a label


a label transforms a “unknown” person into a preconceived concept

People want to identify and label you so they can place you somewhere they already have set in their mind. …

We have these labels in little piles in our mind and we take them out and stick them on things. That’s our habit. We like to be able to say, “This is an American. That is a Dutch person. This is a Mexican person.” We put the label on as if we know what we mean by Mexican, American, or Dutch. This is a Communist, this is a Republican, this is a capitalist. In fact, the label has no meaning. “This is a person I love, this is a person I hate.” When we put a label on, we can’t see the person. If someone labels you as a “terrorist,” he may shoot you. But if he sees that you are a human being who has his own suffering, who has children and a wife to look after, he won’t be able to shoot you. It’s only when he gives you a label that he can say, “You’re a terrorist; your presence isn’t needed in this world; if you weren’t in the world, it would be a more beautiful place.” It’s all a matter of putting a label on a person. And when you see the real human being, you can’t assign a label anymore. We give labels only in order to praise or to destroy. We have a great bagful of labels–we don’t even know where they came from. And when we stick them onto people, we cut ourselves off from those people, and we can no longer know who they really are.

~Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Battles


xdrive photo lession – 8 – close up/macros

RAJ’s photo lesson about close ups and macros, encouraged me to create images with my camera set to manual focus, “Remember, only you know the story you are trying to tell, not the camera!”

Nikon D750  f/6.3 40mm  1/4s  100 ISO

This initial exploration with manual focus brought to mind the summer between the 4th and 5th grade, when I put on my first pair of glasses (Cat Eyes). I can still recall the visual experience of seeing for the first time individualized leaves on trees and multiple shapes and colors of gravel stone…the world, sharpened and focused, was a moment of awe.  Corrective lenses was a means of normalization; yet, there are no words to describe and there are no photographs that can replicate the amazing bokeh of Christmas lights created by astigmatism and myopia.

Nikon D750  f/5  40mm  0.2s  100 ISO

The ease of using auto focus–a reliance upon technology–to create images that satisfy a self-imposed standard has me question if the advancements in genetic, genomic, and reproductive technologies, identified by a UC Berkeley sociologist Troy Duster as a back door to eugenics, to lessen human suffering will also nudge us into a world absent of human uniqueness.


everyman’s artist…consciousness


He saw that his own mind was present in every phenomenon in the universe. …Our own mind is the source of all phenomena. Form, sound, smell, taste, and tactile perception such as hot and cold, hard and soft – these are all creations of our mind. They do not exist as we usually think they do.  Our consciousness is like an artist, painting every phenomenon into being.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds


a new kind of empathy


After listening to the TED Talk, “Can a Divided America Heal”, I did a brief exploration of the three basic principles of moral psychology

  1. Generally we influenced by intuition and then use that which “feels right” to justify our moral judgments.
  2. The underlying motivation in moral reasoning and communication is directed more towards manipulation or persuasion than exploration of truth.
  3. Morality is a crucial element of tribalism which is the building block for the development of large, cooperative societies.

A bit of personal reflection opens a window of understanding of how I’m more often than not influence by what feels right and yes, the importance I place in intuition over reasoning.  Often a movement towards “spiritual” reasoning occurs after a period of solitude and contemplation.

There is also an awareness that I do enjoy the rhythmic power of football tribalism while being perplexed by a religious leader’s comment about limiting compassion to one’s own tribe.

Then finally…do I acknowledge the possibility of some hidden agenda to persuade you to join me in what feels right over someone else’s sense of right?  Ugh, I think I’ll close this window for a bit and open one that has us explore a new empathy.

…we have an existential threat on our hands..we need a new kind of empathy…if you want to escape from this [the anger and worry of the last year], read Buddha, read Jesus, read Marcus Aurelius. They have all kinds of great advice for how to drop the fear, reframe things, stop seeing the other people as your enemy. There’s a lot of guidance in ancient wisdom…(Jonathan Haidt)

Ancient wisdom guiding us to “a new kind of empathy.”  I believe that the on-the-ground community response to Harvey is a living example of an ancient empathy that has the potential to heal.

I invite you to listen to the TED talk below in which social psychologists Jonathan Haidt and TED Curator Chris Anderson explore the sharp divisions of today and then discuss how we may be able to move forward.   _()_

I am them, they are me


The awareness of “I” emerges from a reflection of the stream of experiential consciousness that awakens when one becomes aware of being observed by an internalized watcher or seer who is felt but never known. This wavering consciousness, an “I”, knits together streams of memories, thoughts, feelings, and interactions in such a manner that formulates an awareness of continuity, striving, identity, as well as an sense of other.

Buddhist psychology suggests that the personal self that we experience, perceive, and conceive arises from five material and non-material elements: our bodies, feelings, perceptions, thoughts, and consciousness. These five categories of self introduce us to the nature of our being. We are the five and the five are us. Whatever we identify with, whatever we hold to as our self, falls within this collection. Together they generate the whole array of thoughts, emotions, ideas, and dispositions in which we dwell, “our world.”

Buddhism notes that these five elements, neither singly or collectively, constitute any permanent unchanging self, nor is there to be found any self apart from them. Hence the belief in a permanent solid self proves to be a mere illusion as we find a self riddled with gaps and ambiguities that appear coherent because of the monologue we keep repeating, editing, censoring, and embellishing in our minds.

Taking this discussion further, when we hold a rose we see that it also is composed of multiple elements, some tangible – leaves, stem, thorns, petals, stamens – and others intangible – scent, color, memories.  If you were to remove any of these constituent parts, would you find an consistent, unchanging entity know as “rose”? As we are unable to find a permanent rose in the absence of any one of these parts, we are also unable to find an enduring rose in any one of these elements.


Contemplating the absence of an enduring and solid rose, is the mental “knowing” of the rose within the dynamics of I, the subject, and the rose, the object. To hold a rose is also to hold in your hand all the elements that make up both the tangible and intangible: the sun, rain, soil, eyes, nose, touch, consciousness, etc.

Thich Nhat Hanh tells us, “When we look at a chair, we see the wood, but we fail to observe the tree, the forest, the carpenter, or our own mind. When we meditate on it, we can see the entire universe in all its inter-woven and interdependent relations in the chair. The presence of the wood reveals the presence of the tree. The presence of the leaf reveals the presence of the sun. The presence of the apple blossoms reveals the presence of the apple. Meditators can see the one in the many, and the many in the one. Even before they can see the chair, they can see its presence in the heart of living reality. The chair is not separate. It exits only in its interdependent relations with everything else in the universe. It is because all other things are. It is is not, then all other things are not either.”


The words of Thich Nhat Hanh invites me to imagine the multiple phenomena present within both the rose and chair—sun, earth, rain, bacteria, worms, horticulturist, carpenter—to list a few. When I explore the elements within the horticulturist, my mind visualizes parents, doctors, teachers, grocery clerks, farmers, machinists, seamstress, etc. To extend this contemplation to the seamstress brings me to consider what elements are within designer labels: silk, bombyx mori, Chinese sericulture, organic nutrients, incubators, glass containers, designers, paper, sewing machines, laborers, mulberry trees, and the person who identifies herself with designer labels.

So…what elements are within a person who has an interdependent relationship with the phenomena of designer labels? If we were to remove all of the elements within labels what or who would actually be removed and what sense of “I” would remain?

What kind of world would it be if she and I came to honor and respect our interdependence with the seamstress, migrant worker, sales clerk, janitor, secretary, unemployed, homeless, negated other, rose and chair? If she and I saw that “I am them, and they are me?”

In summary, I draw upon Thich Nhat Hanh’s writing, “…An awakened individual vividly sees the non-chair elements when looking at the chair, and realizes that the chair has no boundaries, no beginning, and no end.

” …To deny the existence of a chair is to end the presence of the whole universe.

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Sun, My Heart
B Catherine Koeford, A Meditative Journey with Saldage

the flogsta roar

Some mornings after a review of the news, I become acquainted with a sense of confused powerlessness wishing for a place to scream…loudly and safely scream into the darkness of despair.  Uppsala, Sweden may be that place.

dandelion project

“Bodhi means being awake, and satttva means a living being, so bodhisattva means an awakened being.  All of us are sometimes bodhisattvas, and sometimes not.


“Understanding is like water flowing in a stream. Wisdom and knowledge are solid and can block our understanding. In Buddhism, knowledge is regarded as an obstacle for understanding. If we take something to be the truth, we may cling to it so much that even if the truth comes and knocks at our door, we won’t want to let it in.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Understanding