The Dharma Bum’s Guide to Western Literature

Fun fact, at one point in my life I was an English major. I was considering becoming a high school English teacher. I didn’t pursue that path but a big takeaway was, I am not a fan of classic literature. Seriously. Most of the required reading I did in high school showed me that my idea of great literature and a school board’s idea are not the same thing. However, I am a big fan of Buddhism and that’s why when offered the opportunity to read a book intended to show the Dharma hidden in Western literature, I couldn’t say no.

“The Dharma Bum’s Guide to Western Literature: Finding Nirvana in the Classics” by Dean Sluyter is an entertaining and thought provoking read. Sluyter discusses expected classics, such as “The Great Gatsby”, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, and “Moby Dick”, but also adds the unexpected like “The Cat in the Hat”, Frederick Douglass “The Slave Narrative”, and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” “The Dharma Bum’s Guide” isn’t claiming these were written from a Buddhist perspective, but that the Dharma is so universal, it can be found in everything….including Western literature.

Sluyter’s exploration of the authors, as well as their works, can make Buddhist thought more accessible to the Western mind, and can occasionally make a person carrying a disdain for classics (like yours truly) reassess their previous stances. “The Dharma Bum’s Guide to Western Literature” by Dean Sluyter is a fantastic book for anyone interested in Western literature, or Buddhism, or both.

You can learn more here.

Get your own copy here. (This is an affiliate link to my Bookshop, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.)

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The Other Side of Nothing

It is no secret that I love Brad Warner. I think I have all his books, some I purchased myself, and some I received from publishers to review. And since it is no secret, New World Library was kind enough to ask me if I wanted a copy of his latest book “The Other Side of Nothing: The Zen Ethics of Time, Space, and Being” to review, and of course I said yes. In the pie chart that makes up “Rebecca’s Personal Spiritual Practice”, Brad Warner and Zen Buddhism take up a considerable wedge.

Anyone who has read anything about Zen Buddhism knows that Zen is stupidly simple, and infuriatingly complex. Thus, why should I be surprised that the ethics of Zen are extremely straightforward, and mind-warpingly complicated. Warner takes up the daunting challenge of tackling the subject with his usual brand of traditionalism cut with ample references to “Ancient Aliens”, giant Japanese fighting monsters, and now including stories about his dog Ziggy Pup (who is adorable and has his own Instagram).

A book about Zen ethics could have been summed up with, “Don’t Be a Dick” or “Don’t Be a Jerk” (which is the title of one of Warner’s earlier books). See? Easy! Obviously, it’s more involved than that. You get to condensed “Don’t Be a Dick” by learning the Four Noble Truths and following the Noble Eightfold Path. “The Other Side of Nothing” does an excellent job discussing those topics in depth, and that’s where things get complicated. Zen ethics exist the way they do because of the unique perspective Zen masters had of everything, and nothing, and space, and the mind, and no-mind, and I think you may be starting to grasp how things get mind-warpy. Add into that the difference a translation can make. A difference that Warner highlights throughout by comparing the way different modern day and past Zen groups interpret the same sentence.

“The Other Side of Nothing” by Brad Warner is the book I personally have been waiting for since reading “Sit Down and Shut Up” years ago. It is one thing to grasp how to practice Zen, but “The Other Side of Nothing” shows you how you live Zen. And as with all things Zen, it is a complicatedly simple way to live.

You can learn more here.

Get your own copy here. (This is an affiliate link to my Bookshop, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.)

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Playing with Enlightenment

By Mark Johnson (excerpt from “Life as Play“)

It is difficult to discuss enlightenment in general because enlightenment means something different to everyone and because it is paradoxical. Most people think enlightenment is a peaceful, blissful, formless realm beyond the manifest world and outside of space and time. This is only partially correct because it is a paradox.

It is paradoxical because enlightenment includes duality and is simultaneously beyond it.

A lot of people who study Eastern religions are busily quieting their minds and emotions and are waiting for “enlightening” to strike. This is what the Buddha and Shankara taught and what I meditated on for almost 20 years. I have friends who are professional meditators. They can sit without a single thought appearing in their minds for hours at a time. However, I have rocks in my backyard that can do the same thing. Is this the apex of life on this planet? The Oneness as Emptiness is only part of the story. The manifest realm is also an expression of the great Oneness. Our task now is to figure out how best to manifest that ground of being in the evolving, material world. We must merge the transcendent with the immanent.

The analogy of the Ocean with its waves is the best way I know to describe the paradox of being both at the same time. Waves provide a good analogy for people because each wave has a discernible, separate existence. Each has a unique size, direction, speed, and shape – and they make a lot of noise, just as I do! There is also no real separation between them and the totality of the Ocean.

So, imagine yourself as an average wave rolling along, minding your own business, and some guru wave tells you, “You are the entirety of the ocean, and you can experience yourself as such.” All you have to do is meditate your ass off, become a vegetarian, and take up Tai Ji, or, if you are the trusting, devotional type, you can surrender to Yahweh, Jesus, or Allah.

So now they become a seeker with a mission! A wave in search of wetness! Nothing like a little meaning in life to actually get a person to do something other than consume stuff to compensate for that endless dark pit of need in the middle of one’s chest. The fanatic edge that sometimes comes with a little meaning in one’s life can drive a seeker for several thousand lifetimes; in spite of a few setbacks such as exhaustion, depression, and the sneaky feeling you are wasting a lot of time.

Some people start wave hopping to find the wetness, and others start perfecting their own wave to get wetter than the other waves. What keeps that cycle going is the fact that every time someone gets weary, another spiritual teacher comes along with the perfect technique for experiencing wetness, and off they go again until they finally drop. And then, “POW,” a moment of unity consciousness.

If you stop striving for wetness in order to succeed in experiencing it, it will not work. You have to stop everything, which includes stopping everything. That is why not too many people actually do it. It is scary to surrender everything you think you are and allow the great Oneness to continue running the show.

Some of the best “strivers” I have ever met are the Zen folks. They tirelessly scale that “enlightenment” mountain going straight up the slopes, while most people meander around the well-worn paths, smelling the flowers and eating the strawberries at every turn.

You would expect the Buddhist religion to turn out a lot of enlightened individuals every year, wouldn’t you? I didn’t find that to be the case. So, what is wrong with this picture? The more a wave pursues its own wetness as a goal, the further away the wave gets from being its wetness.

As I mentioned before, the tendency to take up spirituality as a cure for your psychological problems is called “spiritual bypassing.” You try to bypass all your problems with the magic bullet of meditation. It sounds good and looks good and actually works to some degree, but without doing the foundational psychological work along the way, nothing much is going to change, in my opinion.

Too many people and meditation teachers in particular, honestly think every problem can be solved with meditation. If you are out of work and depressed, and your guru tells you to meditate more, it is probably time to get another teacher and to find a job.

On the other hand (there is always another “on the other hand” when dealing with paradox), I often see people busying themselves by digging into their childhood traumas in self-help workshops or with their psychiatrist or therapist. Those “archeological digs” can sometimes lead to greater insight into why we do what we do, but far too often, it is simply another expression of narcissism.

I had a client who washed her hands a hundred times a day and knew exactly why she did it, but she still could not stop. I sometimes think some folks would be a lot better off if they spent their day helping people in a homeless shelter instead of incessantly talking about their problems.

The most common expression of narcissistic behavior I see is the incessant striving for enlightenment. The deep reason you don’t make much progress even after decades of meditation and self-help workshops is that you are doing it for yourself. When people take the focus off themselves for even a short time, they find their personal problems miraculously dissolving. That’s due to their no longer giving little obsessions the energy needed to perpetuate. Try it. Don’t think about yourself for an entire day and see what happens.

Let’s say that while indulging in narcissistic pursuits, a person accidentally experiences a spiritual awakening. After all, even a blind squirrel will find an acorn occasionally. It is like a wave briefly glimpsing itself as the entirety of the Ocean. You think you have arrived! But then, the memory fades, and you are back identifying with your old familiar ego/wave again – warts and all.

What good is a spiritual awakening if the wave that experienced it is distorted after experiencing itself as the Ocean? This is often what happens. This means the person must continue to work hard on psychological evolution in order to sustain the awakening. Your personal evolution will continue smoothly if you allow it to happen naturally and don’t force anything with your obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

This means:
It is more important to be integrated and authentic at whatever stage you find yourself than to hotly pursue enlightenment with a distorted and desperate psyche.

About Mark Johnson:
Mark Johnson is a semi-retired Tai Ji and Chi Gung instructor and healer. He continues to judge Tai Ji tournaments regularly, serves on the Advisory Council to the National Qigong Association, and leads Daoist retreats to China and Tibet yearly. He sells his Tai Chi for Seniors video and other instructional DVDs through his online company. Mark has studied and practiced Eastern Philosophy for over 45 years and has apprenticed with some of the most prominent Vedanta, Zen and Daoist teachers in the world. He has been a member and research subject at the Institute of Noetic Sciences for nearly 15 years. You can learn more at https://daopublishing.com/

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The Midnight Gospel

If you know me, or follow me on social media, you know that I am a lady that loves herself some “Adventure Time”. What is there not to love? A cast of loveable characters, having quirky adventures, and underneath the humor, topics like love, loss, friendship, family, and the nature of evil are examined. So, obviously when I heard the creator of “Adventure Time”, Pendleton Ward, had a new animated series for adults coming to Netflix, I was all in.

I knew nothing about the series, “The Midnight Gospel”, before I watched it, other than it was animated and Pendleton Ward was a part of it. This show did not just meet expectations, it blew any expectations right out of the water. Buckle up, it’s an amazing ride!

What is “The Midnight Gospel”? A question more easily asked than answered. It follows spacecaster Clancy, as he drops into various alternative Earth simulations via an illegal multiverse simulator, to interview beings he finds. It turns out the show is based off Duncan Trussell’s podcast “Duncan Trussell Family Hour”. Ward is a fan of the podcast and thought of the idea of animating it. What happens when you smoosh Ward and Trussell together? A mind blowing, psyche changing, legitimately magical experience.

Trussell interviews a who’s who of people Buffet readers know, or should know: Caitlin Doughty, Ram Dass, Damien Echols, Anne Lamott, and more. They discuss topics such as magic, forgiveness, death, drugs, and yes, more. Every episode is magic, but it is hard to deny the power of the episode “Mouse of Silver”, that features an interview Trussell did with his mother, Deneen Fendig, as she was dying of cancer. All of this is paired with Ward’s dreamy, psychedelic art that is so rich with symbolism that you’ll want to watch it again and again.

I know all of this may sound like a downer, but to the contrary, it is seeded with humor and overall, a life affirming experience. I am definitely not an expert on magical media, so this is just my personal, limited experience, opinion. “The Midnight Gospel” is one of the most magical, and magickal, things you can view on a television screen. Watch it now. Then watch is again.

“The Midnight Gospel” is available on Netflix.

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Favorite Things 2019

It’s that time again folks! That time when I look back at a year of articles and remind you about the best of the best things I wrote about this year. Looking at the list you’ll realize that not every item came out in 2019. My favorite things list is a recap of what I read or used in 2019, not necessarily a thing that released in 2019. So why now? Why not the end of December, or the beginning of January? Because I like to share my favorites while you still have time to buy them as gifts for people, or yourself.

And speaking of shopping, this year I’m including purchasing links (when I can) for IndieBound. IndieBound supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you. I encourage you to shop local, independent bookstores when you can. If you can’t, I ask you to consider IndieBound.

Now, with no further ado, and presented in particular order…..

FAVORITE THINGS 2019

The Little Book of Cat Magic: Spells, Charms, and Tales by Deborah Blake
It’s hard not to be enchanted by this little book of cats. It’s written by Deborah Blake, a crazy cat lady in the best of ways. The book is filled with delightful kitty-centric illustrations. “The Little Book of Cat Magic” is great for anyone who loves cats.

You can read my original review here.

You Can Buy Me Here

Magical Dogs Tarot by Daniel Mueller and Mickie Mueller
From cats, to dogs. It’s hard not to love dogs, and thusly, it’s hard not to love “Magical Dogs Tarot”. Mickie Mueller is a fantastic artist, and her dogs are endearing and whimsical. Daniel Mueller wrote a wonderful companion book, thoughtfully capturing the spirit of canines and merging it with tarot. A great addition to any tarot collection, and obviously it’s fantastic for dog lovers.

You can read my original review here.

Crystals: A Guide to Using the Crystal Compass for Energy, Healing, and Reclaiming Your Power by Aisha Amarfio
This book is ALL about its Crystal Compass. Sure, Amarfio provides loads of information about crystals: uses, care of, properties, etc. However, what sets “Crystals” apart is the super convenient chart she created to go with the book. This colorful graph, aka, Crystal Compass, is an easy to use guide to incorporating crystals into all kinds of work. In a year that saw many great books on crystals, Amarfio’s creation of the Crystal Compass made her book a favorite of this past year.

You can read my original review here.

You Can Buy Me Here

Witchcraft Activism: A Toolkit for Magical Resistance by David Salisbury
Written by a long-time activist, David Salisbury does a wonderful job of inspiring the reader to take action, mundane and/or magical. If you want to take action, this is the book to read.

You can read my original review here.

You Can Buy Me Here

Witchbody by Sabrina Scott
This year saw SO MANY fantastic releases. However, there was no other book like “Witchbody”. Scott created a graphic novel, filled with fantastic art that explores ecology, magic, spirituality, and more. It’s a journey unlike any other you’ll ever take with a book. In my opinion, “Witchbody” is a classic.

You can read my original review here.

You Can Buy Me Here

One Truth and One Spirit: Aleister Crowley’s Spiritual Legacy by Keith Readdy
An amazing work exploring Crowley’s Thelema legacy following his death. Thelema’s fractures, power struggles, and ultimately, its staying power makes “One Truth and One Spirit” a worthwhile endeavor.

You can read my original review here
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You Can Buy Me Here

The Ark Animal Tarot & Oracle Deck by Bernadette King
Some of you may remember that back in April I backed, and promoted, a Kickstarter for this deck. Well, now it is out and I have my copy. It is just as good, if not better, than promised. A beautiful, sturdy box with a magnetic closer. Gorgeous, full color cards. It’s designed to be used as a traditional tarot deck and/or oracle!

You can read my original post about it here.

Witchcraft & Secret Societies of Rural England: The Magic of Toadmen, Plough Witches, Mummers, and Bonesmen by Nigel Pennick
Pennick has created a book that is a highly readable blend of scholarly work and fantastical folklore. Trade unions that operate as secret societies is a trend that might be cool to bring back.

Read my original review here.

You Can Buy Me Here

The Sacred Herbs of Samhain: Plants to Contact the Spirits of the Dead by Ellen Evert Hopman
I feel like this from my original review says it all, “And no one tells a plant’s story better than Ellen Evert Hopman.”

Read my original review here.

You Can Buy Me Here

Letters to a Dead Friend about Zen by Brad Warner
Brad Warner does Buddhism 101. Need I say more?

Read my original review here.

You Can Buy Me Here

Since this is my favorite things, but also a shopping list, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that The Magical Buffet has a bunch of fun merchandise, as well as a vintage witch collection of merchandise for sale now! The witchy collection goes away December 31, 2019.

Shop The Magical Buffet store here!

Zen & Enlightenment & Giveaway

If you’ve been a reader of The Magical Buffet for just about any length of time, you know I love me some Brad Warner. I’ve featured nearly every book he has written on my site. So, believe me when I tell you that this may be my FAVORITE Warner book. This is the book I’ve been waiting for and Warner has been putting off writing. Welcome to your Zen Buddhism 101 book with cool professor Warner. In order to pull it off, Warner needed a framing device to make it work for him. He did it in the form of letters to his childhood friend Marky, who passed away shortly before work on the book began. I’m generally not a fan of the letters format, but Warner’s conversational writing works perfectly with it, and honestly, whatever it took for him to finally give me my grand overview of Zen Buddhism is okay with me.
Here’s a 5 minute video where Warner discusses the book:

And New World Library was kind enough to provide an excerpt to share as well….
By Brad Warner

Through sheer dumb luck I happened to encounter Zen Buddhism when I was a teenager. I didn’t go looking for it. It was just there at exactly the time I needed it to be.

I don’t believe in Buddhism either, by the way. It’s not like I heard their fairy tales and figured they were better than anybody else’s stories. The Buddhists have fairy tales too. The difference is that nobody cares if you believe them. They don’t care whether you believe their stories because the very idea of a you who can believe in stories is something they also call into question.

Even so, I’m not all that interested in Buddhism. I’m much more interested in what is true. What I like about Buddhism is that the Buddhists are also interested in what is true. At least, most of them are.

I’m not sure if Zen Buddhism would have helped you or not, Marky. I never tried to sell it to you. You knew I was into it, but you never asked.

I never liked people who tried to sell me their religions. I know you didn’t either, so I wasn’t gonna do that to you. No one ever tried to sell me Zen Buddhism. If they had, I would have regarded them as people who were too insecure to believe in something unless a bunch of other people believed it too. I have no time for that.

But nowadays I’m a minor spiritual celebrity. I’m not as big as Deepak, but I’m big enough to make a living at it. Which was always a source of embarrassment whenever I interacted with you and still embarrasses me when I’m around friends who, like you, knew me long before I started doing what I do now.

I see spiritual celebrities as charlatans, as people who make their living selling empty promises that they themselves don’t even believe. I swear that’s not what I do. But I don’t have anything against anyone who assumes the worst about me in that regard. Because that’s probably what I’d assume about me if I wasn’t me.

Spiritual celebs play the same stupid games as regular celebs. They, or maybe I should say we, validate each other the same way cheap nightclub singers do when they get on TV talk shows.

It’s like there’s a little Enlightened Beings Club. Here’s how it works. Some guy says he’s got enlightenment. He has a story to back him up about the wonderful day when he finally understood everything about everything. Another guy, his teacher, certified him as a member of the Enlightened Beings Club. And now he’s ready to help you learn to be just like him.

You go to the enlightened guy, and he trains you to imitate the things he says. Or if he’s real clever he teaches you how to rephrase his schtick in your own words. If your imitation meets his criteria, he gives you his seal of approval, and off you go. The industry is self-perpetuating. It’s in your teacher’s best interests to support your claims of enlightenment since you, in turn, are expected to support his. Without such support, the whole thing falls to pieces.

If someone comes along and says, “Ain’t no such thang,” it threatens the whole system since it is built on extremely shaky ground. Unless people believe in enlightenment, enlightenment cannot exist. The enlightenment they sell is nothing more than the belief in enlightenment.

This is the same deal with religions. Believing in God is not like believing in the existence of Mount St. Helens or something tangible like that. The difference is that you can question the existence of Mount St. Helens all you want, but it doesn’t go away. But when someone questions the existence of God, the very existence of God is threatened, because that sort of God is nothing more than the belief in God.

And here’s what’s even weirder.

It turns out that enlightenment actually is real.

God actually does exist.

I don’t know how you feel about my saying that now that you’re dead, Marky. But I know that when you were alive you would have rolled your eyes at me. And I would not have blamed you.

There are a lot of things I wish I’d talked to you about. But I didn’t. And so I’m writing you this letter. Maybe I’ll write you a bunch of letters. There’s a lot to say. I don’t know if there’s an afterlife and you can somehow read these letters, or if there’s reincarnation and you’re still a baby and can’t read them, or if you just stay dead after you die, in which case you’ll never even know of their existence. Maybe I’ll write about that in another letter.

All I know is that whether or not you can receive what I’m saying doesn’t change the fact that there are things I want to say. And so I’m going to say them.

But I’m going to have to say them later because right now there’s nobody else in the Pizza Pazza and the surly guy behind the counter is giving me a funny look. So I’d better scarf down my cold pizza and go.

About Brad Warner:
Brad Warner is the author of “Letters to a Dead Friend about Zen” and numerous other titles including “It Came from Beyond Zen”, “Don’t Be a Jerk”, and “Hardcore Zen”. A Soto Zen teacher, he is also a punk bassist, filmmaker, and popular blogger who leads workshops and retreats around the world. He lives in Los Angeles where he is the founder and lead teacher of the Angel City Zen Center. Visit him online at www.hardcorezen.info.

Excerpted from the book “Letters to a Dead Friend About Zen”. Copyright ©2019 by Brad Warner. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

Shop your local indie bookstore <---This is an affiliate link to IndieBound, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you. But wait, there’s even MORE! New World Library is going to send one lucky winner a copy of “Letters to a Dead Friend About Zen”! As usual, we’re doing the Rafflecopter thing, so see the widget below! Contest ends 12/06/2019 at 11:59pm eastern. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Zen

Alan Watts was a philosopher and an author who popularized Zen Buddhism in America. “Zen: A Short Introduction with Illustrations by the Author” is a wonderful addition to his published work. It’s minimalist in word and design (clocking in at 70 pages), and features illustrations by Watts. A perfect introduction to Zen and Watts, in a format perfect for collecting or gift giving.

You can learn more here.

Shop your local indie bookstore<---This is an affiliate link to IndieBound, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.


Just Enough

I’m writing today to tell you that you should read “Just Enough: Vegan Recipes and Stories from Japan’s Buddhist Temples” by Gesshin Claire Greenwood. Many of you have probably already clicked out thinking this in no way can apply to your life. Congratulations to those still reading these words, because “Just Enough” is a delightful read for anyone.

Gesshin Greenwood nicely combines a memoir of her life becoming a Buddhist nun and running the monastery’s kitchen, with recipes, and with bits of practical Buddhist wisdom. The book centers around the philosophy of oryoki, which translates to “just enough”. Oryoki is a highly ritualized form of eating that includes meticulous food preparation and consumption. However, Greenwood does an excellent job of showing how that concept can apply to many facets of your life. More importantly, FOOD!

If you know me, you know I love food! “Just Enough” is loaded with delicious looking vegan recipes. I couldn’t resist trying one out to share with you. I made “Crushed Cucumber and Tomato Salad”.

It didn’t require a lot of ingredients. The recipe calls for shiso, which the author describes as a Japanese herb reminiscent of basil. My grocery store didn’t have it, so I just used basil, and it worked fine.


Part of the preparation calls for you to beat up some cucumber. Here’s mine. I called it vegan roadkill. (I amuse myself.)


Here’s a sexy close up of the completed salad and let me tell you, it was delicious. I roped a few of our friends into trying a couple of forkfuls and they agree, it’s light, refreshing, perfect for summer. The dressing is great. Simple and delicious. I bet it would even make a good marinade for salmon or chicken.


While on the surface “Just Enough” may not seem readily accessible, I’d encourage you to give it a try. I think you’ll like what you find.


To learn more, click here.

Shop your local indie bookstore<--- This is an affiliate link to IndieBound, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Plum Village

I love comic books. Although technically what I love are “graphic novels”, which are issues of comics bound together into one paperback book that generally covers a story arc. A man whose opinion counts on such matters, Neil Gaiman, says we no longer need to use the term “graphic novels” because comics are now mainstream and recognized for their own artistic merit. However, I know no other term for a collection of comics other than “graphic novels”, so the name remains. At least for me. All this lead in and explanation is amusing because I am now reading a second of what is legitimately a graphic novel. A novel told in art and text. Should I call them picture books for adults? I need some serious help with labels here!

The first was the fabulous “Witchbody” by Sabrina Scott. (Read the review here.) Now, there’s “Plum Village: An Artist’s Journey: Finding Inner Peace at Thich Nhat Hanh’s Buddhist Monastery” by Phap Ban.

The author’s biography is compelling. A freelance illustrator discovers meditation at the age of 24 years old. This leads him to Plum Village, a monastery in France founded by Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. He eventually received ordination and 3 years later returned to his home country of Italy where he works as an artist for Disney. Who wouldn’t want to see that book?

What Ban has created with “Plum Village” is a visual love letter not just to Plum Village, but his journey while there. Somehow in riotous colors he captures the heart of stillness. With a beautiful montage of imagery, he demonstrates depths of gratitude. Never underestimate the power of images paired with words. Whereas Scott’s “Witchbody” was a transformative reading experience, Ban’s “Plum Village” evokes heartfelt emotions that on one occasion brought a tear to my eye.

This uptick in graphic novels in the mind, body, spirit genres is greatly welcome. Particularly if works like “Plum Village” are indicative of what we can expect.

You can learn more here.

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Self-Love and Compassion

By Lama Palden Drolam

Love on Every Breath is an ancient Tibetan Buddhist Vajrayana meditation from the Shangpa lineage that combines breath, awareness, imagination, and an energetic transformation process. The meditation brings all these components together in a powerful way in order to open our hearts, to reveal and cultivate our kindness, love, compassion, and wisdom. In Tibetan, this is called the Extraordinary Tonglen, since it uses special techniques of Vajrayana to transform suffering. The Tibetan word tonglen is composed of two words — tong means “giving or sending,” and len means “receiving or taking.” First, we open ourselves to receive and feel the suffering of ourselves and others, breathing it into our heart center. This is the “taking.” The suffering is then instantaneously and effortlessly liberated in the heart and transformed by a special method into unconditional love. At this point, on the out-breath, love and healing energy are sent back out to whomever you are doing the meditation for at the moment, whether yourself or another. This is the “sending.”

The primary purpose of the Love on Every Breath meditation is to cultivate our love and compassion, to transform and liberate our heart. When we come from a place of love, everything shifts for us. This book gives you the tools to transform and empower yourself and come to a place of creative engaged freedom.

The Love on Every Breath meditation is not an exotic Himalayan practice, but it is something that emerges out of us spontaneously and naturally. It is inherent in us to want to remove suffering — others’ or our own. The problem for many children (and adults) is that we absorb the suffering of others, and then it stagnates inside of us. Love on Every Breath gives a way for the suffering to be liberated in the body and the psyche and emerge as compassion. There is a felt sense as this happens.

Developing Self-Love

Traditionally, in Tibet, Love on Every Breath involves first developing compassion and love for ourselves before we do so for others. In the West, many people do not experience self-love, but rather self-criticism and self-hatred. We tend to be overly self-centered and often feel that something is wrong with us. Therefore, it is important that we start the Love on Every Breath meditation by generating compassion and love for ourselves. One of my students, a serious meditator for over thirty years, found that meditating on Love on Every Breath for himself healed a deep psychological angst that had not been touched by many years of quiet sitting meditation. It powerfully liberated wounds he had been carrying for many years.

Without love and compassion for ourselves, we cannot sustain love and compassion for others. Love and compassion can arise spontaneously in certain circumstances for all of us, but to fully actualize love and compassion, we need to work through our anger and hurt and have compassion and love for ourselves. Then we can authentically have more compassion for others. Otherwise, it is like living in a home where we behave with harshness and cruelty and then expect to go outside and be open and loving. If we do not include ourselves in our love, our love is not whole, not complete. This is essential. As Aristotle wrote (in Ethics, book 9), “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.” It should be noted that self-love and compassion are not to be confused with self-centeredness or narcissism.

Developing love and compassion helps us to grow spiritually and emotionally by lessening our ego fixation and self-centeredness and helping our relationships with others. When we generate compassion, we do not excuse or condone our own or others’ negative actions. Likewise, awakened love does not enable our own or others’ negativity or destructiveness. Awakened compassion understands that everyone is trying to be happy. We often try to be happy in all the wrong ways, such as when we think that money, prestige, and power will bring us happiness. Some people think they will be happy by stepping on, cheating, or destroying others, but we can have compassion for them in their ignorance. This does not mean we endorse or in any way condone their behavior. We need to stand up to their destructive agendas. Our compassion means that we wish for them to be authentically happy and free of suffering — in other words, awakened.

About Lama Palden Drolma:
Lama Palden Drolma is the author of “Love on Every Breath”. A licensed psychotherapist, spiritual teacher, and coach, she has studied Buddhism in the Himalayas with some of the most preeminent Tibetan masters of the twentieth century. Following a traditional three-year retreat under his guidance, Kalu Rinpoche authorized her to become one of the first Western lamas. She subsequently founded the Sukhasiddhi Foundation, a Tibetan Buddhist teaching center in Fairfax, California. Visit her online at http://www.lamapalden.org.

Excerpted from the book “Love on Every Breath”. Copyright © 2019 by Lama Palden Drolma. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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