Everyday Dharma Challenge: The Conclusion

What a bizarre seven weeks this has been! I’ve attempted to be as honest and plain spoken about my experiences as possible, and hopefully at least some of you found my seven week project entertaining if not enlightening. “Everyday Dharma: Seven Weeks to Finding the Buddha in You” by Lama Willa Miller packs a lot of information into seven easily digestible weeks. I admitted to a little rushing on my part, and I would not encourage it for others who may decide to pick up Lama Willa’s book. When everything is said and done, you can easily progress through the book in seven weeks, but to truly learn the lessons can take a lifetime. So do as I say, not as I do if you give it a try. And if some of you guys do give it a try, email me and let me know how it goes!

However, now that my seven week journey is behind me, what did I learn from this that I still carry with me? For your convenience, here’s my list:

One, meditating is hard. Hard, hard, hard. Your body fights sitting still, your mind rushes with memories and thoughts, and it doesn’t get easier quickly. At least in my case. No amount of statues or candles to look at, mental visualizations, or words said aloud make it any easier. At this point I meditate with my eyes open staring at a blank wall, and a good meditation session is five minutes, with the first two being me doing nothing but thinking “in” when I breathe in and “out” when I breathe out, all the while pulling my brain on track. I can’t say that I still meditate daily like I did when I was working my way through the book, but I still manage to make attempts regularly, probably three times a week.

Two, saying things out loud makes me feel dorky. Even when I’m by myself. No matter how beautiful or heart felt the prayer, or whatever is, I feel stupid. First thing I did when I completed this book was to stop saying anything when I attempted to meditate.

Three, people don’t spend enough time thinking about things. At least not the important things. Sure, I think about our finances, our social calendar, etc. and those things seem important, but they really aren’t. They’re parts of the big things, the things we should really think about. Everyday now I try to think about who I want to be and what I want to do and regardless of how small the action is, I try my hardest to do things that support my beliefs. Whether it’s approaching my job with a fresh focus of realizing how many people’s days I make easier by being at the office and doing my job, or taking the time to cook dinner for friends, these two things are important, and by luck, things like that help with the less important parts. If you take a moment to think about it, the ripple of the actions we take go further than we originally thought.

Four, Buddhism is an amazingly approachable and adaptable faith. For all of its seemingly exotic trappings, at it’s core it is very simple. No wonder why I find more and more people who include Buddhism in their spiritual practices!

Five, writing about all of this was WAY harder than I imagined it would be when I decided to give this a go. Seriously. Several times while attempting to write about my week I yearned for the days of unreadable legislation!

There you have it! Before you ask, I have no idea what I’m going to do next. I have a few ideas kicking around that would be educational for me and entertaining for you guys, but much of it depends on my health and these northeastern winters. However, do not despair for there will be more weird adventures on the horizon.

I’d like to take a minute to extend many, many expressions of gratitude to Xochi Adame, publicist extraordinaire for Quest Books, and Lama Willa Miller, an amazingly generous and patient author who put up with 7 weeks of my ramblings. Thank you both so very much! Also, remember that you have the opportunity to and talk with Lama Willa Miller at the September 11, 2010 Magical Buffet of Authors!

Revisiting Courtney Love

Okay folks; let me be upfront about this. I love Courtney Love. I always have, and I imagine I always will. I had photos of her on my teenage walls, I wore floral baby doll dresses with combat boots (Which I stand by and would totally do so today if you could still find those dresses and I could find a decent pair of combat boots.), and I drove my college roommate nuts with repeated playings of the Hole album “Live Through This”. So if you are looking for me to be mean, or worse, if you’re looking for an excuse to be mean, just move along. This is not the post for you.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the new Hole album “Nobody’s Daughter”. For those of you familiar with Love and her body of work, I can give you a really quick sum up. “Nobody’s Daughter” is softer than “Live Through This”, harder than “Celebrity Skin”, and equivalent to Love’s solo album “America’s Sweetheart”. By the way, I really, honestly liked “America’s Sweetheart”. I hadn’t realized until recently that nearly no one else did, including Courtney Love. What’s up with that people?

For those of you who read the previous paragraph and came away with little understanding, or for those of you who actually want to hear my thoughts, let’s continue.

I was psyched when “Nobody’s Daughter” finally came out, but I will admit, my first listen left me feeling confused. Despite what others may say, I love her growl, her not quite ready for pop singing voice, the swath of carnage that she cuts with lyrics, and the screams of a woman who is attempting to purge herself of a rage that never truly goes away. And here she is, still competing with the ghost of her late husband, up to her armpits in debt, having past musical collaborators threatening her with lawsuits, her own daughter filing a restraining order against her, the media constantly republishing her undecipherable blog rants and tweets, and of course, the stints in rehab. When I pressed play on the iPod to give the album a listen on the way to work I literally tightened my grip on the steering wheel, as if the force of her rage would blast me out of the seat. However, I wasn’t prepared for what I heard.

“Nobody’s Daughter” reveals an emotionally exposed Love. The sadness, the melancholy, it’s almost painful. You feel as if you’re somehow violating her privacy by listening to some of the tracks.

This isn’t to say that the album doesn’t also rock out. Both Rolling Stone and Metroland essentially gave the album mediocre reviews, but pointed to a few songs like “Skinny Little Bitch” and “Loser Dust” as being the winners of a not so hot collection. I have to respectfully disagree. After hearing such honest songs like “Letter to God” and “Never Go Hungry”, why would I want to hear standard Hole fare? I mean, if I want to hear that I’ll listen to Hole’s “Live Through This” album. See, that’s the point of having different albums, the artist is not required to make the same album again and again. Why complain about what the album isn’t, when you can instead celebrate what it is? For what’s it worth, I think the best rockin’ out tune on the album is “How Dirty Girls Get Clean”. It’s a Hole song called “How Dirty Girls Get Clean”. Seriously folks, how could that song not be awesome? Here it is live (and this is where I tell you these videos are not safe for work, the f bomb will be dropped):

However, if I could direct your attention over here, you will see a more intimate, emotionally vulnerable Courtney Love, who still manages to rock, if not like she did on “Live Through This”.

Now, if you feel that what you saw wasn’t emotionally raw enough, can I now direct you to one of the earliest live performances of this song?

Yeah, feel it now?

Lastly, since I just really like it, and it’s not a typical Hole or Courtney Love song I want to include a performance of “Never Go Hungry Again”. This was easier said than done because it looks like You Tube is already getting flooded with covers of it. I have it here from the same performance as the most emotionally raw “Letter to God” video just previous to this. For some reason the video is out of sync with the audio, so it’s a little annoying to watch, but go ahead and watch.

I thank you for your time and indulging me in talking about one of my favorite musicians. Sometimes it’s awesome to have my own website.

Freeze! It’s the Vice Squad! Part 5: Saudi Arabia Again

It’s been years, YEARS, since I checked in with my assorted Vice Squads to see what kind of wacky adventures they’ve been having. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, let me take a moment to break it down for you. Back in November 2007 news sources began releasing a list of moral vices that had been debuted in Iran. The list was part of a “moral crackdown” in the country that essentially was based on the premise that the police were now empowered, I guess more so than in the past, to cruise around Iran looking to bust anyone being loose with their morals. That bit of news spawned my first Freeze! It’s the Vice Squad post. Since then I’ve had a bit of a love affair with assorted Middle Eastern vice squads. What can I say, I’m a lady that loves her vices. And when the vices in question are rap music, women who use “witchcraft” to make men impotent, and questionable hair cuts, it’s pretty easy to meet with the Vice Squad’s discriminating standards. It turns out that while I was away, a few noteworthy Vice Squad events have taken place.

Picking on “emo” kids.

Picking on “emo” kids is really nothing new, regardless of how much I dislike that trend (I dislike the picking on. I’m a child of the 80’s, boys with eyeliner and skinny jeans are cool.). However, a Saudi Arabian coffee shop owner calling in the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice because some women were in his shop exposing their skinny jeans and colorful t-shirts? Well, that’s a whole new level of harassment. Suddenly name calling, while offensive, looks better. Although before we all congratulate ourselves for merely having schools where kids call each other names based on how they’re dressed, and fill our hearts with righteous indignation over the situation for female “emos” in Saudi Arabia, I feel obligated to share with you an alarming news story from 2008 out of Mexico. Teens beaten to a bloody pulp over eye liner? That’s an extra heaping helping of not cool.

Man bites dog.

In actuality, there was no man, or dog. Just a woman in her 20’s sending a member of the Saudi Arabian Vice Squad to the hospital after kicking his ass. Now, as a fan of action movies, I’ll admit it, I’m kind of a fan of violence. Not for real life, but there is nothing wrong spending an evening watching Christian Bale get his gun kata on. I will readily admit though, that when I read the tale of a 20-something couple being approached by the Vice Squad at an amusement park to confirm their identities and relationship, I couldn’t help but smile when I read ” the woman then allegedly laid into the religious policeman, punching him repeatedly, and leaving him to be taken to the hospital with bruises across his body and face.”

What will be next for the assorted Vice Squads? Who can truly say? Personally, I’d be happy if a day comes when an article about these guys wasn’t a current events article, but was instead discussing ancient history.