Category Archives: Portland Friends of the Dhamma

Dhamma and the Hot Seat

Much like my inner world these days, the skies here in Portland offer obvious contrasts: bright and dark, jagged and smooth, aggressive and calm. Watching the visual comings and goings in the empty space of spring offers dimensional form to the challenges of my emotional world. Interestingly, when looking from a point of view of my Buddhist practice, that which stirs fear and trepidation in my heart also lends exciting possibility for positive change. How gracefully will I handle change when and how it comes? I am curious to find out . . .

The Portland Friends of the Dhamma Center is working through a process to identify our community’s vision, describe and assign roles and finalize our by-laws. It’s a precious time for transparency, vulnerability and integrity. We are very fortunate to have secured Mary Grace Orr to facilitate as she is familiar with our lineage and a several members of our community.

As founder and current Dhamma leader I’m anticipating my seat will be brimming with opportunity to call on my practice. We’ll see how graceful (or not) I handle the challenges as they arise . . . and pass away; thank goodness for refuge ;)

Will write again in a couple weeks and let you know how things turn out, or in, or whatever the case may be . . .

Won’t You Guide My Mind Tonight ?

Ajahn Thanissaro visited our center recently. I’m guessing his teachings took on a variety of themes dependent on the individuals of his audience. A theme that emerged for me was to actively take responsibility for the atmosphere of my heart and mind by paying attention to what perceptions I gave my attention to.

As mentioned in my last post, my current practice is focused on loosening my grip around some particular out-of-date perceptions. Sure, these perception were useful in their time but, as with all things that arise, these too are beginning to age. The question now is ‘can I learn how to let them die’? Well maybe not before I learn how to stop giving them so much attention. Applying Ajahn’s advice seemed a good direction to head . . .

I spent the best part of yesterday trying to put together a slide show for the Upasika program’s second anniversary celebration this Saturday. After several failed attempts to burn a disk of the completed project I finally gave up. When I noticed my mood begin to slip I brought Ajahn’s teachings back to mind and took responsibility for dwelling on the perception of failure. Hours of frustration were indulged before I recalled Ajahn’s advice to purposefully place attention on objects that don’t give rise to suffering. I took immediate action . . . I’m afraid Ajahn would not be proud but what I did next was to turn off the computer and turn on the T.V., made a big bowl a popcorn, put my feet up on the coffee table and watched my all-time-favorite Christmas claymation “Rudolf the Red Nose Raindeer” . . . I mean really, who doesn’t love seeing misfits reach their true potential?

It’s a blizzard in this brain of mine: good thing there’s bright lights to lead the way.
Ajahn Chah feeding deer at his monastery in Ubon, Thailand

Letting My Hair Down

I began this blog with a somewhat narrow ambition: create a space to share the joy that arises from my activities with the Portland Friends of the Dhamma. As the Buddhist center grows I’m finding my involvement and responsibilities appropriately shifting and surprise, surprise, the changes do not always lead to the arising of joy, heh, heh, heh. Hmmmmm . . . My focus for this blog is no longer quite so lofty. Rather, it now expands to a broader purpose of sharing my practice via the challenges and rewards that arise while aiming toward noble and skilfull balance. Kind of like letting go of blissful expectations; let the hair down, the wind blow and the tangles be known. So, in the spirit of sharing “This Upasika Life”, let the blogging proceed.

Notice the top knot of the Buddh’as hair in his lap

A bit of history: Portland Friends of the Dhamma sprung out of a desire to establish and nourish a sense of contact with the Abhayagiri community. As this contact grew I began to seek out others who also found the Ajahn Chah lineage inspiring and began to invite a person here and there, to gather together in the style of the Abhayagiri Monastery.

Within a few months I met Barbara Backstrand and Chris Robson, it was clear we shared a deep appreciation for our meditation styles and decided to anchor our connection with Abhayagiri. We wrote a mission statement, signed a lease on a lovely space and founded the Portland Friends of the Dhamma. That was nearly eight years ago. Barbara and Chris have both moved on, the community has grown and my role as founder is now changing.

The morphing of a founder’s responsibilities is not always an easy or pleasant undertaking. Still I believe it is a necessary step for any expanding community that intends to remain healthy and available to all it draws toward its purpose. I hope to write about the process of morphing, how to approach this as a follower of the Buddha’s example and as one living well “This Upasika Life”.


Mosier Hermitage Comes to its End

Tempatures dip and the rains return to carpet autumn leaves underfoot. The Mosier Summer Hermitage comes to a close. In seven days we’ll pack up the tents, fold up the blankets and send the monks on their way. It’s been a valuable experiment, I’m pleased how many folks took advantage of these venerables presence over these past three months. Maybe, with luck and a lot of good work, we’ll have a monastic presence here year round.

The Living Expression of Dhamma

Alistair and I emerged from our camping/hiking/retreating into the Wallowa Mountains like two gliding geese landing atop a frozen lake. Cloaked in confident demeanors we did our best to gracefully slide through the exciting events ahead.

Ajahn Pasanno traveled to Oregon along with attendant Tan Titabho for a six-day visit. Within this short time frame and with nary a sigh, Ajahn accepted three teaching engagements, a request to preside over a thoroughly organized ‘Hermitage Picnic’ and an invitation to accept ‘Alms on Hawthorne’. Impressively and to the benefit and appreciation of many, he met all of these duties with seemingly ease and lighthearted joy. I say “seemingly” because naturally I don’t really know what goes on for him internally. Still I was struck by his deportment. His manner of expression, whether that be with body or speech seemed consistently poised between integrity and joy.

Michael Stevens and Mimi Maduro’s generous offer to house the monks for this three month Vassa was also the location for the Hermitage Picnic. The events included a bountiful meal, children’s Dhamma program and offering, bubbles, hikes and Dhamma talk and discussion. The weather was warm, windy and all around pleasant. Ending the day with a hike lent an affirming visual to the experiences of this past week, just how lovely the view is when coming from Dhamma.

Portland Friends of the Dhamma taped Ajahn’s Dhamma talks and discussions for anyone interested. As of this writing they are not yet posted so you’ll want to check back in just a few days time. You’ll also find more photo’s of the Alms Round on Hawthorne and Hermitage Picnic.