by Michael Moran
I recently returned from a trip to Thailand where I took part in a training program/retreat with Drs. B. Alan Wallace and Paul Ekman called Cultivating Emotional Balance. It was a combination of neuroscience, psychology and contemplative practice.
As you can imagine, this afforded a view of the hazards and potentials of the human condition from a variety of perspectives. Along with that, Thailand itself offered multiple opportunities for observing the human condition from even more perspectives. I always appreciate how my assumptions and beliefs about people, things and the world are fundamentally tweaked by traveling in a foreign country. I saw firsthand how most of the people in the world live on less than $10 per day. I also saw how happiness and cordiality were not necessarily dependant on having any more than that; the Thai people were consistently open and friendly whether they worked in the hotel lobbies or out of a shack in the middle of a rubber tree plantation.
In the Zen tradition practitioners are encouraged to constantly let go of their beliefs and assumptions about themselves and about the world. The Buddha pointed to the inherent emptiness of all things so that people could avoid suffering as a result of their attachment and aversion to those things. I found myself at times proud of the noble things that we Americans have achieved and modeled for the world and, at other times, I found myself ashamed of the U.S. for the level of greed, waste, and callousness that we have demonstrated to the world.
I have to admit that it is good to be back in San Luis Obispo County; the weather, the open spaces, and the 21st century civility of it all. At the same time, I yearn to be constantly reminded what makes all of those things valuable and rare in the world. I also want to stay in touch with those aspects of the human condition that are shared by people around the world, in every location, living condition and stage of development. It keeps me humble and keeps me connected.
We have an exciting Fall schedule coming up for White Heron Sangha. We will be welcoming Edward Espe Brown, a senior teacher and master chef from the San Francisco Zen Center to the Central Coast September 9-13. He will offer some classes, interviews and a daylong retreat. Click here for more information on these events.
Following that, our annual All-Buddhist Picnic is coming up on September 24th. This year the picnic will be hosted by our North County branch and will be held at Santa Margarita Park in beautiful Santa Margarita. One and all, young and old, friends and family are all invited. Click here for more information.
Next, we are also looking forward to renowned teacher Ken McLeod's return to San Luis Obispo County for a talk open to the public on Friday evening, October 14, in San Luis Obispo (Click here for more information) and a weekend retreat with Ken McLeod in Morro Bay on October 15-16.
As many of you may have noticed, some things have changed at our Sunday meetings. At our last couple of board meetings we have been looking at ways to be more inviting to people as they attend or visit our weekly meditations. We decided to try meeting in the front room of the building rather than the sanctuary. Some people have said that the sanctuary felt closed, dark, and uninviting. Others believed that some of those qualities were conducive to a good meditation experience. There were also comments about the advantages and disadvantages of the seating arrangements and the sound (inside and outside). The fellowship area allows us to consume food and drink during our programs, and we have decided to try serving tea and snacks at all of our meetings. If you're willing to help contribute snacks, it would be appreciated. Click here for details. So, we are in an experimental mode. Please bear with us as we try new things.
As always, we invite your questions, suggestions, comments and criticism regarding any aspect of our endeavors. We always try our best to be responsive to the sangha’s interests and sensibilities.