A Turnip Looks at Life

Viewpoints From a Man Who Takes Everything Too Seriously

Shoveling the Dukkha

The Pali word Dukkha is a weird one for English-speaking ears. It’s simplest translation is unease or discomfort. It can also be translated as unhappiness.

In Buddhism, Dukkha is the mental state that arises when we don’t get what we want. So we have expectations (grasping) and those expectations  are not met and Dukkha arises. The whole cycle is called Samsara, or Samsaric existence.

I’ve probably written this post before. This is now the fifth blog devoted in whole or part to Buddhism that I have written or co-written.  writing is part of my practice.  I couldn’t direct you to those posts if I wanted to. I had them all archived on Posterous at one point but then twitter bought that and they went away and I never made a serious attempt to gather them all up again.

I know I am rambling. I am in shock. I am under a mountain of Dukkha, today. The Electoral Math in this Presidential election was damned near impossible for Donald Trump, but the polls were so wrong that they might as well have been regarding a different candidate slate.

So what do we do?

We do Mettā, or loving-kindness meditation.

  • Start with yourself and focus all the love you can muster on your self. Think about everything you like about yourself. Do this for about 20-30 seconds.
  • Next do the same for you closest family members and friends.
  • Next your extended circle of acquaintances. At this point it might be difficult to think of specific things you like about the group and that’s okay just think compassion and love.
  • Now your state.
  • Now the Nation.
  • Now the World
  • Finally, and this is the hard one, think specifically about someone who has your directed animosity. Someone you might consider your enemy. Include those you might consider as enemies of your ethnicity, nation or mankind.
  • Repeat the process in reverse until you are back to you.

Why do we do this? Well Science has shown that that when we consciously focus on the good and love and kindness our neurons can hardwire to do this more often. This is called Neuroplasticity and the concept enjoys wide-spread acceptance in the medical and psychological communities. If you’re interested in this concept you might check out Dr. Norman Doidge’s Book The Brain That Changes itself. 

So, be kind.

Anyways, the world probably isn’t ending in January.





Consent: Why it’s important

I don’t know when Cracked became a serious voice of reason and tolerance instead of a site filled with sight gags and scatological humor. Nevertheless, it has somehow happened.

Read this article, then come back. I’ll wait.

Let’s start at the beginning: All Buddhists follow some form of Ahimsa, that can take many forms, from just abstaining for killing, like the Judeo-Christian commandment, to, as many Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists practice it, strict vegetarianism.

Continue reading “Consent: Why it’s important”

Dropping The Struggle

A friend of mine loves to talk about the struggle, though he always writes it #thestruggle.

When he talks about it is basically saying that life is hard for everyone. I tend to agree. The Buddhist concept of Samsara teaches us that life is suffering, another translation of Samsara might be struggling. In other words, the Buddha taught that the Struggle is Real.

Continue reading “Dropping The Struggle”

Guns, Germs, and HATE?

Ok, I’ve written/posted a few religion type posts. I don’t want you to think that’s all I think about or write about, because it’s not.

Today I’m going to write about a History topic. One that’s kind of divisive among amatuer Historians and History buffs, but not one that mid-level Academics, like myself, see as particularly controversial.

Continue reading “Guns, Germs, and HATE?”

The Stylings of the Sacred Fool: Pay Attention

This post originally appeared on my old Houston Chronicle Blog Zen Chalice on April 4, 2012.


Throughout history there have been those who have stood outside the mainstream. In Ancient times, these folks called themselves prophets. Now most who would deign to do so would be assumed to have a mental illness.

Sometimes these men and women have needed to take dramatic measures to get us to pay attention. Sometimes we need to be shocked into awareness.

Would anyone have paid attention to Martin Luther if he hadn’t made the bold gesture to hammer his treatise to the cathedral door?

Pay Attention.

Continue reading “The Stylings of the Sacred Fool: Pay Attention”

Don’t Be a Jerk: A Book Review

dont be a jerk cover

In his new book, well-known punk-rock musician and Soto Zen teacher, Brad Warner takes an irreverent look at the text of the Shobogenzo, well, part of it, anyways. Brad quickly intimates that this will be the first volume of several, perhaps many. That’s kind of a no duh situation for those of you familiar with the sheer size of the work.

Continue reading “Don’t Be a Jerk: A Book Review”

The Conversion That Wasn’t

Some of you might be familiar with my blogging work.

I write a couple currently:

Bayou City Buddhist (defunct)

The Transforming Man (defunct)

And now this one.

I also started Bayou Buddhists here at the Chronicle which is now or soon will be defunct. I haven’t posted there in some time but one of my coauthors posted there recently so, for now, it’s still viable and I’m told the archives will remain up if you want to go and read those.

Continue reading “The Conversion That Wasn’t”

Taxes: They aren’t YOUR money

I saw a poignant comment on Reddit the other day that encapsulates one of our fundamental disagreements in the USA: Taxes aren’t YOUR money. You may think of them that way, but you’re completely at odds with the philosophical underpinnings of our nation and the Western world. Continue reading “Taxes: They aren’t YOUR money”

Book Review: Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945

For More context on the author this is a great video,

David M. Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945

(New York : Oxford University Press, 1999).

The era following the catastrophic stock market crash of 1929 through the end of World War II is one of our most persistent modern American fairy-tales. The fact that most of it is true doesn’t change the near magical quality of the nation’s transformation from record high unemployment and the sociological basement of the dustbowl to the beginning of the halcyon era of American manufacturing dominance. David M. Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize winning book is a through and comprehensive volume of focused scholarship on the era between the wars. He does drift into pop history, but there is substantial historiographical development as well. Continue reading “Book Review: Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945”

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