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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

Britton Gildersleeve Archives

Songkran, or Buddhist New Year in Thailand ~

Sawatdee pi Maï! Happy New Year! Well, almost — it’s Thursday, April 12th this year. In Thailand, this greeting is accompanied by joyful gouts of water — splashed on you, at you, over you. And while the New Year’s festival […]

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the last time, or, separation anxiety ~

I’m taking early retirement this year. And it’s changed the way I view almost everything. For one thing, apparently it’s not retirement if you’re not old enough. It’s ‘separation.’ So perhaps what I’m having is separation anxiety… Our culture defines […]

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teachers, memory, and public education ~

I love this cartoon — I’m sorry I have no better attribution, as it has to have been done by someone intimately acquainted w/ teaching and/or teachers. Because this is the secret about teaching: you can’t prepare for most of […]

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death, life, & memory ~

A former student, sharing sad news with me, paid me a lovely compliment this past week. First he told me of his mother’s impending death from cancer. Then he said: I knew you’d want to know. And – I thought […]

love, T-Rex, and being ‘single’ ~

I love the ambiguity of the word love — but I also envy all those other languages their precision: aimer, affectionner, encantar… eros, agape… There are almost as many words for strong affection as there are things to love. But […]

the important thing about comprehensive exams (from a Buddhist perspective) ~

There are a lot of things you expect to learn if you get a doctorate. Primarily, of course, your subject. But there are also things you don’t expect to learn. Like… well, what I realised yesterday in the shower (is […]

the holy alchemy of teaching ~

I often tackle a new discipline — or learning more about something I know only superficially — by offering to teach it. Don’t cringe: you’re not in any of my classes :). And it makes me, I’d argue, a far […]

the price of reflection ~

I’m not so good at taking my own advice, she said, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s right. Guilt. That’s what 5 minutes of reflection costs. Well, maybe that’s the price of temper… And the reflection is just… […]

the lives of students ~

My students share their lives — with me, with each other. We have a class listserv, which they’re required to post to several times weekly. It builds community — there’s lots of research on classroom community and its benefits — […]

apex predators & the bigger picture ~

The other day, sitting in the breakfast room & looking out the window to the small-seed bird feeder, I watched as a cloud of birds lifted into the air. Spiraling to a seat on the pecan tree just off the […]

more on blind faith ~

I’ve been thinking about how our faith(s) limit us. How they shape the way we perceive not only reality, but our place within (or outside) it. It seems obvious to those of us who follow science that the young earth […]

evolution & blind faith ~

On my bus trip to work, I visited w/ the young woman next to me. She told me her husband was in the Guard, when I asked about her backpack. She shared the work she does to help pay for […]

a belief in lists ~

Buddhism is a system of lists: the three jewels, the four noble truths, the eightfold path. And there are many more. As an inveterate list-maker, this appeals to me. It makes spiritual achievement seem, well, do-able. As if even this […]

(active) sitting ~

I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog — more than once — that I’m a lousy traditional meditator. I suspect a lot of working American Buddhists are. It’s hard to find time to sit on a zafu and meditate. Dinner, work, […]

mind poisons, anger, & desire ~

Anger. Greed. Delusion. Ignorance. Attachment. Aversion. The three root Buddhist mind poisons. The first time I heard them, I knew immediately which one was mine. (Anger, just in case you’re wondering — this will come as no surprise to friends, […]

the gratitude journal ~

I keep a gratitude journal. It’s actually a tire grateful for a 2nd life as a journal cover, a gift from my younger son. Since it still smells, even now, of the tire-it-used-to-be, it became a journal I use, but […]

Happy Tết/ Chinese New Year!

When I was a child, living in Việt Nam, Tết (Việtnamese New Year) was celebrated with Chinese New Year. We (children were welcome — even American children!) burned clothing for the dead, brilliantly red  dresses and robes and hats and […]

teaching, politics, & Buddhism ~

I couldn’t tell you which came first: my concern for folks on the margins, my belief that we’re all connected (a kind of nascent Buddhism), or my didactic teacher-self. I remember teaching my 2-year-old younger sister to ‘read’ by having […]

resolutions, new years, & new cycles ~

So you may be thinking: New Year’s resolutions? It’s the middle of January! But it’s also (almost) Chinese New Year (January 23rd, just FYI). And this is a big one for me — my birth cycle returns. Born in the […]

living in the present ~

For a number of reasons, this is my last semester teaching the class I’m teaching now. Which entirely changes the dynamic. Teachers know that every class — every class period — is different. But we often attribute this to our […]

Is the Middle Path a Buddhist myth…?

The other day I was ranting about some injustice, and the way people were so unbalanced in their perceptions, and my husband stopped me cold. “You know the Middle Path is just a Buddhist myth, don’t you?” he asked, only […]

Happy (Buddhist) New Year!

In Buddhism, it’s about the moon. At least for New Year’s. Mahayana Buddhism — the Buddhism of Vietnam, India, China, Japan, Korea, and Tibet, among other countries — celebrates New Year’s  Day the first full moon of January. This year […]

An American Buddhist New Year ~

Few Americans are Buddhist — between 2.5 and 4 million, according to at least one source. A similar number are of Chinese ancestry — a scant 3 million. This makes the celebration of Buddhist New Year in the US a […]

phosphate-free dishwashing detergent and post-holiday clarity ~

We don’t use phosphates in our dishwasher. They cause algae bloom, and lower the oxygen in water, suffocating fish if the bloom is excessive. But their replacements — phosphate-free detergents —  transform your originally clear and/or white dishes into cloudy, […]

Happy New Year! (and a clean slate to you ~)

I love clean slates. I love a morning which is unencumbered by the mistakes of yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. The idea that it all begins now, today, this very moment… It’s intoxicating. Just the […]

Happy Kwanzaa!

It’s the 5th day of Kwanzaa, the day of purpose, if I’m not mistaken. I love the seven principles of Kwanzaa: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith). […]

open mouth, exeunt bees ~

You may well be sick of bees. I, on the other hand, see them everywhere. At the botanical gardens we visited as a field trip last week (see photo, attached :)), there were bees. And they make a lot of […]

a rose is not a rose is not a rose… or, now what kind of beads are those?

Sometimes a rose is not a rose. Or at least a nun is not a nun… At least not when she’s a Buddhist nun. And the beads she’s selling are prayer beads. In that case, she’s an unlicensed vendor. At […]

‘the rucksack of my æsthetic’ (whatever that is…)

This was my father’s rucksack in WWII. It was found in a barn a couple of years ago, in France. I have no idea how it got there, other than Daddy fought in France. Nor what was in it when […]

Warning: poetry follows ~

Sometimes when bad news comes, all that helps is writing poetry. Even the stronger, most eloquent poetry of others isn’t enough. That upwelling has to be voiced, and poetry is all that helps. This was one of those weeks: a […]

becoming an elder ~

I have grand-nieces. And a grand-nephew. They are, of course, amazing children. Funny, beautiful, smart and terribly entertaining (emphasis sometimes on the ‘terribly’ :)). Last weekend they came for tea. We sat down to the table, where plates of small […]

‘takotsubo': broken heart syndrome ~

Once, many years ago, I made it through the night breath by breath. I remember laying in the twin bed next to my mother and thinking: one more breath. just one more breath. And I thought: you can die of […]

believing outside the box ~

There’s a lovely excerpt from Desmond Tutu’s book on the ‘Net, titled ‘God is not a Christian.’ It gets to the heart of something I’ve believed since I was a child, but only had a name for in recent years. […]

scarlet women (parrots) ~

The eclectus parrot has it right: you can easily tell males from females. Because the males are bright green and the females are scarlet. Yup — so different in appearance that folks used to think they were separate species. I’m […]

epeleolatry (and the worship of words) ~

I confess. I’m a total word nerd. I was that kid you hated in 4th grade, who begged for spelling words, and won the spelling bee, and had her nose in a book so often that even my grandmother – […]

teaching, practice and love ~

The muse Terpsichore is known for many things: dances, the harp, education. But  most amazing is that all these things come together in one Muse: supposedly Terpsichore invents them all. Think about it: all of those coming from one head. […]

reassurance ~

This is the kind of reassurance I need, sometimes — just an enfolding hug… You have to watch the video the whole way through to get the hug part :).

just a little human touch ~

I hate college classrooms. Everything we know about the impact of softscape on learning — lighting, seating, groups, etc. — goes out the window when we work w/ adult learners. So each class period, my students (at my request) form […]

a poem to savour ~

Here’s a poem from Muriel Rukeyser, an excerpt from Elegy in Joy. I love the stanza ~ Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings. Not all things are blest, but the seeds of all things are blest. The blessing is in […]

creature comforts ~

What is it about chocolate? Especially coupled w/ sweet, juicy, just-picked strawberries? How can something so easy seem so special? So decadent? Confession #1: I’m crazy about chocolate. Confession #2: not just any chocolate. I don’t particularly care for candy […]

when tragedy strikes ~

Each of these stories from the Tuscaloosa tornado is enough to make you cry. But what’s more important? How each man and woman found a way to go forward, to help. To be there for others…

two years after ~

When I tell people — sometimes even close friends — that I miss my father-in-law at least as much as my own father, they react in two ways:  Some flat don’t believe me. Others want to know why, as if […]

“Landscape of the heart” ~

A lovely website that has beautiful, whimsical drawings and inspirational short ‘stories.’ This one helps as I miss my father-in-law today ~ Landscape of the Heart (Masculine) It is still so new & all we see is the empty space, […]

a moment in the rock’n’roll sun ~

Here’s a video that literally brought tears to my eyes. I’ve always loved Paul Simon. In his earlier incarnation (Simon & Garfunkle) he got me through one of the hardest summers of my life. Later, his music got me through […]

‘A Wedding at Cana’ ~

Here’s a lovely poem from poet Tom Sleigh, a wonderful poet who writes about war, its impacts and the terrible beauty of the human heart. I especially like this one, ‘A Wedding at Cana, Lebanon, 2007.’

BFFs ~

I don’t remember when I first heard the term ‘BFF’, or learned what it meant. I do know I had a visceral recognition: I knew – immediately – who my BFF was. Actually, who they were. I have the BFF […]

‘meet and talk and listen’ ~ His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama is a funny guy. He can even find humour in his unpopularity w/ the Chinese (“I give them a little bit of trouble… People who create trouble for you… give you opportunity to practice tolerance,” he said […]

cat & dolphins ~ role models?

So here’s something that’s just fun. But it’s also kind of lovely… Think about it: a cat playing w/ wet dolphins… I want to be that trusting…

indigo buntings and multiple truths ~

Warning: if birds don’t make you think of infinity, then you may not want to read further… This week I saw an indigo bunting feeding at the bird feeder. Nothing fancy in the feeder — just the usual small seed […]

Beginner’s Heart and the Army ~

So what is beginner’s heart? I actually Googled the term. Not many results apply. I came up with it like I do poem titles ~ it seemed like a good idea, and like it would lead me somewhere. It’s how […]

blogging, hubris & tea ~

It’s an act of extreme hubris to begin a blog — it says that what we think and feel and do in our unexceptional life is worth noting. And of course it is, to those who love us. But I’ve […]

The Dalai Lama, bin Laden and forgiveness ~

Lately I’ve been losing sleep (really) over the rhetoric on the news about bin Laden’s death. People are rejoicing, and somehow, that seems wrong to me. Although I understand it when it’s New Yorkers — after all, their city was […]

‘Samurai Song’ ~

A lovely poem by former US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky. It seems to somehow reach out to me and remind me how much I have ~ Samurai Song When I had no roof I made Audacity my roof. When I […]

Beginnings ~

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I’m not good at gentle. Once, when my older son was still in elementary school, I apologised to him. I’m sorry you don’t have a mother more like Dirk’s, I told him. You deserve a more nurturing mother – someone […]

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posted 7:44:06pm Sep. 02, 2015 | read full post »

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posted 3:01:12pm Aug. 30, 2015 | read full post »

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posted 5:48:11pm Aug. 26, 2015 | read full post »

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This, my friends, is art. And better than anything else I can think of, it demonstrates our deep-set need to create beauty. The Dalai Lama ...

posted 9:41:23pm Aug. 20, 2015 | read full post »

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