November 22nd, 2006

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Thanksgiving Eve!

There is an article in the NY Times today on Thanksgiving Etiquette.  It seems it is not natural and needs to be taught and learned.   It may be a family gathering of political and religious differences, and so, the day flows best with a truce of co-existence.  It is good practice for the world.

I mentioned this issue of Parabola is on Home.   There is an interview with Thich Nhat Hanh.  I excerpt from it.

        Parabola asks Thich Nhat Hanh at what point France became his home.    Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, poet and leader of Plum Village in France  was exiled from his home, Vietnam, in 1966, because of his work as a peace activist.

       Thich Nhat Hanh:

             "Home is where the heart is.  You are used to a landscape, a way of life, a certain atmosphere, and when you are away from that, you miss that home.  But while you are missing that home, you are creating a home right where you are.  And if you look deeply, you will see that one day you will have to leave this place and you will miss it also.  A new environment, different kinds of people, different ways of life, different habits, and you are making it into another home.  With the practice of mindfulness, you are happy to see that you are making another kind of home, and when you see that, you don't miss the previous home.  In the beginning you believe that you will not be happy without that home, but later on you feel differently.  You see that you have the capacity of living in the here and the now and making this place into your home so you don't wait until you go home to be happy.  CNN called yesterday.  They also wanted to talk about this subject, for the World Refugee Day.  With practice, it is possible to live in the here and the now.  The here and the now is our true home.  If you do not live in the here and the now, you miss everything."

    He also speaks on simplicity.

          "By putting energy into acquiring more, people lose the time they might have to live - to enjoy what is available, to love, to take care of themselves and those around them.  You are happier when your life is simpler.  When your life is simpler, you can treasure the present moment.  When you are in deep contact with the present moment, everything you seek appears.  But sometimes people consume because they are afraid to be alone.  Do not be afraid of suffering.  Only be afraid you will not learn from your suffering. 

          Our practice begins with the self.  Taking good care of the self.  Embracing the self - our fears, concerns, angers, worries as well as our peace and joy.  We nourish ourselves.  We take time to rest.  We sit mindfully.  We walk mindfully.  We drink tea mindfully.  We eat mindfully.   We chop carrots mindfully.  We brush our teeth mindfully.  We become good friends with the self.

          Each time our fears arise, we welcome them.  We welcome all our feelings and emotions, happy, sad, fearful.  We embrace them as a mother embraces a crying child.  We embrace our fears, we calm them, and recognize them.  We find peace and happiness within ourselves.  We let go of who we should be or who we would want anyone else to be.  It is a slow process.  Only when we are friends with our selves, all of our selves, can we then take care and love another.  And to love another takes deep-looking, deep caring, deep listening.  It takes time.  A home is not made of acquisitions.  It is made of attention and true love."

He makes it seem simple, doesn't he?   Perhaps this Thanksgiving it will be so!!    Happy Home to All!

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Thich Nhat Hanh -

Thich Nhat Hanh was invited back to Vietnam in 2005.  He was invited to speak to the upper echelons of the Vietnamese communist leaders.  He spoke about home.

Here are excerpts from his speech as presented in Parabola.


       Open the door of your heart.  Bring your mind back to your body so you can be truly present.  Recognize and embrace your sufferings.  When you look deeply at your habit energy, with calmness and mindfulness, and shine the light of understanding on your suffering, your afflictions then become your awakenings.
      We can transform our afflictions into love and happiness.  Then we are no longer afraid of suffering because we know it is the element that connects us to others and leads to our happiness.  If we understand our suffering and do not feed it, it will not continue.

      At first, we see the Buddha outside us; then we know the Buddha is inside us.  We have all the conditions to be happy now.  What is essential is the intervention of a spiritual or moral dimension; otherwise, we will follow mindlessly the suffering of our parents and ancestors.


        Be honest and direct.  Use deep listening and loving speech.  "Please tell me your difficult emotions.  I don't want to make you suffer more."  Then when your loved one speaks, even with words of blame or bitterness, listen with compassion to give them a chance to say what is in their heart.  "I know you've had difficulties and I've not been able to help you.  Please tell me what I can do to help you."  If a husband knows how to listen deeply to his wife and if the wife knows how to make her husband happy, they become teachers of love for their children.  When a father is angry with a son, if he looks deeply, he sees that the son's shortcomings are his and his ancestors as well.  With eyes of understanding, we accept that they have not had the opportunity to have their good seeds watered.  Happiness needs to be nourished.  The food for happiness is love.  The love shared between parents becomes the teaching for the children.


       Each cell of our ancestors is in us, positive and negative.  We can call on our ancestor who has lived to ninety-six years old to support our good health.  We can also understand that an ancestor or parent who was sad or angry did not have the opportunity to have their positive seeds nourished and so they perpetuate their anger and hurt.  We can establish happiness in the family by accepting that our ancestors had shortcomings, as we do, and knowing that transforming our anger into love will help their transformation and happiness.

                Food for thought this Thanksgiving Eve!   May family dynamics be fluid with ease!    : )

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Home -

Huston Smith,   writes about home in Parabola.  He ends with this comment on our final homecoming and what it may be like.

    "As to what it will be like, I shall content myself with reporting something I once heard our dear friend and mentor professor (Seyyed Hossein) say in a lecture.  He said it is reported in the Islamic tradition that when one enters paradise, for three days the only word one is able to utter, over and over again, is the word "peace."

    May it be so!!
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Mary Oliver -

In Blackwater Woods
Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars
of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,
the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
~ Mary Oliver ~
(American Primitive)

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Rilke -

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~
(Rilke’s Book of Hours:Love Poems to God, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)

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Billy Collins -

Though it is not raining, it is a lovely parade and changing of grays.  It is November weather.   The harvest is in, and the mice have a place to stay.

After three days of steady rain -
over two inches said the radio -
I follow the example of monks
who write by a window, sunlight on the page.
Five times this morning,
I loaded a wheelbarrow with wood
and steered it down the hill to the house,
and later I will cut down the dead garden
with a clippers and haul the soft pulp
to a grave in the woods,
but now there is only
my sunny page which is like a poem
I am covering with another poem
and the dog asleep on the tiles,
her head in her paws,
her hind legs played out like a frog.
How foolish it is to long for childhood,
to want to run in circles in the yard again,
arms outstretched,
pretending to be an airplane.
How senseless to dread whatever lies before us
when, night and day, the boats,
strong as horses in the wind,
come and go,
bringing in the tiny infants
and carrying away the bodies of the dead.
~ Billy Collins ~
(Sailing Alone Around the Room)

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Change -

So, it seems the Irish Coffee recipe in San Francisco is changed.  Oh, my.  I give you the first part of the article in the Chronicle today.

Coffee, cream, sugar and -- Irish whiskey
... but Buena Vista changed brands

Carl Nolte, Chronicle Staff Writer

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


The Bay Area has been rocked on its heels in the last month or so. The 49ers may move to Santa Clara and the Athletics are going to Fremont. But just under the radar something really serious has happened -- the venerable Buena Vista cafe has altered the recipe for Irish coffee.

The Buena Vista, at the foot of Hyde Street, is where Irish coffee first came to America, 54 years ago this month. The Buena Vista is the largest single consumer of Irish whiskey in the country -- 18,720 liter-sized bottles a year. The Buena Vista is the cathedral of Irish coffee in the United States.

And now, the BV has switched from its own private brand of Irish whiskey, made by the Cooley distillery in County Louth, Ireland, to Tullamore Dew, mass produced in Dublin.

The change is so subtle it can hardly be noticed, but the difference between the two Irish whiskeys has sent shock waves though the world of Irish coffee drinkers.

The new Irish coffee has a bit of a bite not present in the old; even worse, the Irish coffee made with the new whiskey is not as traditional as the old Irish coffee.

The whiskey is the key to Irish coffee, made to the official recipe from Joe Sheridan, who invented the drink: "Cream as rich as an Irish brogue, coffee as strong as a friendly hand, sugar as sweet as the tongue of a rogue, and whiskey as smooth as the wit of the land.''

The Irish claim they invented whiskey -- the ancient Gaels called it "uisce beathe,'' the water of life.

It's always been something to fight over. Even now, it is not a good idea to serve Bushmill's, which is made in Northern Ireland, to an Irish person from the south, nor to serve Jameson's, made in the Republic of Ireland, to somebody from Ulster. So the changes, no matter how minor, are important.

And so it is!!

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Reading -

If you are looking for a place to donate money for the end-of-the-year tax deductions, and/or because you care, Jon Carroll, today, writes of the Children's Book Project.  They distribute books to children in the bay area. 

Jon Carroll says:

    "All kinds of books are needed. Some kids will read about dinosaurs; others will read insect tales, or stories about bullies, or lavishly illustrated fantasy adventures. Content is important, but process is even more important. If they can read, they will find what they're looking for. That's the point of the Children's Book Project.

    So the question you are asking right now is: What can I, as an average citizen, do to help this amazing organization? First, you can give them money. I think you'll find that's pretty much always an answer to that question. Write a check for any amount and send it to the Children's Book Project, 45 Holly Park Circle, San Francisco CA 94110. Your money will help provide children with books. Your money will help civilization advance and stave off the forces of chaos. Is your money doing that now?"

It is a good question.  If you have a little money waiting for a home, or some books for children, you are not reading, here's the place to go.

The Children's Book Project, HO!!!    Tis the season!!

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Rain -

Rain is pouring down.   What a lovely Thanksgiving Eve treat.  It is just perfect.   We are tucked in with a fire and full tummies and cuddly kitties.   All is well with me, and mine.