Buddhist Geeks

I had a wonderful opportunity to attend Buddhist Geeks Conference in Boulder, CO. The site explains it like this:

"It’s an opportunity to explore the leading-edge frontiers of Buddhism, technology, and global culture. This year’s gathering brings together luminaries in the fields of Buddhism, science, philosophy, education, business, politics, and more. Participants will explore how the dharma is co-evolving with modern insights and trends to change our lives—personally and globally—in extraordinary and unexpected ways."

Although I am not a practicing Buddhist, I was drawn to this conference because I've been trying to blend my Eastern philosophical education with my database expertise. This conference seemed like a place where I would meet others, like myself, as well as broaden my understanding of the changing face of Buddhism in the modern world and specifically, how it is unfolding in the Western world.

Some of the speakers were riveting and really gave me food for thought, as it relates to Database Sherpa and my personal life (which are aligning more and more every day). I revisited my notes (very sparse) and found these things written:

  1. Inner and outer work align
  2. Buddhism changes
  3. Grasping

(I also wrote a couple website and book titles, but those are for another blog posting.)

So, let me break down why I choose to write only these three points in my notebook, and how they are forming my work and me.

1. Inner and outer work align

I cannot tell you who said this or when, but I do remember writing it down and thinking YES! The speaker said the inner work of meditation and yoga practice has to align with outer work in the world. My take-away: I need to do more than meditate for change. I must also go out into the world to make it happen.

My change has been so dramatic over the last few years. The birth of Zola. Saying goodbye to a special pet. Losing my job. Creating Database Sherpa. It's been a chaotic few years, still, I find myself at peace. My inner work has been to find peace while being surrounded by chaos — so my inner work has been successful.

Now, my outer work is to help others who are surrounded by chaos. (Those who want to be helped. Not everyone desires to be rid of chaos. Some thrive in that place, which is not a bad thing, it just is). I realized that I had used my outer work with my last client. (I didn't know it at the time, until this conference brought it to light.) I used my own tools and techniques to guide and help her though the chaos.

So, as I continue my inner work, I will focus on aligning my outer work (not just with Database Sherpa, but also with my family and friends).

2. Buddhism changes

This was a big "ah-ha!" and more of a historical one. A speaker told of how Buddhism took 100 years to solidify in Japan. Why? Because it needed to morph and change based on the culture in which it resided.

How spectacular! Changing to address the needs and desires of the culture. The same speaker discussed how this very thing is now happening in the modern or Western world as well. Buddhism will become something new here (maybe over 100 years, too). One person asked if there would be a necessity for monasteries in the Western world. No one had an answer, but it was a good question. (That's what I love about the Eastern world; there are never answers, only more questions.) It was fun listening to the dialogue.

This got me to thinking about Database Sherpa and how change is critical to the success of the business. Not change that takes 100 years (please, that's too long), but the fact that change will take time. I cannot expect everyone to embrace this new way of business, but I can take my time, learn my lesson, and offer what I can. Database Sherpa will mold, bend, and flex to the changing culture of our times.

3. Grasping

Although the names of the two other speakers didn’t stick with me like their lessons did, I remember this speaker. She was fantastic and stuck in my head throughout my time at the conference, as well as into the time I arrived home. Her name is Martine Batchelor and she opened my eyes to something that, frankly, we are all doing: Grasping at something.

Her talk was titled "Creativity without Grasping". If you’d like to see her presentation, a woman at the conference was capturing visual representations of each session. It does a great job, but what you miss are her words and the impact.

Yes, she did talk about holding something in your hand so tightly that it begins to hurt. What do you do? The story is lovely, but what it means is the really beautiful part of the story. Let me explain using “rules” as an example.

Sometimes, it's much easier to hold onto rules: "Don't talk unless it is you turn", "Cross the street when the light is green". We grasp at rules, and frankly, for good reason. They provide for a civil society. It makes sense. These are the collective rules.

So, what about the rules we make up? "Children are to be seen and not heard", "eat dinner first and then dessert", "waffles are for breakfast not lunch"? We may see them as collective rules, but they are not. I argue that sometimes, we may not even have a good reason for them. It's "just because."

Rules are just one thing we grasp. (Something that's been coming up a lot at home, lately, with a 3-1/2-year-old running around). We grasp at ideas, people, and objects; if you can name it, we grasp at it. I have even watched in a yoga class people grasping for a pose or meditation (which is Martine's point).

Imagine a rule is fixed in your mind. Maybe it's, "children are to be seen and not heard." You think it's a fine rule. But what if you let it go? Let it float around your head. Turn it upside down and backwards. What does this rule look like? Dark and grey, or light and brown? Put the rule aside and think about life without that rule. What does it feel like? Look like?

This process of imagination is the creative approach that Martine was explaining. By being creative with your thinking, you are allowing yourself to look at things with another viewpoint. I love this way of thinking and being. It allows for contemplation and consideration.

Thank you for diving into my education at the Buddhist Geek conference. It was an enjoyable experience and one that provided me much to ponder!