As many here know I am a keen cyclist and love nothing more than getting out on my bike and heading for the proverbial hills. My last ride was with a close friend who I go out with frequently. As we get onto the quieter roads it's always a good chance to talk and check in with each other. As part of this conversation he confided that he had been feeling very anxious lately and that the climate change issue was really starting to cause him distress. He is a PhD scientist and said he genuinely felt like the frog in the fable being slowly boiled alive. It was clear that he had been thinking about this deeply which resulted in very real suffering. He did not want to ‘tune it out’ but equally felt powerless to do anything about it.
During last week’s Sangha, Annie shared her perspective on the “subtle distinction” between embracing versus suppressing unwelcomed emotions (e.g., anger, jealousy, and fear). As Annie explained, there is a distinction between wanting such emotions to “go back to our store consciousness and stay out of our mind consciousness” with the intention of banishing such emotions forever, which is simply not possible, and treating such emotions with love and compassion, so that our relationship with them is altered in a positive way with less suffering.
Many years ago, on a 10-day silent retreat, I had an insightful experience. While sitting in chilly meditation in a hall with 80 other yogis, someone got up an opened a window. Right away, a flash of anger arose in me, and I started telling myself a story about the entitlement of the man who opened the window.
Suddenly, my mind paused and I was able to see my anger arising. I had the realization that my anger was not something I could ever completely eradicate. Something in me had been believing that if I practiced meditation enough, I would be able to live anger-free for the rest of my life.
When I realized that I was never going to be able to be free of anger, a well of grief rose up, and I had to go into my room and wail and sob. I let go of my hidden dream of being free from the "unwholesome" seeds of anger, fear, greed, and delusion. I would never achieve a life of moral perfection.
Often times what we most remember and cherish from our lives are the moments when we felt deeply seen and cared for - and when others felt deeply seen and cared for by us.
Where we could bring our whole, authentic selves to others and be received in such a way that heals the cracks in our spirit that we didn’t even know was there. Where we are all cared for because we are all caring - giving freely, receiving freely, and inviting in freely.
But too often we are afraid of showing our whole, authentic selves to others. We live in a society that says we must conform to a certain standard of what’s “acceptable”, including how we look, what jobs we have, how we talk, and how we behave. So it can be scary to be different, to live unconventional lives, and to not fit into the system, even if it’s killing us slowly.
May all beings enjoy happiness and the roots of happiness
May all beings be free from suffering and the roots of suffering
May they never be separated from the great joy, devoid of suffering
May they dwell in equanimity free from passion, aggression and prejudice
Over a year ago I offered a meditation on the Four Immeasurables. This week, I would like to offer another evening devoted to the topic.
Throughout each day, each week, each month, we experience the wide range of emotions around love, renewal and inward looking, sadness, suffering and more. Our mettle in being present with all of this, without getting pulled from our center, is tested by our experience of our inner world and the outer circumstances and events.
Welcome to Monday evening on Memorial Day with the Opening Heart Mindfulness Community. This evening we will read the Five Mindfulness Trainings together with a focus on the First Mindfulness Training. Discussion will ink to last week’s engaging theme that Andy introduced on ‘forgetfulness and practices to help remembering’.
Mindfulness Trainings are meant as ethical guidelines that encourage us to remember ways that are helpful to lead lives full of peace, non-violence, compassion, understanding and love. On this special day of remembrance, I look forward to our time together.
Over the last month or so I have been all consumed by travel, work and other life events. It has been a non-stop whirlwind of running, running, running with little, if any, time to stop and reflect. Maybe on a couple of occasions was I was able to catch myself and bring myself back into the present moment. Old habits die hard and I found myself back doing all the things I have been working so hard to undo these last few years. In many ways this was me ‘in my element’ and doing what I do best. Until I wasn't.
Without going down the path of explaining the history of an old injury to my back let’s just say the last 10 days have been painful and definitely no ‘running, running, running.’
So once again here I am, having just about caught myself (albeit painfully) and again I will start to breathe, take a mindful step, and come back to my true home. Just as when we sit and our mind wanders off, be it for a moment or what can feel like a lifetime, we know (hope) we will catch ourselves and come back to our breath.
In Plum Village, the Buddhist monastic community in France founded by Thich Nhat Hanh, there is regular singing and chanting at sangha gatherings. At Plum Village retreat centers throughout the US and other countries, to share the practice and warm the heart, music is often at the heart of the tradition. Like gathas, singing helps us return to the present moment.
When I was thinking about facilitating for our Monday night sangha gathering, and trying to reflect on what was present for me and what teaching I might share with you, I remembered a morning last week that had a heartwarming effect on me. I share a weekly morning mindfulness/yoga practice with homeless men at a soup kitchen and after our sitting meditation, and mindful movements, I decided to share a song with them.
I remember many years ago, one of our sangha (mindfulness community) members, someone with whom I had practiced for many years, went off on a trip to "find himself." He traveled to Asia and spent many weeks in a forest monastery in Thailand. Then, he went on to Plum Village and spent several months practicing there during the winter rains retreat.