A pic I found online

I’ve recently taken to watching old episodes of Northern Exposure on Youtube.  If you’re not familiar with the show it  lasted for 6 seasons and aired in the early 90’s.  It’s set in a rural Alaskan town that has less then 900 people in it and features a variety of eccentric characters.  It has native american themes coursing through many of the episodes and I appreciate the lessons and insights that are often interwoven into the show.  A few days ago I watched an episode where one of the main actors, a half-white half-native american named Ed who’s in his early 20’s, was grappling with whether he wanted to follow the calling he had received to become a shaman (also known as a healer).  He was being followed by a small leprechaun type of creature with red glimmering eyes who tried to convince Ed that he wasn’t good enough to go out with this certain girl he had met.  It was later explained to Ed, by his shaman mentor, that every healer in training had their shadows or demons to deal with and the leprechaun was his.

He further explained that his demon was the worst of the differing kinds because it was the demon of self-doubt and it would be the hardest to cast away.  He said that Ed might deal with that demon all his life but that he could keep it at bay by working on his self-confidence and learning how to love and accept himself.  Ed’s mentor basically stated that all suffering that exists in the world is due to low self-esteem.  He asked Ed the rhetorical question, “Do you think Hitler felt good about himself?”  In his explanation I heard a very similar parallel teaching within my own mindfulness tradition that states how people with that much anger have a great deal of suffering and will cause others to suffer too.

As I am interested in becoming a dharma teacher in my Buddhist lineage I am on the path of learning how to piece teachings together, observe how others teach, look for ways to unfold habit energies, and discover the roots of suffering for myself in order to offer support to others.  I started thinking about the shaman mentor’s notion of how all suffering is born from low self-esteem and self-doubt.  It made sense to me.

Continue reading

Mindfulness in Motion

Thich Nhat Hanh calligraphy

Thich Nhat Hanh calligraphy

Here is one of my newest spoken word pieces (and you can watch my video by following the link below):

In Flight

There’s a tiny, thin, see-through curtain dividing first class and coach seating on this plane,                                                   how appropriate as an analogy describing how we’re all in this together –                                                                          this life, this flight….same thing.  Sure we may be separated but the degree is small, frail, fleeting, self-imposed and largely ridiculous, much like the see-through curtain.

Ya know how it is that we question how others don’t think, act, behave, and do things the way we do things, well, on that note I wonder how it is that there can be so many seemingly complacent frowning faces on airplanes high in the sky doing something so remarkable and amazing as flying.  I want my voice to bellow over the speakers but unlike when the pilot comes on with his spiel I want people to hear what I’m saying un-garbled when I call out, “Friends look around, do you know, really know we’re flying?  Do you know this is awesome!”

I love it all – from the flight safety information cards in the seat pocket in front of me (which I tend to steal) to the tiny windows, overhead push button lights, tray tables, and stale air vents.  It’s so easy to be content only we fight against it not knowing that our quality of life rests in our ability to go with the flow, not understanding that what we water is what grows and the more we frown the more we keep frowning and the more we smile the more we keep smiling and the more time we spend compiling reasons to be happy the less we’ll have time for complaining when things don’t go exactly as planned, which they rarely do.

So buckle up my in flight friends.  The fasten seat belt sign is lit.  Enjoy this moment, right here and right now, cause this moment, this life, this flight… this is it!

Energy In, Energy Out


In preparation for a teaching talk I’m giving later this morning, at a day of mindfulness my local sangha is hosting, I’ve drawn this elementary depiction of what I consider to be the two energy tanks we all have.  An external tank, which consists of our physical selves, and our internal tank, consisting of our mental and emotional activities.  The double sided arrow is to show that energy is exchanged back and forth between the two tanks.  What affects one affects the other.  The tanks aren’t separate.  Mind and body are one.

My talk is about how when we think about expending energy we often think about physical output and movement and how we may not realize that we also use a great deal of energy internally based on our thoughts and emotions.  Our external energy tanks are pretty simple to figure out.  As humans, whenever we’re awake and active we’re using physical energy – energy is flowing out in everything that we do.  But our internal energy tanks are more complex and challenging to figure out.  Whenever we’re over-thinking, worrying, ruminating, complaining, judging, or caught up in anger, fear, anxiety, blame, or stress we’re exerting a great deal of energy as well.  Energy is flowing out often at a rapid pace when we engage in these types of internal activities.

The good news is that just as energy can flow out of both tanks it can also flow back in.  How we respond to what’s unfolding in the present moment determines whether our energy tanks are being depleted or replenished.  When we’re fighting against what’s happening in the present moment energy is being depleted and when we’re embracing what’s happening energy is being restored.

Continue reading



Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is often referred to as Thay (pronounced Tie) by his students.  Thay means teacher in Vietnamese.  Searching for a magazine earlier in the week to bring with me to read on my lunch break at work I came across an old edition of Shambhala Sun from January of 2012 featuring Thay on the cover.  It in there’s an interview with Thay and a personal account from the magazine’s deputy editor on having attended one of Thay’s large retreats.  As I re-read the interview I was reminded once again of how much I appreciate Thay and his teachings and how grateful I am to be one of his students.

A word for word transcription from the magazine interview with Thay by Andrea Miller of Shambhala Sun follows here:

Continue reading