Author: Alex Chong Do Thompson

How Zen Koans are Helping Me with Life’s Tough Questions

By Alex Chong Do Thompson We’re reading Zen Kōans by Rev. Gyomay Kubose as part of my lay minister training. The class discussions have been challenging, insightful, and they’ve caused me to reflect on how kōans* have affected my practice through the years. My deep love of kōans actually started before I was Buddhist. I have a B.A. in philosophy, and a large part of the curriculum was studying and writing papers on thought experiments like The Trolley Problem and The Prisoner’s Dilemma. The goal in these investigations was to stretch my reasoning abilities to the max, and force me...

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How Marine Corps Training Taught Me about the Illusion of a Separate Self

  By Alex Chong Do Thompson When I arrived at Parris Island for Marine Corps. Recruit Training there were men from many different walks of life standing with me. There were guys from the country who’d been hunting deer since they were six years old, guys from the city who’d never seen wildlife outside of Central Park, and then there was me: a scrawny bookworm from the suburbs who was still trying to find himself. We came from all walks of life, but our drill instructors stripped away any ideas we might have had of being different or better...

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Unexpected Zen on a Road Trip

  By Alex Chong Do Thompson My eyelids are getting heavy as I drive down the interstate. It’s been a long weekend of college graduations, and late-night parties with family. It was fun. But the lack of sleep is starting to catch up with me. I try all of the usual tricks to stay awake. I roll down the windows, play loud music, and consume energy drinks until my chest burns. But none of it helps. I do some quick math, and calculate that I have about 3 more hours on the road before I get home. There’s no...

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Kindness, No Matter What

  By Alex Chong Do Thompson Before I started practicing Zen, I treated people the way I thought they deserved to be treated. If someone was kind to me, then I would be kind to them. If someone screamed at me, then I would scream at them. And if someone really pissed me off…well, you get the point. Looking back, this mindset had a huge affect on the way I treated the waitstaff in restaurants. To be clear, I was never rude to my servers, but I did tip more or less based on what I thought they deserved....

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Kindness is an Act of Resistance: A Buddhist Response to Mass Shootings

  By Alex Chong Do Thompson I’m standing in the break room at work, preparing to make a cup of tea and a news alert appears on my phone. I learn there’s been a mass shooting in Las Vegas. My heart drops, and I reflexively focus on my breathing. The impromptu meditation keeps me standing as I stare at the screen; more than 50 people are dead, and hundreds wounded because of one man. Lives have been shattered and families torn apart because of one man. Unimaginable suffering caused by one man, in a hotel room, with a small...

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