Monday, April 27, 2009

the Hokie Pokie and other Grand Adventures

It's been awhile friends since I've checked in....

1. no longer at Tibetan Aid Project/Nyingma Institute (sigh of relief)
2. "calmly" awaiting Program Director position at Girl Scout Camp Deerlake in Lake Tahoe
3. trudging through a month or so more at the tennis center reading as much as possible to stay entertained/informed
4. training the dog (you can so teach an old dog new tricks and don't let anyone tell you any different!)
5. reconnecting with an old friend, Lacy and getting to explore being out, "out", single and legal in DFW :)

Thoughts and Tidbits:
After a few weeks away from the Nyingma Institute and my vegetarian Buddhist ways it has become apparent that I was not cut out for the purely contemplative life. It's interesting how high on that pedestal I held all things Buddhist. It actually surprised me how unrealistic I'd been in relation to another spiritual tradition considering how cynical I'd become about my own. I guess the two aren't mutually exclusive though since I was probably particularly piqued to find something entirely non-Christian to explore. What's even more surprising is that the Institute has a way of manipulating you into losing track of that extremely useful voice inside your head that keeps you grounded and in communication with yourself, then manages to make you feel guilty about feeling miserable and not wanting to stay that way. I guess that losing track meant that I was on track from a Buddhist perspective, deconstructing the self in order to find Truth and authentic experience. Although I agree that there are some parts of myself that are limiting and ultimately unhealthy I also know that my general contentment comes in the shape of awareness about my needs and my ability to meet them. I used to think that Buddhism had it all right but I'm starting to realize that the interconnected communal core I fell in love with is actually more of a fringe perspective and the real focus is on isolation, meditation, introverted contemplation and a lack of social connection. In the end I respect that it works for some people and I will still continue to employ meditation, yoga and awareness of the present moment but you will probably never see me go monastic again :)

In other news, I'm exploring the Emergent Church for it's emphasis on intellectual exploration, inclusion, community and faith. I still don't have a Christian stamp on my forehead but I am intrigued by this faith-based experiment with academic exploration, ecotheology, diversity, and interreligious dialogue. Note to self, beware of the pedestal!

One down side to being away from TAP? the internet at work sucks and I haven't been keeping up with my girl Rachel Maddow or my other news sources. I'm feeling extremely out-of-touch and in need of a week to plug back in. Luckily, I don't work when it rains since apparently people don't like sopping tennis so I've got at least a few days of downpour to explore and reconnect. Exciting result? More fascinating and educational updates from me your friendly neighborhood Spiderman. How awesome would it be if Spiderman dropped by and saved the world through insightful exposes on all things religious, political, educational etc.

And that's what it's all about!

P.S. I spent all weekend at the Denton Arts & Jazz Fest and was serenaded by the melodious and intoxicating jams of a local Grammy Award-winning Polka Band called Brave Combo and they most definitely played the Hokie Pokie. My life is now complete :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I hope Taibbi Isn't Right...

I just finished the Matt Taibbi article "The Big Takeover" in next month's Rolling Stone and it scares the crap out of me. I know I haven't read much on the subject but I sure as hell hope he isn't right about the rampant corruption on Wall Street and in Washington. Sadly, this insanity is being reported on daily now and it looks like many of our Treasury Department's decisions are bolstering rather than moderating the sickening leech of a mess our megabank conglomerates have created thanks to geniuses like Joseph Cassano, mastermind of the AIG gambling catastrophe. I'm nervous, as we all should be, that these guys have significantly more power than any of us realize. Here's a quote from Taibbi's article that is particularly telling:

As complex as all the finances are, the politics aren't hard to follow. By creating an urgent crisis that can only be solved by those fluent in a language too complex for ordinary people to understand, the Wall Street crowd has turned the vast majority of Americans into non-participants in their own political future. There is a reason it used to be a crime in the Confederate states to teach a slave to read: Literacy is power. In the age of the CDS and CDO, most of us are financial illiterates. By making an already too-complex economy even more complex, Wall Street has used the crisis to effect a historic, revolutionary change in our political system — transforming a democracy into a two-tiered state, one with plugged-in financial bureaucrats above and clueless customers below.

I'm in the process of checking Taibbi's sources and getting a better handle on how accurate his reporting is but if even a fraction of his article is on point we are in deep trouble as a nation. It's sickening to realize that our country is shifting in favor of supporting the massive oligarchical mega corporations over the bread and butter banks that keep us all secure and afloat. Read up on it and let me know feedback or insight that maybe I've overlooking. I'll let you know where my research takes me from here.


Financial Woes and Other Brain Teasers...

Hey All,

so I've been doing something new lately that I'm actually finding quite fascinating. I started keeping up with the Rachel Maddow Show purely out of curiosity and now she's got me reading all these conservative and liberal news sources about politics and the the ins and outs of the financial system. I was never interested in Government or Economics in school but now that I'm experiencing some self-directed exploration I can't seem to get enough. I love understanding the lingo when reading about the minority abuse of the filibuster in Congress or the shady back door relationship between Wall Street and Washington. I want to do more reading to get a better handle on the information I'm coming across so that I am educated enough to have my own filter on the subject, but the process is truly exciting. I never thought I'd find any of this interesting but the nerd in me just loves to know something about everything.

There's an article coming out in next month's Rolling Stone by a guy named Matt Taibbi. In it he explains how dangerous it is that the majority of the country is completely illiterate when it comes to financial lingo. Basically Wall Street and the Washington policy makers (that all seem to come out of Wall Street) have a monopoly on the information that the majority of us are totally inept at dissecting. It's dangerous and Taibbi does his part to illuminate some of the more dense concepts for the average lay person. The article is called "The Big Takeover" and I'm looking forward to reading it in its entirety.

I'm also looking forward to going home next week so I can get my dad's perspective on all of this. As a banker and self-defined roving reporter he should have some insight and an educational perspective on AIG, government regulation of financial institutions, and the idea of "too big to fail" companies and what should be done about them. I'm also curious to see how he and my mom feel about Obama's rapid policy-making (health care, education and energy reform as tools for economic sustainability), and the partnering of the "conservadems" with the Republican minority in Congress that seems to have lots of liberals up in arms.

That's all for now, I'll write again soon about my last few days here in Berkeley and my thoughts on my experience as a whole. My seven-month adventure comes to an end in less than a week and it's been quite a ride. Be back soon!


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Letting Go of My "Self" and Other Grand Adventures

It's funny how convinced we are of our own concreteness. I mean, I know at some level that I am an impermanent being subject to the same laws of death, decay and rebirth that are part of every particle's experience, but I still don't believe it to my core. This, in essence, is the nature of Buddhist wisdom, knowing at your very core that you are an impermanent collection of diverse particles and therefore deeply and inextricably connected to every other being in existence. When looked at in this way, Buddhism is hopeful and inspiring. It advocates selflessness and compassionate connection through deep understanding of shared experiences. However, the level of awareness necessitated by a moment to moment participation in this vein of self-understanding is mind-boggling and near impossible. How does it play out? With every breath, with every step, with every action, with every thought, a being must know at its core that their experience is a masterfully constructed yet completely illusionary web of misconceptions, assumptions and culturally-conditioned responses. Can you imagine an existence in which you are so aware of your non-concreteness that the possibilities are literally limitless? Step by step you see your experience as an infinite collection of interactions with no bounds. The struggle I have with this awareness is less about recognizing my multi-faceted and impermanent self and more related to letting go of my desire to contain and manipulate it. If you posit that all experience is illusion, ignorance of the reality of impermanence and therefore incomplete, you must at some level strive for authentic experience. This process is completely terrifying which then points back to how strongly we actually cling to our self and our self's misconstrued understanding of reality. It starts on a surface level. My belief that I am an extroverted, entertaining social butterfly is an inauthentic reality and should therefore not be clung to or built upon as though it will remain static. That's scary. Our society tells us the exact opposite at every turn. We are smart, we are artistic, we are athletic, good leaders, the list goes on. Buddhism tells us to look at those labels and realize them as the limiting and dishonest concepts they truly are and then work to remove them as a foundation for the way we live our lives. It's fascinating in practice and as I probe deeper I'll tell you more about how it manifests. For now I can tell you it's changed the way I view my future, my goals, my friends, and even my attempts to force my current job position to fit who I think i am. In effect, this realization and slow progression of stripping away at my assumptions about myself has helped me let go of resentment, open myself up to possibilities and squeeze the juice out of every opportunity. I try to no longer look at situations or people as "fitting me." Turns out it's not about "me" because, in a nutshell, the "me" that I perceive doesn't even exist so I should just open up my clenched hands and let go...


Saturday, March 7, 2009

No Longer Afraid of Flying...

After watching this mind-blowing audio/animation video developed to illustrate the flight that landed safely in the Hudson River earlier this year, I can officially say I am no longer afraid of flying. I've always known but I've never SEEN the training-in-action of a pilot and crew. When you hear the calm and collected way Sullenburger says "we're going to be in the Hudson" and the way the air traffic controller handles the call without panicking, I finally realized these folks actually know what they're doing. Anyway, this was a freaking-awesome video and I got a little thrill every time I watched it, which was over and over and over.


Flight 1549 Video

Thanks to Rachel Maddow and Scene Systems for providing us with this clip!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Returning from the Dead

Hey hey! Long time no see!

Sorry I've been away for so long. I've been distracted by life and haven't been keeping you updated. I just found my friend Mary's new blog and she lit the spark and got me going again! You should definitely check it out:

Anywho, life's been a whirlwind as of late. I went home for Christmas and decided to drop out of my internship program, changed my mind, returned to Berkeley, decided to become a Montessori teacher in Dallas, dropped out of Bike and Build, changed my mind about Montessori, extended my stay at TAP, briefly considered applying to film school and am now in the running to work at a stunning summer camp right here in the Bay Area! That's the overview.

Ok, so now that we're all caught up let's move on to more pressing matters like what's been holding my interest lately and getting me fired up about life.

#1 I have a powerful new obsession with Bones, an hour-long drama that merges the best parts of CSI and Law and Order: SVU with a side of AMAZING! Bones is currently in it's 4 Season which means Grace and I had a lot of catching up to do. We've made it into Season 3 and it just keeps getting better. You should check it out here: Watch Bones

#2 Don't Shoot the Dog by: Karen Pryor is by far the most exciting and engaging book I've read in years. It was a magically perfect gift from the above-mentioned friend Mary and I am completely enamored with the possibilities! Karen Pryor explores behavioral training methods and positive reinforcement in teaching. I'm am now so well-trained you wouldn't believe it ;) Check her out here:

#3 Steve and Kate's Camp is the mind-blowing summer program I am hoping to be a part of starting in June. I interviewed the last week of February and I should here back soon. Check it out here:

#4 Rachel Maddow is my new hero for all things news. Until recently I have had zero understanding of the economic catastrophe or issues with our healthcare system. That is, until I came across Maddow's interview on Leno and she broke it down for us normal folks. She's a power hitter and she makes sense to me. Check her out:

#5 Prop 8 went to the Supreme Court yesterday in California and the Bay Area is humming with the energy of a discontented minority group. My fingers are crossed that the candle light vigil and rallies in San Francisco, attended by thousands, planted the idea of change in the hearts of the uninformed and unconvinced. We'll know their decision in 90 days. I have faith in the natural tendency within our nation to evolve. As Mary talks about on her blog:

"My mother has been reading David Freeman Hawke’s Everyday Life in Early America. Here’s a quote she shared with me:

Spoons were the essential utensil at the table. Knives, if they turned up, were pointed and used to spear food from the common serving dish. Forks did not appear until the eighteenth century. There were those who held that forks were “a diabolical luxury,” and that “God would not have given us fingers if He had wished us to use such an instrument.”

It’s funny how resistant people are to change, even to something beneficial and fairly harmless like a fork. Instead, people often resort to defending the status quo as being better (whether or not it actually is) or evoking a deity to defend their position (even if this leads to fairly preposterous ad hoc arguments."

Well said miss Mary. I couldn't agree more. I firmly believe that in the end opponents of Gay Marriage will find themselves mightily embarrassed and out-of-date if they don't change their ways. It's just a matter of time.

Much more to come about life on the west coast and things that keep me thinking! Work is becoming a very different animal now that I'm past my indentured servitude and into my chosen adventure. Promise to tell you more about it soon.

In the meantime I miss you all and wish you'd road trip your butts out here so we can share in this adventure.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An Aftertaste...

Hey All,

I know it's been awhile but things have been CRAZY here. For those of you who don't know, the Tibetan Aid Project's major benefit dinner and auction was this past Friday so it's been crunch-time in the office for the past couple of weeks. So where to begin...

Work Updates-
We are cleaning up after the most amazing fundraising event I've ever attended. TAP has two fundraising dinners a year and this one, Taste and Tribute San Francisco, went off without a hitch. On Thursday we ran around the office like chickens with our heads cut off preparing and doing inventory on EVERYTHING we were taking down to the ribbons and tape needed for set-up. After a few hectic hours we got all the beautifully labeled and color coded boxes loaded into our cute little UHAUL truck and headed to the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco. The place is a maze of hallways and elevators. It was quite the adventure getting everything unloaded and up to the Ballroom staging area. We had about 8 flatbed dolleys full of stuff that we navigated to the 2nd floor, through the kitchen (because someone designed the building so that the loading dock elevator takes you directly to the kitchen), around the army of cooks giving us dirty looks, and into the staging room. After unloading we headed back to the Institute for an early bedtime.
Friday Morning at 8:30 AM the adventure began! We all crowded into two cars with our Dillards garment bags and boxes of tasty treats and headed over the Bay Bridge during rush hour and into the city. On arrival the insanity began and I made my way to the ballroom to pin embroidered runners and chevrons to the 11 chef stations. This invloved some epic pinning magic and the collection of some lovely war wounds. There were also hundreds of votive candles to unload and distribute between the tables, endless flowers to disperse (one petal at a time) along each dinning table, and some gifts, dinner programs and placecards to set delicately at all 220 seats. At some point during the afternoon, after downing a couple spare truffles and some yummy breakfast cheeses, I set about packaging the chef gifts for distribution. 24 chefs with 4 items each to be bagged and tagged for placement was a bit tedious but surprisingly cathartic after the madness of decor. Our event planners Jessika and Jill are total rockstars and took an instant liking to me for some reason. It may have had something to do with my sugar and caffeine-inspired energy and wild impromptu performances throughout the day. I think I've been socially deprived for weeks so the chance for interaction and the energy of the event was the biggest high ever! According to Jessika, I would make quite the event manager so who knows, maybe I've found my calling :)
I don't want to bore you with every tedious detail but the event came together beautifully. The auction items were displayed, the ballroom looked breathtaking and the gifts (my area of focus) blended in beautifully with the 5 wine glasses, 4 spoons, three forks, two knives and one plate that they befriended while waiting for guests to arrive. As evening approached the chefs begin to arrive in their shiny sportscars with their army of assistants and sui chefs. To give you a picture, there were eleven tables each with two chefs at a station nearby. Every chef had at least one assistant and the pair of chefs together prepared a 4-course meal for their table of 20 guests, complete with wine pairings. It's quite the show. In the meantime, several speakers explained the heart of our organization's mission. As wine disappeared and heart strings were plucked the guests prepared to open their wallets and start bidding on our epic live auction. At this point in the evening, I got to enter the ballroom (all gussied up) and run the Live Auction Powerpoint I'd been working on for weeks. As the bidding started I got so excited I was standing/kneeling on my chair and helping the auctioneer with my own suggested bidding increases. When one item broke the $2000 mark my heart started to race and when we began pulling in numbers in the $5000 and $10000 area I started to tear up. The energy and generosity of this magical scene we'd been working on for months was finally upon me and I was so moved it took my breath away. What an event. The people were beautiful. The sights, smells and sounds of the room completely transcended any previous experience I've come across in this wild West Coast adventure. I'm so ready for the next one! If only I could capture that energy in a bottle and infuse every day with it, now that would be powerful.
In the end we raised upwards of $150,000 all of which will go directly to our book preservation and distribution project. Ticket sales covered all expenses and the gravy of our auctions, especially during this rough economic period, was really surprising. Many non-profits in the region are reporting %50 drops in earnings but we experienced a measly %5 decrease and cultivated some new connections that will continue to carry our mission forward. As for personal connections, I earned the friendship and respect of both our event manager and her boss who suggested that I speak with them about a possible position in Event Management! I also came across some old friends from our donor retreat at Ratna Ling (our Sonoma County rural retreat center) and felt some love. It's official, I'm a people person and I'm ready for a SOCIAL adventure. We were at the Four Seasons until 12:30 AM but we couldn't have been happier. When I said that the event went off without a hitch I meant it. Our staff of 7 women, 5 of who are under 25 and recent college grads, pulled off this huge event seamlessly. Our event planner was in tears when she complimented us on this impressive feat. In other words, we rocked it! And as the guests stumbled blinking into the lobby and things came to a close they were all smiles and tipsy praises. I had the pleasure of handing them some last minute goodies and I got some serious love. We have the best supporters in the world!
As I fell into bed around 2AM I reveled, briefly, in the power of connection through passion for change. Even with all the hardships our country's been facing economically, Taste & Tribute was a sold out event that earned hundreds of thousands for strangers. I'm ready to go at it again!

I'll post some personal updates next time, including the details of my next adventure (Bike and Build NUS 2009!!!) and all that's been happening with the family and friends while I've been away :) But for now, I hope that this little Aftertaste gives you a colorful picture of my work here.

Huge hugs and love to all of you for understanding the insanity that is my life here in Berkeley and I will post pictures as soon as our photographers get back to me.