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Poster:retrophoto
Date:2007-04-29 18:00
Subject:Emaho Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ (x-post)
Security:Public

A few months ago I went to a Vajrapani empowerment at Emaho Buddhist Center in Scottsdale and shot a handful of photos. I'm new to this center and don't know people very well, so I'm a bit shy about the camera, but when I saw the baby in the photo below, I had to take a shot. The shots of Za Rinpoche were sort of on the fly, hence the blurriness, but they capture him well.



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Poster:retrophoto
Date:2007-04-29 17:57
Subject:Garchen Institute, Chino Valley, Arizona (X-post)
Security:Public

I went up to Chino Valley to the Garchen Center a few weeks ago. I had thought they were having a Tara practice that day, but apparently none of the monks were there. Which was actually kind of cool, because I had the run of the place -- no one was there. So here are some temple photos.



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Poster:retrophoto
Date:2006-06-11 13:35
Subject:Today is Saka Dawa...
Security:Public

...or, the anniversary of Shakyamuni Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and parinirvana (death). The Emaho Center opened today at 5AM for Mahayana vows and I had planned to attend, but alas, had only fallen asleep an hour or two before and couldn't drag myself from my very comfy futon. I'm a bit disappointed, as I thought that would be really cool to sit in the temple at that early hour. But maybe it's for the best, as I was going to go for a few hours then come home and nap, missing the teaching.

I did get myself up and go in for the wisdom teaching today from 10-4 (we are on a nearly two hour lunch break.) While I've never met a monk who disappointed me, some have exceeded my expectations, and I believe ZaChoeje Rinpoche definitely falls into that category. A big advantage is he has a master's in English, so not only is he fluent, but can distinguish subtle nuances in meanings of words and create his own metaphors. He also has a good grasp of western culture and mindset, and is an excellent teacher who presents difficult concepts in ways we can understand. He also allows questions as he's teaching, rather than waiting till the end.

I think he's a perfect blend of east meets west, and look forward to attending more events there.

More later, as I must eat lunch (which Rinpoche encouraged us to eat vegetarian -- that's at least one thing I can handle.)

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Poster:retrophoto
Date:2006-05-15 15:27
Subject:Synchronicity?
Security:Public

After moving cross country, I'm still playing catch up on bills and such, but my life is feeling a bit more settled, and with that comes the old familiar territory. You know, that self-indulgent step up on Maslow's hierarchy, where we go beyond worrying about food and shelter to being angst ridden yuppie brats trying to find god or meaning or whatever in every minor detail. That cerebral equivalent of a hamster on a wheel -- "whats the meaning of it all?" and "what's my calling in life?" kind of questions that should serve to help us refine the process of fulfilling our "destiny," but usually end up being a mire of self-doubt and second guessing that paralyzes us.

At least me.

Anyway, I was sort of feeling that again already, compounded by an online friend's recent decision to close the doors on a dream of his. Yes, he failed, but the fact that he took his shot was (is) getting under my skin. It didn't work, but at least he took ACTION.

So I'm wandering through a used book store Sunday and pick up a couple of veggie cookbooks, and a used Chuck Palahnuik novel. As I'm leaving, something catches my eye on the stands outside. It's an audio of a book called "What Should I Do with My Life?" Well, that certainly mirrored the question kicking around in the back of my brain. But it was audio cassettes and that would mean getting a tape player, so I didn't want to be bothered, but I couldn't seem to walk away. It kept niggling at me to pick it up. I still didn't want to get a damn casstte recorder, so I went back in to find a text copy.

Okay, so I go home and later that night, I pick up the "What Should I Do with My Life?" book and start reading the first of the anecdotes of real people who "found their true calling," for lack of a better term. It starts talking about a guy renting a room at the base of Camelback Mountain (ah, Phoenix, how funny...) who gets a letter from the Dalai Lama telling him he's some reincarnation of a high lama.

Hmm. Phoenix and buddhism right at the start. What a coincidence.

Then as I 'm reading and turn the page, the photo looks familiar, so I go to a website to confirm my suspicions. Back a couple of years ago when I first got a serious interest in Buddhism, I had looked up centers in the Phoenix area. This was long before I had heard of Garchen Rinpoche or set foot in any center. I found a foundation in Scottsdale called the Emaho Foundation and it seemed to be the largest group -- or at least the most active -- in the valley. So I've been subscribing to their email list for a couple of years. I had been thinking of checking it out, as Rinpoche's center in Chino Valley is a bit of a drive. Well, as should be obvious by now, the man in the first story in this book is ZaChoeje Rinpoche, the founder of Emaho.

One of the many things I have kicked around as a calling is global healthcare (with a healthy helping of documentary photography on the side) and looking at the Emaho site again, I see they are active in healthcare centers in India. Well, that's cool and has potential. They also contribute directly to an organization here in the valley for the homeless. Now, don't get me wrong, I love the Garchen Institute and they do special projects such as a school in Tibet, but it's nice to see group doing something a little closer to home.

Mere coincidence? Or synchronicity? I'm not sure. But even my skeptical little heart is feeling that weird kind of tug that maybe destiny is trying to find me, or maybe it's been stalking me for years and I just haven't seen it. I guess I'm going to have to check out Emaho.

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Poster:retrophoto
Date:2006-01-16 20:50
Subject:
Security:Public

After going to Waldenbooks, the only bookstore around here, and arming myself with a Tony Hillerman book (required reading on the rez,) a New Mexico driving tours guide, and a book comparing Navajo and Tibetan spirituality, I set off to gawk at the country side Saturday morning. My first stop was Red Rocks State Park, which I'll come back to. I also went down to the Zuni reservation and checked out some "trading posts" there for shopping research. I went into the village to take a few photos of the old mission church. I was quite uncomfortable, but the only hostility I got was someone saying "I hate tourists," for my benefit. I thought, yeah, but you like our money, but I guess you can't really blame them for that kind of random hostility.

On one hand, as you walk around the rez, you're struck by what is a very poor standard of living in our eyes, but the thing is, they just aren't concerned with having a fancy house or the superficial appearance of things. Comfort is more important. There were a few houses with large groups of people out, doing some kind of roasting in clay ovens (some were pinons I believe) and they seemed to be having a good time just hanging out. There was that campfire, burnt smell in the air -- fire is still used for heating and cooking to some degree, despite the technology. It's a very low tech way of living, give or take a satellite dish or two. Even with the natural loss of some cultural aspects over the generations, these are people who are still very connected to the land and the elements.

I drove Hwy 53, one of the most scenic in New Mexico, with some dirt backroads that could be straight out of "Thelma and Louise" (which I had to watch again for the first time in years.) I don't know how you can describe or capture on film that vast emptiness -- I've never seen anything like it in any other part of the country. "Thelma and Louise" captures it well in the later segments of the movie as they obviously move into New Mexico and Arizona. There's also a brilliant voiceover at the end of Spike Lee's "25th Hour," that talks about how everyone should see the desert before they die. And it's the truth.

But the highlight of the day was my morning hike at Red Rocks State Park. I was the only one there, and as I got higher on the trail, I found myself surrounded by canyons and peaks of red and clay colored rock. I realized you don't need a beautiful house or superfical things when you are surrounded by all the beauty you need. I thought about my lifelong fascination with the west -- how I tried to find arrowheads as a child, and loved the old westerns, my trip through the reservatiosn before I moved to Phoenix almost 15 years ago...and the parallels of the Navajo way and Tibetan buddhism. The two collided in the perfect place, and I sat down to practice for the first time in months. And while the language may be different, Navajo and Tibetan are mirrors of each other and their philosophy is the same. And so simple.

They don't depend on external things, but one can't help but feel the sublime embodiment of both in this place.

Navajo Blessing Way Prayer

In beauty may I walk.
All day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk.
With dew about my feet may I walk.
With beauty may I walk.
With beauty before me, may I walk.
With beauty behind me, may I walk.
With beauty above me, may I walk.
With beauty below me, may I walk.
With beauty all around me, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.

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Poster:jakesroom
Date:2005-12-28 17:44
Subject:Hi!
Security:Public
Mood: calm

My name is Ernie, and I'm new to this community. I have my first visit to a Zen sangha on sunday the 1st, and I'm looking forword to it. I've read a few books by Thich Nhat Hanh, Dalai Lama, and some others, but I've never actually done zazen in a sangha. I'll update this community to share my reflections on how it went. Nice to meet you all.
Ernie

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Poster:retrophoto
Date:2005-12-05 01:11
Subject:
Security:Public

I knew a certain spiritual backlash would be inevitable, so it's no surprise I feel myself rebelling against the dharma a bit. I tell myself I'm too busy and too stressed to practice, even as I realize that's all the more reason I should be practicing. Haven't been meditating, haven't done ngondro, haven't done any empowerment practices. Cursing like a Soprano (you can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can't take the Jersey out of the girl, apparently), and letting my materialistic streak run wild. Obsessed with the male of the species after my libido has awakened from it's self-induced coma.

WHY IS IT SO HARD TO FIND THE MIDDLE BOWL OF PORRIDGE?

Tibetans must get so frustrated trying to teach us westerners.

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Poster:retrophoto
Date:2005-10-01 09:55
Subject:Vajrasattva
Security:Public

Started doing my 100-syllable mantras, as I recently got this empowerment, and I'm realizing just how time consuming this is going to be. It took me two days just to make one trip around my mala! I'm going to have to do marathon sessions on weekends if I'm going to ever complete my "preliminaries."

Still, despite my kvetching, I always worry that as the dharma comes to the west, people will want to dilute it into fast food, McReligion (tm), just was we've done for the sake of converting so many ancient religions to "New Ageism." I understand westerners are already whinging to the Dalai Lama, "But why do we have to do these preliminaries? Can't we just skip them?"

Um...NO.

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Poster:retrophoto
Date:2005-09-29 11:38
Subject:
Security:Public

Slight error -- Lama Rabsel comes TODAY. I get a bit disoriented at times.

Chagme Rinpoche gave us the closest thing I've seen to a "hellfire and damnation" sermon on eating meat, and since then, I haven't been able to touch the stuff, except using what I already have in my freezer, as it's alreay been bought anyway. Granted, I was leaning that way anyay, but he really hammered us on our rampant slaughter of animals because "they taste good." No doubt which side of the issue he falls in the Buddhist vegetarian vs carnivore debate. So I'm now vegetarian, and looking for any resources for veggie recipes, expecially high protein ones. I'm not an Atkins devotee, but I definitely feel much better on lower carb type foods.

Oh yes, one other little tidbit of news. My fellow sangha member has booked our flights to India on his frequent flyer miles, so I am getting free airfare to India to get the Kalachakra empowerment from His Holiness. It's definnitely set. I can't really believe it.

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Poster:retrophoto
Date:2005-08-28 00:45
Subject:
Security:Public

Today (after midnight) is a very big day for our sangha -- our own Lama Rabsel arrives. Here's a long life prayer composed by a little 3 year old of our sangha, and a couple of photos of her and her brother with Garchen Rinpoche. It's enough to make even a cynical old broad like me want to procreate:

Lama Rabsel

"The world's most beautiful Chenrezig
We hope he will be here soon
And there's a children's room that had a flood
Most world's power
I like to play with sand

"Beautiful Lama Rabsel
We hope you will be here soon
Happy smiling face
We hope he lives for a long time
He's helping people learn how to meditate
He's coming to teach Momma and me"

Rinpoche

big hug for Rinpoche

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Poster:retrophoto
Date:2005-08-26 19:10
Subject:
Security:Public

where's the moustache?

Notice something is missing in this photo, a day later. Yes that little moustache.

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Poster:retrophoto
Date:2005-09-25 19:48
Subject:
Security:Public

Reaction to Lama Gape at the Kinkos was generally pretty positive and low key.

Getting there was a bit...tense. I was getting lost trying to drive downtown (the first time I've ever been down there) and getting flustered, all the while thinking, "I can't get upset and angry with a lama in the car!" Then I had to parallel park, which normally wouldn't be such a big deal, but I was nervous carrying such cargo. I made a few jokes with Lama Gape, and told him I was glad I hadn't sent him to the bardo once I got parked. He laughed and patted me on the back. "It's fine."

Now he smiles at me all the time. I would like to think he's beaming and thinking, "Alas, she is the Goddess Tara incarnate! How happy I am to be in her divine presence!" But I suspect it's more along the lines of "What a silly westerner."

PS. Anyone who goes to dharma events knows you get freebies... loads of freebies. I must say the freebies kicked ass -- a necklace of Guru Rinpoche that appears to be jade, and a super cool White Tara on a sunburst pattern foil that's like radiating beams of light. I noticed even Lama Gape checking that out during the talks. And some "Dharma medicine" I haven't tried yet -- little brown things that are supposed to clear away negativity or something, but has some rather interesting effects, from what I understand from the people who tried them. Should make an interesting evening.

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Poster:retrophoto
Date:2005-09-25 08:42
Subject:The Boy Wonder
Security:Public

Chagme Rinpoche

Chagme Rinpoche quote of the day:
"Your American dollars are no good in the bardo."

I'm hoping I have some better shots on the roll I'm shooting now, but this will have to do for the time being.

Lama Gape asked me yesterday if I had any children, and when I told him no, he said, "Good. No distractions."

So there you have it, my I'm-getting-too-old-to-have-children crisis solved.

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Poster:retrophoto
Date:2005-09-23 07:17
Subject:Random thoughts on lama visits
Security:Public

While volunteering to cook for the lamas always throws me into a fit of worry and stress, hanging with them casually is wonderful. Seeing them in a context of everyday people like us makes their spiritual accomplishments that much more inspiring, as it reminds me they are every bit as human as us. If they can do it, so can we.

But it's still a little weird seeing them running around kind of casually. Lama Gape was wearing an undershirt around the center yesterday, and I couldn't help but think that all you had to do was put him in front of ball game with a beer in his hand, and he could pass for any average Joe around here. Except the skirt, of course.

The best thing seems to be taking the lamas out to do errands or shopping, from what I understand. Someone took Rinpoche out Tuesday to get his cell phone charged at the mall. As you can imagine, this caused quite a stir. Chagme Rinpoche most definitely has one-pointedness and focus down pat -- despite all the distractions in the mall, he was just focused on cell phone, cell phone, cell phone, cell phone...pause to look at a baby... cell phone, cell phone, cell phone... Anyway, a group of young girls went by and kind of catcalled at him, winking, but Rinpoche didn't even notice. Cell phone, cell phone, cell phone... He has the kind of business-like focus even The Donald would envy.

Today I'll get to experience the culture shock of Americans running into lamas in public firsthand -- I'm taking Lama Gape to Kinkos to make copies of a sacred text. This should be quite interesting.

Lama Gape is a lovely man, but very serious, and a tough cookie to crack. He is, after all, the disciplinarian for Garchen Rinpoche's students. It's hilarious when Chagme Rinpoche is speaking in Tibetan during a talk, and he makes a joke -- he always looks over at Lama Gape for reaction, the only other person besides the translator who can understand him and appreciate his humor as he says it. But he gets NO response -- Lama Gape's body is there, but his mind has left the building for some meditative plain. Yet Rinpoche keeps looking over at him, and keeps getting absolutely nothing in response.

It's probably one of those things you have to be there to appreciate the humor.

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Poster:retrophoto
Date:2005-09-22 01:25
Subject:
Security:Public

Chagme Rinpoche has much to learn about American culture. He is canceling *Tsok to give more teachings. What's up with that?





*Tsok is a Tibetan word that roughly translates into "blessing large quantities of junk food, then eating it all because you aren't allowed to throw away blessed food and let it go to waste."

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Poster:retrophoto
Date:2005-09-22 20:15
Subject:
Security:Public

Tonight we had Chagme Rinpoche start his visit with a public talk. Now, many buddhists translate "public talk' as beginner info and something they shouldn't bother with.

No one present tonight believes that any more, I guarantee you.

It started along the usual lines, talking about compassion and how we should view all sentient beings as our mother, as they have been at some point in time, in some incarnation. Pretty standard buddhism, although his energy and vigor were certainly noteworthy.

He talked a lot about Garchen Rinpoche, who has given him many teachings and empowerments. When his translator -- an American woman -- started telling about how Garchen Rinpoche loves America, she stopped, choking up with emotion. She tried again, but could not speak, and apologized. As she paused, Chagme playfuylly leaned forward and smiled at her and said, "Translator?" When she regathered her composure, she told us how Garchen had told Chagme how wonderful this country is, how smart we all are, and how, with our wealth and power and potential, if they could bring the dharma to us, it would truly change the world. I looked at the flag on the altar and remembered Garchen insisting that we put an American flag up there when he visited.

It's been a long time since I've heard anyone say anything that kind about this country (including myself) and show that kind of faith in us. My words can't convey it, but what a powerful moment.

Yet still, a fraction of the bombshell he laid on us, and particularly me.

He told us a story about a great Bodhisattva in Tibet who had a young student that he took with him to see a sick woman. The woman was vomiting, and the young student was horrified at the dirtiness of the scene. But the Bodhisattva reached out his hand and wiped the vomit away. Later, he chastised the student for lacking compassion, and asked him how he would feel if he had been in her place, and someone had come in and acted like he was too dirty, as he was lying there sick and couldn't help vomiting. The Bodhisattva told the student he must put himself in the other's place and he would always feel compassion.

It came as no surprise to me when Chagme Rinpoche revealed that he was the student and Garchen Rinpoche was...IS the Bodhisattva. And he told us he is not even a fraction of the compassionate Bodhisattva that Garchen Rinpoche is.

The story moved us all, given our connection to Garchen, but really hit me hard. So I wrote a story for Chagme Rinpoche, whether I ever give it to him or not:

There was a woman who naturally had great compassion for everyone, and she wanted to care for people as her profession. Not just everyone, but especially those who no one else wanted to take care of. She was the kind of person who would go to hospitals as a student and ask who the “worst” patients were -- the ones no one else wanted. She would spend the extra time with them that being a student allowed her, and she could see such huge changes in them after only 8 hours of being treated as a human being again.

When she became a nurse, she worked in an AIDS unit, because they are our modern day lepers and they needed more compassion than anyone she could think of. She worked with people who felt the same as her, and they became her family. She would go in to visit even on her nights off, to sit with patients, who she and her co-workers thought of more as friends than patients.

She saw a degree of suffering she never thought possible, and has not seen matched even today, with all her years of working with terrible diseases and cancers. She could handle that, because she knew they were doing something good, and bringing so many peace, even if not all. But what she couldn’t handle was when the company running the facility went bankrupt and had to sell it to people who only cared about making money. They cut staff, supplies and did everything they could to drive off the people who worked there, because they didn’t like workers who advocated for their patients. The woman saw neglect and poor care, and one day she went to talk to an angry family. They had a man there who had been in an accident and had brain damage, so he couldn’t speak or care for himself. He was covered with tattoos of Nazi symbols and hate imagery. But that man had been taken care of until now, until staff was cut to a bare minimum, so that now he had deep bedsores. The woman knew that never should have happened, and when the family cried about them, she cried with them. And she knew she couldn’t work there any more.

That place broke her heart, and she started closing it off more and more. She worked hospice for awhile and started to open up again, but first her mother died of cancer, and then her father, who was everything in the world to her, and it was too painful to care for the dying, so she closed her heart again, thinking that would stop her suffering. She isolated herself and pushed the world away, and she grasped at anything -- even things that hurt herself -- to try to ease the pain. After many years, she didn’t recognize herself anymore, and she couldn’t remember her compassion and loving-kindness that had once been so natural.

Then one summer she went to visit a place where she had gone with friends many years ago, near a Buddhist monastery. But this time she went in, and felt something so powerful, she knew this was the spiritual path she wanted to pursue, after trying so many. She found a sangha near her home and started to go. She started to meet teachers, the first being a true Bodhisattva. This Bodhisattva gave her refuge and the irreversible confidence in the dharma that no book ever could, and he did it without saying a word.

She discovered that every time she was in the presence of these teachers and lamas and bodhisattvas, she felt the faintest memory of the compassionate person she used to be, but it seemed to slip away when she returned to the real world and she wondered if maybe her compassion was a faded memory that was too damaged to be retrieved. She wondered if maybe she was unworthy for such a path and beyond redemption.

Then the Bodhisattva had one of his students come to her sangha and he told them all a story about how the Bodhisattva had cared for a sick woman, and had wiped the vomit from her mouth. That made the woman remember how she had taken care of a young woman who was dying, who had teenage daughters. She remembered how, while the family gathered around the sick woman as she was taking her last breaths, some vomit and blood oozed out of the corner of her mouth. Despite the medical profession obsession with gloves and precautions, the woman remembered how she had reached out with bare hands to stop the flow, because she didn’t want the sick woman’s family -- and especially her daughters -- to have that for their last memory.

And the woman remembered the kind of person she had been, to do that. And for the first time in many, many years, she realized she still was that person, if she simply chose to open her heart again.

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Poster:retrophoto
Date:2005-09-16 15:30
Subject:The Ngondro fitness plan
Security:Public

I formally started my first preliminary practice today, called ngondro. First, you do 111,111 repetitions of the refuge prayer and prostrations, then 111,111 Vajrasattva mantras, then 111,111 mandala offerings, and finally, 111,111 guru yoga practices.

Let me tell you, doing 100 prostrations can work up a bit of a sweat, now. I think I can lose a ton of weight, then market this and make a fortune. (For the good of all sentient beings, of course.) Yep, 100 down, only 111,011 left to go on the FIRST preliminary! Whew--eeee, look at me go!!

I think I understand all too well now why the First Noble Truth is "suffering exists," and why Buddhists have to reincarnate -- it's going to take at least a few lives just to do my prelims.

And on another note, sure wish I'd known I was going to become a Buddhist when I picked out this apartment with wood floors.

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Poster:retrophoto
Date:2005-09-11 18:17
Subject:Photos of the Maitreya Relic tour...
Security:Public

http://www.artemis-studios.com/maitreya.html

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Poster:retrophoto
Date:2005-08-28 14:13
Subject:Rigpa...
Security:Public
Mood: relaxed

This is the man who gave me the red pill and pulled me out of the Matrix.

H.E. Garchen Rinpoche

(not my photo, unfortunately)

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Poster:retrophoto
Date:2005-08-08 11:12
Subject:Have you hugged your sangha today?
Security:Public
Mood: I love my sangha

I have the best sangha in the world. I particulary realized this after attending a meditation group at a local art gallery commemorating Hiroshima. This was run by another sangha and no one from mine showed up. They all seemed to know each other, and not a single person came up and introduced themselves. They just looked at me like "who are you and why are you here?" despite the fact that our sangha was formally invited. But, oh wait -- they didn't know what sangha I was from as no one bothered to talk to me.

Yes, if I was a more socially capable person I would have introduced myself, but as the poster child of Social Anxiety Disorder and the lone stranger in the room, this was a bit more than I could ask. Given that this particualry trendy, oh-so-bohemian college town always makes me start humming The Dandy Warhols, I guess I just wasn't hip enough for the room.

But did I mention I have the best sangha in the world?

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