Recent Writings

Here are some articles I’ve written recently on Patheos:

Buddhism for Beginners

Training in Compassion

What is Meditation (short answer)?

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events:

6/28/22. 7:00pm: Introduction to Meditation @ Blue Springs South Library. 2220 SW State Route 7. Blue Springs, MO

7/11/22. 6:30pm: Introduction to Meditation @ Claycomo Library. 309 E US Highway 69. Claycomo, MO

7/12/22. 7:00pm: Introduction to Meditation @ Antioch Library. 6060 N. Chestnut Avenue. Gladstone, MO

7/14/22. 7:00pm: Introduction to Meditation @ Parkville Library. 8815 Tom Watson Parkway. Parkville, MO

7/18/22. 7:00pm: Introduction to Meditation @ Blue Ridge Library. 9253 Blue Ridge Boulevard. Kansas City, MO

7/19/22. 6:30pm: Introduction to Meditation @ Oak Grove Library. 2320 S. Broadway Street. Oak Grove, MO

7/26/22. 7:00pm: Introduction to Meditation @ North Independence Library. 317 W 24 Hwy. Independence, MO

7/27/22. 7:00pm: Drop In Meditation @ Rime Buddhist Center. 2939 Wayne Ave. Kansas City, MO. Also on Zoom.

Free Meditation Workshop

I’m co-leading the Free Meditation Workshop for the Rime Center.

May 25 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Meditation has been proven to: lower blood pressure, relieve stress, and help you cope with anxiety. It has also been shown to be very effective with chronic pain, insomnia, and panic disorder. The wonderful thing about meditation is that it can be used anywhere, even on the way to work and has no dangerous side effects. In this one session class you will learn this simple technique that can change your life. This class is based upon the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.

Register Online

Instructor: Sergio Moreno and Daniel Scharpenburg
Date: One Session beginning May 25, 2022
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Location: St. Marks Hope and Peace Lutheran Church
Class Fee: Free

Upcoming Talk at the Rime Center

Mark your calendars.

I’m honored to have the opportunity to give the dharma talk at the Rime Center during the Sunday service on 3/13/22.

3/13/22 10:30am (central) @ Rime Buddhist Center on ZOOM

Talk: Compassion and Well Being

The Sunday service consists of various chants along with short periods of meditation, music consisting of singing the Tara and Chenrezig mantras, a guided meditation, and concludes with a short Dharma talk. This is going to be streamed on the zoom platform. The Rime Center isn’t fully open for in person services at this time. Come see me give a talk on zoom.

Sign up here to register and get the zoom link:

Rime Center Zoom

Do We Really Need Self Compassion?

Self Compassion is a concept I had trouble understanding at first. I heard we need to cultivate self-compassion and I thought to myself “I am selfish. I have no trouble making sure I go after the things I want. How could I be struggling with self-compassion. How is this an issue for anyone?”

You may have felt this way too.


But the truth is I tell myself negative stories and I think we all do. I put together a cabinet for my office and one of the drawers doesn’t work right. It’s not in exactly right, so it doesn’t close all the way. Instead of working to fix it, I’m telling myself the story that I’m really bad at putting furniture together. Telling this story about myself is a lack of self-compassion. I suspect we all have little stories like that. Little stories we tell ourselves matter. You may say, “I’m a clumsy,” “I’m lazy,” “I have a terrible temper,” or even worse…”I’m unlovable.”

I definitely told myself that last one for many years, but not now.

These are examples of failing to have self compassion.

In ‘A Fearless Heart’ Thupten Jinpa PhD, Professor and former monk says, “When we lack self compassion, we are less self accepting, less self tolerant, and less kind to ourselves.”

In ‘Daring Greatly’ Brene Brown PhD says, “Self-compassion is key because when we’re able to be gentle with ourselves in the midst of shame, we’re more likely to reach out, connect, and experience empathy.”

I’m defining Self Compassion as taking care of ourselves while being attentive to the feelings and needs of those around us.

It’s not the same as Self Pity. Self Pity is narrow because it really comes from a place of being obsessed with yourself. It’s also not the same as Self Esteem. Self Esteem involves judging yourself and finding yourself worthy. Self-Compassion really gives us the opportunity to be honest with ourselves. It gives us the chance to say to ourselves, “I did this wrong and I’ll try to do better.” Instead of “I did this wrong and I’m a bad person.”

We sometimes have a sort of generalizing tendency. This gets in the way of our Self compassion and our compassion toward others. Like my example above, if I fail to correctly build a cabinet, then I think I’m really bad at building things. If I lash out in anger at someone I can easily tell myself I’m bad at self control. It’s stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. But there’s a lot going on and one incident doesn’t define us. One incident doesn’t define anyone. So give yourself a break.

In ‘A Fearless Heart’ Thupten Jinpa goes on to say, “In cultivating self compassion, we don’t evaluate ourselves according to our worldly successes, and we don’t compare ourselves with others. Instead, we acknowledge our shortcomings and failings with patience, understanding, and kindness. We view our problems within the larger context of our shared human condition.”

It’s all about loving yourself and having some perspective.

Self compassion helps us relax when we need to, understand our limitations when we set goals, and learn from our life experiences. Because if we’re overcome with self doubt or self pity, it affects everything in our lives. If we can just learn to love, care for, and respect ourselves…it can change everything for us.

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On The Passing of Teachers

Zen Master Wonji Dharma (left), Lama Chuck Stanford (right)

In the last few months of 2021 two of my Buddhist teachers died. They were both over the age of 60, but they certainly could have had a few more decades in this world. Their deaths have affected me more than I imagined they would. I am mourning their passing. It was a shock that their deaths were so close in time.

Lama Chuck Stanford taught me in the Tibetan Rime tradition.

Venerable Wonji Dharma taught me in the Korean Zen tradition.

The Rime Center Buddhist Community is left to figure out how to go on without Chuck Stanford in this world.

The Five Mountain Zen Order is left to figure out how to go on without Wonji Dharma in this world.

And they will go on. Both these teachers had already retired and trusted their legacies to others. Buddhism outlives teachers, even great ones that touch a lot of lives. We have to go on. I’m hopeful that seeing the ends of these lives that were so dedicated to spreading the Dharma can help us motivate ourselves. We can’t waste our lives. Our spiritual journey is important and needs to be something we focus on.

There’s a story that gets told about the death of the Buddha. It’s said that his cousin Ananda was at his side and had time to ask two final questions.

Ananda asked, “Do we have to follow all the rules that you set out?”
And the Buddha replied, “Just follow the important ones. Don’t worry much about the minor ones.”

(Ananda forgot to ask which rules were the minor ones)

Then Ananda asked, “Who is going to lead us when you’re gone?”

And the Buddha said, “Be lamps unto yourselves.”

It was up to his followers to figure out how to go on. And when our teachers pass it’s up to us to figure out how to go on too. We can get through losses like this. And we will go on.

As Aaron Burr says in ‘Hamilton’, ”Death doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints. It takes and it takes.”

Since the passing of these great teachers I’ve started doing a daily recitation practice along with my meditation each morning. (I used to do a much shorter recitation)

Both of these teachers manifested great compassion, so a compassion prayer seems appropriate. If you feel so inclined, you can do this daily practice as well.

I used to really see myself as a secular Buddhist, so prayers like this felt off limits and unapproachable to me. That has all changed in the last couple of years. I’ve grown more and more comfortable with Buddhist devotional practices after going through the isolation of the pandemic and the passing of these teachers.

I’ve been focusing more and more on practices to open my heart and I’ve been studying more diverse teachings and practices.

Loss is tragic, but it can also inspire us.

How can I serve others? How can I help you?

These are big important questions.

Buddhism teaches us that loss is the nature of things. Many of us know that very deeply.

Loss is still hard. It’s up to us to figure out how to go on and to try to carry on the legacies of our teachers. They can still motivate and inspire us.

We’re still trying to build a new Buddhist temple in Kansas City. Click below to support that:

Wonji Dharma Passed Away

I learned that Wonji Dharma (Paul Lynch) has passed away.

I wouldn’t call him my teacher because I was only with his organization, The Five Mountain Zen Order, for a short time. It was 2012 and 2013. I did take Novice Monk Vows from him, so maybe that’s why it feels serious to me. And to lose Wonji Dharma and my first teacher Lama Chuck Stanford in the same year feels really strange.

2012. I’m holding a certificate because I took vows on this retreat.

Wonji was a monk in the Korean Zen Tradition who trained with Master Seung Sahn and Master Ji Bong. He had a vision for online Buddhist communities way back in 2008. This was well before people started to believe such things could work on the internet. He had a vision and was an early adopter of the idea that people could take vows, study, and be trained as Dharma teachers on the internet.

I really learned that that kind of virtual community is not really for me. I need some kind of real life interaction for myself. BUT I am sure it works for many people and Wonji Dharma has left a mark on modern Buddhism. When he started teaching online it was controversial. Many people thought it couldn’t be done. It seems like it’s mainstream now, with organizations like Kwan Um, Shambhala, and Spirit Rock venturing into the web to teach the Dharma. It’s a new world. Many of the students who trained with him online run their own Zen Centers and temples now. Building a community is not an easy thing to do.

I know many people are sad at his loss and that his successors will do great things.

Laziness

Sometimes we need to talk about laziness.

I think laziness is probably a universal human trait. It gets in the way of our confidence and strength.

Talking about our struggles and reflecting on them is how we overcome them. Laziness is a thing that gets in our way. It stops us from reaching our potential and achieving our goals. Sometimes laziness can almost be like poison and really ruin things for us. Most of the time it’s not that serious.

In Buddhism laziness is sometimes described as having three aspects. In his book “The Bodhisattva Handbook” the Dalai Lama describes the three aspects of laziness in this way:

1) Having no wish to do good

2) Being distracted by negative activities

3) Underestimating oneself and doubting one’s ability

I think that’s a pretty good list of things that get in our way. We may not think of all of these as laziness, but it can be helpful to think of them as similar. We often talk about how these can get in the way of our spiritual practice, but really they can get in the way of anything we’re trying to do.

Having no wish to do good.

This is when we know what the right thing is and we just don’t want to do it. We can think of anything. Eating vegetables, flossing, paying attention to our kids when we don’t really want to, paying attention to our work when we don’t really want to.

And we can think of spiritual things too, obviously. Doing our meditation practice. Being generous, showing compassion when it’s not easy. And many of the other things we do. This is the laziness of “I don’t feel like it.” It’s probably the main thing we think of when we think of laziness.

Being distracted by negative activities

I’ve seen this called “The laziness of busyness” and I don’t know if that works as well to explain as this version. That’s when I’m not doing the things I know I need to do because I’m distracted. I’m not eating vegetables because I’m too busy eating too many chips. I’m not paying attention to my kids because I’m arguing with strangers on Facebook. I’m lying to make myself look good instead of being genuine and telling the truth. I’m gossiping instead of focusing on my job at work. There are probably many of examples of this.

That’s not to say we can’t spend time eating chips or scrolling through Facebook, but just that we should be mindful of what we’re doing and what it’s taking us away from. “Negative activities” might seem like a heavy term to handle but the point is that we know when we’re indulging in things that aren’t great for us and others. If we’re honest about ourselves, we know. And if we’re keeping ourselves too busy with things that aren’t what we need to do, that can have a big impact on our quality of life.

Underestimating oneself and doubting one’s ability

This is the idea of “Can’t win, don’t try.” This is basically an excuse. It’s thinking that you can’t help everyone, so you may as well not try to help anyone. It’s thinking that your kids are going to be messed up no matter what you do, so you may as well not try your best to parent. It’s overall this thought that we all have sometimes. I’m not good enough. Sure, other people can be great parents, but not me. Sure, other people can be good at their jobs, but not me. Sure, other people can attain enlightenment, but not me. Sometimes we really believe these negative things about ourselves. Other times they’re an excuse to not take a certain action. I could try harder, but it probably won’t work anyway.

So, we’ve identified problems. What can we do?

For the first two kinds of laziness, a thing that helps is learning how to plan and prioritize. Sit down and write out a list of goals. Then remind yourself, in whatever way you need to, not to let things get in the way. Now, this is harder than it sounds. We are going to have to remind ourselves again and again and again. But the truth is just naming this problem takes away a lot of it’s power.

The third kind of laziness can be a little more tricky. We have to learn how to have compassion and kindness and grace for ourselves. For some people it’s a lot easier to show kindness to others than to ourselves. One thing we can also do is learn how to be mindful of our own intentions, to know when we’re making excuses. If I think I can’t be pitcher for the Royals that’s true. But if I think I can’t handle getting a little healthier so I can play tag with my kids without getting winded, I’m wrong. I can get healthier and get that energy. I just don’t want to so I make the excuse that I can’t. Think of your own examples, I bet you have plenty.

Buddhism teachings that we all have the seed of awakening within us, that every human being has goodness at our core. This can be a tough thing to grasp because we know ourselves. I know everything bad I’ve ever done. How can I be good at the core of my being? But I am. And you are too. This can be such a hard thing for us to wrestle with. But this is true for everyone. You get there by realizing you’re already there.

And, most importantly, no one gets left out.