Quotes on Courage: Buddhist Women Ride the Dragon

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To live the full life one must have the courage to bear the responsibility of the needs of others – one must want to bear this responsibility.

Aung San Suu Kyi

 

It’s not that hard to be enlightened!  Just change your patterns!  All it takes is courage!

Khandro Rinpoche

 

We aspire to spend our lives training in the loving-kindness and courage that it takes to receive whatever appears – sickness, health, poverty, wealth, sorrow, and joy.  We welcome and get to know them all.

Pema Chodron

When I was researching quotes to put in my book, The Female Buddha: Discovering the Heart of Liberation and Love, I copied down many possible quotes before deciding which ones to pair with photos of Guanyin and women at temple sites in Asia.  Today I searched the collection for the word courage and found so many quotes referencing this trait!

Above are a few of my favorite quotes from women I admire for their courage to speak out and not always say what we want to hear.

This photo from my travels in Korea depicts Guanyin riding the dragon over the waves of the ocean; symbolic of the courage it takes to trust one’s basic nature of compassion and equanimity.  When our emotions are like tempestuous waves it is often difficult to remember we can stay calm in the storm.

Guanyin is often depicted calmly riding on the back of an animal.  It could be a dragon, carp, horse, lion or immense turtle.  She reminds us that we are one with the natural world and the implication that we can trust our power and strength needed to fuel courage.

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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/  

Open Engagement: Relationship and Empathy

Spirituality is the movement from our prison of self-blame and self-preoccupation to an inclusive and open engagement with life.
-Sharon Salzberg


This week I’ve been under a deadline to write an academic paper for a conference I attend every year in Bangkok sponsored by the International Association of Buddhist Universities.  I have struggled to write again as a scholar after enjoying the free flow of sharing as a blogger, personally and upfront.

I’ve fallen behind in my blog schedule and just realized that a few fragments from the paper I’ve been laboring on addresses Sharon’s invitation into a more open engagement with life.  Here are some excerpts on relationship and empathy, topics addressed in my paper: Slang, Freud and Buddhist Psychology: Clarifying the Term “Ego” in Popular, Psychodynamic and Spiritual Contexts.  Quite a mouthful.

Relationship

The Buddhist concept of interdependence informs our understanding of relationship and the natural reciprocity inherent in all of life.  While a psychodynamic perspective understands the autonomous development of the individual as a necessity, Buddhism points to the danger of the extremes of self-sufficiency creating a false sense of “I.” This “I” or ego manipulates and misperceives self and other.

Suffering in relationships stem from the extremes of independence and dependence.  One is marked by the painful experience of isolation and the other is an immature fusion where our demands on others do not reflect our chronological age.  Learning to walk the interdependent path begins with the practice of attending to the present moment, seeing through the impermanence of past wounds and trusting the guidance of our teachers to mirror our yearning for compassion and liberation from suffering.

The Bodhisattva Vow, to liberate others before oneself counters the tendency of the individual to attend to oneself and not the other.  From the Buddhist point of view we are all narcissistically wounded in clinging to the “I” and it’s delusional views and habits. Waking up requires the development of clear seeing and the reversal of painful self-centric patterns in relationship.

Empathy

Compassion is Buddhism is related to empathy as it is based in entering the experience of the other.  The Latin root of the word refers to having deep feelings (passion) with (com) another.  Compassion implies a further response of an action to bring relief to the passion (suffering) of the other.  In this case passion is understood as the impossible desire to escape “what is.”

A compassionate response can pierce the ego-encasement that an individual has built to protect him or herself from pain.  Compassion acknowledges and accepts loss and other feelings imagined as too big to bear.  Compassion understands the ultimate boundarylessness of experience and the natural exchange continuously occurring between all beings.

In the Buddhist view any wall created to protect the self from others is the creation of ego or a false sense of self.  At the same time Buddhism does not deny the uniqueness or the different experiences of each human being.  The task to hold both a relative and an absolute understanding of self and “no-self” is embraced on the path of liberation. Holding this paradox we open to embracing other and “no-other” as well.

If this were a blog I’d add it’s kind of like having your cake and eating it too!

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.

Broken Open: Loss and Love

I have no desire to fix my mind so it will not feel saddened by loss.  I want to feel deeply, and whenever I am brokenhearted I emerge more compassionate.  I think I allow myself to be brokenhearted more easily, knowing I won’t be irrevocably shattered.

Sylvia Boorstein


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PHOTOGRAPH/WRITE:

Describe a time of being brokenhearted.  How has it made you more compassionate, more shatterproof?  What do you want to convey to someone in the midst of loss?  

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My mother’s death tore at the vestiges of a very thick wall surrounding my heart. I was
a hard nut to crack and her death rocked me to the core. I was thirty-three and she was
sixty-five and dying of lung cancer. She started smoking at age twelve.

Her illness came five years after a climbing accident where I sustained long-term injuries.
I had learned to grieve my own losses. This was different. Her dying broke through my
compulsive habits and stripped me clean of an eating disorder. I was feeling life so fully
I couldn’t stuff down my feelings with food anymore.

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. If my brother and I would
plead long enough she would cross her eyes, make the “funny face” and we’d be rolling
on the floor with laughter.

A dark veil would overcome Mom at times followed by raging tears and slamming doors.
The rest of us would tiptoe around the house for a day or two. She seldom talked about
the tragedies in her life but we gathered stories about her father’s alcohol induced death,
her mother’s early death from overeating and the loss of her older brother in WWII.

The learned family pattern of walling off pain was a strength in hard times and an
obstacle to deepening relationships. We were lucky to have a bond of love but often
didn’t know how to express it. My father’s mantra was “don’t cry.” Compulsions and
addictions dot our family tree.

In my work as a psychotherapist I spend a lot of time helping people cry. It’s the best
revenge. I’m not telling my Dad but I plan on crying my eyes out when he passes. He’s
ninety-three and tells me not to waste my time grieving when he dies. I love him and I
know better now.

~*~

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.

Inner Aloneness: Listening and Learning

We need to be willing to risk the loss of external affirmation and approval if we are to know ourselves deeply.  We need to be willing to risk listening to ourselves as well as others.  The validity of our spiritual path can only be qualified by our own experience and understanding.  Through a path of contemplation and meditation, we can untangle the conditioning that leads us to prostrate ourselves before authority.  By cultivating a deep inner aloneness, we can nurture our inner resources of awareness and understanding.  A vision of our uniqueness is born, an authentic vision of who we are as opposed to who we have been told we should be.

Christina Feldman

PHOTOGRAPH/WRITE:

When have you risked listening to yourself contrary to others? Have you struggled with developing an “inner aloneness?”  Clarify what have been the dangers, the rewards?  

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 This quote strikes at a core issue that has given me the most painful and productive lessons of my life.  Prostrating before authorities and ignoring my inner intelligence almost killed me.

Over 35 years ago I was smitten with a passion for working in the wilderness and exploring its terrain through climbing.  In technical situations involving ropes I was not always emotionally equipped to sort out what was best for me when others gave commands.

On a day when I was sick and upset I chose to listen to someone else over my own instincts and suffered a terrible climbing fall in the Wind River Range of Wyoming.  I am very lucky to be alive yet sustained the loss of an eye and seriously injured my ankle.

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.  Brought to my knees, my psychotherapist held my hand and helped me grieve.

Before this experience I don’t think I ever knew an inner aloneness.  I now know it is the work of a lifetime.  Slowly I have learned to listen more closely to internal prompts, sorting out what is my truth from others.

While accomplishing much on the outer level to care for my basic needs, there are many subtle levels where I still grapple with confusion in making difficult decisions.  A significant example in my current life concerns the publication of a photography book I’ve worked on for the past five years.  It is my baby.

The proofs of the book from the printer have been miserable. The colors are off and the resolution has been poor.  I’m waiting on a third set and looking at other options.  I’ve created my own publishing company to make a high quality book affordable and all the decisions rest in my lap.

I know I need to wait until it looks right, even if I lose money and have to start all over.  Can I trust myself to do this?  Will I say “no” or let a few things slide because I don’t want to let someone else down?  It’s so my tendency to pretend everything is OK.

I’m putting this out to you because it helps to have a witness to my actions.  I know my friends will not collude with the self-sacrificing side of my personality.

In this very moment I get how little I have admitted to how painful this has been.  Arrgh.  Arrgggh.  Aarrrggghhh!!

You just helped.  I know you are listening.  I know someone shares the inner resources of awareness and understanding.  I know it is possible for me too.

Your kind response is appreciated.

~*~
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.
                                                                      ~*~