Cross border diplomacy: Week 4 giveaway

photo by gayle mavor. Image on photo card by a Tagger named Tagger 8 (I think) taken near an alley near SFU Woodwards campus.

So Week 4 of Write for 5 happened over the weekend. I’ve had the same teeny, weeny group of loyal followers to whom I’m immensely grateful.

I don’t want to give out a book to someone more than once so that leaves me with two potential recipients for this week. They both reside in the U.S.A. Why not build relations with our neighbours to the south?  As we all know, their illustrious leader isn’t doing them any favours in the winning popularity contests department.

One of these people, Marjorie,  I went to high school with. The other is a guy with a blog that is interesting in the true definition of that word (and with a slight raising of my eyebrows).

According to his blog, he lives somewhere outside of Atlanta, Georgia, off Peachtree Road, 3 miles east of Buckhead which, in my world, might as well be Mars.

He posts amazing photographs from the Library of Congress. And he has a lot to say. You can see check out his blog if you’re so inclined at Chamblee54.  

I think I’d like to send him the book and card. I’m not sure he’ll want it or would read it. I tried to send him an e-mail. I got an error message in return.

I did hear back from him later. He said he couldn’t guarantee he’d read the book. So, I’ll send him the card and see if I might also be able to find some strange photograph postcard for him in my collection of cards.  I’m happy with that. I think he will be as well.

Write for 5 quietly launched

From Creative Commons – https://www.flickr.com/photos/pedrosimoes7/

It could have been worse. At least I wasn’t passed the wrong envelope on a stage while other celebrities looked on and the wrong big news had been verbalized and had to be retracted from people who thought all this year’s problems would be solved by winning an Oscar.  And they may have been right about that. Ouch!

Thanks to loyal friends, the first Write for 5 launched quietly. Thank you so much to Candace, Michelle, Marjorie and Jo-Anne for participating. It was interesting to me that none of you chose the images to write to that I thought you might.  I enjoyed reading each of your submissions immensely.

Maybe this week, I’ll just stick with one image posted again on Saturday morning, March 4th at 8:00 am (PST).  I think the earlier the better on Saturday before the day gets away.

We will carry on, or at least I will, because I’ve always enjoyed writing to an image. It’s an easy kick start. I welcome anyone who feels so inclined to join in, perhaps especially if you’ve never written to an image as a writing prompt.

In the meantime, Candace in Uruguay will be getting a subscription to Geist for one year as the first person to post her writing this past Saturday. That was a one-time offer.

Here are a few events that I’m aware of happening this week related to writing. I’m sure that there are at least ten more, at minimum, because the Lower Mainland seems to have become a hotbed of literary events.

March 1: at VPL a panel of three writers will be at VIWF’s INCITE series. Janie Chang, Jen Sookfong Lee and Carleigh Baker. Sure to be interesting.

March 2:  in New Westminster, BC, the Royal City Literary Arts Society hosts a workshop facilitated by writer Anosh Irani whose latest book, The Parcel, was published in 2016.

March 2: The Writer’s Studio Reading Series at Cottage Bistro takes place at 8pm.A

March 2: To Love the Coming End, a book launch by Leanne Dunic.

Clearly March 2 presents a dilemma for those who would, if they could, go to all three events.

Drop by tomorrow for inspiration to Write for 5. And ease into your week.

A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; A wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victimMaya Angelou

Finding love and finding meaning, the human reasons to keep going

buddhaWhen we entered the temple last week we were told that we couldn’t go into the Hondo because a family was grieving and we’d have to enter in a little while.

Later we learned that it was actually the family of that young woman , Natsumi Kogawa, from Japan who had gone missing in September. Her body was found on the grounds of that mansion on Davie Street in Vancouver’s West End. They had come from Japan to plan her memorial service. It’s impossible to comprehend the sad reality that her family is now facing.

All I could think of was the excitement this young woman surely felt in coming to Vancouver, in improving her English. In thinking about all the new friends and experiences she imagined having before stepping onto the plane from Japan, and how unlikely it was that something like whatever transpired and that led to her death would happen to her here. 

As my attention focused back on the room, I wondered what had motivated all my fellow students to take an introduction to Buddhism course. I wanted to know their real motivation, deep inside, not the sanitized reason they shared about being interested in Buddhism and wanting to learn more.

For myself the past few years have all been about seeking, some people might say to my detriment. They would say that I just need to find a way to accept my life where I’m at. But I think I’ve finally recognized that it goes against my temperament to ever be satisfied for lengthy periods of time if things just stay the same and if I know I could be doing so much more, and I can’t seem to make that work where I’m at.  Isn’t that what “life” is about – experiences and moving through change?

Some things haven’t worked out, in fact, sometimes it feels like nothing has worked out very well in the past few years, and with  Salt Spring as the contrast where everything just felt like it was seamless and worked out with ease and little effort, the opposite has been a shock, another disappointment, an ongoing frustration and endless questioning about what I’m missing that surely must be right in front of me. 

On the other hand, the trying to make things work have led to the meeting of many people I wouldn’t have otherwise met and learning, and yet, I’m missing the key ingredients it seems: love in the way I feel I need it or would like to share it (which may be the problem and I’m smart enough to recognize that)  and meaning.

Zen Buddhism was the topic on our last week given by Reverend Michael Newton of Mountain Rain Zen Community at 2016 Wall Street and a professor in religious studies at SFU.

There were two things that really stood out for me from his words. The first was about how when we wake up from the stories we’ve been telling ourselves, stories that others have told about us since we were children that may or may not reflect who we really are, and we let go of those stories from the past, we can begin to step into the beautiful, clear presence, that’s the essence of Zen.

Each person according to their past and their uniqueness finds unique truths and that is why the truth cannot be told. Someone else cannot tell you your truth. You must find it within. Truth comes from your own experiences, your own practice.

That really resonated with me in the moment because I feel that looking around, looking at others isn’t giving me the answers I need, isn’t showing me my own very personal path. Their answers, their way of living, is not mine. So it requires that I get to the heart of what matters as my own very personal truth about my own life.

Yesterday as I was driving to a friend’s place to hear about her recent trip to Morocco, I was lucky to catch a radio show, Meaningful Man, on CBC Sunday Morning. It was about Viktor Frankl, the former Holocaust survivor, a brilliant man, and the author of  the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, a book that apparently poured out of him in nine days, and one that he had to dictate into a recorder to capture the manic stream of thoughts.

Today on Twitter, I’ve learned that Oct. 10th is World Mental Health Day, and I think some of the ideas spoken within the above documentary have the potential to bring comfort, or at least food for thought, to anyone who is struggling.  Please set aside about 50 minutes to listen to it.

Acronyms as paths to peace

turtles

Turtles lined up at Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, BC

If you’ve been following the blog lately, you’ll know that I’ve been taking an Introduction to Buddhism class at Vancouver Buddhist Temple.

As part of the 5 week introduction, Dr. Adrianne Ross from BC Insight Meditation led us through a really good meditation check in about two weeks ago and although I can’t recall everything she said, she had some really good acronyms to share.

ELSA

  • Embrace : good and bad
  • Let go of reactivity
  • Stop
  • Act

WAIT

  • Why am I talking?

She explained the Eight-fold path is divided into three sections including mind, using effort wisely and concentration.

RAIN

  • Recognize it
  • Attitude towards it
  • Investigate it
  • Not taking it personally

She talked about recognizing a feeling as outside the body, not taking it on as being a reflection of good or bad. For example, if you are depressed or angry, you acknowledge it: Depression is here. Anger is here. Sadness is arising. That way, you can recognize emotions as a temporary state.

birds

Fluttering at the feeder

Set an intention for the day and remind yourself of that intention throughout the day.

Take a 3-minute breath break and stop. Ask yourself, Where am I? How’s the body right now? Where’s the mind? How am I feeling? Recognize the emotion and name it.

Envision your body and mind as connecting with the space around you and just passing through that space into something much larger which has a diluting effect on whatever you are experiencing in the moment, especially if it is highly energized in a negative way.

How big is your wanting? Exaggerate it to let it move through.

Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation

If you’re interested in mindfulness and/or starting a meditation practice, then you still have time to sign up for a class beginning on Tuesday, October 11, 2016 at St. Marks church on Larch Street in Kitsilano and offered through BC Insight Meditation Society. The cost is $40.

Fall Food Bazaar

Something else to note in your calendar if you’re so inclined. The Vancouver Buddhist Temple will have their Fall Food Bazaar on Sunday, Oct. 30th from noon – 2pm.

Buddhism for Dummies at the Vancouver Buddhist Temple

vancouverbuddhisttemple

Vancouver Buddhist Temple altar with Amida Buddha

I was at the Powell Street Festival in August when I walked across Oppenheimer Park and noticed the Vancouver Buddhist Temple at 220 Jackson Street.

I climbed the steps and walked in. A gracious man whose name I would later learn to be Patrick [Couling] was taking questions from the few people dotting the pews. Yes, pews! In a Buddhist temple. Go figure.

In my brief visit, I learned of a 5 week course offering a very elementary introduction to some main types of Buddhism by knowledgeable speakers. At $30 for the five weeks, the opportunity was a no brainer.

sanfranbuddisttemple

At San Fran temple

I’ve been interested in Buddhism ever since I set foot in a Buddhist temple in 1988 in San Francisco during a walking tour that began in Chinatown. I still have a photo above my desk that I took of the smoke wafting up from the incense sticks into a space that had a great view of the nearby Transamerica Pyramid. 

On the first night of the course, a fresh-faced young guy was tasked with explaining the mythology of Siddhartha.  Casey Collins, a PhD student in Asian Studies at UBC, ended up being one of the very best storytellers I have heard in recent memory. He wove contemporary references into the ancient story to make it entertaining and memorable.

Think of it this way. It would be like if one of the Kardashian sisters suddenly woke up and thought, this isn’t enough, I want more, I’m dissatisfied, but not just any dissatisfied, a very specific type of ennui. I want to know the meaning of life. I want to know why we have to get old, get sick and die. I think I’ll sit under a palm tree off Rodeo Drive, night and day, and then after renouncing Mac Cosmetics, Coach bags and Pilates, gossip, bitchiness and martinis, I’ll venture out into the world penniless to see what I might learn. And at the end she’d arrive at the four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold path.

greentara

Green Tara poster bought from the OM guy on Salt Spring

Mr. Collins didn’t use this analogy — thankfully — but as someone who has sat through many, many stories in the past few years, I found it ironic that an academic-in-training would end up being the most exceptional story teller I’ve heard in a very long time. Yay for him.

The second evening was presented by Lama Rabten Tshering. I’m guessing he might have been in his 40s. He was dressed in his maroon robe, one long maroon sleeve, one short, golden, cap sleeve. His shaved head gleamed under the lights. He did, fittingly, seem pretty darn happy. An iPad for notes was propped up in front of him. I think I saw a cell phone as well.  Not sure why I expect monks to renounce technology in this day and age but I do. If you’re a grown man wearing a robe in public, it just seems wrong that you should be carrying tech gadgets to taint your spirituality. My bias. Partly kidding. He’s associated with a temple in East Van called NalandaBodhi.  

I enjoyed taking in his presence and my mind drifted back to my time in Thailand and Cambodia. I had so much curiosity towards the monks that I saw there, all ages, wandering the streets or cloistered on a mountain top (Sampeu Hill) just outside Battambang, Cambodia.dsc_0151

Every time I’d see them, they’d elicit so many questions. What were their days like? Were they content? Did they wake up in the middle of the night and think, ‘oh, if only I’d just gone into engineering when I was 21 like my dad said I should have.’  I realize that whenever I see monks, I always assume they’re happy. Maybe they’re miserable. Maybe their misery is what drove them to become monks in the first place.

dsc_0157

in Angkor Wat compound

Back in the temple, Lama Tshering was drawing us in with long silent pauses while he gathered his thoughts. I filled those gaps by observing him intensely. I followed the irregular cadence of his voice that accompanied his slow sentences. I tried to stay awake as he used words I’d never heard, a challenge compounded by his accent.

He explained how important lineage is in Tibetan Buddhism. The right teacher and teachings handed down generation upon generation is really important.  He spoke of the Common and Uncommon paths. The Common path focused on recognizing human preciousness, death and impermanence, cause and effect, and Samsara, circuitous change.

buddhaprint

favourite print of mine

All I recall about the Uncommon Path is how many times you have to do stuff – 100,000 times – which for a full time monk, could take just two months to achieve. But, for the rest of us, possibly more than one lifetime. I see a disconnect with my way of being here. Ya think?

We did some meditation. Spine very straight. The lama sat in the lotus position, “not necessary,” he said. Chin not up, not down. Straight ahead, relaxed glance. Mouth not open, not closed. Huh? How does that work? A slight smile. Relaxed focus on the breath. Tibetan Buddhists do not close their eyes when they meditate. He had a lot of eyes staring back at him that night.

buddha

Another favourite print of mine that hangs in my bedroom

The temple is right down there in Vancouver’s Downtown East side. Ambulance sirens blared every so often as we sat inside the Hondo hearing what might have been yet another call to another fentanyl overdose, just one type of struggle in a world where wandering off the “right path” seems to have become the predominant theme. And maybe that’s why staying curious, staying open, and seeking, in a spiritual way, feels like a necessity.

Sound like you’ve never experienced it

Basantasound2

I went to a talk last night by a young guy from Montreal named Adam Basanta. He describes himself as a sound artist, composer and performer of experimental music and he has an installation in New West’s New Media Gallery on the third floor of Anvil Centre.

I read the other day in the local community newspaper, The Royal City Record, that the curators of this new space in Anvil Centre actually used to work at the Tate Modern. Wow! Talk about having the crème de la crème of experience.

It was a small turnout, maybe 35 people, and Basanta, who is one of four sound artists in the exhibit, began to speak about his work related to experimental sound with a particular emphasis in his piece on feedback, but not in the way we’re all used to; not that unexpected siren from a microphone that rises like a banshee in a deafening way.

BasantaexhibitHis installation is part of OTIC: Systems of Sound. His emphasis on feedback had to do with space and tones and how humans’ presence in a space can change feedback and how he played with feedback to bring to our attention our experience in the world and of the sounds around us.

He had this really cool project, Positive Vibes, in Finland where he used a recorded voice of women saying “I love you all very, very much.” He tied that to a bunch of helium balloons and then floated it near people in public spaces and watched as they reacted to this disembodied recording telling them they were loved. I love weird projects like that.

As he spoke I was both challenged by the topic in terms of its weirdness and a foreign way of thinking about sound, and then I was really heartened that in Canada, there’s still some money, apparently, to be found to encourage those who are approaching the arts in a way that calls on all their courage and expertise to interpret and reinterpret and challenge their own boundaries in order to challenge that of any audience.

It’s worth the exercise to be open enough to expose yourselves to others’ far out ways of approaching their passions.

I realized as I was listening to him,  my own personal resistance to weirdness, to foreign and difficult approaches, was rising. Being able to be aware of that, acknowledge it, and then let it wash over me and feel it lessen, is perhaps really getting closer to the essence of the kind of curiosity required to accept others’ interpretation of all the shared worlds that exist on the planet.

The exhibit, which will undoubtedly be richer if you have someone to interpret it as we did last night, runs at Anvil Centre to March 20, 2016.

Putting the Phabulous into Photography in Vancouver

The other night I went to this photography event as part of the Capture Photography Festival. Organized by CAPIC, it was a survey of some photographers working in Vancouver, many of whom had apparently graduated from Langara in the past, and it was really interesting not only to hear their eight minute talks but to see the projects they were focused on. Literally!

David Duchemin

http://davidduchemin.com/

Spoke about recent findings of mirror neurons in the brain and how that means just seeing a photograph, not being there in person, may be enough to enable us to find a “string of empathy” to engage our compassionate hearts and to think about what justice might look like for other people. What might justice look like for all people, especially those we appear to be most unlike on the surface, finding a way to recognize that all humans, at the core of their humanity, are similar.

Angela Fama

http://angelafama.com/

To me this project was the most interesting of the evening. It was a project where she asked people how they were as she photographed them at a car-free event on Commercial Drive.  “No, really, how are you?” Then she captured their expression while she asked them to really think about that question and answer it honestly. And she spoke about building community and a cross country trip she’s about to embark on as part of a wabisabibutterfly.com project.

Vince Hemingson

http://www.hemingsonphotography.com/

In his own words, he didn’t really want to be there that night, which (editorial comment) is a less than ideal way to present oneself at an event.  Regardless, he showed his Nude in the Landscape photographs which he said was focused on form in landscape. I was intrigued by how fluidly he fit them into the landscape and I personally was fascinated by the detail of how he’d position a finger or a toe, slotted into a piece of driftwood in such an exquisite manner. I’m sure others will find these photographs enticing for their own reasons. Not sure why they had to be beautiful women only (as defined by mainstream impossible standards of beauty) if the point truly was just about the forms and shapes but take a look. Read the artist statement.

Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

http://www.alexwaterhousehayward.com/

He had an old camera around his neck and I enjoyed the way he just put up his photos and let them communicate. There seemed to be an inordinate number of people in the audience who had a problem with silence that lasts more than 30 seconds. I don’t get that. Embrace it!

Katie Huisman

http://www.katiehuisman.com/

Interesting personal discussion while dropped into a project to photograph sex trade workers in Uruguay. She realized she was putting a fashion filter (her normal bread and butter photography) on these women in this environment that was foreign to her and it wasn’t until she started to photograph the rooms without the women in them, that she was really able to capture their realities, to find a way to let their experience, stark and human, reveal itself through the empty rooms.

Pooya Nabei

http://www.pooyanabei.com/

A fashion photographer, relatively new to the field, who’s into the night scene and some interesting images that portray the interesting clubbing types he spends his time with.

Ross Den Otter

http://www.nuovofresco.com/home.html

Documenting development signs and how streetscapes have changed and continue to change focused on capturing those places in the city that we take for granted and putting boundaries around the parameters of where he’s choosing to shoot that which is near Main and Hastings.

There was the beginning of a little energized discussion around photographs on the web and stock photography and how it has impacted the industry with the typical dividing line between those who got it, accepted it and have capitalized on the “new reality” and those who are still fighting it.

I really loved experiencing the range of photographs and personalities that were there that night. I was struck by how much these photographers were the image-related version of  The SFU Writer’s Studio, each trying to promote connection as they defined that.