In Eight Steps to Happiness Geshe-la says "'Self' and 'other' are relative terms, rather like 'this mountain' and 'that mountain ... 'This' and 'that' therefore depend upon our point of reference. This is also true of self and other. By climbing down the mountain of self, it is possible to ascend the mountain of other, and thereby cherish others as much as we presently cherish ourself."

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Updated Master Index of Geshe-la's Books

The Master Index of Geshe-la's Books has been updated to include all the index entries for The Oral Instructions of Mahamudra.
You can download it from DropBox
As I continue to edit it and add to it, the latest version will always be there on DropBox.

That index is a compilation of the indexes of every book by Geshe-la, with additional entries and See Alsos as hyperlinks.
There is a key at the top with the full book titles spelled out. For example, the shorthand for the American edition of Modern Buddhism is [ModBu_Am].

At that same DropBox location is a separate file that includes sections of index entries for analogies, stories and quotes.
For example, here's a sample of some of the analogy entries:

Tharpa is considering distributing it, so if you think that would be helpful to others, email

Sunday, November 8, 2015

My dog has cancer

Dear Sangha Friends,
Our dear dog Sara has advanced cancer, but she is still acting like herself: eating with gusto, resting with less gusto, staring at us to tell us she wants to go for a walk.
Surgery isn't a possibility, and chemo probably wouldn't help, so she is on palliative care at home with us.
There was no prognosis, but it seems like it may be a matter of weeks.
Please make prayers.
Thank you.
R & M

P.S. Today is Tara Day. I am planning to attend the puja, in part to make requests for Sara to Mother Tara.

Friday, November 6, 2015

ModBu & You

I was wondering how others combined their daily lives with Kadampa Buddhism.
If you want to reply to me, I could post the compilation here.
It also seems like a good subject for Sangha conversations.

OK, I'll start.
* Washing dishes, mentally reciting Vajrasattva's mantra and thinking that I am also purifying my mind. It's a form of cherishing others too, because R appreciates it when I take care of them.
* Weeding the yard, imagining I'm pulling up my delusions, and I try to get at the root of both; pruning, I try to think about cutting back the thorn bush of my delusions so that I can get at the root.
Occasionally when doing yardwork, listening to teachings on my iPod, and I plan to do that more often.
Also listening teachings when walking around the neighborhood.
* Driving I recite Dorje Shugden mantras to protect especially pedestrians and bicyclists as well as motor vehicles.
Also giving food bars to those asking for help at a highway on- or off-ramp). If I'm out of those bars, I dig for change or at least smile and wave, trying to remember to wish them real freedom and happiness. I like to combine those actions with something I heard that James G did when making a small donation or such: "Just as I am giving this [item] to you now, to create a connection, in the future may I can give you Dharma teachings."
* Resting on the couch practicing either taking (such as the sufferings of a particular homeless person or family I've seen recently, often one of the Real Change vendors I know) or, when I'm even more tired, rejoicing (which I like to spell reJOYcing) in things like a kindness I've read about in the news that day.
* At the chemo center or hospital, feeling compassion for all the suffering there, especially for those without a spiritual practice, and strengthening my resolve to release them. Then I try to expand the scope of beings, not forgetting the hungry ghosts or the gods. It's stronger when I can think of specific types, such as famous but envious movie stars.

I really like the idea of finding more and more ways to practice Dharma in all parts of my life, with the aim of making every moment meaningful.

One of the many features of our tradition I love is how practical it is, in so many ways. (If I had more time and energy, I'd list some, but you'll need to do that for yourself until I get around to it.) That practicality is the main thing I emphasize when someone asks me how Kadampa Buddhism is different from other schools. Gen-la Dekyong wisely advised the Seattle Sangha not to compare ours to other versions, but simply to talk about its distinctive good qualities.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Vajrasattva in My Life

I had the great good fortune to attend Fall Festival in France. It was so good I don’t think even French has a word for it – it was beyond magnifique, suprême, extraordinaire …
The empowerment felt deeply powerful (again words fall short), the teachings so very profound. We learned to purify not just negativities, obstructions and downfalls, but also ordinary appearances and conceptions! For the memory-impaired like me, those last two get grouped under obstructions.

But one of the key points that keeps returning is, “I need to purify.” That means me, myself, the person known as “Mimi,” (the name itself reminding me who we’re talking about).

In the last teaching at Fall Fest, we were given specific examples of how we can integrate purification into our daily life, one of the hallmarks of Kadampa Buddhism’s practicality.

You probably know that the options for dealing with negative karma are either to clear them out with purification practice, or to face their results, suffering in one of its multitude of forms. If you don’t get angry when there’s some adversity, mild or major, those ripened potentials will be purified. However,  habitually we get disturbed, irritated, annoyed, rageful … which just repeats the process. 

Sunday at the Temple I had a mild but dramatic experience of an eruption of my negative karma.
* To imagine what happened, pretend that you’re a female human, who of course comes with a female plumbing system (which my mom always cited as proof that God was a man).
Fill up a gallon jug at least halfway with water, although to really get the effect it should be a more impure substance. Thankfully I’m not talking about the other end of the plumbing system.
Head to a bathroom with the jug and start to get into position to release the liquid in your system, represented by the jug.
Before you’ve completely lowered your lower garment, start pouring the jug into your garment and around the toilet. A few moments later, more of the water will go where you intend, but a lot of it will have soaked those clothes. Continue pouring until the jug is empty.

My mind was calm, undoubtedly boosted by the weekend’s teachings, but also disappointed that I couldn’t attend Offering to the Spiritual Guide at the Temple, on Je Tsongkhapa Day, as planned, instead heading home to take a shower (which I think can be transformed into a purification practice if you use the four powers).

For perspective, it’s not that I haven’t experienced some mild, ongoing urinary incontinence, as apparently isn’t unusual for a woman my age (now 52, going on 82), probably exacerbated by cancer/chemo. But this was definitely “over the top.”

Update: As planned, I re-started chemo on Friday (delayed by the trip to France that my oncologist kindly supported). I’m back to the same drug I was on when my doctor stopped treatment in mid-June so that my body, especially my brain, could recover a bit from all the surgery, radiation and chemo I’ve had over 6+ years – on and off treatment but mostly on. That drug, “Gemzar,” mainly had fatigue as a side effect and was effective at reducing my tumors, so I am hopeful that will continue.

Yesterday I got the results of my cancer marker, which has leaped to the triple digits – not as bad as the quadruple digits at diagnosis, but far above the middle double digits I’ve had for years. Prayers appreciated.

* Pee S. Don’t try this at home.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The end of ...

At the Rocky Mt Retreat, Kadam Lucy read us this well known quotation about impermanence by Gungtang Rinpoche:

The end of collection is dispersion.
The end of rising is falling.
The end of meeting is parting.
The end of birth is death.
After that session, when we were headed to lunch, some of us came up with a few variations:
The end of drinking is peeing.
The end of eating is defecating.
Sorry if that's too crude for you, but it is true. It might help cut through an attachment to food and/or drink, or help in developing renunciation.

Today, I found myself thinking:
The end of cleaning is ...
Well, it seems there is no end of cleaning : )
Or you could say the end of cleaning is "more cleaning."

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Downtown Denver Center!

P.S. Speaking of Kadampa Meditation Center Colorado, there will be a kind of opening of their new location, in the heart of Denver, in October sometime. Check it out!

Rocky Mt Mahamudra Retreat

And HUM!

Hard to describe how rich & deep the retreat was in mere words.
"Out of this world" keeps coming up as an approximation. It was a retreat to a much better world, in my mind.
Having spent such a peaceful time there on retreat, it continues to make me want to be at my heart, to make it my home, to dwell there. And to hang out with my Guru there.
So many blessings, wisdom blessings, that gave me many small insights. Those tiny sprouts of realizations were handed to  me - I did nothing except set up the conditions where they could be revealed, and listened to the supreme Mahamudra teachings and perfect meditation guidance of Kadam Lucy, a true Meditation Master. She highlighted a few meditations on clarity, which in the past I found hard to understand; experiences of it are even better than knowledge. I continually felt the power of a group meditating together.

To find out what it was like, you really must try it yourself.
For years, I've liked the idea that the Buddhas keep sending us postcards saying, "Wish you were here," as we do when we're on an especially lovely vacation. Meaning, for example, you can't describe how tantalizing, creative and sublime the food you've tasted has been - friends can only get an idea of it by trying it themselves.

This is the 2nd year R & I have been able to do the long-weekend KMC Colorado Mahamudra Retreat at Pingree Park. A photo is worth how many words? They at least convey another dimension.


For more photos, see the nice slideshow on PP's website.

The good news is that KMC CO has already reserved the same venue for next year, at the end of August. It sold out this year, so don't hold off registering.

And the food was good ; )

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Working on Another Comeback

I am still on a break from chemo, having had a "stable" brain MRI a couple of weeks ago. Over the last 2 months off chemo, I've noticed improvements in my brain, such as better memory (a small notebook helps with that too). I also have more mental energy to be able to work on more than one project a day (whoo hoo - amazing, huh?). After a bigger day, I know I'll need to take off the next one. I continue to hope & pray that this improvement continues, until at some point I'll be back on chemo. Probably that will be the same chemo I was on, which didn't have too many side effects, but did add to the cumulative effects of chemo over 6+ years. That chemo, called Gemzar, was helping, but it didn't put me in remission - I'm only off chemo because my oncologist recognized I needed a break. I expect that when I'm on chemo again, in the next month or two or three, it will cause a bit more "brain damage", as one of my MDs called it. But my brain will be starting from a higher place.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Interdependence Day!

In the U.S. the 4th of July holiday celebrates the new country's independence from England, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence on this day in 1776. That document has the memorable line, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (Note that it doesn't say "happiness," only the seeking of it.)

Interdependence is worth contemplating. I know it's profound, but don't ask me how.

In the spirit of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, I'm plagiarizing myself with the text of an email. Apologies to those who've already read this.

For years now I've been thinking about how to rely on Sangha. Of the 3 Jewels, I found that one the hardest to understand in a day-to-day way. A Sangha member used to say, "How can you rely on Sangha when they're so unreliable?" - as all of us are to some degree. I've thought about that a lot and asked various Teachers about it. Gen Samten of KMC NY told me in a notably short but meaningful answer, "with wisdom - not like a child with a parent." Unpacking the depth of that takes years.
As Americans we typically don't want to ask for help, as it seems like weakness, and our pride does not like that. You have to give up the idea you are an independent entity who can take care of her/himself. Needless to say, I am happy to ask others for help.
I deeply know how prayers help. I believe in them. I don't think I would be here without them.
Prayers are the best way to support me.
In addition, I may ask you for other forms of support. For example, if I haven't already asked you for a ride, I may ask sometime in the future ...  just to show an example of reliance on Sangha : )
How do you rely on Sangha?
Good to think about and talk about with others, or even reply to in email. That itself is a form of reliance.

Friday, July 3, 2015

I Had the Best Dream

In the dream, a bunch of Sangha friends came to my house and sang chanted prayers and recited the Heart Sutra. It was glorious. Obstacles were definitely removed, blessings definitely received.
A person called Mel had apparently organized it all and played DJ.
All the Buddhas were there, with the female wisdom Buddha Prajnaparamita in the starring role.
It was powerful, like sweeping with a broom rather than just a single broomstick.
Even though it was hot, everyone seemed to go away even happier than they arrived.

A normal person would say that really happened.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My Mind & My Brain

Executive Summary: My mind is good, my brain not so much.
An aside: Does that make you think about the relationship between the two? I believe I've written about that subject in a previous post.

Narrative: My tumor marker has been in the normal range for a few months, which made me hopeful that my CT scan (which my oncologist kindly scheduled 2 months from the previous one, whereas usually all my scans are 3 months out) would be so good that I could be off chemo for the summer. The CT was not bad - there are no new tumors - but a few existing ones have gotten slightly larger.
However, my brain has not been working well in various ways for some months now, and recently dipped below the line where I feel comfortable driving.

Upshot: My doctor recognized that, between the 20 whole-brain radiations I got in 2011 and all the chemo I've had over 6+ years, my brain needed a break, even though there's a higher risk that the tumors will get much larger or even metastasize without chemo. I'll be under close monitoring and will get my brain MRI in another month (3 months out), as usual. I'm very comfortable with this plan. I was already hoping the CT results would be good enough to get a bit of a break, even if I wasn't completely "clean." It would have been a much tougher decision if the results were worse.

I am still happy with the treatment decisions I've made, feeling they've helped keep me alive. For example, you don't get whole-brain radiation unless there are no other good options. My approach to the cancer has continued to be a combination of Eastern and Western medicine. As you have read here in the blog, none of it is separate from my Buddhist practice. When off chemo, the alternative options open up; for example, antioxidants and other naturopathic remedies can be taken, more acupuncture points become feasible and more parts of the body are safe for massage.
I have a bunch of appointments that I previously didn't have the time or energy for. After a long time I want to the dentist and found out I didn't have to pay a high price for taking poor care of my teeth: No cavities! Today I am getting the eye exam I haven't had in years, and a kind Sangha member is driving me there and back. Tomorrow is my naturopath/acupuncturist, and I have more massages in my future ... and more rides with Sangha.
To lessen the burden on them, I'll take the bus when the route isn't too complicated or long.

There have been times I've felt like I had "brain damage," but that seemed exaggerated until a brain doctor used that very term. My thinking is slower and sometimes seems to slow to a halt: I find myself "zoned out," staring at a landscape as a stone would. (Not being able to react as quickly as usual is one of the reasons I don't feel safe driving.) Whatever few navigational skills I had seem to be gone. My memory, which has never been a strong point, is worse than ever: I'll find myself in a room but forget what task I'm there for, from just a moment before. Anyway, I could describe my brain deficits in more detail, but I am hopeful a month or two or three off chemo will bring my brain closer back to where it was. Acceptance was a main practice, as I was recognizing I was no longer who I thought I was. I was pleasantly surprised that transition didn't take nearly as long as I thought it would. Part of my self-image was a certain level of intelligence. Imagine what it's like to lose let's say 20 points off your IQ. (I have no idea what my IQ is or was.)

... which partly explains why it has taken me so long to post this update.

Have a good Summer.

Monday, June 22, 2015

This Is Not a ...

When I was at US Festival this year, I woke up thinking about that Magritte painting known as "This Is Not a Pipe" in English, which includes its caption as part of the picture. When it is pointed out, we think, "Of course, it's not a pipe - it's a painting of a pipe."
Most Magritte works I know of play with appearances.
But that image does remind me of the assumptions I make.

Do we have that recognition of the ultimate nature of the things we see or perceive?
I decided to take that painting as a teaching on emptiness, trying to recognize every form I saw as a hallucination: This is not a pipe, it is an illusion of a pipe; this is not a park, it's a hallucination of a park, etc. I find that a new and fun way to remind myself of emptiness as I go through my day.

This weekend, at the Northwest Dharma Celebration with Gen Rigpa, he used the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle, where KMC Washington is, as an example of emptiness, by asking, "Where is Ballard?" Which worked really well for me, in part because people have different ideas of its size: for example is the Sunset Hill area a sub-neighborhood of Ballard or a stand-alone neighborhood?
Also, driving around Ballard, you'll see cars with a "Free Ballard" bumper-sticker, because Ballard used to be its own town, before being annexed by Seattle. Ballard's character has also changed a lot from those days. When I arrived in Seattle 20+ years ago, Ballard was known as a place of Scandinavians and seniors. They don't recognize it anymore: That's not the Ballard I know. Now it's getting tall buildings with expensive rents. With all the construction, it's become prohibitively expensive for many current and would-be residents.
Where does Ballard end and Fremont to the SE begin? I remember when we were looking to buy a house, and the fuzzy area in between those two had nicknames like Fre-lard.
Rigpa also noted that some people would point to a place on a map, but he said, "That's not Ballard - it's a map of Ballard!"

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Drafting My Obituary

We know we're going to die but believe it will be in the distant future. In truth, it may happen much sooner. It may seem harsh to bring up that reality - I'm not trying to ruin your day - but it's one of the main way Buddhists make their lives meaningful right now, and overcome our procrastination, waiting for retirement to do the things that are important to us. In meditation, after repeatedly considering "I may die today," we focus on the feeling that arises. As with all our Lamrim (Stages of the Path to Enlightenment) meditations, we carry our sitting meditation into our daily life.

Some of you have heard me suggest one meditation-break activity for this meditation is to write a will and an advance directive. It's a kindness for those you leave behind, whether you have a lot of resources or not. You can spell out all your wishes about what kind of medical care you want or don't want when you're "actively dying," as well as what you want done with your body after you're done with it. More importantly, that activity shows you have more than an intellectual understanding that something could kill you today, even if you're young and healthy. Think of a car accident or a natural disaster, for example.

I wasn't going to have an obituary, but now I'm thinking that composing one would be another meditation-break practice, whether it's published or not. I often read the obituaries in our local paper, particularly for younger people, as another way of remembering death. Writing my own forces me to think about what I've done with my life.

I don't want the usual format. You know the one I mean. For fun, I made it into a kind of MadLibs (MadObits?):

_________ [full name of person] who was born in _____ [4-digit number] was _________ [3 superlative adjectives]. She attended _________ [President's name, of any country] High School, then _________ [name of state, in any country] University. _________ [first name of person from line 1] went on to become a _________ [adverb] _________ [job] and raised _________ [number] of kids, some of whom were named _________ [noun] and _________ [noun]. She was _________ [past-tense verb] by all who crossed her path, unless she was in a _________ [adjective] mood.
In lieu of flowers, buy yourself something _________ [adjective].

I do want people to hear how much Kadampa Buddhist teachings and meditations helped me in my adventures with cancer. I'd like to add the URL for our local Temple.

R and I recently saw a exhibit called "Terminal" where some of the photos of dying or deceased people were washed out or blurry. I wasn't planning to have a photo with my obit, but I would consider having one like that, or a blurry  black and white drawing of me.
I'm also tempted to say I'm "survived by friends and family ... and you."

Thursday, April 9, 2015

My Cancerversay

Today I'm celebrating living 6 years with advanced cancer, and even a brain metastasis. I like to think of it as an adventure.
As this blog documents, practicing Kadampa Buddhism has made an enormous difference. (I was supposed to be gone a while ago.)
I deeply appreciate your prayers for me. You can see that they work. Makes it so easy to have faith.

You may recall that I was on the targeted drug, a non-chemo delivered like chemo, called "Avastin," for about 9 months. Since it stopped working this Feb, I've been on a gem of a chemo called "Gemzar." (It is actually pronounced like the word "gem.") It's working: My tumor marker has plummeted!
Its main side effect has been fatigue that often causes me to sleep 12 hours a night and to lie on the couch for my waking hours. My "commute" these days is mostly from the bed to the couch. The fatigue is mental as well as physical, so even talking takes a lot of my energy. It's like having just a few drops of gas in the car: Most days I have to be very careful how I spend my limited energy.

A huge Thank You also to Richard, who does all kinds of things to make my life easier - too many to list here. He has great patience for me when my brain damage manifests as stupid thinking or memory lapses.

I have plans to be at US Festival later this month and hope to see you there.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

View in a Frame

I'm sitting in a chair in my living room gazing at the view through 3 windows. Often I offer the beauty of that scene to the Buddhas, but today I am focusing on how things exist, contemplating how "the things I normally see or perceive do not exist." They do exist, but not the way they seem to (as solid entities that have nothing to do with me) but ultimately as appearances, like dreams. Having trim around each window makes a kind of frame to the picture of blue skies, treetops, birds, roofs and chimneys.

When I walk my dog, I sometimes try to feel as though I'm walking in my mind - that it extends beyond my head or my body, so that I can consider how my mind is related to what I see. In some ways, walking outside in the neighborhood has the same appearances - I see a lot of the same stuff - as what I see sitting in my living room. But when I'm inside, looking through the "picture frame" view, it reminds me that it's like art, created by someone - that is, me.

P.S. I am not qualified to teach on this profound subject, the true nature of things, or emptiness. In fact, this whole blog is largely about my experiences of trying to understand various Buddhist teachings, not to be taken as teachings.
If you want an excellent, correct explanation of emptiness, there's a FREE ebook called Modern Buddhism that you can download from
to your computer, as a PDF, or in a format for Apple iOS, iPod, Kindle, Nook, etc. (scroll down to see all the options and instructions on how to use them).
The book covers all of Buddha's teachings, presented for us living in contemporary society; for emptiness read the section called "Training in Ultimate Bodhichitta."

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Updated Master Index of Geshe-la's Books

I am continuing to update the "master index" of all Geshe-la's books, which includes the index entries for his printed books, as well as additional entries I've added. Indexes from his newest books are included.
Those continuing updates to the index will be on Dropbox
In that Index folder are 2 files:
* main index
* index of analogies, stories and favorite quotes
Please let me know if there are problems.
I'm always interested to hear feedback.

Feel free to give the link to others.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A New Chapter

I apologize for neglecting this blog. To be honest, it will have very occasional updates, but on this occasion I am writing about my health.

If life were a book, this would be a new chapter, but a continuation of the main plot of my "biography" of cancer and the many ways Dharma has helped me. As I said a long time ago, cancer has really helped my spiritual practice. That doesn't mean I'd wish it on anyone else. One purpose of writing it is not just to give scientific evidence - my personal experience - of the power of faith and prayer. But also to document one person's adventure, to dispel the fear of cancer. Even my advanced cancer hasn't been a "bad trip." I can list many, many conditions that are much worse - which I often list for myself to generate compassion and to use as material for taking practice.

When last you heard, I was in remission - my oncologist's term (most women with this chronic cancer call it "no evidence of disease" or NED - because it's very, very rare to have a cure). I have been getting what I call a "non-chemo chemo," a targeted, maintenance therapy that can distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells.

I turned the page as a result of recent scan results: I was very happy with them, because my brain MRI was even better than my last one, and, for the first time in 17 years, I had a bone scan from top to toe and there were no tumors. Bones are one of the most common places for the original tumor to spread to. There are remedies, but my understanding is that it is hard to treat and can be very painful.
But the CT scan of my torso showed a tumor in my iliac lymph node going from "infinitesimally small" size - barely visible on the CT - to 1.4cm round, which is still very small. The ramification of that, however, is that I am back on traditional chemo, one that starts with "Gem." I had my second dose today, and am off next week.

The most important upshot is that I'm cleared for takeoff: I got onsite accommodations for US Festival, which will be followed by one night visiting my Dad and Stepmom, and spending several days visiting my brother's family and going into NY City with them.

It's Vajrapani! I've had a connection with him for a long time, even before Geshe-la started granting that empowerment. I have heard there's a healing practice relying on Vajrapani, and requested the transmission be given if it would be beneficial.

Hope to see you there.