Thursday, May 01, 2014

Please Support me in my 2014 Street Retreat


Please consider supporting me to participate in a street retreat on May 8 in New York City.  As a participant, I commit to fundraising $500- part of which goes to support the service agencies that care for us on the streets.  After you donate, I will add your name to a bead on my mala bracelet, so you will be with me on my journey.


Why?

Why am I returning to do a street retreat for the 4th time and, in November, an Auschwitz retreat for the 6th?  Looking back on my reflections from my May 2013 street retreat (below), I see how:

  • The retreat provided me with a powerful experience of deep listening
  • My May retreat resonated with me through my year
  • The practice of listening reveals to me greater levels of depth every day
  • I could really use another experience of intensive practice   


Then and Now 

Last May, I was nervous about people managing Stone Soup for one weekend in my absence.  Since then, I let go of roles that were't right for me and moved into new ones.  Today, there is an active Leadership Team who has been making meal management better and better each week.  

Last May, I was working on the Café full-time, nervous about what would happen when my unemployment rant out.  Today, I receive a part-time salary while we serve a growing number of people each week, sometimes surpassing 100 guests.    

Last May, I decided to leave my men's group in order to initiate teaching a Dharma in Action workshop series.  I taught the first session to 9 students last Sunday.  

Last May, I was completing a certificate in non-profit management and considering business school.  Today, I have started studying more closely with Bernie to complete my Ministry ordination and I am launching a new organization to support additional Cafes around the world.  

Thank you for supporting me on this path of letting go of stale roles and stories, tuning in to the creative field around me and waking up to new opportunities, again and again.  


May 2013 Street Retreat Reflections

The theme of this street retreat for me was listening to the manyness.  My intention was to plunge as deeply as I could into the three peacemaker tenets of Not-knowing, Bearing Witness and Loving Actions.  Listening to the manyness is about bearing witness to the whole.  Meditating in Washington Square Park, hearing a saxophone player in the distance, dogs barking, birds chirping, construction clanging, kids laughing, people talking... a giant symphony, a beautiful cacophony and all of it so alive, so perfect and my likes and dislikes and emotional reactions, all of them teachings. 



Our retreat liturgy defined Not-knowing as “the source of all manifestations.  Seeing all manifestations as the teaching of not-knowing.”  How do I treat my teachers?  I listen carefully to what they say, with my heart and head.  Can I treat all manifestations like that?  Can I treat all people like that? 

Listening to the manyness of Washington Square Park, my struggle to listen to some of my colleagues came to.  Tears shed, with a little opening.  Leaving meditation, the whole universe was a bit softer, my step lighter... tender and present.     

I witnessed my own reactions, empathy and annoyance, fear of saying the wrong thing and the joy of laughing with old friends and strangers.  I got to know my street allies, sharing deeply about work and love.  I listened to a man tell me how drugs brought him from earning $70,000 a year to living on the streets and how he quit drugs, but is still working on quitting alcohol.  I watched a fist fight erupt and get broken up.  I saw a Muslim argue with the preacher at the evangelical services required of guests in order to receive a meal at the Bowery Mission. 


As a meal program administrator, I was sensitive to the minute differences in logistical solutions to the challenge of feeding people on a tight budget.  I was sensitive to the relationship between program logistics and guest experience.  I was sensitive to the relationships among and between guests, staff and volunteers.  I saw that program staff and volunteers are on a stage with a spotlight shining on them and that they set the tone for the whole room, whether stressed out and yelling to hurry up or sharing a relaxed smile.  I noticed how different locations handled wait time.  I considered freshly logistical considerations at the Stone Soup Café and my drive to create meal programs that honors the dignity of all was invigorated.   

Thursday, January 09, 2014

First Session Teaching Yoga at New Gig

I prepped for my restorative class.  I asked my roommate to bless me, so I could be grounded in the confidence that who I am in the most important thing I offer.  I had a pretty gentle attitude with myself and with the teaching.  I basically used the Iyengar restorative sequence straight out of my teacher training manual.  I kept people in poses for 3-5 minutes.  

Base Sequence (included a few more poses

PosePropTime
Baddha Konasana3
UttanWall3
Adhoa Mukha SvanaHands wall; head block & blanket3
Setu BandhaBlock5
Viparita KaraniBlanket5
Twist right and left3
Supta Baddha KonaStrap, blankets5

I gave some instructions to follow the breath, drop into the body, let go of thoughts.  There was still some restlessness.  I tried to listen and adjust.  My stuff was definitely too much for one woman.  I later noticed the description promised "very gentle".  I asked for feedback.  There were 5 students.  Most said they liked the challenge level and they liked a few poses in particular: supported setu bandha, supta baddha konasana and viparita karani all received accolades.  One recommended I start off with asking people their names and trying to get some info on what is sore on them or what brings them to class.  I like that.  They said the previous teacher did "cat and cow" and also "thread the needle."    

In my training, restorative is very inward, meditative practice capable of invoking deep states of relaxation.  Poses are held for prolonged periods of time, like standard Iyengar style, but more so.  Props are used to find the perfect level of repose/stretch. Next time, I might explain this "perfect level" more.  It can't be too intense nor too easy.  I might also give a better overview of my sense of restorative, instead of just diving in.    

One thing I wasn’t prepared for was having less rigorous options in case someone couldn’t do what I asked.  A good teacher should be able to cater to various ability levels.  In a way, the first class served as something of an assessment.  Of the five students, two seemed to be around my age and three were probably middle aged.  The younger folks were probably just fine with the rigor and could have used more.  As it was, I considered the class to be of low to moderate rigor. 

This raises an important question: do I cater to the students who have a certain expectation based on what the prior teacher did or do what I think works best and allow students who are the wrong fit to filter out while perhaps new ones would come in for whom the previous classes were not rigorous enough?  There is also reality that “yoga” and “restorative yoga” mean different things in different contexts, namely at a gym vs. a yoga studio. 


At one moment, I looked in the mirror and saw myself teaching.  While I taught history and took yoga classes, I fantasized about teaching yoga.  It took me a couple years after getting certified, but I’m finally doing it!  And that makes me happy.  I like giving instruction.  I like getting feedback from students.  I like hearing about their challenges and problems and just listening to them.  I like seeing what works and what doesn’t.  I like bringing them fitness and peace.  I like sharing what I have experienced.  I’m really glad to be doing this and to teach the Dharma in Action workshop in the Spring. 

Monday, September 09, 2013

Breathing: how deep is too deep? Why do I want to increase and decrease stress at the same time?

I listened to track 4, “Deep Breathing” of Relax; 6 Techniques to Lower Your Stress with Daniel Goleman to focus my morning practice today.  I felt some hesitation to use this CD in my morning practice.  I’ve been practicing for years after all- I could give meditation instruction.  Do I really need a CD?  However, I decided to be open and see what I could learn from it.    




Goleman starts by explaining that when we feel tension, we make our breathing more shallow and fast.  He provides simple instructions to put my hand on my belly, deeply breathe in relaxation and breath out tension.  I found the instruction and practice to be a helpful thing to which to return when my mind started to drift.  I started to breath deeper and longer than he was suggesting and actually found that made me winded, so I slowed it down.  I tried to keep my attention on the practice while also letting other thoughts, emotions or sensations flow through me.  I remembered I was planning to make a phone call to a government agency that I was feeling anxiety about.  I observed the desire to make my breath more shallow and used a touch of effort to deepen it.  At another point, the sun rose to a point where it was gently shining on my face.  In this case, it eased and supported my relaxation practice.   I made a phone call to a government agency.  At the end of the practice, he recommends keeping the practice throughout the day.  I kept my hand on my belly when I made the actual phone call and simply observed how shallow my breath really got.  I then deepened my breath slightly.  
      
I understand that meditation and yoga lower stress hormones like Adrenaline and Cortisol.  I also understand that psychologists differentiation between good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress).  I enjoy what I understand to be an adrenaline rush when I go on a roller coaster or mountain bike down a hill, or face a work challenge that I consider meaningful and manageable.  Why would I seek to increase Adrenaline in some circumstances (while biking) and decrease it in others (while meditating)?  To me, biking and meditating seem to compliment each other as part of a balanced life, but are they actually working in opposition to each other?      

Monday, April 08, 2013

2013 Street Retreat Donation Request


I don’t do street retreats to understand poor people better.  
On street retreats, we stay on the streets for 2 or 3 nights with no money.  When I go on the streets, I’m not pretending to be homeless or experimenting with a life I would live in an alternative reality.  Its just me, Ari, same person as always.  There’s a liberty I get on the streets, not despite the physical discomfort and practical difficulties, but because of them.  It gets me in touch with something- something I find traveling, something I find in meditation.  It helps me cut through the bullshit. 

I go on the streets in order to understand poor people.  
I go on the streets to understand myself better, to undertand my friends, family and coworkers better.  By getting out of my comfort zone and routine, my habitual way of seeing the world loosens up.  It helps me see all people in front of me for who they really are instead of who I think they are.  

From this perspective, the man sitting next to me at a soup kitchen isn’t some guy hidden in the corner.  He’s a person sitting next to me.  And maybe I feely happy to sit next to him or maybe angry or repulsed.  I practice bearing witness to whatever comes up and acting accordingly.  This impacts how I do my service work.  It impacts how I do everything. 



Raising a Mala
For all of the street retreats organized by Zen Peacemakers, a donation is requested of the participants in order to offer donations to the social service agencies that support us.  I am committed to raising $500 for this end, plust $71 for travel.  In our Zen Buddhist practice we call this assembling a Mala – a rosary of prayer beads.  If you contribute, your name will be attached to a mala bead that I will wear on my retreat.  As such, you will join me on the retreat and I will share my experience with you when I return.  Please click the link above or send a check made out to "Hudson River Peacemaker Center" to

Ari Pliskin
79 Prospect St
Greenfield, MA 01301

Links
Text about my last street retreat 
Photos of my last street retreat



Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Benjamin Franklin's13 Virtues vs. the Buddhist Precepts

Inspired by Franklin Covey, I borrowed from the library and listened to Benjamin Franklin's autobiography.  I felt inspired to compre Franklin's 13 virtues with my community's version of the classic Buddhist precepts.  (See links for detailed versions) 



Buddhist Precepts (Zen Peacemaker version)
Benjamin Franklin's Virtues
1. non-killing 8. Justice
2. non-stealing: be satisfied, give, ask for and accept ??
3. chaste conduct: dignity, give and accept friendship and love without clinging 12. Chastity
4. non-lying: listen and speak from heart 2. Silence, 7. Sincerity
5. not being deluded by use of intoxicants 1. Temperance
6. not talking of others faults ??
7. not elevating self and blaming 13. Humility
8. not being stingy: use all ingredients 5. Frugality
9. non-anger, suffering-> wisdom 11. Tranquility
10. Honor my life as instrument of peacemaking ??

Franklin Virtues with no clear Buddhist pair
3. Order
4. Resolution
6. Industry
9. Moderation
10. Cleanliness

Franklin's virtues with no clear Buddhist pair seem to me to exemplify the "Protestant Work Ethic" that Max Weber believed made American culture so unique.  While the Dharmic tradition includes karma yoga in the Bhagavad Gita and the Bodhisattva ideal in Mahayana Buddhism, I am not familiar with any strains within the Dharma traditions that place as much emphasis on the nitty gritty of daily self-management and work as do Franklin and his heirs.  Instructions to the Cook comes close, though it focuses more on a Dharmic perspective on organizational life than on personal work.    Perhaps because I was born American, I find the American tradition of pragmatic wisdom very refreshing and inspiring.  It certainly compliments the Eastern tradition which I hold so dear.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Help me take a pilgrimage to India






In the Zen Peacemakers, we invite friends and family to sponsor a bead on a "mala," to support us in our work and join us on our trips. I’d like to ask you to help me participate in the Pilgrimage to explore the Buddha’s Footsteps and social issues in India in January. I won’t be needed on staff, but I would love to participate and blog about the social issues in India. In order to promote the trip, I took on a study of the Buddha’s geographic path and guided our web community through a virtual tour of India. Because we achieved our attendance goals, our tour guide partner will wave my tuition fee, but I still need to pay for the plane ticket, which costs more than I have in my bank account. Would you help contribute to this goal by clicking above.



Thursday, March 10, 2011

Online Customer Service and Corporate Social Responsibility

What role does a strong customer orientation play in Corporate Social Responsibility? When I saw Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh at the Wisdom 2.0 conference in Silicon Valley last year, I appreciated his passionate concern for the customer, but I wasn't convinced that a customer-orientation alone accounts for a solid CSR orientation, as it almost seemed like he was suggesting. Nonetheless, our customers are people of course, and making them happy does make the world a better place. By looking at the effects of technology on customer service, we can start to imagine what it would take to address the needs of all stakeholders, including those who are not currently customers.

Technology enables some people:

The low cost of producing and distributing digital messages and the relative anonymity that comes with them will invite some passives to become more active complainers, particularly those who have high "customer technology readiness." We see this with the viral spreading of the United Breaks Guitars video and the Yours is a Very Bad Hotel Powerpoint presentation. Cyberbullying, online dating and blog comments all elicit behavior that is different from their face-to-face equivalents. However, as I discuss in an article I wrote about online community, there is much debate as to whether digital content about social issues enables behavior that wouldn't have otherwise taken place (such as protests in Burma, or more recently in Egypt) or whether it becomes just another form of passive consumption and distraction.

Technology use changes:

While banner ads had grown to a $9 billion per year business in 2004, by that time click-through rates had already dropped in effectiveness from 10% to .025% over the years (Services Marketing: Integrating Customer Focus Across the Firm, Ziethaml, Bitner and Gremler, 498). There were similar changes in the decreased effectiveness of telemarketing. New media makes it easier to reach more people at a lower cost, but the ability to instigate action may become diluted with time. The virality of online complaints and their detriment to sales will most likely fluctuate as both technology and our use of it change and adapt.

Implications for digital service recovery:

From the side of the firm, we need to create effective online venues that invite and respond to feedback from customers who are digitally oriented (just like we provide telephone venues for those who are phone-oriented). By providing a pressure valve that gives them voice, we channel them to share their complaints with us instead of complaining about them to others. We see a similar phenomenon is society at large. As Samuel Huntington points out in Political Order in Changing Societies, it is necessary for a democratic society to provide a legitimate arena within which to redress grievances in order to avoid violence, rebellion and revolution.

Conclusion

It is important for a company to be responsive to our customers just as it is for a democratic government. But what would it mean to apply the same type of responsiveness to other stakeholders who are not currently customers?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Studying: Online, Body & Zen

E-learning
I started my first online course today in Marketing. It is with mixed feelings that I dive into the world of e-learning. On the one hand, I am excited by new possibilities created with technology. Intriguing both the educator in me and the computer geek in me is curious about what features they use to fascinate the learning experience. At the same time, I feel a bit of nostalgia. I miss the classroom experience- meeting other students and the teacher. Also, even though I enjoy spending my entire workday in front of a computer, I also love highlighting books. That being said, it doesn't make sense for me to print out many pages of course readings. We'll see how this goes. So far, there are several power point presentation "lectures." That certainly feels a bit more distant than a face-to-face lecture, which could also very well include a power point.

Anatomy
I'm also studying for my yoga finals. Guiding her through some asanas, I explained some basic anatomical concepts to my girlfriend, identifying various bones and muscles in her body. This is perhaps the other end of the spectrum from online learning. I reviewed various muscles, including their location and actions. It is astounding how many muscles there are and how they are intimately woven into each other. We looked at various reasons why it is difficult to maintain an erect back in seated poses like dandasana. In my case, it is from tight hamstrings, which run along the back of the leg and wrap up around the hip bone I think that maintaining an erect (or actually slightly curved) back can also result from weak back muscles or some tight muscles in the back itself, perhaps the erector spinae or latissimus dorsi.

Zen
I also learned today that my Zen Teacher Eve became was promoted from sensei (teacher) to roshi (a teacher of teachers). I don't see this as necessarily having a major impact as she was already teaching independently and doing a phenomenal job. Next week, we start the winter intensive. I've been maintaining 10 minutes per day of sitting, while joining the zendo schedule once or twice a week. Its been hard to attend while balancing yoga class. I often find myself rushing from Zen to Yoga and back. That's pretty funny.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why I signed up for a business school class

The board of the Zen Peacemakers recently decided to sell our property in Montague, MA. I have been living, working and training here for the better part of the last two years. Amid this period of change, various energies surge and flux as various overlapping elements of our community forge new paths. The local meditation community, which has been known as the Montague Farm Zendo, is looking into options for a new roof. Bernie, the founder, is focusing his energy on spreading the three tenets and Socially Engaged Buddhism domestically and in Europe. I am helping him with that as his assistant. I am a lame duck tenant.

When I learned about the farm's fate as well as layoffs, I felt disillusioned. The developing Montague Farm Zen House and the Symposium on this campus were dreams come true. Everything was coming together. And after the Symposium in August, the thing I feared most was suddenly happening. It was hard to avoid getting wrapped up in worrying about the significance of the daily twists and turns of a relatively high period of uncertainty in an uncertain universe.

Returning to the Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat in November, I felt comforted by the feeling like I was part of something much bigger than the campus I live on. I reflected on the reason I came to Montague in the first place: to be part of a Zen House, a dharma center where service to the community is viewed as a spiritual practice on par with meditation. I asked myself what I still lack to be part of such a center?

I decided to sign up for a business school class so that I could further develop practical tools to implement my beloved vision. I switched from listening to podcasts on social media marketing to listening to audiobooks on business development.

I was inspired and emboldened by my contribution to Auschwitz and Symposium registrations. And yet, it wasn't enough. As we discussed at the Symposium, Socially Engaged Buddhism needs to find a business model that is right for us in this culture in order for it to survive. My dream is a sort of a modern Buddhist Catholic Worker House. I did my internship at Haley House, a former Catholic Worker House in Boston. A modern version would mix high tech (Internet) and high touch (face-to-face) and would also be hybrid charity/social business.

While the recent past has felt worrisome, there has also been excitement of possibility amidst change. To be part of something new means standing out on a limb. Uncertainty is good training.

What do you think is necessary to make this dream viable?

Friday, January 07, 2011

Cadavers make me think of peace, zombies and cell phones.

I went to the cadaver lab to study yoga anatomy. There is something extremely comforting about seeing the dead body of a Vietnam vet who died of old age. Vietnam is usually something that makes me angry. Makes me want to fight war. And not that we shouldn't, but we all die anyway. I imagined the escape routes I would take in case the body turned out to be a zombie. I wasn't sure whether it would be better to throw a chair at the zombie or just run straight for the door.

My girlfriend wants me to stop holding my cell phone by my face. Valley Advocate says they cause cancer. Cell phones could be the cigarettes of the future. The industry will certainly fight for them. Maybe its killing me or maybe these are anti-technology rumors spread by organic farmers. Everybody has preferences and everybody thinks others would be better off if others shared their preferences (including me). Sometimes, we say others will die if they don't follow our preferences. Sometimes they will. Eventually everyone will.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

"The Social Network" just made me admire Mark Zuckerberg

Advertising = Web Education = fun?
I ignored my to-do list today and enjoyed the luxury of focusing my whole work day on designing a web page and e-mail for Bernie's 2012 India tour. I love looking at the final version and tweaking and looking and tweaking. My strategy is to develop content that is tied to registration for a specific event, but also inherently interesting (both to me and readers). Thus, I plan to launch a virtual pilgrimage to India. This is where the old social studies educator in me comes forward.

I feel a tension between perfectionism and the drive to get more things done quicker. For example, I would like to start working on the budget management. I feel like this is an important skill that will help me be able to make the type of contribution I want to make in the future. After stepping away from my comic book for several months, my newly web-design-trained eye realized that I could say more in my comic with less words.

Is Facebook evil?
Even though Social Network portrayed him as a socially inept jerk, I left the movie with a growing admiration for Mark Zuckerberg. I felt defensive about the movie's anti-geek agenda and wasn't surprised to learn that writer Aaron Sorkin is not on Facebook. That is fine, except for that about half of Americans are on Facebook, so it is no geeky minority. I've felt a tension lately, on the one hand inspired by Silicon Valley capitalism and on the other hand, skeptical.

I think designing web content is fun and it has allowed me to reach thousands of people cheaply with messages that I think make the world a better place. I visited Silicon Valley for the Wisdom 2.0 conference last year and I've been listening to podcasts from the Valley as part of my business self-education (ever since my organization faced layoffs and pending loss of our property, my home, because we couldn't pay the bills, I've been much more attentive to money matter.) I admire the fact that these are folks doing what they love, influencing millions and being successful. I was pleased to see Zuckerberg join Bill Gates in pledging to donate half of his wealth to charity.

But, as I experienced at the Wisdom 2.0 conference last year, I am troubled by what seems to be a superficial embrace of social enterprise. I'm not convinced they are doing a thoroughgoing analysis of the effects of the cycle of production and consumption on every level. I just can't quite buy into the "invisible hand" dream that if I just do what's most profitable for me, it'll actually be more profitable for everyone.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Blogging > Journaling

Just my personal blog
I'm trying something new today. Instead of writing in my journal, I'm going to blog. I'm going to dust my old blog off the InterWeb and dive in. After all, this is "just my personal blog," not my professional, important Socially Engaged Buddhist blog....which I've been neglecting lately. Blogging is funny for me. I love doing it and I also hate it. I feel such a strong drive to share and yet I get so hung up on perfectionism. So I'll just blog instead of journal tonight. Maybe I'll do it tomorrow as well.

Overcoming the fear of offending
I assisted in Yoga class today. As a member of the Teacher Training, I have to do 10 classes assisting. I really don't like assisting. I feel embarrassed to touch people who I do not know. I feel less embarrassed with my fellow teacher trainees, but even one of them told me "Just get in there! You know what you are doing. Don't be afraid." At least I am feeling less and less afraid every time I do it. I also felt some anxiety because I bluntly told a business associate why I don't think they are doing what they need to do in order to move their web traffic to the next level. I thought it had to be said, but it was still difficult.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Support my Participation in Auschwitz Retreat!



I have raised $1250 to cover my plane ticket, expenses in Krakow and part of my registration fee. Please contribute towards the remainder of the fee!

Why do I want to go to Auschwitz?

Two years ago, I came to Montague, MA to train at the headquarters of a group called the Zen Peacemakers. After my training, Bernie Glassman hired me on as staff. To put it simply: I love this place and the people here. I cherish the practices and teachings and want nothing more than to plunge in more deeply. While many Buddhist centers focus mainly on meditation, founder Zen Master Bernie Glassman has lead the Zen Peacemakers into the streets and social services as a sphere of active practice, bearing witness to all of society and taking actions to heal it. The deepest fuel for this work comes from witnessing humanity's greatest atrocity: Auschwitz.

What happened last time I went?

As I explain in a series of blog posts at Elephant Journal, attending the Bearing Witness Retreat at Auschwitz last June was very powerful for me. It opened my heart and clarified my vision.

What is special about the next trip?

This November, we are initiating an innovative element of bringing together young adults to bear witness together at Auschwitz from Israel (both Jewish and Arab), Palestinians, Poles, Swiss, Italian, Americans and others. Bernie asked me to serve as Young Adult Coordinator for the retreat, but because there is no funding to cover this roll, I am raising money to participate.


Frequent Flier Miles: Do you have frequent flier miles with an airline or partner that flies to Poland? If you would be willing to donate them to help me get to Poland, you would take a significant chunk out of how much I need to raise.

Why should you support me? (Here's 10 reasons)

10. Join me: I will take you on the journey with me by naming a bead after you on a 'mala,' or prayer bracelet, that I will create and bring with me on the retreat. A $300 contribution will be represented by a large bead and a $50 contribution will be represented by a small bead.

9. Spiritual Practice: Donation is a spiritual practice for both giver and receiver. As far back as the time of the Buddha, it was the practice of lay congregations to support monks through donations of food and clothing. There are parallels in most traditions.

8. Receive updates: While it took me several months to edit my journals from the last retreat into blog posts, I will send close friends and sponsors correspondances during the retreat itself. I see this as a relationship. Not just a donation.

7. Support young adults: My experience teaching high school for two years and directing a residential teen summer camp will inform my role as U.S. Young Adult Coordinator in caring for the emotional well-being of young adult participants.

6. Inspire me: Participating in the Auschwitz retreat last June had a profound and beneficial effect on me. It opened up my heart and deepened my presence in working in service.

5. Invest in my future: I value this path deeply: from starting Seminary two years ago to working the past several months as founder Bernie Glassman's Assistant to my current role as Marketing and Communications Coordinator. I am comitted to this work as a vocation and know that the practice of bearing witness at Auschwitz will move me further along that path.

4. Get the word out: As the editor of the Bearing Witness Blog and regular contributor at the Elephant Journal, I will eventually share my experience with a wide audience.

3. Heal society: Registration fees support the charity work of the Zen Peacemakers, including building future retreats and offering free community meals and wellness offerings for low-income families.

2. Innovate fund-raising: I hope to use this experience of online fund-raising as a pilot to create a new scholarship-raising structure for Zen Peacemakers program participants.

1. Build a future of peace:
As Zen Peacemakers staff, I hopes to apply lessons learned on the retreat towards building future retreats with a greater number of young adult participants. I believe that bringing together Israeli Jews and Arabs in the practice of Bearing Witness and listening to each other could contribute to a more peaceful future.

Want to learn more?

Watch the video below to learn more about the retreat or read the reasons below to learn why I invite you to support me. Thank you. View Retreat web page to learn more about it.



Participation Budget

$800 = plane ticket to Poland
$1,000 = retreat registration fee (includes all buses, food and accommodations at the Dialogue Center in Oswiecim and operational expenses)
$60 = paypal fee
$100 = hostel in Krakow

$1,960 = TOTAL


Don't want to pay via paypal?

Please call me at (413)367-5269 with any questions.
You may also write a check to Ari Pliskin and mail it the following address. If you do this, please notify me by e-mail as soon as possible.
177 Ripley Rd.
Montague, MA 01351
ari@zenpeacemakers.com

Disclaimer: Unless otherwise requested, funds not used for this retreat will be donated to support the humanitarian work of the Zen Peacemakers.

It's not just about money:
I would like to share a message with you from a $10 donor who means just as much to me as the $100 donors:

"You do not know me, but I just received an email from my uncle Ike that explained your need for your trip. Though I am a Christian and do not share in your religious beliefs, I did make a small donation as I support your efforts and the humanitarian work that you are doing. I hope that you raise enough money to cover your expenses and I will be praying for safe travels for all of you as you make your way to Poland and back."

This process is about getting diverse groups involved and creating peace.
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Monday, April 05, 2010

I realized the power of yoga by mistake...

When I lived in New York, yoga was part of my fitness routine that I did once a week. With my membership at the New York Sports Club, I also did boxing once a week and lifted weights twice a week- one day for chest and arms, the other for abs and back. After a few weeks of suffering from a cold, I decided to cut out the “rigorous” lifting and boxing to let my body rest and recuperate. Not able to break my gym habit, I kept going several times a week and just did yoga (I later learned that the persistent cold was actually a sinus infection).


After a week of frequent yoga, at one moment, I noticed something was different. A stressful thought came up, heart speeding up, pressure welling up in my chest. And I breathed. The rush of anxiety passed through me. I calmed down. I felt a tinge of distance and perspective- a moment of choice. It reminded me of the feeling of holding an asana, feeling the desire to flee or give up and just holding it and breathing. My mind was trained to have a better automatic response to stress. It felt lovely.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Coimcs as a Tool for Learning Spanish

As a social studies teacher, my students appreciated the innovative ways that I used comics in the classroom. I have found that comics are even more powerful and appropriate at a tool for teaching foreign language. I developed a method of using comics to teach a foreign language while teaching Spanish at SummerBerg camp in Tiffin, OH, where I also served as director. Working with a cartoonist the previous summer, I developed a course that teaches kids how to make comics. This method will help participants ace standardized foreign language tests, prepare for trips to Spanish-speaking countries and build appreciation for other cultures.

The first reason why comics serve as an effective tool for foreign language acquisition is because of the combination of words and pictures. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, the images in a comic provide the reader with a critical base of information. Once the images provide the reader with a context of setting, atmosphere and character, they must complete the essential task of interpreting the text. While school typically focuses on verbal learning, using a medium that combines verbal and visual information supports verbal learners to develop visual intelligence and vice versa.

The second reason why comic books are an effective tool is because they increase student engagement, which manifest in careful reading and lively conversation. Because many learners find comics more exciting then typical school materials, comics facilitate increased attention and engagement. Unlike watching a movie or listening to a song, readers can pace themselves at the appropriate speed and reread passages until understanding is achieved. Because most text in a comic book is dialogue, the comic book format facilitates reading out loud and developing conversation skills.


The final reason why I have found comics to be an effective tool is because my passion about comics and personal experience with Latin American cartoonists inspires students to because enthusiastic about engaging with another culture. Comics served as a powerful gateway into Latin American culture for me and I enjoy sharing that with students. While traveling through South America, I met cartoonists who wrote and illustrated stories about local politics and history, tales of sci-fi and adventure and also autobiographical accounts of the daily lives of teens. These stories provide unique insight into life in another society.


In conclusion, there are several reasons that I have found Spanish-language comics to be a powerful tool for supporting student learning. The combination of words and pictures provides an appropriate scaffold for language learners. The format of comics facilitates engagement in a variety of forms. Comics also provide a rich and fascinating window into other cultures. As an added bonus, students also discover how kids like them around the world are using self-publishing in print and on the internet as a low-cost means of personal expression.