Sean Oakes

“It’s like this.”

Suddenly today, it feels like spring. There’s a warm breeze through the back door, and the sky is bright clear blue. Lots of pleasant sense contact, mindfulness might note. Yum. Often nowadays, especially in busy periods where I have less time for formal meditation practice (on the cushion, on the mat), my practice gets really simple. (Maybe it should be …

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State of the Union, 2012

As I write these words, on the train coming home from school (Davis), the president is giving his State of the Union address. Since I can’t watch or listen to him speak, I’ll offer my own version. I’m sure this is exactly what he’s saying: Our union is in a dire state. Nothing new. But what does “union” mean, anyway? …

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Resolutions, Renunciation, Ganesha

As we begin the new year, many of us are making resolutions – often to improve some aspect of our personality or habits. This resolution-making is an aspect of the yogic practice called sankalpa, which is a Sanskrit word often translated as “intention”. Intention is so important on our path as yogis that the Buddha included it as an entire …

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Occupy, karma, results?

Occupy, Karma, Results? Wednesday tens of thousands of people gathered peacefully for the first General Strike in Oakland in 65 years, filled the streets, and shut down the port. People around the world noticed, and many stood in solidarity with the Occupy movement here. Signs appeared in Tahrir Square in Cairo supporting Occupy Oakland! I wasn’t at the port yesterday, …

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Saviors, Eugene

I’ve been thinking about saviors. How much I want one sometimes. How rare they seem! Even though all my Buddhist and yogic teachings about cause and effect don’t really make space for them, somehow there’s still space in my heart for the possibility of being saved. I can imagine salvation, sure, in the impersonal way that openness arises when the …

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Failure, Quan Yin, chant

Many years ago, some weeks into a two-month meditation retreat, I landed in something anyone who has stayed with a practice over time knows is inevitable: I was having a Very Hard Time. I was wilting in the face of an overwhelming doubt and sense of failure. Eventually, I sat in an interview with my teacher Jack and admitted that …

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“You are the music while the music lasts”: Improvisation, practice, silence, research

 There is a Zen riddle that replies to its own question. ‘Does a dog have the Buddha nature?’ the riddle asks. ‘Answer either way and you lose your own Buddha nature.’  Faced with a mystery about divinity, according to the riddle, we must always hover, uncertain, between the two possible answers. Never, on pain of losing our own divinity, are …

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