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Rolling in the Grass

As I write this, it feels like hundreds of ants are biting my arms and legs.  I have a grass allergy, and prolonged exposure results in itching and small bumps appearing on my skin.   It's been this way my whole life. When I was a child I loved playing outdoors with my friends.  We spent countless afternoons wrestling in the grass and hiking through the forest. This led to countless nights when I complained to my mother, "It feels like my skin is on fire!"  She responded by covering me head-to-toe in pink, chamomile lotion to stop the itching. My siblings would joke that I looked like an alien.  We'd all have a good laugh.  And then I'd go back outside the next day to roll around in the grass. Now that I'm a man, I realize my childhood suffering was 100% avoidable.  I could have played games that involved pavement instead of grass.  I could have explored the local mall instead of the forest. But as I think of all the fun I had traipsing through the mud with my
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Love the Fight

No one ever talks about the connection between homesteading and crisis management.   If one goes to Instagram and searches for #homesteadlife or #hobbyfarm, they'll be greeted with pictures of happy chickens, well-groomed garden beds, and barns that look like they came from a magazine. The message is that growing food and caring for animals is a lazy, carefree way to spend one's life.  You can collect eggs in the morning, do yoga in the afternoon, and pose for pictures with your goats without the specters of stress, fear, or worry ever darkening your door. Dear reader, this is a lie from the darkest corner of Avici hell. The process of living on the land is the process of dealing with catastrophe.  In this year alone my rabbits were infected with ear mites, aphids attacked my fruit trees, several garden beds succumbed to pill bug infestations, and my state is experiencing a drought. So much suffering, so little time. But in the midst of all that struggle, there's one inesca

Living a Holy Life

In the meditation hall, I have an altar dedicated to Amida Buddha and the bodhisattvas Kannon and Jizo.  It contains three statues, which bear their respective images along with candles and an incense burner.   The statues are of good quality, but they aren't that different from other figurines.  They're white, standing approximately six inches tall. I bought them on Amazon, and for most of the day, there's nothing special about them. That changes, however, when I perform my Buddhist liturgy.  Twice a day, I light the candles on my altar, I burn incense as an offering, and I bow to those ordinary, everyday statues. In that moment, they are transformed into celestial beings.  They become a source of comfort. They become spiritual guides.  They become holy and sacred in a way that other statues are not. This transformation occurs because each time I bow in front of my altar I shift my relationship to the statues.  I treat them as holy objects, so they become holy.  More than

Do One Good Thing (Dharma Talk)

I discuss strategies for coping with suffering and the importance of focusing on positive actions that we can take in this present moment.  If you enjoyed this Dharma talk, you'll love my books!

Sitting with Buddha and Fixing my House

Two years ago, I bought an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere.   I was tired of the noise and congestion of city life, and I wanted to be closer to nature.  More than that, I wanted to use the skills I'd learned by apprenticing on organic farms across the country. I wanted to build things.  I wanted to grow food. I wanted to care for animals.  And I'm happy to say that I've been able to do all of those things.  One thing I didn't count on, however, was how much time I'd spend renovating my house. Old farmhouses have good bones, but they also need lots of updates/ improvements.  So, I've spent a lot of time working with contractors over the last two years to ensure someone else gets to enjoy this house when I pass into Nirvana. The electricity has been updated, the roof has been replaced, and it seems like the more I do, the more I find that needs to be done. My nature is to be controlling.  I like to make plans and come up with backup plans in the hope that

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  Today, I woke up feeling sad. All of my basic needs are met. I have a pantry full of food and a warm, safe place to sleep at night.  Put simply, my life is going well by most objective standards. I have (almost) nothing to complain about. So, why am I sad? I don’t think there is a reason. I think there is a wellspring of emotion, and when we wake up our cup is filled with whatever happens to be in the well that day. Sometimes, I wake up angry and irritated. Other times, I wake up quiet and contented. But today I woke up sad. I’ve been sad a lot lately. And I’m not sure there’s much that can be done about it. I could explore the tide pools of sadness. I could tie a rock around my neck and and sink into its dark waters; looking for the source. But I’m scared I’d drown. I’m scared I’d fall in love with the dark anonymity of the sandy bottom, find peace in the fullness of my grief until I forsook the surface world and breathed watery death into my lungs. There’s comfort in sadness. And t

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In pre-industrial America, it was common for family heirlooms to be passed down from one generation to another.   A woman might wear her mother’s wedding dress to get married or a father might give his prized car to his son as a graduation present. Other times, the heirloom might be less descript; a bookcase that Grandpa built when he was a child or a photo album that a favorite aunt maintained for years. These heirlooms served two purposes. First, they were pragmatic. In pre-industrial America, items like furniture and clothing were hard to come by. A family’s dinner table was either purchased at great expense or it was built through many hours of hard labor. And just getting the fabric for new garments could take months in addition to the many hours spent cutting and stitching the fabric into a dress or pair of pants. Gifting items like these to the next generation saved the recipient both time and money; allowing them to focus their energy on other tasks. In addition, family he