A Lotus Grows in Brooklyn

Morning Wisdom
October 6, 2010, 8:57 am
Filed under: Buddhism, Photography, Quotes | Tags: , , , ,

“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”

—Thich Nhat Hanh

Love this quote. I feel it’s something I could repeat to myself in the mornings and find inspiration to try to be my best self every day.

Photo by apdk on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.


Contemplating Death and Spirituality on a Friday Night
June 2, 2010, 1:26 pm
Filed under: Arts, Buddhism, Hinduism | Tags: , , ,

In an accidentally timely move for Memorial Day weekend, on Friday a friend and I strolled to the Rubin Museum of Art to take in the current exhibit “Death Across Cultures.” The Rubin is a lovely little spiral-shaped museum that calls itself the keeper of “art of the Himalayas.” But really it’s a gem of a place in Chelsea that exhibits art and artifacts related to Buddhism, Hinduism, and occasionally Jainism—the spiritual traditions that were born and still thrive in the Himalayan region.

On this visit (timed for a Friday after 7:30 when admission is free, fyi), I got entranced by several paintings of gods and goddesses in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition that are part of the permanent collection.  There is so much going on in these intricate works that you can stare at them for hours and keep seeing new features.

Alas, we didn’t have hours so we moved on to the upper two floors, which until August are housing the exhibit on death. Upon reaching the top of the stairs you are confronted by a giant banner hanging from the ceiling that proclaims “Remember that you will die.” This absolutely stopped me in my tracks, which is of course the intended effect. There’s no escaping that fact, is there, although we try our darnedest throughout most of our lives.

The exhibit consists of items of death imagery from across various traditions, and the most interesting aspect is that they’ve displayed Buddhist art dealing with deal on one half of the top floor and Christian art and icons on the other half. Seeing the memento mori of Christianity set against the Buddhist Wheel of Life really brought home to me how utterly different the two cosmologies are.

Even as someone who doesn’t really accept the idea of successive lives in which one gets to continue bettering oneself on the path toward enlightenment, I find the Buddhist (and Hindu) belief system much more appealing. And I find it inspiring, in that you get to keep trying, and you need to make the most of this human life because it’s only in this form that you have the chance to really do what’s right for yourself and for those around you.

I highly recommend visiting the Rubin while this exhibit is up, or at any time, really. On Fridays they also show thought-provoking films in their Cabaret Cinema event. Plus, they’ve got a shop full of neato books, jewelry, scarves and other items from Eastern spiritual traditions. (Hint! Want to buy me a gift? Go there! 🙂 )

Happy Earth Day 2010!

John Muir said:

“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.”

“Brought into right relationships with the wilderness, man would see that his appropriation of Earth’s resources beyond his personal needs would only bring imbalance and begat ultimate loss and poverty by all.”

“The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls. ”

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama said:

“As people alive today, we must consider future generations: a clean environment is a human right like any other. It is therefore part of our responsibility towards others to ensure that the world we pass on is as healthy, if not healthier, than we found it.”

There is so much I could say about what Earth Day means. Let me just say this:

Please take the time today to reflect on how your choices of consumption, transportation, lifestyle, and diet affect the world around you.

Some wonderful resources:

Earth Day 2010

Environmental destruction caused by the meat industry

Buddhist ideas for saving the planet

Earth Day events in NYC

Treehugger.com: A great general environmental site

More amazing and inspiring quotes by John Muir (I ♥ him!)

My favorite green organizations (donate! volunteer!):

The Nature Conservancy

Sierra Club

Save-the-Redwoods League

Natural Resources Defense Council

Environmental Defense Fund

The Wilderness Society

Photo of tender new heart-shaped leaf taken by me in a church courtyard a couple days ago. Photo of nifty video suspended globe at OMSI by my brother Steven. See more at his blog.

For a Free Tibet
March 13, 2010, 7:14 pm
Filed under: Buddhism, New York miscellany | Tags: , , , ,

This past gray, chilly Wednesday evening I came upon a Free Tibet protest in Union Square, which was peaceful, respectful, and of course, well-regulated by the NYPD. I later learned that it was part of worldwide protest to “commemorate the 51st anniversary of Tibetan National Uprising Day and to show solidarity with a new nonviolent resistance movement gaining momentum in Tibet,” according to Phayul.com.

There had been a march over the Brooklyn Bridge to the U.N. earlier in the day, and the rally I saw was apparently a group of Uigyur students describing how similar their struggle is to the Tibetan struggle, which is interesting

I thought I’d share a few photos.

Friday Wisdom
March 5, 2010, 11:40 am
Filed under: Buddhism, Photography, Quotes | Tags: , ,

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but due to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

—Marcus Aurelius

Photo by paul+photos=moody on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

Last-Minute Holiday Gifts for Cool* People!

*That is, people who are concerned about their impact on the Earth, who are interested in furthering their own development as human beings, and who love good food.



Manduka eKo Yoga Mat

I’ve had one of these since the spring, when I could finally no longer in good conscience use my toxic plastic mat. It’s thick, luxurious, and just the perfect amount of sticky. I use it every morning and night—making it probably my most intimate and cherished possession currently. (That’s my very own moss-colored mat in the photo.)

Food, Inc.

Buy this DVD, show it to everyone you know, change the world! It’s that simple. Do it now. Future generations will thank you.



The Lunchbox Bunch Totes

Kathy Patalsky, creator of The Lunchbox Bunch and Healthy.Happy.Life (one of my fave vegan blogs—great recipes, beautiful photos, and lots of posts!) sells adorable veggie totes in a wide range of designs, styles, and colors—and for pretty cheap!


 Evolve Accessories

I heard about this new cruelty-free jewelry company from its proprietor at Vegan Drinks. A lovely, original way to represent your beliefs.

Vegetable Slut Buttons

I will never get tired of these! (I currently own the “I {heart} vegan girls” and the “I {heart} vegan boys”—love for everyone!) Buy online or at Viva pizza in the East Village or at MooShoes on the Lower East Side.


The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food

Best advocacy book for veganism in a long while. Perfect for omnivores who don’t want to read a screed about their eating but are interested in learning more about the meat, poultry, egg, and dairy industries’ impact on animals and the environment. There’s a must-read section on how the only way omnivores can eat is through willful denial at every meal.  The paperback comes out in April, but you really shouldn’t wait till then to read this book.

Vegan Brunch: Homestyle Recipes Worth Waking Up For—From Asparagus Omelets to Pumpkin Pancakes

I can’t wait until Terry Hope Romero’s Viva Vegan! Latin cookbook comes out in April, but in the meantime, I’ll be hoping to receive for Christmas her friend Isa’s recent release, Vegan Brunch, which is full of insane deliciousness.  

Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha

I’ve read many books on Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism this year, but this is the one that is really changing my life and guiding me down the path to clarity, peace, and happiness. Om.  


The Little Book of Hindu Deities: From the Goddess of Wealth to the Sacred Cow

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Someone please buy me this book so I can stop fondling it in bookstores. So freaking cute!



The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet

I have not read this, and I will always feel weird about Ms. Aerosmith Video becoming someone I kind of admire. But this year Alicia Silverstone has emerged as a vegan icon (and our first “sparkle vegan”) and I very much appreciate her work in getting the word out, and am interested in what she has to say in this book.


Daiya Vegan Cheese

Probably the No. 1 topic in the vegan community this year, this cheesiest of vegan cheeses has taken our world by storm—a gooey, melty, über-yummy storm. It debuted in April and is still available retail in only very limited locations, especially on the East Coast. If you love a vegan, buy her (ahem!) some of this cheese in bulk online. Then have her make you a quesadilla and you’ll see why all the fuss!


Seems like vegans these days are moving away from nutritional yeast as a parmesan-like condiment or ingredient.  You either like the flavor or you don’t. A great alternative is Parma!, which comes in various flavors and combines nutritional yeast with walnuts and other flavorings. I was actually already given this as a gift by a kind gentleman, and I think it really adds to pizza and pasta. In New York, it’s no longer carried at Whole Foods here, but you can find it at other, better natural markets (see list here).

And above all, remember that the holidays are not about gifts but about sharing warm experiences with those you love. So if you’re poor (and who’s not right now?) consider alternative gifts: crafting, baking, regifting, offering favors, or simply spending happy times together and being glad you’re all in this world at the same time.

Happy holidays!

Letting Be
December 9, 2009, 2:47 pm
Filed under: Books, Buddhism, Photography, Quotes | Tags: , , , , ,

Reading Wherever You Go, There You Are this morning on the train, I came across the following passage from Walden, which made me realize that while I own several copies of Thoreau’s classic work, I’ve never actually read the whole thing. This will be remedied tout de suite.

This passage was used by Jon Kabat-Zinn to demonstrate what everyday meditation can be like—being truly enveloped by and aware of the world around us. Sounds heavenly. (But is not, of course! Is available to any of us on this Earth who will sit still and be at peace.)

“There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hands. I love a broad margin to my life.Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sing around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveller’s wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time.

“I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance. I realized what the Orientals mean by contemplation and the forsaking of works. For the most part, I minded not how the hours went. The day advanced as if to light some work of mine; it was morning, and lo, now it is evening, and nothing memorable is accomplished.

“Instead of singing like the birds, I silently smiled at my incessant good fortune. As the sparrow had its trill, sitting on the hickory before my door, so had I my chuckle or suppressed warble which he might hear out of my nest. My days were not days of the week, bearing the stamp of any heathen deity, nor were they minced into hours and fretted by the ticking of a clock; for I lived like the Puri Indians,of whom it is said that ‘for yesterday, today, and tomorrow they have only one word, and they express the variety of meaning by pointing backward for yesterday forward for tomorrow, and overhead for the passing day.’

“This was sheer idleness to my fellow-townsmen, no doubt; but if the birds and flowers had tried me by their standard, I should not have been found wanting. A man must find his occasions in himself, it is true. The natural day is very calm, and will hardly reprove his indolence.”

—Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Photo of Walden Pond quatro.sinko on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.