Going Beyond Our Conditioning with Energy and Insight

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By trusting in our own resources of understanding, energy and insight we have access to the power to go beyond the boundaries of our conditioning.  We begin naturally to explore the depths and possibilities of our own being.

~ Christina Feldman

IMG_9546_lzn May you be blessed with energy and insight in the New Year!

Warmly, Deborah

P.S. Temple photos from my trip to Taiwan in 2010.

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Vietnamese Temple: Male and Female Spiritual Icons

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“I try to give joy to one person in the morning, and remove the suffering of one person in the afternoon.  That is the secret.  Start right now. ”

Sister Chan Khong

I choose this quote by the foremost disciple Thich Nhat Hanh to match the photograph I took in a Vietnamese temple in the middle of Bangkok.  I noticed the colorful exterior and wandered into the grounds to be met by a kindly young monk who spoke enough English to describe its Vietnamese origins.  He invited me to explore the temple and went back to his work.

The figures in the photo are among many on an elaborate altar that include a possible Taoist warrior and a praying figure that may represent the Buddha or the monk that brought Buddhism to China.  The female icon in the background is not identified but may represent one of the Chinese female deities commonly seen in temples in Vietnam.

Below are two of the several statues of Guanyin in this temple and an unidentified Bodhisattva image in the background.  Discovering female images in temples in Thailand is unusual and I was delightfully surprised to stumble upon a Mahayana temple in the heart of Bangkok.

Guanyin

Guanyin

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A third wonderful book review from Buddhist Art News.   http://buddhistartnews.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/book-review-the-female-buddha/  

Making a Buddha in Burma: Photos of Devotion

two women making a buddhaWomen polishing a Buddha

Three or four blocks of a street in the busy city of Mandalay are devoted to sculptors working on Buddha statues.  On the east side of the street men wield power tools carving out the basic shapes of Buddhas sitting, standing or lying down.  On the west side the women refine and polish the statues before they are distributed to temples or individuals who have purchased the sacred icons.  Men and women cross back and forth checking on the work and chat with their friends and family members.

Although I had permission to take photos I felt as if I was an intruder.  Did I understand their devotion and concentration?  The last thing they probably imagined was that our faith was mutual and that I hoped to share the beauty of their work with the world.  

Everyone one making a buddha is also working on the project of becoming a Buddha.  Below I share a passage of a conversation between Subhuti and the Buddha on what that might look like in our everyday lives.

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Four Burmese making Buddhas


Sculpting Many Buddhas

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Making a Buddha with power tools

      Power tools to shape a Buddha

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Finishing touches on a Buddha

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 Buddhas for sale in the Scupture Park

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Subhuti asked: “What does buddha mean?”

The Buddua answered: “Buddha is reality. One who thoroughly comprehends all the factors of existence is a buddha.”

Then Subhuti asked: “What does enlightenment mean?”

The Buddha replied: “Enlightenment is a way of saying that all things are seen in their intrinsic empty nature, their Suchness, their ungraspable wonder.  Names or words are merely incidental, but that state which sees no division, no duality, is enlightenment.”

Subhuti asked: “if one wants to know emptiness, how should one do it?”

“The one who wants to realize emptiness should adore reality, develop a skill in living in the world, and cultivate friends of the same mind.  Skill can only be developed in the presence of reality, not otherwise.  Endowed with skill, the person gives without the idea of a giver and lives in the realization that all the factors of existence have no ultimate substance.”

The Buddha, from the Prajnaparamita Sutra 

translation by Anne Bancroft, The Buddha Reader

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More inspirational words and photos at

Action + Acceptance — Art Therapy Serves Sex Trafficked Girls

Acceptance does not mean passivity. We may try to accept things as they are, but that doesn’t mean if, for example, a situation is unjust that we don’t try to change it.
Diana Winston

There is so much pain and suffering in this world that is hard to accept.  I have a friend that is working on a project to bring art therapy to young girls who have been used in the sex traffic industry so I’ll start there.

Slavery and rape are more accurate words for the unspeakable crimes committed against children throughout the world.  “Traffic” and “industry” says how far off course humanity has veered.

The reports on girls abducted or sold on the black market is horrifying.  The latest stories and the mounting statistics tug heavily at my heart.  I admire those who challenge the transgressions in the streets and in the halls of government.

How can we accept these despicable acts?  Not easily, but if we don’t fully accept the injury we can never address the suffering. When we accept the truth we face it, look it in the eye and let it in our hearts.

No wonder it’s so hard to accept. Our heartstrings are inevitably intertwined with the distress of others the moment we make contact.  Acceptance means connection and responsibility. Response-ability is the measure of an open heart.

With endless access to the suffering of a world torn open by the media’s onslaught we are faced with a mighty big task.  Every one of us must honestly ask ourselves whom we are able to serve: a young girl, a neighbor, our grandfather?

Every year I am struck by the ignorance of a childhood fiction that the world was on a trajectory of improvement.  The 50’s myth was shored up by a mistaken belief that every disease would be cured, technology would solve any problem and increased understanding was uniting humans across racial differences.

Yet every year my eyes are opened to greater suffering and doubts about a future on our planet. Child slavery points a laser beam on that uncertainty.

So how do we choose to serve?  How we know our capacity? How do we keep our hearts open?

My friend Sue is finding her edge developing a service-learning project for her art therapy students at Naropa University.  The Naropa Community Art Studio International is planning to take their healing work to Cambodia to support and empower survivors of sex trafficking.

She’s Partnered with Transitions Global, an organization that provides a safe environments where girls can heal through intensive trauma therapy and sustainable life and job skills training.

Raising funds through crowdrise and throwing marathon-painting parties the students are on their way to working with the Cambodian girls next summer.

Do I need to believe in a myth?  Absolutely not.  Can I accept a world of hurt?  It’s a little easier with friends like Sue.



Blossom — 7 Quotes and Articles

A deep week of #14Buddha posts has wrapped up and your comments and sharings in the blog comments, across Twitter and FB have been inspiring and greatly appreciated.

#14Buddha posts will take place every other day this week.

Please do continue to share your reflections and writings that are inspired by the women writers featured here at The Female Buddha.

Did you miss a post?  Highlights and links below….

“All of the sudden I woke from my hazy reverie. This was the photographic moment!
The statue was lovely yet these few minutes brought it to life. I had almost missed it.”

— September 19th

“Here is one of my worst habits and a true confession.  I don’t exercise my photography muscle and find myself at square one every year when I go overseas to shoot in Asia, the land of amazing photo opportunities.”

September 20th

“For years after the accident I dreamt of climbing down anything and everything vertical.  My spiritual work was to come down to earth and to be in my body.”

September 21st

“She was a quirky, sad, funny and beautiful lady. She turned me on to bugs and Indian paintbrush and the smell of rain through a rusty screen door. ”

September 22nd

“Laying down and closing my eyes the sun melted my last resistance. Then hearing a birdcall, I sat up and looked across the lake where a massive cottonwood was speaking to me.”

September 23rd

“Taking the extra time for self-care can seem like an indulgence but it rights my world. A bath or a walk in the woods provides alone time in a supportive, sensual environment. Digging weeds in the garden is a great alternative.”

September 24th

“The mental computer loops through tasks while I practice coming back to my breath again and again. I always imagined I was 180 degrees different from the engineering lineage of my grandfather, father, uncles and brother…”

September 25th

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This post is a part of the 14-day The Female Buddha community dialogue visual arts and writing invitation. Artist Deborah Bowman has gathered inspirational quotes from global women teachers to reflect on your life travels and creative practice.
Feel free to  reply to today’s prompt on your own blog. Share your link in the comments.
Join the dialogue on The Female Buddha page on Facebook@thefemalebuddha on Twitter and #14Buddha hashtag.

Creativity, Commitment and Establishing Balance

Our minds are habit-prone and it is very difficult to get out of old habits.  Establishing new habits means giving ourselves a push, which must not be too hard or too gentle.  It has to be balanced, and only we ourselves know where that balance lies.

Ayya Khema

Share an “old habit” that has been difficult to kick.  What has contributed or gotten in the way to finding the right balance for change?  What approach has been “too hard” or “too gentle?”

Here is one of my worst habits and a true confession.  I don’t exercise my photography muscle and find myself at square one every year when I go overseas to shoot in Asia, the land of amazing photo opportunities.

This spring I took a photo class thinking it would be a warm up to get going. The shooting assignments were over after a week and nothing since.

Not that I haven’t been doing related things.  Editing and re-editing photos, framing images on book, web and newsletter pages, creating photo surveys, and blasting photos out on twitter, facebook and linkedin.

It’s been more than a year since I really shot something interesting, a sumptuous wedding on my husband’s side of the family.  It had all the ingredients of a foray to Southeast Asia.  We were sweating like dogs in the Iowa sun, people wore unusual clothing, there were many interesting foreign faces and we walked on holy grounds where family and friends gathered for a special event.

That shoot was over a year ago!  My photography skills are in reverse.  Abundant in excuses I work full time and have been frantically (and ironically) building a platform for a book of photographs to come out who knows when.  Clicking off tasks on my best days and pushing aside guilt on an occasional hike with friends in the Rocky Mountains.

When I grouch about not using my camera my outdoor buddies suggest I bring it on our hikes.  It’s hard to explain why it wouldn’t work. First we’d have to start at 4 a.m. to catch the early morning glow.  Then I’d be fiddling for hours with finding the right spot, the right lens or the just right light.  Maybe it’s not so hard to explain.

A tripod has never really been my thing and that’s what nature photography is all about.  Not that it wouldn’t stretch my palette for capturing stunning shots of temples dotted across the landscape of Myanmar.   I’m going there in December and would love to be able to capture those images.

Yet those skills are not in my oeuvre and it’s not going to happen in three months.  It’s the same thing when I write out goals to do a photo shoot every week; it just doesn’t happen.

I do need to get out before the trip to Myanmar.  What about shooting one day in October and then over the Thanksgiving break? The rest of September is impossible.  I’m committed to writing for this blog invitational everyday for the next two weeks!  Halfway into October I’m writing a paper for a conference in Bangkok that pays for my flight in December.

Can I kick this old, lazy habit with a reasonable goal?  Not too ambitious, not too slack?  Could it be the beginning of a commitment to get out once a month with my camera and a better attitude towards discovering the splendor of vanilla Colorado?

Now I have you to be accountable to.  We could have fun comparing the pitfalls and breakthroughs in the creative process.  My old habits include isolation and treating photography like it was just another job.  Now I could have companions to not only hear my confessions but also to share in the wonders of the universe.

Will you come out and play with me?