Thursday, January 3, 2013

Not Quite Nirvana: A Skeptic's Journey

Bill Williams (; Rachel Neumann (; KPFK
Thich Nhat Hanh teaches: "Seek in the present moment" (Not Quite Nirvana).
Not Quite Nirvana is Rachel Neumann’s folksy account of her gradual embrace of Buddhist teachings, along with anecdotes of her dealings with Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh, the famous Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk and peace activist.
One of her greatest challenges was learning to accept the truth of aging and death. Like many people, she lived with the illusion that aging, illness, and death are events that happen to other people.
“Then, within a few months of turning 40, I got in a bad bicycle accident and tore up my shoulder,” she writes. “I got robbed, got pneumonia, got mostly better, cracked a rib… got bronchitis… got shingles, and lost a relatively young friend to lung cancer. Not only that, but every bone and muscle in my body felt like it had stopped working properly.”
Neumann now believes that “death stays mostly hidden in U.S. society....Perhaps if death [were] as acknowledged and visible as birth, awareness and acceptance of it would become more commonplace.”

Author, center, with daughters (
Thich Nhat Hanh often writes and speaks about “no birth, no death,” meaning that we existed in our parents and prior generations long before we were born, and will continue to exist in our children and in the many people we have influenced while alive.
When Neumann began work at Parallax Press in Berkeley, California, she was told that the staff gathered to meditate for 15 minutes at the start of each workday. She found the practice close to unbearable. “I would feel myself getting older, wasting my life just sitting there like a blob,” she writes in her light-hearted style.
But she gradually saw the value of stopping and meditating. She and her husband began pausing before dinner with their daughters, Plum, age 4, and Luna, age 9, for a brief meditation. More

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Within this world, Monk evokes the Buddhist notion of the existence of different realm categories -- the idea of joining heaven [akasha-deva loka] and earth [manussa loka] by way of human beings.
Drawing additional inspiration from writers and researchers who have sounded the alarm on the precarious state of our global ecology, Monk and her acclaimed Vocal Ensemble create a liminal space where human, natural and spiritual elements are woven into a delicate whole, in order to illuminate the interconnection and interdependency of us all.
Back to Back Theatre:  Ganesh Versus the Third Reich
GANESH VERSUS THE THIRD REICH (Back to Back Theatre) is poignant, beautiful, disarming, and full of vulnerability and sly transparency.
The story begins with the [Indian] elephant-headed god Ganesh traveling through Nazi Germany to reclaim the swastika, an ancient Vedic/Hindu symbol. As this intrepid hero embarks on his journey a second narrative is revealed: the actors themselves begin to feel the weighty responsibility of storytellers and question the ethics of cultural appropriation. 
Cleverly interwoven in the play’s design is the story of a young man inspired to create a play about Ganesh, "the god of overcoming obstacles."

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