Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Last Day!

       Our last day of Eastern Disciplines began like the rest of the week, with meditation. But this time we did a walking meditation in Bell Park, although it was cold, the nature and fresh air was really very refreshing.

Next, we had final presentations from Iris, Franz, Isabella, Grace L, Claire T, Ari and Claire L. Iris gave a presentation on Kusala and Akusala in Buddhism, Franz spoke about Zen Buddhist Koans, Isabella spoke about the Buddhist concept of the Soul, Grace L spoke about Integrative Medicine, Claire T spoke about the Hinduism Feminist Movement, Ari spoke about Mental Health in Aryuveda and finally, Claire L spoke about the evolution and origin of Zen Buddhism. 

At the end of the day, we created our class's presentation about our A-term for next Thursday and did our final end of the day yoga session. It was a bittersweet yoga session, but we all had a great time and learned so much. If you want to hear more about our experience and those of other A-terms, come to the Post Oak High School next Thursday at 10:00 AM!

Namaste! :)

Friday, April 1, 2016

We're in the Final Stretch of A-Term (pun intended)

Today we began our day with an exciting seminar about the last part of our book. We all came to class with questions we had after completing our book. Our seminar was thought-provoking and was definitely a great way to start the morning. 

After our our seminar we had some much appreciated open work time to prepare our presentations for later in the day. We used our mindfulness techniques to keep ourselves of track and some of us practiced a few yoga poses throughout our time working and during lunch to stretch our bodies after working over computer! Yoga is a beautiful thing! After lunch and little bit more open work time, it was time for two presentations. 
First, Grace A. gave an engaging presentation about how Buddhism changed women's role in society. 

And our next presentation was about Chinese Meridian Theory, by Kirby. We learned about acupuncture and how Qi flows through the body and into organs. 

Lastly, we practiced yoga with our favorite YouTube yogi, Adrien. It felt great to stretch out our bodies after a long day of independent research and listening to or giving presentations. Overall, today was a very productive day for the Eastern Disciplines A-term group! We each learned a lot through our own exploration of topics that interest us and our classmates teaching us. We had a great second to last day of A-Term and I'm looking forward to learning more from my classmates tomorrow! 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

3.30.16- Work Hard Play Hard

Today was a beautiful day. It certainly had its challenges, but it was still beautiful. We started our day with meditation, a practice we have been playing with for the last week and a half. Everyday throughout the entire course we’ve meditated for at least ten minutes, and I believe the most we've ever done is thirty minutes. Today we did 25 minutes!

See look:
Sitting Down Meditation .jpg   
Here are some of my peers doing some amazing sitting meditation!

Then here are the rest of my peers testing out the lying down style of meditation!
Lying Down Meditation.jpg

Then after mediation came the intense part of the day. We had three days to write 1000ish word essay and today was our last chance to finish our rough draft. Just being honest, but the first was really spent entirely on research, so it would be more accurate to say we only had two days. Anyway, we got the opportunity to finish our rough draft after meditation right up until lunch, and then even a little bit after lunch.

Here is one of my friends Claire L. studiously working on her paper:
Research Project A-Term Pic.jpg

And here is another one of my friends Iris typing away:
Research Project A-Term Pic #2.jpg

At the end of the day we all turned in our rough drafts, which was really nice, and then got together in groups to read our friends papers and give them advice. I got to sit down with a senior, the amazing Grace A., and a freshman, the super funny Claire L. They were extremely helpful, and gave me a lot of good advice on what I should change in my paper. When it was my turn to give advice I, of course, also gave really good advice to my peers.

Overall this A-Term has been absolutely amazing! I’m so excited to the fruits of this A-Term, not just on Friday when everyone presents what they’ve been researching so intensely, but also what people take away from these two weeks of studying. I wonder if my peers will be inspired to take up meditation as a daily practice, or if they will see the word with new eyes. I know I will(: I wish everyone I have ever met, and everyone reading this right now, to have an absolutely beautiful day, and to enjoy life in the present moment.


(Which means the divine in me recognizes the divine in you)       

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tuesday: Rice with a Side of Yoga

The search for Rice began at 8:30 a.m. and the students of Eastern Disciplines were prepared, backpacks and all. We embarked on our journey with the hope that Rice may feed our hunger for knowledge. After all, each of us had just chosen a topic to write a research paper about and the Rice University's Fondren Library is filled to the brim with resources. We walked down a long, winding trail under a continuous tree arch until we saw a sign stating Rice University. As the great teacher Dora the Explorer once said, "We did it."*

From right to left: Claire T., Claire L, Grace L, Iris, Grace A., Isabella (me), and Franz

Upon arriving, we sought out public computers with which we would look up books and later, locate them using their special ISBN code. At first, I was disheartened because there was no free rice and all the sources I needed were only in Japanese. However, the day was saved by the discovery of OneSearch. OneSearch is this awesome search engine which gives you access to PDFs and lets you choose the language as English. Through OneSearch, I was able to find online PDFs all about my research topic. In fact, below you can see me (white shirt) searching. (No, not for my inner self. Although I'm working on that too.)

Isabella and Claire L. search for sources while Franz reads one of his sources
as he waits for a computer to free up.

Left to right: Claire L., Claire T., Grace A.
The final and most unexpected part of our journey at Rice was that Claire squared and Grace A. became the President of the United States for a brief moment. It appears our A Term truly taught them how to become one with each other.

We left Rice University content with the knowledge that our research would soon become one with our future papers and as such, produce the rough draft that is due tomorrow. If only Buddha had written a guide for how to write high-quality papers in short periods of time. Luckily, we have Ms. Harrison for that, which is pretty much the same thing.

When we arrived at Post Oak, we feasted before going into our individual spaces to work on our papers for an hour. After that was yoga.

Here, you can see us in savasana, also known as
 dead man's pose.

There are three great things about doing yoga. First is yoga pants because comfort levels. The second is savasana. The third is the spiritual aspect of it. (Some might say that there is a fourth. This fourth would be that physically, you become so fine you might as well be a Sharpie.)

What I found particularly enjoyable about doing yoga was that it embraces the body as it is now and that it takes emphasis on the journey of bettering yourself as a whole rather than focusing solely on the betterment of the physical body. As someone who tends to over worry, I find that yoga allows for me to have a peaceful conclusion to my school day.

Overall, today was absolutely lovely. I look forward to reading other people's topics and learning about them during our writing workshop tomorrow.

* You can hear Dora the Explorer say these truly inspiring words on YouTube

3.28.16- Finding Our Own Paths

Today in the Eastern Disciplines group, we kicked off with a seminar about Wherever You Go, There You Are, a book by Jon Kabat-Zinn about mindfulness that we are all reading. The section we discussed talked about different postures and techniques for meditation. We talked about misconceptions about whether meditation gets rid of pain or not (my understanding is it doesn’t, it shifts perspective sometimes though) and the point of visualizing various natural features for inspiration, like mountains and lakes. The ability to ask each other questions and discuss meaning helps me a lot to feel that I am attaining an understanding of a text with depth and many perspectives, and I think we all really enjoy combination of light rapport and respect for the subject matter that this particular group has.
Right after that, Dr. Menon and Dr. Chandra, who are faculty at Rice University, came to talk to us about Hinduism and Hindu and Indian medicine. Dr. Menon spoke to us about the basics of what Hinduism is, showed us many sanskrit words, and explained the concept of cyclical time, which was a bit of a struggle for most of us to comprehend. Dr. Chandra went more into health care, Ayurveda (which means life knowledge) medicine, and the idea that prevention is worth much more than cure and a connection with the body can prevent the need for some medications.

Dr. Chandra.jpg
Dr. Menon.jpg
Dr. Chandra                                                        Dr. Menon
(We don’t have pictures of them talking to us, sadly!)
We still had some time before lunch, so we walked to the Doherty to conduct some research for our individual papers. Some of the topics people came away with were “Women in Hinduism”, “The Way Buddhism Has Changed Women’s Roles” “Ayurveda and Mental Health” and “Reincarnation in Buddhism”.
After lunch, Stan Merrill, who learned how to teach mindfulness meditation from Jon Kabat-Zinn, came to talk to us about meditation and lead us in a practice. He spoke to us about the health benefits of meditation, and about what he thought were the main key points of how to meditate and why to meditate. The meditation he led contained aspects of the zen meditation we did at the zen center (counting breaths) and of Metta meditation (loving kindness meditation) and we all really enjoyed his open and inviting way of leading meditation. Afterwards, he showed us a Ted talk about how we define ourselves, and engaged in one of the most lively discussions I’ve seen this A-term, about topics ranging from balancing acceptance and expressing when you are hurt, to how to reflect on traumatic events without ruminating on them. He was friendly and insightful and open to all of our questioning.
Stan Merrill talking to us about meditation. You can see many of us leaning forward, rapt.

Today, we had the start of our personal explorations, finding specific directions for our search for knowledge at the Doherty, and had the great experience of meeting three experts in their fields who gave us perspective and insight into several Eastern Disciplines. I’m really glad to have this space to be practicing techniques like meditation every day and to be learning about the greater context that these practices are put into, with culture and religion. I’m excited to see what each of us finds in our searches, and to continue to grow within this group!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Thursday 2/25: Jade Buddha and Yoga

On Thursday, we started out our day with a seminar on part one of the book that we have been reading, Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn. We had been reading the book on our own time throughout the week, and during the seminar, we answered our questions about meditation, non-doing, non-judging, and mindfulness. I think it was helpful to be reading this book throughout the week because as we were reading, we were also hearing similar information about meditation from the experts we went to and those who came to us. That way, we could compare all of the information we have received to gain the largest understanding of what meditation really is.
After our seminar, we went to the Jade Buddha Temple, which is named for the giant buddha statue carved entirely out of jade. 
All of us in front of the Jade Buddha
I think that everyone really enjoyed this experience. Most of the time at the temple was spent listening to our guide talk about Buddhism. Buddhism started with the birth of Buddha, who was a prince. At his birth, a wise man told his parents that their son would either be the greatest king on Earth or the greatest religious leader on Earth. As he grew up, his parents sheltered him and kept him in the palace, so he did not really know what the lives of his people were like. When he got older, his father took him outside the palace gates so that he could see the outside world. Our guide at the Jade Buddha Temple talked about how the Buddha saw many new things, like an old man in tattered clothes, and wanted to see more of the world. At this point he had a wife and kid of his own, but he snuck out of the palace.
Buddha spent several years amongst those who used to be his people and began gaining followers. One day, during his travels, he sat down under a bodhi tree and was meditating deeply, reflecting on his life, and he became enlightened. Our guide also showed us the Kwan Yin Temple. She is the bodhisattva of compassion and there is an entire temple at the Jade Buddha Temple dedicated to her. 
Kwan Yin

After we went to the Jade Buddha Temple, we came back and Maria Theresia came to the school to do a yoga class with us for the afternoon. MT told us that she mostly teaches classes to people in the corporate world, but she also teaches some classes that are open to others. MT teaches classical hatha yoga, which started in the early 1900s. I thought that the class was really great. It was both relaxing and challenging at times. 

Yoga with MT

Friday, March 25, 2016

Third Day: The day of Meditation

The day started off with everyone rushing to the bus stop, to begin to hour long ride into The Heights to go visit the Houston Zen Center. Once we got into The Heights neighborhood we made a quick stop to see my dad's public installation.

The show in on the 17th street in the heights.
The piece is about human trafficking in Houston. Each lens has a picture of someone in the community, by the end of the nine month period there will be almost 4,000 lenses on the tree, symbolizing the amount of people brought into Houston for human trafficking a year. 

When we arrived at the Zen center, Franz had already been helping the center, by collecting the leaves in the street to use for compost. 

The whole group was welcomed into the space with open arms. Glen Duval was the person we met up with. He showed us hospitably that I have never experienced before. When we first got onto the grounds, he told us to obverse how we felt as we walked through the space, conveying the idea that everything is in the right space and is purposeful. 

Walking throughout the space, there was a sense of peace and serenity that most of the students picked up on. During our excursion, we found this little guy. It is a statue of Bodhisattva, who is the protector of small things, he carries a staff with him as a warning for the small creature below his feet, so that when he walks he is not disturbing anyone. As Glen led us around he told us about why everything in the garden is there, why they like to weed out the beds, but not the parking lot, because even those weeds need some place to be. 
When we went into the building we all took off our shoes as a sign of respect and began a silent mediation. Glen told us different techniques to do during a silent meditation. I personally tried the counting method - it's where as you are meditating you count your breaths, and every time your mind wonders off, your have to go back to one. Personally I couldn't get passed four. 
After the twenty minute meditation, we all went upstairs to ask any questions we had about the space or about the practice of mediation. We were taught the idea that one should always smile, because they are contagious and its showing others around you compassion, one of the main philosophies behind Buddhism. 
We then went back to school, where everyone read Wherever You Go, There You Are. Once this hour was over, we met with Dr. Gabriel Lopez and Dr. Alejandro Chaoul. Dr. Lopez, is the medical director of the MD Anderson Integrative Medicine Program, and Dr. Chaoul is part of the faculty at MD Anderson Cancer Center. They told us about how they are integrating Eastern practices with cancer patients, to see how these practices can further help in their health. They treat about 1,500 patients a year; either a doctor will recommend this treatment, or the patient will ask for it. There recently has been a serious influx of patients due to the great results that the doctors have seen over years. 
Both of the doctors we met with stressed the idea that they don't think that the Eastern practices should at all replace the treatment that the patient it receiving, but assist them through some of the harsher side effects. At the end of our discussion we practiced  another kind of mediation, one where we were brought to awareness by Dr.Chaoul's voice. We were told to bring attention to our breath, and if a thought where to come up to recognize it and then let it go. 
The day was so eye opening, getting to opportunity to meet all of these very aware, informed individuals furthered my understanding of what mediation was, and what we should use it for.