Sunday, January 1, 2012

year three: Right Speech

2011 was my year of Right Intention, the second of the Noble Eightfold Path. Right Intention was a tough one: mostly residing within my head. i set myself to commit to abstaining from attachments, preventing ill-will, and stopping harm. i found myself indulging attachments often, and often caught feelings of ill-will even when i did not act on them. in these moments, i reminded myself the connection between Right Intention and Right View--remembering that the intention of ethical conduct can only be built upon seeing what is actually happening in the world, rather than skewing my view to my attachments or fears.

as with Right View, i feel as though i could spend a lifetime devoted only to Right Intention. however, since i have set myself to the task of covering the each of the Noble Eightfold Path, i must move on while also keeping in mind the power and necessity of Right Intention (and, with Right View, both elements of Wisdom) as i move on to Ethnical Conduct.

2012 is devoted to Right Speech. as i reiterate, the Noble Eightfold Path is not a sequence, it is one path with eight elements. however, i hope that through concentrating on one element per year, it will ease pursuing my ultimate goal of deeper mindfulness, true compassion, and working toward the liberation of all beings.

Right Speech is extremely important in the core beliefs of Buddhism. not only is it the first aspect of ethical conduct in the Noble Eightfold Path, it is one of the five precepts, along with abstention from taking life, abstention from stealing, abstention from sexual misconduct, and abstention from drunkenness or intoxication to the point of heedlessness. as with many spiritual traditions, Buddhism apparently puts much stock in the importance and power of speech.

in short, Right Speech comprises four main points: abstention from false speech or lying, abstention from divisive speech, abstention from harsh or abusive speech, and abstention from idle chatter. put positively, right speech means telling the truth, speaking toward concord, speaking pleasantly, and only speaking necessarily.

in more detail, the abhaya sutta states that according to Gotama:

In the case of words that [are] unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial (or: not connected with the goal), unendearing and disagreeable to others, do not say them.

In the case of words that [are] factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing and disagreeable to others, do not say them.

In the case of words that [are] factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing and disagreeable to others, have a sense of the proper time for saying them.

In the case of words that [are] unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing and agreeable to others, do not say them.

In the case of words that [are] factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing and agreeable to others, do not say them.

In the case of words that [are] factual, true, beneficial, and endearing and agreeable to others, have a sense of the proper time for saying them.

in order for things to be said, they must be both true and beneficial. if they are disagreeable, they timeliness is of utmost importance. finally, even if something is true, if it is not beneficial, it need not be said.

if we desire to admonish others, we must then also consider the following:

[1] Do I speak at the right time, or not?

[2] Do I speak of facts, or not?

[3] Do I speak gently or harshly?

[4] Do I speak profitable words or not?

[5] Do I speak with a kindly heart, or inwardly malicious?

only upon considering these five can we admonish another.

i also interpret Right Speech as encompassing the written word as well, and it incorporates what many have termed as Right Listening--especially for the "timeliness" aspect of Right Speech.

as my community, i report this to you to ask for support and mutual respect in the continued search for the path forward. and if you find solace in the Noble Eightfold Path, that we can walk it together:

1. Right View (wisdom)

2. Right Intention (wisdom)

3. Right Speech (ethical conduct)

4. Right Action (ethical conduct)

5. Right Livelihood (ethical conduct)

6. Right Effort (mental development)

7. Right Mindfulness (mental development)

8. Right Concentration (mental development)

As with last year, I close with a quote about Right Speech from here.

Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct in the eightfold path. Ethical conduct is viewed as a guideline to moral discipline, which supports the other principles of the path. This aspect is not self-sufficient, however, essential, because mental purification can only be achieved through the cultivation of ethical conduct. The importance of speech in the context of Buddhist ethics is obvious: words can break or save lives, make enemies or friends, start war or create peace. Buddha explained right speech as follows: 1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully, 2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others, 3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others, and 4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth. Positively phrased, this means to tell the truth, to speak friendly, warm, and gently and to talk only when necessary.

i look forward to working on this year of Right Speech.


Monday, January 3, 2011

year two: Right Intention

as you may know, 2010 was my year of Right View (see my note from dec 2009), the first of the Noble Eightfold Path. i spent the year reflecting on what it means to see the world "exactly as it is," and to remind myself to stay close to reality: to see suffering for suffering and joy for joy; to not over-complicate what is simple, and to not simplify what is complicated; to remember what has been, to live in what is, and to not to make up what has not yet become; to move through the day-to-day seeing myself and other beings as living in the same space, occupying the same time, and breathing the same air

it was an immense challenge. i am quite certain that i have absolutely no mastery over Right View. but i did notice some times when i had quite Wrong View: when i obsessed over things, people and events that were symbols of what i really needed to address; when i did not see my actions causing dis-ease for others; when i did not see my own dis-ease that might have been caused by something/someone else; when i could not feel loving toward those i loved and when i could not feel joyous when surrounded by joy. that was the movement: the first step toward Right View is noticing Wrong View.

i feel like i could spend my whole life devoted only to Right View but that was not the task i set myself. besides, to move on in the Noble Eightfold Path, i must keep addressing and aspiring to Right View, always.

2011 is devoted to Right Intention. as i mentioned last year, the Noble Eightfold Path is not a sequence of steps. it is one path to wisdom broken down into eight elements. my hope, though, is that through spending one year devoted to Right Intention, i can continue my resolve and dedication toward deeper mindfulness, compassion, and hope for the liberation of all beings.

Right Intention is the second aspect of wisdom, and is positioned between the perceptive/receiving skill required of Right View and the kinetic/doing skill required of the three ethical conducts beginning with Right Speech. it is the breath between knowing suffering and doing something to end suffering. it is the fulcrum between decision and discipline. without Right Intention, all efforts toward liberation are mere exercises, leading either to more suffering or to sisyphean cycles of fruitlessness. perhaps noticing my Wrong Views last year that involved obsession, joylessness, and lovelessness can help point me toward the three aspects of Right Intention: letting go of attachments, releasing rage, and resisting destruction.

as my community, i report this to you to ask for support and mutual respect in the continued search for the path forward. and if you find solace in the Noble Eightfold Path, that we can walk it together:

1. Right View (wisdom)

2. Right Intention (wisdom)

3. Right Speech (ethical conduct)

4. Right Action (ethical conduct)

5. Right Livelihood (ethical conduct)

6. Right Effort (mental development)

7. Right Mindfulness (mental development)

8. Right Concentration (mental development)

As with last year, I close with a quote about Right Intention from here.

While right view refers to the cognitive aspect of wisdom, right intention refers to the volitional aspect, i.e. the kind of mental energy that controls our actions. Right intention can be described best as commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement. Buddha distinguishes three types of right intentions: 1. the intention of renunciation, which means resistance to the pull of desire, 2. the intention of good will, meaning resistance to feelings of anger and aversion, and 3. the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly, violently, or aggressively, and to develop compassion.

I think 2011 will be awesome.

love and light,


Sunday, November 28, 2010


that turpentine stench first
filled my nostrils very young. she
stood with an apron in the laundry
room; pausing, standing back, knitting her brow

each of us sitting for at least
one portrait. she tried water,
then charcoal, but really loved
oil. burnt umber, prussian blue, sap green

viridian. she said, we try not to use too much
black or white. those colors don't really
exist in the world. try to show the hues using
different colors; it's more interesting and true

she was jealous of those pastes.
watching pbs, sucking her teeth: that's
an expensive color! so much that
christmas memories are filled

with small boxes holding tubes
cadmium yellow, light; van dyck brown; payne's gray
each year, more tubes and tubes
it felt like she never had enough.

in my house, over the piano she made me keep playing as a child
hangs her last oil
the boldest, most dynamic piece of landscape
she'd ever painted

subtle, muted, green mixed with violet, the trees almost
mourn with me, the loss of their maker
when we cleaned out her things
a whole room filled with easels

sketchbooks, unused yarn, fabric scraps, calligraphy brushes
ink stones, rice paper, photographs
and a green tackle box filled with
paint tubes

no one else wanted the supplies
so i took them. sullen.
i don't know how to paint with oils
i've kept them in this house for almost nine years

meanwhile, i take a job in an art department
where every other person is a painter
longing for more supplies
i remain jealous of those tubes just like her

but then, three weeks ago my not-supervisor's
sister drops dead suddenly
no one knows why
she flies across the country

to tend to body and mind
arrives at work three days later
red-eyed with smokey hair, says:
where else am i going to go?

not-supervisor is a painter
a very successful one, until life happened
and she had to support kids; family
she specializes in a certain symmetry; she's not

picky about paint. but she uses
a lot of it
today, i sort through my work space
find that green tackle box

smelling of the turpentine that
wafts through laundry room memories
i will never sit a portrait for mom again.
so i find a clean bag

place each paint tube in it
write down the name of each color
wrap them up, nice and neat
for transport in the morning

i hope not-supervisor will use every one
to remember her sister
so i can let go of my mother
and more things can be made

again, and again, and again.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


london was near a beach.

i was walking along this beach with a flamboyant man of chinese descent who was apparently my father.

the beach was strewn with detritus.

but that didn't matter; i was searching for something. what it was, i cannot recall.

upon a hill, we saw a structure. it was old, and at first, seemed abandoned. we passed by the structure, arguing. but something about the structure brought us back--maybe we heard a sound or i needed to use the toilet.

we walked up the hill, my "father" swishing behind me. when we arrived at the building, we quickly recognized it was a church. i looked into the main chapel and scoffed: why build the pulpit facing the sea? the congregation should face the ocean, so the sermon will feel like it is rising from the blue deep!

we walked through the rest of the church and found it was, in fact, full.

we turned the corner and there were many elderly people, almost entirely afro-caribbean, desi, or chinese. my "father" began to smile widely and spoke with a man who had a heavy jamaican accent. everyone was smiling at me.

he said: yes, yes. we welcome all kinds here. well. every church will say that. but look here--we have every shade of black and brown here; some with arthritis, some not. the young ones, they are upstairs. some of them are confused, searching for something. and some of them have pink hair.

i understood that pink hair meant queer.

he continued: but the reason all shades of black and brown and confused and pink-haired come here is because we know--it is a tough thing to be brown in this world--

the man and my "father" looked directly into my eyes--

but some of the people who are brown also have pink hair--

his eyes were full of pathos, and my "father" replied--

and that's even tougher.


i woke up.

this was the first time in a few weeks that i woke up and did not feel depressed. i felt loved. and determined. as if the ancestors understood the struggle i am facing as they were looking on with loving eyes.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

my house

in manila
there is a building
built for an international festival
by the over zealous wife of a dictator

in their haste, they
built too fast
sealing bodies of builders
in the too-wet foundation of the edifice

now, the building lies empty
ignored, forgotten
a tomb commemorating
the hubris of megalomaniacs

in my city where
tech boom meets econo-bust
whole neighborhoods are built
in weeks

they look prim, proper, perfectly
middle class. humming with the rhythms
of aspiration and need.
only during harsh weather

do their owners listen carefully
to the paper-thin walls
and the winds threatening to pull up
the homes from the earth

when the two towers fell
and they took away the rubble
what was left was a mammoth of a

whole structures
never stand
without deep roots
routes to strength and certainty

but digging is hard; it takes
strong backs, persistence
sometimes we can guess map what veins of dirt we will hit
but mostly, everything is a surprise

sand, rock, loam, old refrigerators
brick, shale, the skeleton of a long-lost possom
gas pockets, pipes, geysers,

the deeper we dig those holes
the stronger the house becomes
but the more we must unearth
the more secrets and surprises we must witness

for with height comes depth
just like how we don't listen through the chatter
but the strongest voices are borne
out of the stillest silence

so is the gentlest love
borne sometimes from solitude
or the ripest fruit
borne from rot and decay

my house, so loyal, so warm
has had cracks in its walls from the day
i moved in
the foundation sits on sand

in this house, though, i have built a home
with tenderness and thought
that has weathered many storms
i take those cracks as testament

to the hope i hold in my heart
and now, i must dig deep
to build, to rebuild, to withstand the ever-coming wind
the digging can be rough

lasting until the wee hours
full of tears and whispered screams
refuse of the past
that can still bear us fruit

i see those suburban houses
prim and sweet; sometimes
they seem to be perfect
but i know

i would rather get my hands dirty
in the soil beneath my feet
to build and rebuild with purpose
than watch perceived perfection

blow away with the slightest
breeze; my house
will always be strong
digging deep

into the depths of the soul

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


sometimes i miss myself
talking past the horizon
i think if i can look far enough
something will become clearer

i wonder if in this habit
i've become unable to
see what lies
closer than anything else

32 years
and still
i'm learning to be a better roomate
with myself

we fight sometimes
but mostly
we turn up the noise
shut our doors

and wait. no
maybe that's not it at
all these days i don't
recall youth

smiling softly,
patient like nursing
a chronic wound
nagging yet healing

yes. that might have been me
young shoots across
fertile land
fleeting and going

on and on. this morning
i woke with little left
but the dew on my finger tips
reminding me

of her. i am
waiting and healing
and remembering what
warmth of other

warmth of self feels
like. never ending
softness splayed across
wisps of freedom.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


letting go is not letting go it is returning to turn and turn to return and skies filled with marbles that rain rain reign the heart of head of heart of heading to the place where i held you tight but loose too tight to let you go too loose to keep you there the sprinkling lights reflecting off the imagined mirror ball on the new hampshire red road turning turning turning around around a round headed kid like me wanted to keep holding on to your now wrinkled yet somehow young hand that once stroked my hair in the moonlit darkness the night after a typhoon-swept tree had fallen on the house in the mountains where we took care of the woman of a womb that bore you so late not too late but still late like you bore me in the warmth of that late summer air when we both looked forward as i confessed i'd gone and fallen in love and what a time to fall in love and you said love is good love is great you should fall in love and what you didn't say was because you will need the love soon because even though i will love you forever i won't always be around to remind you that i do.

incense fragrant
a loss fragrant in sense
incensed at loss

release is everyday now with and without you when you left i thought no mistook no wondered no assumed no forgot yes forgot that releasing your body was not releasing you yes forgot that you were still existing still in my pores still wafting on the breeze in my ears on the memories i still tell and recall in stillness of light yes still body racing mind i must yes to seeing you everywhere yes to light raining down yes to releasing more and more to listening with confusion yes to confusion yes to a car ride back from a mall in a tiny car you know you no more false pride not saying yes but yes to saying i want your child your queer child you just need to find a random asian man i want yes an asian grandchild your child yes you would raise yes and smiling at knowing not quite yet but maybe future yes embarrassed at boldness no regrets when you said those words i knew you finally saw me yes me yes meet me half of the way to the altar of sight you had let me go and then you saw and now i let you go and maybe see you back lit seeing to see the sunsets and storms and soft finger tips at edges end blue baby glory of the once.