Monthly Archives: April 2013

We are Silent

We are Silent

For Thursday April 18, my daughter and I have taken a vow of silence, to stand up for children who have no voice and are denied their basic human rights.

  • 215 million children are forced to work as child labourers and are denied the right to attend school.
  • One in every three children in developing countries is malnourished.
  • One billion children are deprived of essential services like food, water, education, or health care.
  • 58% of deaths in children under 5 are caused by infectious disease.
  • 300 million children under the age of 5 are living in areas of armed conflict.
  • 1 in 3 children in developing countries is malnourished, suffering up to 160 days of illness in a year.

In this world of dependent arising, the existence of something in my world must logically mean that its absence is also possible. For every basic need, comfort, convenience and blessing I have in my life – food, water, safety, freedom, health care, education, play – there is the possibility, and the all-too-obvious reality, that there are those who are living without.

We are Silent is Free the Children’s annual fundraising and awareness campaign that began in 2004 and challenges participants to stand in silent solidarity for 24 hours with children whose voices are silenced by not having their rights upheld. Every year, tens of thousands of participants stand up for children who are being silenced by the denial of their basic human rights, collecting pledges as they take a vow of silence. All over the world, young people will go silent for 24 hours to raise awareness and funds for children without a voice. The campaign can be done as an individual, group, school, or even an entire silent city.

My daughter’s class and school have supported Free the Children over her time in elementary school. Activites have included read-a-thons, penny drives, bake sales and selling loot bags at Valentine’s Day. While Free the Children’s mandate is partly to help disadvantaged children, it is equally to help kids here discover that they have the power and responsibility to make a difference in their world right here, right now, no matter their age. It has provided our family with so many valuable opportunities for thought-provoking discussion, education and action around real, tangible problems in the world.

So, tomorrow, Thursday April 18, here is my vow for We Are Silent. Each commitment pertains to an article of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

  • I will give up my voice for 10 continuous hours. From waking until I go into work at 4:30pm. My daughter has vowed to keep silence from waking til the end of her day at school at 6pm. (From Article 12 – Express views and Opinions: The right to freely express an opinion.)
  • I will do some tedious working task to help me understand exploitation and child labour. I will spend one hour of my day in picking up trash at the beach and surrounding parks. (From Article 36 – Protection from exploitation: The right to protection from all forms of exploitation.)
  • I will maintain a vegan diet for the day. I will limit myself to bathing from one basin of water for the day.  As Canadians, we’re among those who use more of the earth’s water than any other on a daily basis. Upon doing a little research, I found out that the biggest area of water consumption comes not from bathing or washing but from food production. Massive amounts of water are required to raise livestock. My dauther commits to a one minute (!) shower and to keep a vegetarian diet for the day.  (From Article 24 – Food and Water: You have the right to the best healthcare possible, safe water and nutritious food.)
  • I will give up play for 10 hours. No Facebook, no playing music for me. Since drawing is her favourite activity, my daughter is giving this up for the day. She says she will run at recess. (From Article 26 – Play: The right to play and rest.)
  • I will give up the right to education. I will not use Google or other search engines for 10 hours. (From Article 29 – Education: The right to education that prepares him/her for an active responsible life.)

I hope that giving up for a few hours the things that I so take for granted will help me to think more about those who are doing without these things and so much more. I hope that it will lead me to a greater appreciation and gratitude for what I have, and some small understanding of the lives of those without. That recognition is only really useful if I put it into action to change the situation though.

Please consider making your own vow in some way – for 24 hours, or even part of your day – or make a pledge to Free the Children. Consider what actions you and your family can take to increase your own understanding of other’s pain and problems, and in what ways you can take action to alleviate it.


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Buddhism 101 starts this Sunday!

Please download the course outline and reading from the attached link. Download Course Materials

If you need a ride from Toronto, please email me at We have space for you!

And a reminder that drop-ins are most welcome for this course. Come to one or all of the classes.

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Buddhism 101

Buddha headshot

Dharma Essentials 1: The Three Principal Paths

with Rhondda Smiley

NEW DATES!  Sundays from 11am – 1pm, from April 14 to May 5

Are you interested in Buddhism but overwhelmed by all those lists (The 4 of This, The 8 of That…) and don’t know where to start? Join us over four Saturday mornings for an overview of the complete Buddhist path. Find out how to follow the steps to enlightenment and blissful living.

Each class leads with an open discussion based on readings translated from original ancient Tibetan texts that are time tested and go back at least 2500 years. These include instructions on the steps to creating the good life and will include a short guided meditation designed to empower any spiritual practice and enhance your life.

Everything you need to know to begin, renew, or enhance your spiritual life! No previous background in Buddhism required.

at Bikram Yoga Toronto East – 111 Island Rd. Parking and entrance at rear.

Offered by donation – what you can give happily.

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Focus Here and Now: The Key to Progress on All Paths, with Douglas Veenhof

Lama Doug headshot

Presented by Durham Dharma

Sat May 11 & Sun May 12, 2013 – 1:00-3:00pm and 4:00-6:00pm daily

At The Centering Space 59 Cambridge Ave (Broadview & Danforth)

We are extremely fortunate to have Douglas Veenhof returning to Toronto to share his insightful teachings on how to develop shamata, or single-pointed concentration. Friends in Vancouver have been raving about these classes, and now Lama Doug is bringing them here to Toronto! Come and learn how to sharpen up your focus in meditation, or any other pursuit in your life.

Whether your practice is Vipassana, Yoga, prayer, tennis, or enjoying your breakfast, your ability to concentrate your full attention on the present moment of experience is the key to attaining the results you hope for.  For 2500 years, Buddhist contemplatives have regarded single-pointed concentration to be as vital to health  as food and sleep, and generations of meditators have refined step-by-step techniques for training the mind.  In this experiential workshop you will learn proven methods drawn from three meditative traditions that can  reverse the fragmenting influence of our multi-tasking, virtual culture on your ability to stay focused on the  here and now. These skills can be used in a daily practice to explore the potential of human consciousness  as well as to relieve the stress and anxiety of everyday life.

Doug Veenhof is a former mountain guide, an award-winning journalist, and the author of White Lama,  the acclaimed biography of Yoga pioneer and Tibet explorer, Theos Bernard (Harmony Books, 2011).  He has studied and practiced Buddhism for more than twenty years and graduated with honors from  the seven-year program of advanced Buddhist studies at Diamond Mountain, the academy founded by  Geshe Michael Roach and Lama Christie McNally. Known for his broad knowledge of the intersection of Buddhist, Yoga, and scientific traditions, Doug is a frequent guest of radio and television interviewers  and a popular teacher at Yoga and Dharma centers throughout North America and Europe.

• How the quality of your attention creates the world you experience
• Our default state: the uncontrollable infomercial of our ruminating mind
• Unplugging incessant memories of the past and fantasies of the future by training  attention to focus moment to moment on the physical sensations of the breath
• The first key to mindfulness: balancing relaxation and clarity.

• The second key to mindfulness: adding stability and continuity to your attention without losing relaxation and clarity.
• How to notice distractions before you are kidnapped by them and how to infuse your attention with brightness.
• How to make your attention more acute by focusing on more subtle physical sensations.

• Shifting balanced attention to the space of the mind and its contents.
• How to maintain stillness of awareness while observing the motion of the mind
• The liberating distinction of objective and subjective appearances in the mind
• How mindful attention can get you through the day with peace and grace

• The space of the mind you discover between thoughts
• What can focused attention reveal about the potential of the human mind?
• Using finely tuned attention to focus on the nature of I and the world
• The keys to establishing a successful daily meditation practice

Full weekend $75, single session $25.

Drop-ins welcome, but registration for entire weekend strongly encouraged.

Email or call 647-692-2995 to register.

Scholarships available – contact  for information.

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