The Very Spring and Root

An engineer's adventures in education (and other musings).

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new year

Subha aluth aurudha

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My mother and I drive into a run-down neighborhood of the river-port city of West Sacramento, and find parking on the side of the street. A yard for freight truck cabs is next door, and across the street I can see a dilapidated motel and an industrial warehouse. But in the rough is a diamond of spirituality and community.

Two small houses share a large strip of property that carves a long rectangle out of this blue collar suburb. Small Buddhist flags hang from the awnings, and the garage door of one of the houses is emblazoned with a dharma wheel. Monks trapse between the houses in their orange robes. Two scents combine to extend a powerful sensory welcome — I associate both incense and curry with home, family, and tradition.

I had never been to my parents’ temple before today.

American Buddhist Seminary in Sacramento serves as the spiritual and social center for the Sri Lankan community living around California’s capitol. I would consider myself fairly well connected to the community through family functions, dinner parties, camping trips, and a few lay Buddhist ceremonies. However, visiting the temple was a new experience.

ABS was founded in 1996 as center for Buddhist study and practice in Sacramento. It also serves to train Therevada monks from Sri Lanka and Thailand for seminary work here in the United States; teaching the dhamma here in American can present significant linguistic and cultural challenges for foreign-born monks.

The Seminary is expanding. Recent architectural drawings are on the wall for a new temple — complete with a meditation garden and community room — that will expand into the now largely vacant ground behind the houses.

These photographs were taken during the New Year blessings (puja) ceremony. As the Sinhalese say: subha aluth aurudha… have a blessed new year!

All photos are copyright Nalin A. Ratnayake. Please request permission to use them.


Resolutions for 2013:

  • Write something everyday... even if it’s just a paragraph. And I don’t mean writing that I have to do anyway, like academic writing for a class or writing a lesson plan for my teaching — those don’t count. I’m giving myself the option of journaling, correspondence (letter or in-depth personal email), blogging, or fiction. I find that writing helps me immensely, in that it forces me to organize my thoughts and solidify my understanding of what I observe and believe. Blogging is especially good for this. I write for myself and don’t particularly care who reads my blogging; but the fact that it is public and reflects on me is good pressure to be reasonable, coherent, and responsible with what I write.
  • Meditate regularly.  I’m setting a target of at least 20 minutes per day, at least three days a week, and just installed the MeditationHelper android app to help me track it. Starting with my move to Boston last summer, I lost my regular rhythm of meditation, always telling myself that I would resume a set schedule once things got more settled. Well, now is the time. I think my attention, memory, and focus suffered some degradation in the stress of the fall; being a naturally scattered person, the lack of meditation really didn’t help my personal stability. Here’s to a more contemplative spring.
  • Become conversant in Spanish. I’m working toward dual licensure in ESL, so this is something I have been working on already anyway. I am currently halfway through Level 2 of the Rosetta Stone Totale, and plan to have completed Level 5 by August. I’m also watching Destinos over on the Annenberg Media site, and have a few Spanish-speaking friends recruited to help me converse.
  • Deactivate my Facebook account. I already did this a couple weeks ago as a test. The only thing I really miss so far is the social events postings from my BTR Cohort. However, I will just have to be more proactive about staying in touch with then socially via other means. The account is deactivated, not deleted; so, while none of my information is visible or actionable online, everything can be restored simply by logging in again. The goal here is to keep it deactivated for at least the entirety of 2013.

In addition to the above lifestyle tweaks, I’m holding myself to the following two projects as creative deliverables:

  • Jamaica Pond, Month by Month. At least once a month, I’m going to take my camera to the little lake in JP just a block down from my apartment and do some photography. At the end of every month I’ll post my favorites here. Later on, maybe next year, I have vague plans of taking the best photos and compiling them with notes and essays into a sort of online (maybe print) publication.
  • Complete a First Draft Novel. Sounds ambitious, just throwing that down there. But every year I do NaNoWriMo, trying to finish a short novel (50,000 words) in just 30 days. Shouldn’t finishing one in 365 days be a much more doable goal? I hope so… Despite four years of trying NaNoWriMo, I have yet to actually complete one in 30 days. Maybe this year-long goal is the more reasonable way to finally get it done. So let’s say… 75,000 words on the same coherent storyline by December 31st, 2013.

Too ambitious? We’ll see. Anyone up for a few walks around Jamaica Pond? ¿O hay alguien que quiere hablar conmigo en español? It’s going to be an awesome year… saddle up.

Dick Clark is dead

Link: Dick Clark is dead

Initiation of Apocalypse: there can be no New Year without Dick Clark, whose death after living for what seems like an entire Mayan Long Count, creates year-turnover singularity. 

Here’s to an icon whose passing truly does mark the end of an era.