abiding.
Community-based and faith-based organizations have the ability to respond to young people’s need to feel protected in their communities by offering a network of supportive, involved adults and positive peers. These groups need resources including funding and property. The City can respond to the lack of recreation in low-income areas by funding, and investing in, creative after-school and evening programs and safe spaces for youth, including alternatives to detention and incarceration. And we New Yorkers can help the City tackle unemployment by creating partnerships between the private sector, the public sector, and communities, which would enable individuals in need of job opportunities the chance to make money lawfully. Drug treatment programs are also necessary to deter young people from joining gangs; and with these solutions, we will see more vulnerable youth steering clear from gang culture while still feeling safe.
Harassment, criminal mischief, assault, and other crimes that could be involved in gang initiations are already illegal, according to Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., chair of the Public Safety Committee, and prosecutors who testified at a City Council hearing. Intro 1-2010 simply tacks on expensive and unproductive jail time to currently punishable crimes. Instead, New York City should invest in true crime prevention, gang deterrence and community empowerment measures.

Why implement Intro 1-2010 when we know it will not keep the public safe and will not address the true problem of gangs in our City?

Charisa Smith is the Coordinator of the New York Task Force on Racial Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System, an effort directly supported by the W. Haywood Burns Institute. To interview/book Charisa Smith and other members of the New York Task Force on Racial Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System, please contact her directly at


"The point of seeing through our laziness of mind is not to judge or feel badly about ourselves, but to understand the need to use our minds in the service of waking up." - Ezra Bayda. We try to figure things out. This nonstop figuring and musing is scattered, as opposed to having disciplined focus. We are gigantic, cloudy, walking, talking heads. How on earth do our huge, thought-filled heads even balance on our drag-along bodies? Yet, when fully alive in the present moment, things often become crystal clear. Try to "wake up" all day today. Try tomorrow. See how richly you live.

“He did each single thing as if he did nothing else.” - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: MON., FEB. 1ST, 2010

2/1/10: “He did each single thing as if he did nothing else.” - Charles Dickens. It's the start of Black History Month, the 2nd month of 2010. Having courage to pay true attention to life can be revolutionary. What am I doing? Where is my mind? My heart? Where am I needed? What can I focus on to play my part in history? Everyone has something to offer, and something to learn. Today is all we have.


Dear X,
Great to hear from you. Glad my emails could make you smile. How was your day? Your job seems really rewarding and exciting, from what I read of your card!

I'm actually not familiar with the work of Trungpa Ripoche. I love learning about other traditions, I just adore mine so much that I like to fill my days with Zen because I identify with it most strongly! I will have to make a point to read about the "me plan" sometime, though. I guess I tend to "study" (read) Zen texts more often and to experience other traditions through dharma talks, visits, or new friends instead.

Speaking of pan-Buddhism, here's a link to Bodhi Lounge, the Meetup group I was telling you about: If you get a chance and are interested, join up (free) and check out the link I posted to Roshi Enkyo O'Hara's dharma talk on Martin Luther King and the Vimalakirti Sutra, on the Message Board section.

To answer your question about moving between the 3 phases of practice, I would have to say that the Me Phase definitely has a diminished presence in my life, but I still have a drama playing in my head at times! The reason why I tend to stop the dramatic tape (DVD, lol?) before it plays that much is because I've gotten a taste of a life with far less self-worry and anxiety, and now I literally need a certain level of mental spaciousness to function. I find that because I "check myself" for presence of mind nearly every 2 minutes now, I've actually grown more physically sensitive to mental stress. It's weird but helpful. When I start to spin a story about something going on and proceed to detach my mental state from my whereabouts, and then even let a jumble of emotions start radiating through my body, it doesn't take long before I feel overwhelmed, as if I need to just rest in the void again, no matter what comes my way. I'm not sure if I've brainwashed myself to physically manifest that "Worrying is bad for your health," or whether I just grew more sensitive to those energies, but I clear my head so I won't end up with a migrane or an upset stomach! I'm also a trauma survivor and a former chronic pain patient (I really would appreciate talking with you about your pain sometime. I would love to be supportive and to learn more), so I now know that I also actually "manifest stress differently" than the average person. I finally found a doctor (GI of all things) who asked all the right questions and understands what I'm going through. A combination of practice, surgery, medication, and lifestyle choices has helped me to find a far less stressful way of life.

But everything's relative. . .Just because I don't play a tape in my head for too long doesn't mean I avoid chaos! I just recently broke a pattern of dating really unstable women. I did it for 9 years, same story everytime, supportive people pointing out the pattern, but I simply thought I was supposed to be with someone like that until it became too much to bear. Learning never stops!

Merle Kodo came to the Zendo this past summer. If you venture to her sangha sometime, I would enjoy tagging along.

Sorry I wrote you a novel! I'm a writer and a generally vocal person, so I think nothing of blabbing on and on in a one-way forum like email. Hope you're not bored lol. Please tell me more about yourself when you can.

Take care now.
In gassho,


"He's dead, and that's why he lives" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: SUN., JAN. 24TH, 2010

"[Y]ou should be like the sailor floating on the water. He's dead, and that's why he lives. . .We don't move and we don't follow our thoughts. . .[T]hat allows us to float on the ocean of energy. . ."-Philippe Coupey, French Zen monk. Being still, letting our ego and thoughts fall away in daily life, connects us to our deeper selves and the world. Come "Know Yourself If You Want to Get Over Yourself." Learn from Ezra Bayda’s book Zen Heart. Nosan Lawrence Grecco (Director) and Charisa Smith (Contributing Facilitator) with facilitate group meditation, and discussion before social time.

"Essential and Invisible" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: FRI., JAN. 22ND, 2010

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye"-Antoine de St. Exupery. Wen we luv someone/thing, we kno it in our core. No 1 can tell us different. Whether we can c them our whole life or they fade away frm sight, our heart knows they live 4ever. Activity: I will honored those I luv, whether they are visible or bright in spirit. Luv 2 the late pet Peanut, and to her owners Tali, and Allan. - Charisa A. Smith, Esq., Vice-President of Cooperation for a Non-Violent Future, Inc. (CNF), a 501(c)(3) Non-profit Organization.

Dr. Martin Luther King. "Bodhisattva" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: MON., JAN. 18TH, 2010

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday - 20min talk by my teacher, Roshi Pat Enkyo O'Hara, comparing Vimalakirti (fictional ideal Buddhist) and Dr. Martin Luther King. "Bodhisattva" is someone who strives for justice and wisdom, and a Buddhist lifestyle. Roshi reads from the Vimalakirti Sutra and Dr. King's letter from the Birmingham jail, challenging us to create a just world. Some vocabulary may be different, but the message is accessible.

"Headed to Retreat" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: SAT., JAN. 16TH, 2010

Headed to a retreat. 8am-8pm. Excited, hopeful re sending metta and love to Haiti in zazen (meditation). Red Cross and Yele effectively aid disasters. Money's crucial (even $5) because there's not enough time/order to sort through in kind donations. and " the element that... can give birth to a new civilization." - Thich Nhat Hanh. - Charisa A. Smith, Esq., Vice-President of Cooperation for a Non-Violent Future, Inc. (CNF), a 501(c)(3) Non-profit Organization.

"Devastation afflicts Haiti" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: WED., JAN. 13TH, 2010

Devastation afflicts Haiti. "Many abundance have revolted against materialism for the need to be a human being." - Thich Nhat Hanh. Find your human core. The Red Cross effectively aids disasters. Money is most crucial (even $5) because there's not enough time/order to sort through in kind donations. " the element that can give birth to a new civilization"-Thich Nhat Hanh. - Charisa A. Smith, Esq., Vice-President of Cooperation for a Non-Violent Future, Inc. (CNF), a 501(c)(3) Non-profit Organization.

"Informal Letter to My Friend, A Nun" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: JAN. 12TH, 2010

1/12/10: From: "Charisa Smith" To: "Charisa Smith"

Hey folks, If u r getting this email frm me, it's bc u r a treasured frend and I thank u 4 being supportiv of me over the years, and now. The message below is from me to 1 of my closest frends frm college, Y (I deleted her responses 4 privacy, of course). 2day was a life altering day 4 me. Definitely the happiest in my life so far. I don't believe one ever reaches "Enlightenment" (Zen thing, mostly a Buddhist thing, and think about it-- any1 who walks around saying "I'm totally enlightened! I kno the answers 2 all life's questions!" has got 2 b pretty damn deluded, hmm? If u disagree tho, I respect that. Cuz hey- I don't hav the answers either lol!). I jus had an amazing day.

Context is dat Y is now in a monastery. We went thru tons of stuff in college and afterwards 2gethr. OK- Here go my messages. Thank u 4 letting me share w u. The 1st message, way below, is re my struggle w someone I wanted to date, and how she dissed me and my morals. I reached out 2 Y 4 support. I understand if u don't care 2 hear that 1 agen!

Charisa A. Smith, Esq. Task Force Coordinator NY Task Force on Racial Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System Community Justice Network for Youth (CJNY), W. Haywood Burns Institute

"To be who you are and become what you are capable of is the only goal worth [achieving]" -Alvin Ailey

--- On Tue, 1/12/10, Charisa Smith wrote: From: Charisa Smith Subject: Re: The right path To: "Y" Date: Tuesday, January 12, 2010, 2:45 PM Dear Y, Thank you so much for taking the time 2 write me. I totally understand dat ur time 2 do that is limited, so I relly appreciate it. CONGRATULATIONS on ordaining! That's amazing! The universe is so deeply interconnected. I've always felt it, but today almost more than anything. Today I got your email, and it just filled me with soaring joy. You are doing something so important, and I treasure your presence in my life. U r such a true gift, Y.

The full potency of interconnectedness fell in my lap just a few moments ago. . .a Sensei from my sangha wrote me back with more information about receiving Jukai, The Precepts. He sent a pamphlet about the process and advised me how 2 proceed. When I opened the pamphlet and read what it sed, I burst into hysterical tears. I m crying now and have been crying like a loon for about a half hour! But tears of hysterical happiness! I dreamed about being a nun when I was younger in Catholic school, and all the while growing up and being fully engaged in secular revelry, I longed 2 do it still. My journey in Zen, hearing from u 2day, reading the words that articulate in great detail what it means 2 liv by the Precepts, and realizing that I really hav everything I ever wanted in this moment, is so overwhelming and --to use your word-- fulfilling.

I relly hope I don't get this cooky wen I begin studying and practicing mor intensely for Jukai! But 4 now, I hav been given free time 2 savor how this feels, 2 cry tears of gratitude and endebtedness to life, and to share this all with u. And as luck would hav it, I must hav been meant 2 experience this in the precise way that I m. I called 3 people 2 share the moment w, and no 1 picked up. I hav become WAY more self reliant and happily independent in the last year, so I stopped making calls n enjoyed the overflowing emotion in solitude (save the sounds of my gasping...Good grief!). Then I turned 2 yr email and m now writing u back. I appreciate the wisdom u shared. I will definitely print out your words and carry them w me wen times get rough, so I can send metta 2 u and rejoice that u r in this world. Glad u included translations 2, lol, bc most of my Buddhist references r in Japanese, w a good helping of Sanskrit & Pali as well.

Your ideas about romantic relationships n marriage r quite helpful and giv me much 2 ponder. Another reason this day and moment r so apropos is bc in the past couple days I realized I've grown so happy on my own that I'm not sure I'm even ready 4 romance...After all this time chasing it! I'm finally com4table 4 it to take years if that's wat happens. And if not, I realize I'll b A-OK. That sed, I hav always dreamed of raising a family, and of the unique joy of being a mother, hopefully both thru adoption and biology. As I hav actually found an admirable tradition (we call ourselves a lay order of Soto Zen) that enables priest ordination alongside the option of raising a family, I feel I would like to live a life like dat. That is y I cried so. . .(Just stopped a few seconds ago!) bc I can actually do everything I ever wanted, and if I extinguish @ this moment, then this is already great enough.

Co-parenting n growing old w 1 special person is still part of my fairytale, yet I will always hav utmost reverence 4 those who give their all to the world thru celibacy and mor intense solitude. I still struggle w ideas of "legitimacy" being in an order that is lay and yet maintains so much ceremony. Yet, I've always felt there had 2 b a way 2 liv a truly spiritually devoted life, commit 2 meditation n the dharma, and still maneuver secular life as well. That's y the nun-dream b/came only a dream @ sum point-- bc I had no idea I could ordain n liv secularly as well.
My teacher, Pat Enkyo Roshi O'Hara, actually gave a dharma talk on the Vimalakirti Sutra on Sunday, and it applies 100% 2 this circumstance! Jeez-another bit of fortuitousness. This day is unbelieveable. It would b gr8 2 speak w u or c u sometime, and I kno that will happen in due time. 4 now, THANK U 4 being who u r, congratulations on ur path and progress 2 ordination once agen, and I will leave u w some Zen wisdom frm authors of various traditions. I apologize 4 the font being so huge! I cut and pasted frm a document I made, I have 2 run 2 do sum work, and Yahoo isn't letting me shrink the font! Not trying 2 b obnoxious, lol:
"If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?" - Dogen Zenji (Founder of the Soto Zen tradition, in which I seek to ordain one day).
"If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark." - St. John of the Cross. (From The Little Zen Companion, which compiles multi-cultural quotes in the spirit of Zen).
“The self says, I am; The heart says, I am less; The spirit says, you are Nothing.” – Theodore Roethke. (The Little Zen Companion).
“That is happiness: to be dissolved into something complete and great.” - Willa Cather. (The Little Zen Companion).
“You should study not only that you become a mother when your child is born, but also that you become a child.” – Dogen Zenji
"We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want" - Lao Tzu (Founder of Taoism and author of the Tao Te Ching).

“Zen is your everyday thought.” - Chao-Chou

"You must learn to turn and direct your light inward to illuminate your true nature. Body & mind will fall away, & your original face will appear. If you want to reach thusness, then you must practice thusness without delay"-Dogen.

We are not just this human body, education, experience, lifespan. We will always be part of the world. And the world is a flowing field of molecular, energetic activity that simply keeps changing forms. Activity: I will use my silence to hear the voice of everything.

"Can You Do It?" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: FRI., JAN. 8TH, 2010

"A quiet place is best...During one summer...a distant...noise like that of a broken washing machine began filling the dojo during the morning zazen [meditation]...I sent my shusso [head monk] out to see...Finally, several hours later, he returned in his car. He was still wearing his [robe]...and clutching a kyosaku [stick]. Apparently the noise was coming from a rave party...he [was] trying to track it down, without success..."- Philippe Coupey, French Zen Teacher. Hmm. . . I adore zazen, silent meditation. But why not twirl glowsticks in a robe? The present moment is all we have! You only live once.

Activity: In the next couple days, when you find an opportunity to savor something harmless and spontaneous, DO IT!

Reason to call in “present” for life today (Social Justice Cause): 2000 data showed that approximately 20.9 million American families had at least one member with a disability. Many differently-abled people are living healthy, happy lives. And many are not. Some disabled children, adolescents, and adults lack adequate health care, nutrition, social services, and community support. Did you wake up able to walk this morning? Are you able to speak? Can you have your pick of activities to participate in for work and enjoyment? If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes,” please savor those gifts and engage with someone disabled. Go to the Special Olympics website to see how you can volunteer, coach, take the R-word pledge, watch a video, or support a sponsor to help empower people with disabilities.

"What Do We Do With It?" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: MON., JAN. 4TH, 2010

"A truly enlightened person is one who can transform the energy [emotions] nearly all of the time. It's not that the energy no longer arises; the question is, what do we do with it?"- Charlotte Joko Beck, Zen Master. The world and its inhabitants toss us a whirlwind of situations. We can make plans and have intention, but we fundamentally have no control over what happens. Making peace with whatever happens is Zen practice. Activity: I will feel deeply, then transform that into centeredness. Namaste

"Happy 2010!!" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: THURS., DEC. 31ST, 2009

"Your crown has been bought and paid for. All you must do is put it on your head"-James Baldwin. We are the truth. Right now, where we stand. “Zen is your everyday thought”-Chao-Chou. Please savor the present moment and make the most of this gift called life. You matter, and you can make a difference. Happy 2010! Namaste

"Bombing for Peace is Like..." - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: MON., DEC. 28TH, 2009

"We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want" - Lao Tzu (Founder of Taoism and author of the Tao Te Ching). We live within the bounds of multiple identities. Gender, race, class, sexuality, religion, political affiliation, family membership, etc.. Yet we are each more than one human body walking earth. More similar than different.

Why do I yawn when I hear someone yawn over the phone or see it on t.v.? Why do you experience déjà vu? How can someone’s mind be totally busy thinking a thousand thoughts intently during the whole drive to work but still manage to drive their car skillfully, and arrive there, only to realize they were not really “there” when driving? “Where” were “they”? “Who” or “what” was doing the driving? How did my mother dream of white sheets several years ago and wake up that morning knowing I was in the hospital many miles away and could not communicate with her? When we really get to know ourselves, learn about others, and contemplate the mysteries of life, we can recognize that we are part of one universal consciousness. The shell of our body is so little of what we are.

Activity: Let me see the emptiness within myself. The potential of our greatness as continuations of all that has been and will ever be. Let me take one action today to prove that I see myself in someone else, in the larger whole. Smile at a stranger. Listen when you really want to shut down. Put yourself in your enemy’s shoes. Try to defend someone in need.

Reason to call in “present” for life today (Social Justice Cause): Right now Americans are frightened because of recent alleged terrorist plots targeting airplanes. Many influential people continue play upon these fears, demonizing what they see as a faceless mass of evildoers unworthy of human rights. If someone is threatening to kill, that is a major problem to be handled immediately. But the way we handle threats makes all the difference in the world. Each human being has the capacity to cause harm, feel pain, and love. All of us bleed, think, and dream. Thich Nhat Hanh says that when we understand the true meaning of love, we will not be able to have enemies. There is so much of us in our enemies. Being really human means you see yourself in your enemy. Until we practice ways to target the root cause of hatred and extremism, rather than hurling back hatred and extremism, the cycle of misunderstanding and violence will continue. I invite you to learn about, explore, and promote just ways of fighting terrorism that preserve all human rights. Bombing for peace is like screwing for virginity.


"Schtick" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: FRI., DEC. 25TH, 2009

From Charisa (Reesie) Smith to Taliana Sconza – “Naw, man. 2 funny 2 resist. Every1's got a schtick. The mor I find myself the mor I feel like all I'm missing is sum berkenstocks, a dirt floor 2 liv on, a tree 2 hug, and an assorted monument 2 march on.”

"Working With Chaos" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: THURS., DEC. 24TH, 2009

"The third method for working with chaos is to regard whatever arises as the manifestation of awakened energy. We can regard ourselves as already awake; we can regard our world as already sacred."-Pema Chodron. We really don't get to choose what is thrust before us in life. It's all about what we do with what we get. Activity: It is time 4 me 2 rise n shine. I will take this life and make it mine. Divine. No matter what I find.


"In Buddhist psychology, the word samyojana refers to internal formations...or knots. When someone says something unkind...if we do not understand why...and we become irritated, a knot will be tied in us. The lack of understanding is the basis for every internal knot. We create elaborate defense mechanisms to deny their existence, but these problematic feelings are always trying to surface...[Knots] need our full attention as soon as they form, while they are loosely tied, so that...untying them will be easy. Otherwise, they will grow tighter and stronger." (Thich Nhat Hanh).

Reason to call in “present” for life today (Social Justice Cause): At this time of year, we are often thrust into the mix with people we know closely and who may knowingly or unknowingly push our buttons. It is so easy to have an argument, a sense of resentment or residual feelings from the past, or simply to notice the challenge of interacting with more people than usual. Statistically, more people get suicidal this time of year. Many humans feel more alone now than ever if they are ill, abandoned, impoverished, addicted, outcast, or just plain depressed. If you know someone like this, reaching out is the most humane thing to do. Everyone deserves to feel like someone cares.

Mindfulness Activity: Truly feel the sensation of being upset when it comes. Catch it, deeply ask why, and work on unraveling it immediately. Regardless of whether or not we celebrate a holiday in late December, we can act from an awareness of the difficulties this season brings to humankind. Show care, communicate, give of kind speech, writing, or time. You can strengthen your capacity to love and possibly touch the life of another.


"Tackling New York’s Juvenile Justice Crisis" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: MON., DEC. 21ST, 2009

“That is happiness: to be dissolved into something complete and great.” - Willa Cather. (The Little Zen Companion). Tackling New York’s Juvenile Justice Crisis challenges us to join a serious struggle for youth rights and wellbeing.

"Becoming a Mother is Becoming a Child" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: SAT., DEC. 19TH, 2009

"You should study not only that you become a mother when your child is born, but also that you become a child.” – Dogen Zenji (Founder of Soto Zen tradition, in which I seek to ordain). The Senate health care bill threatens to rob millions of women of a choice about entering motherhood. America should strive for enlightened, purposeful, wondrous motherhood. Activity: Fight for women’s health care rights.

"What Do They Expect of Us?" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: THURS., DEC. 17TH, 2009

"If we look deeply, we will know what our children and grandchildren expect of us. We may not see them in person yet, but they are already talking to us. They want us to live in a way that they won't be miserable when they manifest." - Thich Nhat Hanh (Zen Master). The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act crossed a crucial hurdle today. Yet, it needs enough Congressional support to provide futures for our most vulnerable children. Activity: Go to or to do your part.

"Stop Spinning the Story" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: WED., DEC. 16TH, 2009

"Zen practice is to see through our desire to cling to our history and to reasons (thoughts) for why we are as we are, instead of working with the reality of what we are." - Charlotte Joko Beck, Zen Master). It is so easy to spin some storyline when we look at ourselves. (Hope Martin, Teacher of the Alexander Technique). Be it past or future. Yet, truly recognizing our current situation and accepting ourselves, as we are right now, will most likely make the difference. Activity: I will not spin a story. I will observe me, now, and handle it.


“When we have difficulties or troubles, peace of mind is not something that comes from outside, but something you find inside yourself.” – Taizan Maezumi Roshi. (Founding Abbott, Zen Center of L.A.). Quieting our own minds and softening our hearts can truly bring ease and joy. In the end, we are our own monastery. No matter where you go, there you are. Activity: Try to tame the wild horse that is your thought stream. Namaste

"Anger? Or Curiosity?" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: MON., DEC. 14TH, 2009

Someone asked the Buddha, “Master, is there anything you would agree to kill?” The Buddha answered, “Yes, anger. Killing anger removes suffering and brings peace and happiness. Anger is the single enemy that all the wise ones agree to kill.” Amazing things can happen if when someone gets angry, we stop, breathe, and ask us both, “Wow. What happened here?” Dissolving our own anger into curiosity creates chances for understanding.  (Koshin Paley Ellison).  Activity: Try this the next time someone gets angry at you.  Namaste.

"I Am Nothing" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: SUN., DEC. 13TH, 2009

“The self says, I am; The heart says, I am less; The spirit says, you are Nothing.” – Theodore Roethke.
Forgetting the self opens up our universe. Reason to call in “present” for life today (Social justice cause): Many adults can’t buy gifts for their children. 30% of NYC kids live in poverty. Donating even $5 to a children’s charity can help.

Mindfulness activity: Let’s do something to make someone’s life a little better today.   Namaste

"Review of Bodhi Lounge" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: SAT., DEC. 12TH, 2009

"If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark." - St. John of the Cross. (Many quotes are from a Little Zen Companion that compiles multi-cultural quotes in the spirit of Zen).

12/12/09 - Review of Bodhi Lounge (A Buddhist Meetup Group in New York City that had a Bodhi Day and holiday celebration at the Rubin Museum on 12/11/09): I really want to thank Alice, Dennis and Jenn for organizing this awesome group. It is so refreshing to be able to mingle and connect with people who share Buddhist interests and life paths outside of the traditional practitioner's setting.
Buddhist "practice" happens 24-7, living mindfully and acknowledging that "everything is alive and everything is interconnected" (Tai Ta Ku, Pat Phelan, Zen Master). So to take that concept into a chill, fun environment is quite formative, but most importantly delightful!

Meeting people from diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and traditions, and touring the incredible Rubin Museum, was a truly worthwhile way to spend a Friday Night. Towards the end of the evening, I repeated a quote by the founder of my particular Buddhist tradition: "If you can't find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?" (Dogen Zenji, founder of Soto Zen, the tradition I seek to ordain in one day). Thanks to all who make that so real.

"Pity For Myself" - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: DEC. 11TH, 2009

Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while a great wind is bearing me across the sky." - Obijwa/Chippewa saying (One of the largest Native North American indigenous communities).

Monday, June 13, 2011


So some sweet friends have asked me to post a Buddhist notion on Facebook regularly. I am happy to oblige and hope folks are cool with this. Here is today's: "If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?" - Dogen Zenji (Founder of the Soto Zen Tradition, which I seek to ordain in). Have a great day! :-)

The very first time - ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: DECEMBER 8TH, 2009

I am so profoundly honored that my first blog entry just happens to be today. Totally coincidental. Today is Bodhi Day, the day Buddhists believe the Buddha attained enlightenment after years of seeking and days sitting under a Bodhi Tree. I invite you to taste your life as I do the same with mine. Show up, each moment. It is always right now. The present moment is all we have. :-)