March 13 The Five Touchings of the Earth

On Monday Marie will facilitate.  

She shares:

Last Monday, we talked about our emotions and explored ways of taking care of them.  Several people talked about how their emotions have been influenced by previous generations, and tomorrow, we will build on this theme.  

On Monday night, we will practice the Five Touchings of the Earth, a guided meditation that gives us an opportunity to contemplate what has been transmitted to us by our blood, spiritual and land ancestors.  We can use this practice to selectively water the seeds in our consciousness, celebrating the wholesome seeds and transforming those that need to be transformed.   

If you are joining us on Monday, I invite you to reflect on your ancestors - be they family members, spiritual teachers, or people from your country/place of origin.  To what extent do you share their traits, emotions and/or ways of behaving?  Of these, which cause you suffering and which cause you joy?   Familiarizing yourself with these "well watered seeds" - or patterns - may help you to experience the guided meditation in more powerful ways.

 

If you would like to learn more about the Touchings of the Earth, please visit this Plum Village here

 

I look forward to being with you on Monday night.

 

Marie

March 6 How do we Take Care of our Fear, Anger and Sadness?

Dear Friends,

 

This week Annie will facilitate. 

 

All of us have felt fear, sadness, or anger, from time to time, and right now it seems that many of us are feeling these things even more. These kinds of strong feelings arise without warning and sometimes we don't know what to do with them.

 

Strong emotions have a lot to teach us about what's most important to us and what our past conditioning has been. The downside of fear, anger and sadness are that if we don't know how to take care of them, they can hijack us. This hijacking can leave us stuck in the painful emotions or cause us to act out in ways that don't serve us or those around us, which then pulls us right back into our painful emotions.

 

Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) often talks about how to take care of and transform our strong emotions that arise and often hijack us. In an interview with Oprah he described it this way:

 

"So you recognize that fear. You embrace it tenderly and look deeply into it. And as you embrace your pain, you get relief and you find out how to handle that emotion. 

 

And if you know how to handle the fear, then you have enough insight in order to solve the problem. The problem is to not allow that anxiety to take over. When these feelings arise, you have to practice in order to use the energy of mindfulness to recognize them, embrace them, look deeply into them. 

 

It's like a mother when the baby is crying. Your anxiety is your baby. You have to take care of it. You have to go back to yourself, recognize the suffering in you, embrace the suffering, and you get relief. And if you continue with your practice of mindfulness, you understand the roots, the nature of the suffering, and you know the way to transform it."

 

When I first heard him talk about embracing our emotions like a crying baby, I thought it made sense, but I wasn't sure exactly how to do it. What helped me, and what I practice now, is a combination of Thay's teaching and the practice called Inner Relationship Focusing. Like sitting meditation, it's a practice we can turn to again and again whenever we feel triggered and caught in our reactivity. 

 

Monday we will go through some simple steps that I use to notice, care for, validate and transform fear, anger and sadness.  The practice below often, but not always, helps me move out of stuckness and reactivity, and act in clear and concrete ways that reflect my deepest intentions to benefit to all beings and not add more suffering to the mix.

 

Here are the basic steps:

 

(1) Pay attention to the crying baby of suffering -- the fear, anger or sadness triggered by whatever is happening. Turn toward the suffering especially as it manifests in your body.

 

(2) Embrace the emotion with compassion toward the part of you that is feeling scared, angry or sad. Identify with the larger You who can hold the smaller part of you that is in pain -- just as when a baby cries, the first think you do is pick it up and cradle it. Right away you will feel a little better.

 

(3) Find out what it needs. As you hold the reactive emotion, you can see what it is really wanting or not wanting for you. There's a reason it's crying. It may be as simple as it wanting you to know how it feels. Or it may be worried that if you don't act you will be hurt, or perhaps it doesn't feel cared for. A baby can't tell us directly what is wrong, and in the same way parts will need us to pay gentle and close attention if we are to understand why this part feels so reactive.

 

(4) Empathize. Once you have embraced the part and understood why it is so upset, you can empathize with it. Given the limited information and understanding that this reactive part has, it's no wonder that it is scared, angry or sad. Just as you would do with a small child, you can let your part know that you understand why it feels the way it does. At the same time, you stay present in mindfulness which allows you to see that more is possible.

 

(5) Act from presence. If you are settled in your mindful presence -- the parent holding the baby -- and you have taken the time to understand why this part is scared, angry or sad, your decisions will be made with confidence and clarity, instead of being controlled by the fear, anger or sadness. This practice doesn't take away the feelings, it just means you don't identify with the feelings as who you are. Instead, you are the one who can hold the scared, angry or sad parts and still live your life from your deepest intentions.

 

After walking meditation, Annie will offer a guided meditation to help us recognize and embrace our strong emotions, especially our fear, anger and sadness. After that, we will have time to share about the strong emotions we are dealing with right now, and how we can work with them to guide us into skillful action rather than hijack us into unskillful action or despair. 

 

I look forward to seeing you all there. It's the first Monday of the month, so we will have a 30 minute newcomer's session from 6:15-6:45 pm. If it's your first time in the group or you want a refresher, please join us!

 

With love,

Annie.

February 27 Can We Save Compassion?

This week Annie will facilitate. 

 

This morning on twitter, The Death of Compassion is trending. It's based on an article by Charles M. Blow of The New York Times, in which Mr. Blow shares his opinion about the ways in which the current conservative coalition is showing even less compassion than during the Reagan era. He also suggests that because "the Trump phenomenon is devoid of compassion" we [I'm assuming he is referring to we liberals and progressives] need not try to find any compromise points with those who "promote and defend bigotry, misogyny and xenophobia." 

 

As mindfulness practitioners and students of the Buddha, our practice is based on compassion. What do you think about what Mr. Blow writes? If both sides give up on compassion, what happens next?

 

On Monday, after our sitting period, we will listen to an excerpt from a talk by the esteemed Dr. Jan Willis, who in addition to being an author and a professor of Religion at Wesleyan University, is also a teacher and scholar, practitioner (for more than 40 years) and teacher of Tibetan Buddhism.  

 

In her talk, Dr. Willis talks about the 8th century Buddhist monk and philospher Shantideva and his teachings on The Way of the Bodhisattva. A Bodhisattva is someone who travels on the path of liberation not only for their own benefit, but for the purpose of liberating all beings. She or he, generates bodhicitta through mindfulness practice and lives guided by compassion or the wish to alleviate the suffering of all living beings. For an excerpt from The Way of the Bodhisattva please go to the bottom of the newsletter.
 

Shantideva says:

 

"May the supreme and precious bodhichitta

Take birth where it has not yet done so;

Where it has been born may it not decrease;

Where it has not decreased may it abundantly grow."

 

Dr. Willis differentiates between metta, or loving kindness -- the wish for all beings to be happy -- and bodhicitta, the mind of enlightenment which wishes for all beings to be free of suffering. She says that bodhicitta arises naturally from our insight into the nature of interdependence, or as Thich Nhat Hanh says, our inter-being.

 

Here's is one way in which I practice contemplating the arising of bodhicitta (as they say, Buddhists love lists):

 

(1) I am not responsible for this whole universe because I am just one light in a sky full of stars, I am not better than or more important than anyone else.

(2) I am also not not responsible for the universe because I am just as capable as the next person. I am no less than anyone else.

(3) And, I am not equally responsible for the universe because I am not separate from anyone else.

(4) My freedom is only possible when others are free as well. If one being anywhere is suffering, then I will suffer either now or at some future point. It's in my best interest to help others awaken. And yet, #1, 2, and 3 are also true.

 

Dr. Willis goes on in her talk to discuss how it feels when we have that bodhicitta. She describes a moment in which she was a young girl and choking on food. Her mother rushed in, reached down her throat, got the food out, stood up and promptly passed out. This is a moment in which her mother had bodhicitta. She was fully aware that her life was bound up in the life of her child. Shantidva says this about how we feel when we are in that state:

 

"All the joy the world contains

Has come through wishing happiness for others.

All the misery the world contains

Has come through wanting pleasure for oneself."

 

Could it be that we are actually at our happiest when we are aware of and acting out of inter-being?  Not putting ourselves first, last or equal, but seeing how we are integral to the whole with everyone and everything else.

 

After we listen to some of what Dr. Willis has to say, we can discuss bodhicitta and the "Death of Compassion." How might you revive compassion and generate bodhicitta in your life? Do you want to? How have you done so in the past? Do you feel resistance to any of the four parts of bodhicitta I suggested above? What else are you thinking about these days with regard to compassion, your life, and the universe?

 

I look forward to connecting with you on Monday.

 

Much love,

annie

February 20 Strong As a Mountain: Staying Rooted in the Midst of Chaos

This Monday, Ben is facilitating.  He shares:

 

Dear OHMC community, allow me to reintroduce myself.  It has been over a year since I have facilitated a sitting.  My littlest has just turned one and bedtimes are no longer such a fight, so here I am.  My post is themed after this Spring's Opening Heart Mindfulness retreat titled:

 

Strong As a Mountain: Staying Rooted in the Midst of Chaos

 

Below is a story of chaos and how I rooted myself in the practice of mindfulness to manage the situation.  I encourage you to read the story but if you don't have the time, know that it ends with gratitude.  

 

For discussion on Monday please consider how mindfulness has made you strong as a mountain and are you able to find gratitude in the midst of chaos?

 

Speaking of chaos, both of my daughters are developing ways to fight against their parents and each other to get what they want.  Allegra has become a negotiator.  Even at the age of three she can come up with clever deals that enable her to get what she wants.  Before it was body language now she has become more sophisticated.  Lilliana doesn't have language yet so when she wants something, it's all body language and sound.  

 

For the most part, their fight doesn't bring out the fight in me.  There are times however when it does.  The other day I was drained, totally whipped out.  Allegra wouldn't brush her teeth, Lilliana was not going to sleep, and I had had enough.

 

I knew I had had enough because my body said so.  My experience in that moment was a surge that collapsed and expanded inside and up and down the front of my spine.  The outward surge came forth has a harsh "Allegra, that's enough", the inward collapse was the feeling of despondence, a downward, heavy, dirty, yucky, tired, brown, murky, feeling.  Not unfamiliar, this feeling came with memories of other times I've felt this way, and in a flash this moment was every moment I've ever felt this way to include times when I have been truly depressed and full of self loathing.  I had had enough and enough being enough meant that it was time to force the issue in my favor.  Daddy is stronger and more powerful and you will do as I say!!!

 

At that point Allegra began crying, that woke up Lilliana who my wife had almost gotten to sleep, and she began crying.  The collapsing feeling got company.  Shame.  

 

So here's the picture.  On the outside I've got two kids crying.  One kid has to brush her teeth and put on PJs, the other is now awake and crying.  On the inside there is a kinda turmoil.  My thoughts recognize my problem.  In a flash an internal environment erupted.  My management of my internals failed and I projected them on my children.  This failed to remedy the situation and made it worse.  My mind is flashing memories of other times I've fallen into similar situations, and now I'm getting hit with shame: I teach people mindfulness for Pete's sake.  I am on the losing end of this situation and all this has happened in under a minute.

 

Knowing I was getting my butt kicked by my life in the moment, I did the first thing I could think of, I grabbed the blue whale shaped water bucket and began making a really big waterfall in the tub.  The weight of the water in my hand, the sound of the water splashing down into the tub shifted the moment.  Allegra stopped crying, curious of the sight and sound of falling water.  I focused on the feeling of the changing weight of the bucket as the heaviness disappeared as the water emptied.  I made my spine a little straighter, I took a deep breath.  As Allegra stopped crying so did Lilliana.  My focus on the present disrupted my internals, and I began taking steps back to neutral.  

 

After the girls went down I began the process of reassessing the situation.  I should have done this, and I should have done that.  But then I remembered.  I felt the blanket with my toes.  I felt the pillow with the back of my head.  I felt my breath.  I felt the movement of air up and down in my throat.  I recognized the draw of my energy to think, to analyze, but I choose to be grateful.  I started small, the blanket, the mattress, the pillow, then I got bigger more sophisticated I started languaging in my mind the way this chaos brought out the practice, and how the practice led me to gratitude.  Before I fell asleep I felt gratitude for the chaos.

February 13 Dealing with the Knots of Anger

This Monday Bea will facilitate.  

She shares:

 

This week I would like to share with you some thoughts about anger. Lately I have been experiencing a lot of anger and this is starting to wear me down. I have been angry at someone I consider a close friend because she does engage politically the way I want her to engage. She does not read the news, does not call her members of Congress, does not write letters to denounce what is happening, and does not seem bothered by what I am perceive to be a direct attack on our individual and collective rights. I have also been angry at some of my co-workers because they do not understand the challenging position I am in and make it worse by micromanaging me. I have felt anger towards my daughter because her grades are not where I think they should be, and at my new dentist because I have been having a toothache ever since she replaced a filling. I am also angry at Metro because my daily commute is a nightmare, prices keep going up and service gets worse. The list could go on and on. So you see? This is quite exhausting. I am tired of being angry and of justifying my anger by passing judgment on others. All I want to do is sleep and make the anger and the suffering that comes from it go away...

 

Thich Nhat Hanh talks about loosening the knots of anger through mindful practice. As I was perusing the Lion's Roar website, I came across an article on this very subject. Thay talks about transforming the pain within ourselves as a necessary step to find happiness. According to the Buddha's teachings, he writes, the most basic condition for happiness is freedom. Freedom from the mental formations of anger, despair, jealousy and delusion. These mental formations are described by the Buddha as poisons. As long as these poisons are in our heart, happiness cannot be possible.

 

Thay gives us concrete instructions on how to transform the craving, anger and confusion within us. He talks about Knots of Anger and says that,

 

"In our consciousness there are blocks of pain, anger and frustration called internal formations. They are also called knots because they tie us up and obstruct our freedom. When someone insults us or does something unkind to us, an internal formation is created in our consciousness. If you don't know how to undo the internal knot and transform it, the knot will stay there for a long time. And the next time someone says something or does something to you of the same nature, that internal formation will grow stronger. As knots or blocks of pain in us, our internal formations have the power to push us, to dictate our behavior.

 

After a while, it becomes very difficult for us to transform, to undo the knots, and we cannot ease the constriction of this crystallized formation. The Sanskrit word for internal formation is samyojana. It means "to crystallize." Every one of us has internal formations that we need to take care of. With the practice of meditation, we can undo these knots and experience transformation and healing. Not all internal formations are unpleasant. There are also pleasant internal formations, but they can still make us suffer. When you taste, hear or see something pleasant, then that pleasure can become a strong internal knot. When the object of your pleasure disappears, you miss it and you begin searching for it.

Pleasant or unpleasant, both kinds of knots take away our liberty. That is why we should guard our body and our mind very carefully, to prevent these knots from taking root in us."

 

Thay says that we need to treat anger with tenderness...

 

"Mindfulness does not fight anger or despair. Mindfulness is there in order to recognize. To be mindful of something is to recognize that something is there in the present moment. Mindfulness is the capacity of being aware of what is going on in the present moment. "Breathing in, I know that anger has manifested in me; breathing out, I smile towards my anger." This is not an act of suppression or of fighting. It is an act of recognizing. Once we recognize our anger, we embrace it with a lot of awareness, a lot of tenderness.

 

When it is cold in your room, you turn on the heater, and the heater begins to send out waves of hot air. The cold air doesn't have to leave the room for the room to become warm. The cold air is embraced by the hot air and becomes warm-there's no fighting at all between them.

 

We practice taking care of our anger in the same way. Mindfulness recognizes anger, is aware of its presence, accepts and allows it to be there. Mindfulness is like a big brother who does not suppress his younger brother's suffering. He simply says, "Dear brother, I'm here for you." You take your younger brother in your arms and you comfort him. This is exactly our practice.

 

To grow the tree of enlightenment, we must make good use of our afflictions, our suffering. Practitioners of meditation do not discriminate against or reject their internal formations. We do not transform ourselves into a battle field, good fighting evil. We treat our afflictions, our anger, our jealousy with a lot of tenderness. When anger comes up in us, we should begin to practice mindful breathing right away: "Breathing in, I know that anger is in me. Breathing out, I am taking good care of my anger." We behave exactly like a mother: "Breathing in, I know that my child is crying. Breathing out, I will take good care of my child." This is the practice of compassion.

 

If you don't know how to treat yourself with compassion, how can you treat another person with compassion? When anger arises, continue to practice mindful breathing and mindful walking to generate the energy of mindfulness. Continue to embrace tenderly the energy of anger within you. Anger may continue to be there for sometime, but you are safe, because the Buddha is in you, helping you to take good care of your anger. The energy of mindfulness is the energy of the Buddha. When you practice mindful breathing, and embrace your anger, you are under the protection of the Buddha. There is no doubt about it: The Buddha is embracing you and your anger with a lot of compassion.

 

When you are angry, when you feel despair, you practice mindful breathing, mindful walking, to generate the energy of mindfulness. This energy allows you to recognize and embrace your painful feelings. And if your mindfulness is not strong enough, you ask a brother or a sister in the practice to sit close to you, to breathe with you, to walk with you in order to support you with his or her mindfulness energy. Practicing mindfulness does not mean that you have to do everything on your own. You can practice with the support of your friends. They can generate enough mindfulness energy to help you take care of your strong emotions."

 

See you Monday evening.

February 6 Deep Listening to Ourselves and Others: The Practice of Apologizing

This week Marie will facilitate.  She shares:

 

Recently I've been noticing my apologies: when do I apologize (and to whom), how do I apologize and what is the impact (on me and on the other person).   I've realized that I offer different types of apologies, depending on what I've done - and - more importantly - on how I'm feeling.  I found a whole continuum of apologies - from the defensive (which is not really an apology), to the superficial to the heartfelt.  Sometimes, my apology brought relief, whereas in others, it seemed to exacerbate the suffering.  What caused the difference?

 

Deep listening plays a critical role.  "Non defensive listening to the hurt party is at the heart of offering a sincere apology" writes Dr Harriet Lerner, in her book Why Won't You Apologize".  She urges the listener not to interrupt, argue, refute or correct facts or bring up your own criticisms and complaints.   Even when the offended party is largely at fault, she suggests apologizing for one's own part in the incident, however small it may be.

 

"I'm sorry" are the two most healing words in the English language.  Apologies are central to health, both physical and emotional.  The courage to apologize wisely and well is not just a gift to the injured person, who can then feel soothed and released from obsessive recriminations, bitterness and corrosive anger.  It's also a gift to one's own health, bestowing self respect, integrity and maturity - an ability to take a clear-eyed look at how our behavior affects others and to assume responsibility for acting at another person's expense."  

 

I hope you can join us on Monday night, when we will discuss our practice with apologies.  Whether or not you are able to join us, I invite you to reflect on your practice with apologies: when, how and to whom do you apologize?   Do you apologize to yourself as well as to others?  What kinds of apologies do you make and how do you feel afterwards?  What is it that enables you to apologize in healing ways?  

 

With a warm bow,

Marie

January 30 Listening to our Elders

Camille facilitates:

In practicing mindfulness, one of the most helpful practices for me is deep listening - to myself and to others without judgement and with understanding. But one of the most helpful practices can also be one of the most difficult.

 

This week I would like to share how this can be particularly challenging for me with our elderly.  I often wonder whether I am deeply listening with understanding and compassion to a parent or older friend.  Or do I think if they disagree with me - it's only because they are old and aren't as knowledgeable about what is happening today.  Aren't I just judging them and not really valuing them for their contributions?  

 

In "The Art of Communicating" by Thich Nhat Hanh, he reminds us of the importance of communication and that we all want to be heard and understood.  He says:

 

"We communicate to be understood and to understand others.  If we're talking and no one is listening we're not communicating effectively.  There are two keys to effective and true communication.  The first is deep listening.  The second is loving speech.  Deep listening and loving speech are the best instruments I know for establishing and restoring communication with others and relieving suffering.

 

We all want to be understood.  When we interact with another person, particularly if we haven't practiced mindfulness of our own suffering and listened well to our own selves, we're anxious for others to understand us right away.  We want to begin by expressing ourselves.  But talking first like that doesn't usually work.  Deep listening needs to come first.  Practicing mindfulness of suffering - recognizing and embracing the suffering in oneself and in the other person - will give rise to the understanding necessary for good communication.

 

When we listen to someone with the intention of helping that person suffer less, this is deep listening.  When we listen with compassion, we don't get caught in judgment.  A judgment may form but we don't hold on to it.  Deep listening has the power to help us create a moment of joy, a moment of happiness, and to help us handle a painful emotion."

 

I look forward to sharing your ideas on being with elderly parents, grandparents, friends, and neighbors (or even being the elder in your community) and being with them more compassionately.  See you Monday.

January 23 Excerpts from Thich Nhat Hanh's Books

This Monday Bea will facilitate.

She shares:

 

As I sat down to write this, it occurred to me that Monday evening would officially be the first meditation sangha that we have under this new Administration. By the time we sit down and meditate together, the Women's March on Washington will also be in the past. Over the last six weeks, I have pondered over the question of how to practice spirituality in these turbulent times. Although my struggle for a meaningful answer is not over, I found some comfort and purpose in a few of Thich Nhat Hanh's book. Here are some excerpts that I want to share with you:

 

Excerpt - 1

Work - How to Find Joy and Meaning in Each Hour of the Day

"A Collective Awakening" pg. 104

 

"Regardless of what work we do, part of our work is to help bring about a collective healing transformation and awakening for our own well-being and for the sake of our planet. The insight of interbeing can help in this, but we need a collective awakening. Every one of us has to work to produce this collective awakening. If you are a journalist, you can do this as a journalist. If you are a teacher, you can do this as a teacher. Without the awakening, nothing will change. Awakening and awareness are the foundation of all change. Each of us has to sit down and look deeply to see what we can be, what we can do today to relieve the suffering around us, to help reduce stress, and to bring about more joy and happiness. We can do this by ourselves, or with a group of people, with our colleagues or with our family. There is so much suffering in the world but, at the same time, there is also the potential for so much joy. By living your life with awareness, protecting your own work of art, you can contribute to the work of collective awakening."

 

Excerpt - 2  

Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise

"Individual Consciousness" pg. 36 - 38.

 

"When we direct our attention to certain elements of our consciousness, we're "consuming" them. As with our meals, what we consume from our consciousness may be wholesome and healthy, or it may be toxic. For example, when we are having a cruel and angry thought, and we replay it over and over again in our mind, we are consuming toxic consciousness."

 

"Every one of us has the capacity to love, to forgive, to understand and to be compassionate. If you know how to cultivate these elements within your consciousness, your consciousness can nourish you with this healthy kind of food that makes you feel wonderful and benefits everyone around you. At the same time, in everyone's consciousness, there is also the capacity for obsession, worry, despair, loneliness and self-pity. If you consume sensory food in a way that nourishes these negative elements in your consciousness-if you read tabloids, play violent electronic games, spend time online envying what others have done, or engage in a mean-spirited conversation-the anger, despair or jealousy becomes a stronger energy in your consciousness. You are cultivating the kind of food in your mind that isn't healthy for you...you can choose to cultivate things in your consciousness that will nourish you rather than the toxic things that will poison you and make you suffer... We can do a lot of damage to ourselves and to our relationships when we don't pay attention to what we are taking into ourselves and cultivating in our minds."

 

The 3rd and final excerpt is also from the book,

Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise

"Collective Consciousness" pg. 39-41.

 

"In addition to our individual consciousness, we also take in the collective consciousness. Just as the Internet is made up of many individual sites, collective consciousness is made up of individual consciousness. And each individual consciousness contains elements of the collective consciousness... Like individual consciousness, collective consciousness can also be healing-for example, when you are with loving friends or family, or with strangers in a situation of mutual appreciation such as listening to music, seeing art, or being in nature. When we surround ourselves with people who are committed to understanding and loving, we're nourished by their presence and our own seeds of understanding and love are watered."

 

"It's much easier to achieve and appreciate quiet when you have a supportive environment. If you can't bring yourself into a quieter, more peaceful physical environment, surround yourself as much as you can with people who help foster a collective energy of calm and compassion. Consciously choosing what and who you surround yourself with is among the keys to finding more space for joy."

 

See you Monday evening.

Namaste,

Bea

January 15 Taking Refuge

refuge photo.jpg

This Monday Alison will facilitate.
 

She shares:
 

On Monday night, we will focus on the following excerpt called "Taking Refuge" from Thich Nhat Hanh's book Happiness:

 

"When we find ourselves in dangerous or difficult situations, or when we feel like we are losing ourselves, we can practice taking refuge.  Instead of panicking or giving ourselves up to despair, we can put our trust in the power of self-healing, self-understanding, and loving within us.  We call this the island within ourselves in which we can take refuge.  It is an island of peace, confidence, solidity, love, and freedom.  Be an island within yourself.  You don't have to look for it elsewhere.

 

We want to feel safe and protected.  We want to feel calm.  So when a situation seems to be turbulent, overwhelming, full of suffering, we have to practice taking refuge in the Buddha, the Buddha in ourselves.  Each of us has the seed of Buddhahood, the capacity for being calm, understanding, compassionate, and for taking refuge in the island of safety within us so we can maintain our humanness, our peace, our hope.  Practicing like this, we become an island of peace and compassion, and we may inspire others to do the same.

 

Use this gatha to return to yourself, wherever you are:

 

Breathing in, I go back to the island within myself.

There are beautiful trees within the island.

There are cool streams of water,

there are birds, sunshine, and fresh air.

Breathing out, I feel safe.

 

We are like a boat crossing the ocean.  If the boat encounters a storm and everyone panics, the boat will turn over.  If there is one person in the boat who can remain calm, that person can inspire other people to be calm.  Then there will be hope for the whole boatload.  Who is that person who can stay calm in the situation of distress?  Each of us is that person.  We count on each other."

 

Look forward to seeing everyone on Monday night.

Namaste,

Alison

January 9: Interrupting Injustice, Healing Harm

Dear Friends,

 

This week Kaira Jewel will facilitate.  We are delighted that she will be our teacher at our April 2017 retreat.  We hope you join us.  To register for our retreat please go here.

 

Kaira shares:

 

This Monday we will share stories of compassion that "interrupt injustice" and help "heal harm".

We will listen to true stories of how compassion, born from the deep understanding of interconnectedness, can transform hatred and violence at its root, so that it doesn't arise again.  Gathering stories from war time, from the Civil Rights movement, from ordinary people armed just with compassion in the face of white supremacy.  We will explore ways that we can see the good in every person, no matter how horribly they are acting.  We will also look at what helps people filled with hatred and discrimination to connect to their humanity and love again.

In our sharing time, we will reflect on our own experiences of forgiveness, transformation, reconciliation, and healing.

Quote from Shambhala Prophecy:

 

With that wisdom you know that it is not a battle between "good guys" and "bad guys," because the line between good and evil runs through the landscape of every human heart. 

 

AND 

 

From The Complete Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

"If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility."

January 2

Dear friends

 

This week Annie will facilitate.  We will talk about how mindfulness can help is set intentions for the new year. 

 

As we know, our thoughts and feelings usually lead to actions, so being mindful and having clarity about what our deepest intentions are will help us act and speak in the ways we most deeply want to. 

 

I heard Thich Nhật Hanh say that we meditate in order to heal and transform. How can our thinking inspire more healing and transformation in 2017?

 

We can start to think about our intentions in the following categories using the technique that social psychologist and author Kelly McGonigal of The Willpower Instinct suggests.

 

McGoinigal says that to get to our deepest intentions, we ask ourselves: How would I like to feel about:

  • My body- health, vitality
  • My environment (possessions, home, etc)- what Thich Nhật Hanh calls our "cows"
  • My relationships- partners, family, friends, sangha
  • My relationship with myself - how well do I understand myself? 

Once we have a sense of our deepest intentions, we can find ways to support staying awake to what we really want. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project says that we have a tendency to respond to expectations (or New Years resolutions) in one of four ways:

  1. Upholders -- these are the people who have no trouble keeping resolutions and always do what they are "supposed" to so. They may be exhausted but they are relentless. 
  2. Questioners -- they will do something only if it makes rational sense, they've done their research on the resolution and it's benefits 
  3. Rebels -- these people resist all expectations and resolutions because they don't like to be told what to do. 
  4. Obligers-- they respond to outside pressure and will do something because others want them to, ignoring their own feelings about it 

In which category do you normally find yourself?  Knowing how we usually operate will help us know what supports to put in place to make it more likely for us to make progress on our intentions. 

 

Upholders can learn to question their deeper motives more, questioners can practice acceptance, rebels can try to act out of love, and obligers can build in external accountability to support their transformation. 

 

Kelly McGonigal says that willpower is "the ability to do what you want to do when part of you really doesn't want to do it." Another way I've heard this said is, "Discipline is remembering what you want." To me this is also the definition of mindfulness, and the antithesis of addiction, where we do things we know will cause us (and others ) to suffer because some part of us is craving a transient moment of sensual pleasure. What McGonigal calls willpower is really what I would call staying in presence, in that state which knows what we really want for ourselves and for the world.

 

So what do you really want to feel? For me, I want to feel a sense of belonging and ease. And knowing I have questioning and rebel tendencies I try to remind myself of the benefits the world will experience if I keep practicing, and also keep tapping into the love that I have for myself and others, underneath all that rebellious energy. 

 

This Monday, we will enjoy a guided meditation on finding our deepest intentions, and after the meditation period,  we will have a chance to discuss and share how we would like to heal and transform in 2017 and what practices will best support us. I hope to see you there!