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Confessions of a Hungry Ghost

I moved out of my parent's house at the age of 18.  The ensuing years involved a series of highs and lows as I struggled to find my place in the world. I graduated college with a B.A. in philosophy. I served 8 years in the U.S. Marines.  Then I entered the civilian world and discovered veterans with liberal arts degrees aren't employable. So, I got a room mate and an apartment in a bad part of town.  I was lulled to sleep by the sound of gunshots each night, and I worked a crappy call center job that didn't pay my bills.  I ate canned ravioli three times a day, and friends commented on how skinny I looked. I was hungry and ashamed.  I'd done everything that the school counselors told me was required for success.  I wore suits to interviews,  I looked potential employers in the eye when I shook their hands, and I even spent money I didn't have to
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Buddhism to Be Murdered By

Eminem dropped a surprise album recently called, Music to Be Murdered By- Side B  The first half of the album was dropped in January of this year,.  In both recordings he took on the entire music industry to prove his continued dominance of the rap game. He went after his his haters, music critics, new-school rappers, old-school rappers, and anyone who might have blinked at him wrong in the last 10 years. Imagine a man screaming, "Get off my lawn," at a bunch of kids while he torches his neighbor's car with a flamethrower.  That was Eminem on the Music to BE Murdered By LP .  And I loved every minute of it.  To be fair, I'm a little biased.  Eminem aka Marshall Mathers and I have a long history. I've never met him in person.  Be there's some common ground.  We both grew up in dying, rustbelt towns, we both got picked on in school, and we both have an unreal amount of family drama. The biggest difference is that Eminem expressed his childhood anger by climbing

Civil War and the Purpose of Buddhist Prayers

Through out history, the only way for someone to forcibly takeover a country was through intrigue and bloodshed. In fact, some of history's greatest rulers (Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun, Shaka Zulu, etc.) were also it's greatest killers; men who walked on the corpses of their enemies to reach the throne. If one looks at the United States, they see more of the same.  The genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of black Africans,  and the mistreatment of women were all done to solidify power in the hands of a chosen few. Thus, the fact that 46 men have been elected to become president of the United States and none of them had to kill or chase off their predecessor is remarkable. Regardless of one's political stance, the fact that our country can pick a leader, and then pick a new one in four years in the same way that one might pick a melon in the super market is cause for celebration.  It's proof that we live in a functioning democracy, and that while our co

Dr. Jill Biden and the Importance of Right Speech

The sad reality for content creators in 2020 is that if they want a large number of people to read their work, it needs to go viral.   In other words, an article needs to get people so hyped up that they have no choice but to read it, share it, and write endless think pieces on it in order to feel some level of catharsis. The writing doesn't need to be good, and it certainly doesn't need to be uplifting.  It just needs to get a reaction.  Often times, the best way to get a piece to go viral is to purposely garner a negative reaction; causing people to argue in the comments section; ensuring that the post will remain relevant for several days. The Wall Street Journal did exactly this on Friday when it published an op-ed called  Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an MD.  In the article, Dr. Joseph Epstein, who claims to hold an honorary doctorate from a school that he doesn't name, spends an inordinate amount of time belittling Dr. Jill Biden's doctorat

Buddhism and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

 My alarm goes off, and I hit the 'snooze' button. Using the least amount of effort possible, I untangle myself from the covers and look out the window.  My spirit drops.  From this angle, all I can see is a featureless gray sky.  Light rain patters the window, and as I listen to it all of the motivation to move, eat, or function in society bleeds from my body.  I'm wide-awake, but it's another three hours before I get out of bed. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of mood disorder that comes and goes with the seasons.  More specifically, people who suffer from SAD tend to lack energy and feel moody during the fall and winter months.  Other symptoms may include fatigue and weight gain.  Scientists aren't sure as to the exact cause of SAD, however, the running theory is that a lack of sunlight in fall and winter causes the brains of some people to produce less serotonin; an important hormone for mood regulation. Buddhist training is NOT a cure for SAD, howev

Rescue Me From Hell

As a child, I became well-versed in the concept of hell.  It was an important part of my training in the Christian, evangelical church.  After all, how could I be a good emissary for the lord if I didn't know what was at stake.   Yes, church picnics and bible camps were fun, but they were also superfluous.  The purpose of Christianity wasn't to help me sell cookies at the church bake sale.  Rather, it was to protect me from an eternity of hellfire and torment   The rules were simple. I had to accept Jesus as my lord and savior, attend church regularly, and pay my tithes.  To do anything less would result in punishment as shown in John 3:16 and John 3:36: (16) For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (36) The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him. Just as as a loving parent will punish thei

Riots, Homesteads, and Buddhist Pure Lands

I live in the downtown area of a major city, and it's a hotspot for rallies and protests of all kinds. Black Lives Matter, Trump, supporters, The Green Party; you name the group and they've protested in my city.  And as a Buddhist minister, part of my work is visiting areas of unrest and being an example of peace.  Sadly, when there are so many groups with different agendas, there is no end to the unrest. I give talks, I teach meditation, and sometimes I sit in silence as the world moves quickly around me.    Simply put, I strive to let people know that Buddha is on the street.  In doing so, it's my hope that they'll know to look for Buddha in their heart. Sometimes, I leave demonstrations and I feel like my work was a success- I had a conversation or provided help to a protester and it felt like I was living the Dharma.  Other times, I leave wondering if my presence made a difference.  Did I provide a living example of Dharma, or did I just walk around in my robes for