Sunday, September 27, 2009


The sun sets into the Jordanian desert.

I just got back from a week of working as a paramedic on the 911 trucks in extreme rural Georgia. To say that it was "eye-opening" would be both a cliché and an understatement. I worked hard, pulling some long shifts on sparsely equipped ambulances; treating and transporting patients to distant, austere emergency rooms.

No one particular patient stands out from the dozens and dozens that I treated. I know that two had died despite my best efforts. I'm still struck by the fact that I don't remember them, even though I was there beside them for the second most important day of their lives. I know that I tried, desperately to breath life back into limp bodies, pushing countless medications, electrical shocks, CPR, oxygen. Repeat over and over again, looking for the right bleep on the cardiac monitor or the faintest of pulses. They never came. The end of someone's life is best described as a whisper and not a thunder clap. They go quietly despite your pleas otherwise.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Don't Do It!

A helmet rests on a the handlebars of a San Francisco police motorcycle. Note that the officer secured the helmet with his handcuffs.

There has been a rash of break-ins in our neighborhood lately. People are forcing their way into homes in the late evenings and quickly taking what they can get their hands on. Fortunately no one has been home during these unfortunate events.

I'm disturbed by what I may have to do should we fall victim to a home invasion like this. I've decided that I would let them take whatever they want, but I will not risk for a moment my family's health and safety over the event. Certainly there must be a better way to make a living as a criminal than entering a dark house with an unknown floor plan, and possibly finding an armed, well-trained home owner inside. I can't imagine such a stupid undertaking.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Today is my wife's birthday, and I had this shot framed for her office wall. First day of school, an emotional moment for both Mom and son.

A Buddhist in Church

Turtles sunning themselves on a log inside a San Francisco garden. Does having a buddha nature make the turtles Buddhist?

I attended my brother's wedding this weekend in a small chapel just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina. The ceremony was nice, small and non-denominational; and as I stood there looking around at the trappings of Christendom I examined my own thoughts and feelings. My initial impression was, "I'm Buddhist and not Christian, so I'll just sort of suffer through all of the Bible stuff." I immediately recognized this as 1) not being very Buddhist, and 2) teetering on the edge of religious snobbery at best, and intolerance at worst.

My thoughts and feelings as I stood there embarrassed me, and I believe this stemmed from my attachment to being Buddhist, or moreover, non-Christian. If I had a truly open and receiving mind I would have found the grace in my surroundings and not all of these mixed up feelings of conflict and intolerance. Nice lesson learned. I need to explore it more deeply.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Adventures With A Wiggly Buddha

My son has started kindergarten and is a few weeks into it so far. He's doing well, but finds himself in trouble every once in a while for being "wiggly". I take that to mean that he can't sit still when he's supposed to.

I Googled "wiggly kids" and got back a plethora of ADHD stuff, which astounded me to say the least. I don't think that he needs Ritalin (methylphenidate); he needs to learn to sit in stillness, or relative five-year old stillness. Ahhh, this is something that I can show him how to do.

Every morning before school and at night prior to bedtime the two of us retreat into our home's little tatami-matted meditation space. He climbs up onto a cushion, easily folds his legs underneath himself, and places his tiny hands in the cosmic mudra. There we sit, slowly counting our mutual breaths. When he moves or "wiggles" we quietly start over. After a while he settles into it and sits there waiting for the next breath to appear.

When he's done he gets to sound the gong three times, bows in gasho, and quietly walks out of the room.

Last week he came home with a perfect report card. He was not spoken to once for being "wiggly". This week we're on the same trajectory.

No, I don't think a five-year old is going to grasp the Diamond Sutra any time soon, but he can learn to sit in stillness, to know what it feels like simply to sit and pay attention to what's in front of you. What a great life-skill!!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Wee Bit Backwards

"If you're young and not a liberal, you have no heart; if you're old and not a conservative, you have no brain."

— Winston Churchill

I appear to be living my life backwards. Sorry Winnie.

When I was younger it was business school, MBA and the like. Now its more akin to medicine in austere environments and Buddhist studies. Growth? I guess it depends on perspective.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

#2363 - Final Thoughts

Taken by my wife at the finish line.

Final thoughts on Ironman. I completed the event in the top third of the field, and am happy with that. It was a long and painful day, especially running the marathon after putting out so much effort on the 112-mile bike route. I struggled with every mile, and they seemed to get longer and longer as the race wore on. In the end, I was happy to cross the finish line, to see my wife and five-year old son waiting for me, along with a few thousand other people.

The best part for me is that my triathlon season is finally over. My next scheduled work out is some time in... January. I've spent countless hours training for this season, lately putting in 4-6 hours a day. I'm burnt out and need a break. I hear a set of bagpipes calling me along with their friend, a pint of Guinness.

On a side note:

Jeff posted a comment about Ironman saying, "That's crazy, I could never do that". Sorry buddy but I have to disagree with you. With a certain amount of training anyone can complete the event. Sure you may not win the race, but winning is really a relative thing anyways. Your only opponent is not the girl or guy ahead of you on the bike course, but rather it's the little, nagging voice in your head that is telling you, "This is crazy, I can never do this".