How old are you?

Monday, April 22, Bea will facilitate. She writes:

Today is my father’s birthday. He turns 81 years old. It is also Easter Sunday and a few days after Passover. It is another opportunity to pause and celebrate the gift of life. But do we really need a special day to do this? Isn’t every day that we are alive a reason to celebrate? Every birthday we are reborn. Every holiday we are awakened. Every spring we are given life.

From Thích Nhất  Hanh, “No Death, No Fear”:

“Sometimes people ask you: "When is your birthday?" But you might ask yourself a more interesting question: "Before that day which is called my birthday, where was I?" 

Ask a cloud: "What is your date of birth? Before you were born, where were you?"

If you ask the cloud, "How old are you? Can you give me your date of birth?" you can listen deeply and you may hear a reply. You can imagine the cloud being born. Before being born it was the water on the ocean's surface. Or it was in the river and then it became vapor. It was also the sun because the sun makes the vapor. The wind is there too, helping the water to become a cloud. The cloud does not come from nothing; there has been only a change in form. It is not a birth of something out of nothing.

Sooner or later, the cloud will change into rain or snow or ice. If you look deeply into the rain, you can see the cloud. The cloud is not lost; it is transformed into rain, and the rain is transformed into grass and the grass into cows and then to milk and then into the ice cream you eat. Today if you eat an ice cream, give yourself time to look at the ice cream and say: "Hello, cloud! I recognize you.” 

Meet Me Here

Meet me here

where silence roars

where stillness is dancing

where the eternal is living and dying.

 

Meet me here

where you are not you

where you are It

and It is unspeakable.

---Adyashanti

There are many pathways to stillness. Pathways that bring us back to what lies underneath the thoughts, emotions, and stories. Underneath and behind all of the movements of the inner and outer world, there lies it. It is unspeakable.

There is an inner yearning, or a voice that calls “meet me here”. It calls us to return to stillness, to spaciousness, to what is always there. As Adyashanti writes, it is a place or space “where you are not you, where you are it.”  

The practice of mindfulness is a practice of letting go. The “here” that he writes about may be too esoteric or distant. We can bring this “here” closer in order to let go of the idea of striving to reach the all encompassing “here”, “where silence roars where stillness is dancing.” Part of here is the state of mindful awareness. The awareness that we are breathing in and out. The awareness that emotions and thoughts are moving through our bodies and minds. Meet me hereis the call to the present moment to light the lamp of mindfulness. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches and reminds that:

We have a lamp inside us, the lamp of mindfulness which we can light anytime. The oil of that lamp is our breathing, our steps, and our peaceful smile. We have to light up that light of mindfulness so the light will shine out and the darkness will dissipate and cease. Our practice is to light up the lamp. 

Thich Nhat Hanh, Your True Home

Here exists on many levels. When we light the lamp of mindfulness, the darkness of delusion is seen clearly and overcome. The call of Meet me herecalls us to pause before we speak, or to put away our phone in order to eat or walk in mindfulness. The call of Meet me heresteers us towards our cushion, to sangha and to retreat. 

This Monday night we have the opportunity to share about how we each experience the call to awareness, to stillness and silence. 

You might like to drop these questions into your consciousness-- 

When did I first feel, and hear the call to mindfulness, to stillness, and silence?

What is my present experience of my Meet me here voice? When does it arise, to what does it call me?  

Where and when do I feel and experience thehere that Adyashanti writes about?

I look forward to our time together.

---Mick

  

Meet Me Here

by Adyashanti                   

 

Join me here Now

where there are no points of view.

slip under good and bad

right and wrong

worthy and unworthy

sinner and saint

 

Meet me here

where everything is unframed

before understanding

and not understanding

 

Meet me here

where silence roars

where stillness is dancing

where the eternal is living and dying.

 

Meet me here

where you are not you

where you are It

and It is unspeakable..

 

Meet me here where all points of view

merge into a single point

that then disappears.

 

Meet me here

before there ever was something

before there ever was nothing

 

Meet me here

where everything speaks of this

where everything has

always spoken this

where nothing is ever lost or found

Meet me here

Regret

Through meditation, I have a new-found fascination with emotions!  As a child, I grew up in a household where emotions were not artfully addressed.  In other words, “how we felt” did not receive a lot of attention.  Through meditation, I’ve learned not only that emotions are part of one’s DNA but they need to be acknowledged, pondered, and embraced – the good, the bad and the ugly – with an eye towards watering those that are more beneficial to happiness and peace.

Lately, the strong emotion that has been cropping up is regret.  My Mom died last May and in the aftermath of her death, my siblings and I uncovered a treasure trove of pictures of her as a teen and 20-something. They reflected a fun-loving, vivacious and beautiful young woman surrounded by friends.  They were truly a revelation – showing a completely new aspect of a person I thought I knew, a person who often seemed to dwell in negativity.   This picture and just the awareness that she is gone (except for my skewed memories), has been sending me into keen moments of “regret” – that maybe I should have tried harder to communicate, maybe it was my fault that our relationship was sometimes strained, that I did not choose to spend more time with her, and that maybe I had never really listened to her. 

Regret in spades.  So, how do we address that sticky, painful emotion?

Thich Nhat Hahn starts, as always, with the concept of being present:

When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love. . . .

Around us, life bursts with miracles – a glass of water, a ray of sunshine, a leaf, a caterpillar, a flower, laughter, raindrops.  If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere.  Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles.  Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings.  When we are tired and feel discouraged by life’s daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they are always there.  

To dwell in the here and now does not mean you never think about the past or responsibly plan for the future.  The idea is simply not to allow yourself to get lost in regrets about the past or worries about the future. If you are firmly grounded in the present moment, the past can be an object of inquiry, the object of your mindfulness and concentration.  You can attain many insights by looking into the past.  But you are still grounded in the present moment.

Thay’s wise words and my meditation practice have helped me to focus and embrace the regret, to treat it kindly, and to return to the present without getting lost in a miserable bog of self-doubt and lack of compassion for the life I actually led with my Mom, which had both beautiful and dark moments.  While my “emotion of the week” has been regret, the above principles are useful for addressing in a fruitful way all of the strong, negative emotions we encounter as part of simply being human.  

I look forward to seeing everyone on Monday night!

Namaste, 

Alison

 

 

Mindful Speech in Challenging Moments

Marie will facilitate. She shares

This week, we will build on last week’s discussion of deep listening and focus on mindful speech.   Specifically, we’ll explore those instances when it is difficult for us to speak mindfully and share practices that can help.  

Recently, I’ve had a life circumstance that has challenged my ability to speak mindfully.   The situation involved an aging family member who lives alone.   She is, in my view, physically at risk of falling and is, also in my view, unwilling to do what was needed to live alone safely.  While I’ve added the “my views” to this text, they are seldom in my thoughts.   Instead, my head has been brimming with “the facts” and “the solutions”.    And, with every new accident (there have several), I became more convinced of my views and tried, in various ways, to convince her and/or other family members of what needs to be done.  Can you see where this is going?

In “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching”, Thay writes that “Right speech is based on Right Thinking.  Speech is the way for our thinking to express itself aloud.  Our thoughts are no longer our private possessions.  We give earphones to others and allow them to hear the audiotape that is playing in our mind…    Deep listening is at the foundation of Right Speech.  If we cannot listen mindfully, we cannot practice Right Speech.  No matter what we say, it will not be mindful, because we’ll be speaking only our own ideas and not in response to the other person.  In the Lotus Sutra, we are advised to look and listen with the eyes of compassion.  Compassionate listening brings about healing...

You have to practice breathing mindfully in and out so that compassion always stays with you.  “I am listening to her not only because I want to know what is inside her or to give her advice.  I am listening to her just because I want to relieve her suffering.”  That is called compassionate listening...

Sometimes we speak clumsily and create internal knots in others.  Then we say “I was just telling the truth.”  It may be the truth, but if our way of speaking causes unnecessary suffering, it is not Right Speech.  The truth must be presented in ways that others can accept.  Words that damage or destroy are not Right Speech.  Before you speak, understand the person you are speaking to.  Consider each word carefully before you say anything, so that your speech is “Right” in both form and content.   You have the right to tell another everything in your heart with the condition that you use only loving speech.”

Have you any situations in your life where it is difficult to speak mindfully?   What makes it hard to listen deeply and to speak lovingly?   Have you had experiences where you’ve been able to change the trajectory?  What happened and how did you do it?   

Please bring your experiences and insights on Monday night, and we will share what we are learning.

Warmly

Marie

Opening Your Ears and Mind for Deep Listening

Once a month on a Monday night we focus on the five Mindfulness Trainings and as a group recite each of them. This gentle reminder to come back to the core ethical and behavioral precepts of the practice is something I personally find very helpful. Just like when my mind wanders off chasing the next thought pattern so my own behavior can wander off, and so regularly reviewing the trainings is a helpful ‘nudge’ to get back on track. 

This month I thought we would focus on the fourth mindfulness training Loving Speech and Deep Listening. Specifically, I thought we might focus on the deep listening (also sometimes called compassionate listening) portion of this training as each month this is one where I know I need to recommit to the practice and work harder.

Reflecting on this I find that I have three specific difficulties when it comes to listening:

·       Things I am hearing trigger thoughts in my own mind and before I know it I am focused on these thoughts and have stopped listening to the person talking;

·       My natural tendency is one of problem solving and so my computer brain is running problem / solution routines so that I can provide answers even though I am not being asked a question; and

·       If someone talks in a long-winded manner and I have something I want to say, I will inevitably interrupt them mid-sentence and share my “amazing” insight or thought. 

The last of these is rude and I know it irks people, and I hate this habit too, but just like the other two it has proven hard to break.

In wanting to improve this practice Thay has much to teach us. He describes “that when we listen with compassion, we allow ourselves to be empty without any prejudices, without any preconceived ideas. We listen not to judge or criticize; we just listen so as to give the other person the chance to express themselves”.

Digging deeper into this concept Thay goes on to explain that:“even if the person says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion. Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less.”

So if the 5MT’s and Thay’s words help us focus on how to practice and improve I am still intrigued as to why I / we find it so hard to be better listeners. One of the best books I have read which hits on this issue was by behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman. In his book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow” he explains how we all have two modes of thinking. Type 1thinking is: fast, unconscious, automatic but often error proneType 2thinking is: slow, conscious, effortful, but more reliable.

It appears to me that practicing Deep Listening is about reminding us that listening not only helps us to be more compassionate and through this compassion help the listener, but also helps us to become better in seeing things as they truly are and not as our Type 1 mind might suggest things are. 

Please, think about your own successes (and challenges) with the practice of deep listening. How do you seek to improve this practice? How can other practices such as sitting, walking, sangha help us to improve? 

I look forward to practicing my own deep listening as you share about your own practice.

-      Andy

Further Resources:

A short talk by Thay on Deep Listening

 

 

 

The Collective Energy of the Sangha

This week Camille will facilitate.

In reflecting on last week's sharing "who is sangha" - Annie talked about the importance of the sangha and how in this community and this collective practice we can help heal ourselves, each other, and the world.  I didn't really have a chance to share - but I was feeling deeply grateful for the sangha at that moment - so much so - that I just wanted to listen and absorb the collective energy of everyone there.  So this week - I wanted to take the opportunity to continue the discussion on sangha, share some of my thoughts about what it has meant for me, and finally share some of a video clip of Thay's thoughts on sangha with the monastics chanting the song of Avalokiteshvara.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s thoughts on sangha

Last week one of the questions Annie asked us was what we saw as our role in the sangha, and do we want it's support.  In the first year I went to sangha I mostly sat and listened.  I thought my role was to sit quietly, walk quietly, breathe quietly, and then listen attentively but also quietly.  I thought it was pretty easy and that I could be a really good listener and really good at this practice - a piece of cake.  I also thought it was mostly about me being there for others - and I didn't really need to share.  Then I began to think that I should try and share, but went through a period of doubt that maybe I couldn't articulate what I wanted to say in a cohesive manner and that what I had to say was not "juicy" enough as one member of our community puts it.   Or maybe I was just afraid or embarrassed of my suffering and that maybe talking would make it worse.  All of this to say -  I just wasn't understanding the whole concept.

Happily with lots of help and practice from friends, books, and sangha, I have been able to recognize my pain and suffering more and no longer have the fear of being overwhelmed by it or the fear of talking about it.   For me the sangha has become a place of refuge where I know I have others who breathe, sit, and walk with me and open their eyes and ears to me and fully listen with open hearts.   How wonderful to have a sangha community who listens without judging (not something that comes naturally at home).   I finally recognized that I am there for them and they are there for me as well.  The love and compassion is shared by all.

As Thay talks about suffering and how the sangha community can help, he says  "the collective energy of the sangha can help with our suffering.  The collective energy of mindfulness will penetrate our body and will help us to heal and relieve tension and anxiety in our body and reduce pain and suffering."  He goes on to say "we behave like a drop of water in the heart of a river.  We allow the whole river to embrace and transport us as a drop of water.  The sangha can transport us if we open our hearts.  As a drop of water we say - dear sangha - please help me, alone I cannot embrace it by myself so please help me embrace my pain and sorrow." 

I invite you to continue to think about how the sangha can support you and how you can support the sangha. 

During this Monday night gathering - we will watch part of a recording of a plum village retreat where Thay talks about the sangha, about suffering, and about how chanting can help us stop our thinking and allow the energy of mindfulness and compassion penetrate into our body and mind.  I hope you enjoy listening and will have an opportunity to relax, sit back, and enjoy taking refuge in the sangha. 

I look forward to seeing and sharing with you on Monday night.

In love and light, 

Camille

 

 

 

Who is Sangha?

Who is Sangha?

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. 

The Mud, The Lotus

Bringing light to issues ofThe Mud, The Lotus

This Monday night, Mick will facilitate.

Many come to the practices of mindfulness and meditation looking for a permanent relief from their suffering. As we take that first courageous moving of body to cushion, and take part in looking inward, we discover that there is no getting rid of thoughts and emotions. There is no getting rid of the outward afflictions and influences either. The end game of enlightenment where all troubles vanish is a mirage. By the time we undertake the practices of mindfulness and meditation and wake up to Inner world and the outer world through mindfulness, it is too late for us. Too late for us to go back to sleep, to late for us to ignore our inner and outer world. 

Herein lies the challenge of living mindfully. We don’t always feelbetter, but we feel better. We feel and recognize more deeply the sunshine and the sorrow in us and around us. Feeling better, can often mean that we feel more deeply our pain.

Thich Nhat Hanh teaches about the mud and the lotus. No Mud, No Lotus. 

“It is possible of course to get stuck in the “mud” of life. It’s easy enough to notice mud all over you at times. The hardest thing to practice is not allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by despair. When you’re overwhelmed by despair, all you can see is suffering everywhere you look. You feel as if the worst thing is happening to you. But we must remember that suffering is a kind of mud that we need in order to generate joy and happiness. Without suffering, there’s no happiness. So we shouldn’t discriminate against the mud. We have to learn how to embrace and cradle our own suffering and the suffering of the world, with a lot of tenderness.” 

― Thích Nhất Hạnh, No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering

As mindfulness practitioners it is important to reflect and inquire, “ What do I do when I am feeling covered in mud and overwhelmed by suffering?”  The mud is always there and in getting overwhelmed by the mud we lose sight of the sunshine, the lotus.

The mud, or suffering is a given of existence. The lotus, or happiness is also a given. Mindfulness practice gives us a way to be with both, to hold both simultaneously and in balance. We fluctuate from high to low, sorrow to sunshine, mud to lotus.

This Monday we will have the chance to reflect and share on how you experience and navigate The Mud and The Lotus. I look forward to the time together. 

 

The Five Mindfulness Trainings

Monday night we will focus on the five mindfulness trainings. After reading all five of them, I will spend time on the first training: to protect life, to decrease violence in oneself, in the family and in society.

This first training makes me think of a conversation I recently had with my partner about guns in America and the second amendment in the U.S. Constitution: the right to bear arms. When the founding fathers wrote this, the U.S. had just gained independence from the U.K. and there was not a national army. The right to bear arms was intended for a citizen’s militia to prevent the U.S. from having a standing army. The founding fathers believed that a free society needed to be able to defend itself. An official army was a threat to freedom. Despite more than 300 years since then, we still hold on to this Amendment as a fundamental right.

Is bearing arms then a fundamental right to protect life? Of course, this is a logic I do not understand. Afterall, now we have a military and law enforcement is paid for with our tax dollars. But our law enforcement is not always treating people fairly. The right to bear arms can also mean survival for a person of color in this country. It can mean ultimate protection from unjust treatment by the police. It is a perverse logic, that of using a weapon to protect a life. It is a logic often justifed in the society that we live in.

The second part of the sentence is really profound: to decrease violence in oneself. How are we violent with ourselves? Is it with actions, thoughts or others means? Are we violent with ourselves when we water the seeds of suffering: anger, fear, frustration, jealousy, sadness? How can we be gentle and kind with ourselves? And when we are kind to ourselves, are we better able to be gentle, kind and compassionate to others? Is being present with ourselves, listening to our body, mind and heart, a way to be non violent with ourselves? Is it harder to practice non-violence on us than on others? And how are the two connected?

Then comes decreasing violence in our families and in our society. Sometimes violence is subtle, passive aggressive, manipulative and persistent. It is a seed that creates suffering. It is not always outright violence with guns and the intent to murder and take life. Though that happens far too often as well. Being mindful and practicing mindfulness enables us to see how we can be passive aggressive and hurtful to others in our close circle and in the wider circle we live in.

Please, think about this mindfulness training and share how you interpret it in our Monday night Sangha. What do you do to practice this training with yourself, your family and the community you live in?

Thank You!

Bea

Power

In the current political climate, I sometimes feel overwhelmed and powerless.  So, in preparing for this Sangha on the President’s Day holiday, which was originally established to honor George Washington but now is viewed as a day to honor and celebrate all of our past and current Presidents – people we often view as very powerful – I became curious about Thich Nhat Hanh’s views on “power.”  

The following is an excerpt from Thay called “The Three Forms of Power”:

Many of us think that if we had a lot of power we could do whatever we wanted, and that this would make us very happy.  Indeed, many of us have some kind of power but because we don’t know how to handle the power, we misuse it and we create suffering for ourselves and for the people around us.  Money is a kind of power.  Fame is a kind of power.  Weapons are a kind of power.  A strong army is a kind of power.  A lot of suffering is caused in the world because people misuse their power.  They do this because they don’t have the power to be themselves.

In the Buddhist tradition, we speak of three powers. These are quite different than the power of fame, wealth, and competition.  These three kinds of power can make a person happy.  If you have these three kinds of power, then the other kinds of power like having money, fame, an army or weapons will never become destructive.

The First Power: Understanding

The first kind of power is the power of understanding.  We should be able to cultivate the power to understand our own suffering and the suffering of others.  This kind of understanding will bring about compassion that will reduce our own suffering.  When you understand, you are no longer angry; you no longer want to punish anyone. Understanding is a great power. It gives rise to compassion.

When you have sufficient understanding, you release all of your fear, anger and despair.  Understanding means understanding the roots of suffering in yourself, in others, and in the world.  We use the energy of mindfulness and concentration to look deeply into the nature of our suffering in order to gain understanding.  In Buddhism, we don’t speak of salvation in terms of grace.  We speak of salvation in terms of understanding. Understanding is like a sword that can cut through the afflictions of anger, fear, and despair.

The Second Power: Love

If you put a handful of salt into a bowl of water and stir it, the water will be too salty to drink.  But if you throw the same amount of salt into an immense river, the handful of salt can’t make the river salty.  The power of love is like the river.  If your heart grows, your heart has room for everyone.  When your heart is full of love, little irritations become like the handful of salt in the river.  They don’t bother you, and you don’t suffer anymore.

The energy of love can free you and also help free the people around you who suffer.  There are two ways to respond to difficulties you have with others.  In the first way, you have the desire to punish the person you believe has made you suffer.  You believe that you are a victim of someone else and you have the tendency to want to punish that person because he or she has dared to make you suffer.  You may feel tempted to retaliate and to punish them. But of course when the other person is punished, he or she suffers and wants to retaliate and punish you back. This is how the situation escalates. Yet, there is another way to respond. You can respond to suffering with the power of love.  When you look deeply, you realize that the person who has made you suffer also suffers very deeply.  He suffers a lot from his wrong perceptions, his anger, or his fear.  He doesn’t know how to handle the suffering in himself. If no one offers love and understanding, he becomes the victim of his own suffering.  If you look deeply with the eyes of love and see this, compassion will be born in your heart.  When compassion is born in your heart, you don’t suffer anymore, and you ease the suffering of others.

The Third Power:  Letting Go

The third power is the power to be able to detach and let go of our afflictions, such as craving, anger, fear, and despair.  When you have the power to cut away all these kinds of afflictions, you become a free person and there is no greater power than that. When you’re free, you can help so many people to suffer less.

We all have the energy of craving within us, but we can cultivate the power of being able to cut through this kind of energy.  We know that the object of our craving has brought us a lot of suffering and has brought other people around us a lot of suffering, too.  Mindfulness, concentration, and understanding, give us the power to overcome our attachment to our afflictions.

In the beginning, you believe that the objects of your craving are essential for your well-being and happiness.  You let your cravings have power over you.  But if you look deeply, you will recognize that these objects of craving are not true conditions for your happiness.  If you can see this, and you can cultivate the powers of love and understanding, then you’ll be truly powerful.

-Thich Nhat Hanh, Work, How to Find Joy and Meaning in Each Hour of the Day

The above is a lot to take in!  If it’s too much all at once, just focus on one of the three forms of power that Thay discusses that resonates most with you right now.  Some things to think about are:  When do I feel most and least powerful?  Have I ever experienced one or more of the three types of power that Thay discusses?  How might I incorporate those forms of power into my own life and relationships?

I look forward to seeing you on Monday night and hearing your thoughts!

Namaste,

Alison 

 

Exploring Equanimity: A Deeper Look

Last week, Andy helped us explore the topic of equanimity: what does it mean to you and how do you seek to practice this in your life? This week, we will continue with this theme, integrating more of Thay’s teaching and looking deeply at our own experiences with (or without) equanimity.

In “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching”, Thay describes the Four Immeasurable Minds – love, compassion, joy and equanimity. “They are called “immeasurable” because, if you practice them, they will grow in you every day until they embrace the whole world. You will become happier, and everyone around you will become happier too.”

Turning towards equanimity, specifically, one of its characteristics is the ability to see everyone as equal – not discriminating between ourselves and others. I don’t know about you, but for me, this is particularly difficult when I am in conflict. When you are strongly in disagreement with someone, to what extent can you …“shed all discrimination and prejudice, remove all boundaries between yourself and others? As long as we see ourselves as the one who loves and the other as the one who is loved, as long as we value ourselves more than others or see ourselves as different from others, we do not have true equanimity.

So, what can we do to practice equanimity? Thay is quite specific: “We have to put ourselves into the other person’s skin and become one with him if we want to understand and truly love him. When that happens, there is no “self” and no “other”. 

A summer breeze can be very refreshing; but if we try to put it in a tin can so we can have it entirely for ourselves, the breeze will die. Our beloved is the same. He is like a cloud, a breeze, a flower. If you imprison him in a tin can, he will die. Yet many people do just that. They rob their loved one of his liberty until he can no longer be himself. They live to satisfy themselves and use their loved one to help them fulfill that. That is not loving, it is destroying. You say you love him, but if you do not love his aspirations, his needs, his difficulties, he is in a prison called “love”. True love allows you to preserve your freedom and the freedom of your beloved. That is equanimity.

For love to be true love, it must contain compassion, joy and equanimity. For compassion to be true compassion, it has to have love, joy and equanimity in it. True joy has to contain love, compassion and equanimity. And true equanimity has to have love, compassion and joy in it. This is the interbeing nature of the Four Immeasurable Minds. You can watch Thay describe this in the video. 

While it is tempting to look at global and national events, and tell ourselves that equanimity is impossible, I invite you to start at home: look deeply at your relationships with family and friends. To what extent have you shed discrimination and removed boundaries? To what extent is your love possessive or liberating? If you notice a pattern, practice with that. Put yourself in the other person’s skin and see how that feels.

 Please bring your insights and experiences on Monday night. 

 

Practicing Equanimity

This Monday, Andy will facilitate. He shares:

I am not sure about you but in recent years the ability to be reached 24/7/365 has led to a number of perfectly fine days being brought to a screeching halt by an incoming email, text or call. Typically the message conveys a low level panic or anxiety that someone was experiencing and which they felt should be “forwarded”.Occasionally, it actually includes something serious and rarely something important and alarming (albeit even in these circumstances calm usually returns quickly). Maybe I was less sensitive to these ‘jolts’ in the past or maybe as I have gotten older they have become more regular, but either way I now recognize them as part of life. 

In the last couple of years as I have returned to a regular practice the term ‘equanimity’ has kept catching my eye. As a central tenet within Buddhism, equanimity (in Pali, upekkha) is one of the Four Immeasurables or four great virtues (along with compassion, loving kindness, and sympathetic joy). Upe means “over,” and kkha means “to look.” You climb the mountain to be able to look over the situation. In western language the term “equanimity” first entered the English language in the 17th century from the Latin “aequanimitas,” which comes from “aequus” (equal) and “animus” (mind). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it means “calmness and composure, especially in a difficult situation”. I am sure that similar concepts and language exist in most, if not all cultures.  

Thay has spoken about the importance of the practice of equanimity --remaining calm in trying circumstances -- and has described how equanimity can serve as a "balm of clear water to pour on the roots of our afflictions," to use a verse from "The Ceremony for Beginning Anew”, a section of which is included below: 

Please bring the balm of clear water
to pour on the roots of our afflictions.
Please bring the raft of the true teachings
to carry us over the ocean of sorrows.
We vow to live an awakened life,
to learn the path of true happiness, 
and to practice smiling and conscious breathing.
Diligently we live in mindfulness.

What does the term equanimity mean to you and how do you seek to practice this in your life? 

How do you deal with the difficult issues that arise and how does your own practice help?

I hope you will join us on Monday night.


 

 

True Happiness: One of the Five Mindfulness Trainings

This Monday, Bea will facilitate.

Tonight’s meditation is about the Five Mindfulness Trainings. We will read all of them together and I will focus on one specifically: True Happiness.

What follows are extracts from a talk that Thay gave on June 23, 2005 in Plum Village. You can find the full transcript of the talk here. Please reflect on how you practice happiness, what makes you happy, and how your happiness affects others.

“Happiness is a practice. We should distinguish between happiness and excitement, and even joy. Many people in the West, especially in North America, think of excitement as happiness. They are thinking of something, or expecting something that they consider to be happiness, and, for them, that is already happiness. But when you are excited you are not really peaceful. True happiness should be based on peace, and in true happiness there is no longer any excitement.

Suppose you are walking in a desert and you are dying of thirst. Suddenly you see an oasis and you know that once you get there, there will be a stream of water and you can drink so you will survive. Although you have not actually seen or drunk the water you feel something: that is excitement, that is hope, that is joy, but not happiness yet. In Buddhist psychology we distinguish clearly between excitement, joy, and happiness. True happiness must be founded on peace. Therefore, if you don’t have peace in yourself you have not experienced true happiness.

Training Yourself to Be Happy 

You have to cultivate happiness; you cannot buy it in the supermarket. It is like playing tennis: you cannot buy the joy of playing tennis in the supermarket. You can buy the ball and the racket, but you cannot buy the joy of playing. In order to experience the joy of tennis you have to learn, to train yourself to play. In the same way, you have to cultivate happiness.

Walking meditation is a wonderful way to train yourself to be happy. You are here, and you look in the distance and see a pine tree. You make the determination that while walking to the pine tree, you will enjoy every step, that every step will provide you with peace and happiness. Peace and happiness that have the power to nourish, to heal, to satisfy.

There are those of us who are capable of going from here to the pine tree in that way, enjoying every step we make. We are not disturbed by anything: not by the past, not by the future; not by projects, not by excitement. Not even by joy, because in joy there is still excitement and not enough peace. And if you are well-trained in walking meditation, with each step you can experience peace, happiness, and fulfillment. You are capable of truly touching the earth with each step. You see that being alive, being established fully in the present moment and taking one step and touching the wonders of life in that step can be a wonder, and you live that wonder every moment of walking. If you have the capacity to walk like that, you are walking in the Kingdom of God or in the Pure Land of the Buddha.

So you may challenge yourself: I will do walking meditation from here to the pine tree. I vow that I will succeed. If you are not free, your steps will not bring you happiness and peace. So cultivating happiness is also cultivating freedom. Freedom from what? Freedom from the things that upset you, that keep you from being peaceful, that prevent you from being fully present in the here and the now.

One nun wrote to Thay that she has a friend visiting Plum Village. Her friend did not take the monastic path; instead she married, and now has a family, a job, a house, a car, and everything she needs for her life. She’s lucky because her husband is a good man; he does not create too many problems. Her job is enjoyable, with a salary above average. Her house is beautiful. She thinks of her relationship as a good one although it is not as she expected; sure, you can never have exactly what you expect.

And yet, she does not feel happy and she is depressed. Intellectually she knows that in terms of comfort, she has everything. Many of us think of happiness in these terms, as having material and emotional comforts. Not many people are as successful as that friend, and she knows that she is fortunate. And yet she is not happy.

We Are Immune to Happiness 

We have the tendency to think of happiness as something we will obtain in the future. We expect happiness. We think that now we don’t have the conditions we think we need to be happy, but that once we have them, happiness will be there. For example, you want to have a diploma because you think that without that diploma you cannot be happy. So you think of the diploma day and night and you do everything to get that diploma because you believe that diploma will bring you happiness. And you forecast that happiness will be there tomorrow, when you get the diploma. There may be joy and satisfaction in the days and weeks that follow the moment you receive your diploma, but you adapt to that new condition very quickly, and in just a few weeks you don’t feel happy anymore. You become used to having a diploma. So that kind of excitement, that kind of happiness is very short-lived. We are immune to happiness; we get used to our happiness, and after a while we don’t feel happy any longer.

People have made studies of poor people who have won lotteries and have become millionaires. The studies found that after two or three months the person returns to the emotional state they were in before winning the lottery. From two to three months. And during the three months there is not exactly happiness; there is a lot of thinking, a lot of excitement, a lot of planning and so on––not exactly happiness. But three months later, he falls back to exactly the same emotional level as he was before winning the lottery. So having a lot of money does not mean you will be happy.

Perhaps you want to marry someone, thinking that if you can’t marry him or her, then you cannot be happy. You believe that happiness will be great after you marry that person. After you marry, you may have a time of happiness, but eventually happiness vanishes. There is no longer any excitement, any joy, and of course, no happiness. What you get is not what you expected. Then perhaps you know that what you have attained will not continue for a long time. Even if you have a good job, you are not sure you can keep it for a long time. You may be laid off, so underneath there is fear and uncertainty. This type of happiness, without peace, has the element of fear and cannot be true happiness. The person you are living with may betray you one day; you cannot be sure that person will be faithful to you for a long time. So fear and uncertainty is present also. To preserve these so-called conditions of happiness you have to be busy all day long. And with these worries, uncertainties, and busyness, you don’t feel happy and you become depressed.

So we learn that happiness is not something we get after we obtain the so-called conditions of happiness: namely, the material and emotional comforts. True happiness does not depend on these comforts; nothing can remove it from you. When we come to a practice center, we are looking to learn how to cultivate true happiness.

Happiness Is Impermanent 

Impermanence means that everything is changing, including the happiness that you are experiencing. The step you are making allows you to get in touch with the Kingdom of God, with the Pure Land of the Buddha, with all the wonders of life that bring happiness. But that happiness is also impermanent. It lasts only for one step; if the next step does not have mindfulness, concentration, and insight, then happiness will die. However, you know that you are capable of making a second step which also generates the three powers of mindfulness, concentration, and insight, so you have the power to make happiness last longer. Happiness is impermanent; we know the law of impermanence, and that is why we know that we can continue to generate the next moment of happiness. Just as when we ride a bicycle, we continue to pedal so that the movement can continue.

Happiness is impermanent but it can be renewed, and that is insight. You are also impermanent and renewable, like your breath, like your steps. You are not something permanent experiencing something impermanent. You are something impermanent experiencing something impermanent. Although it is impermanent, happiness is possible; the same with you. And if happiness can be renewed, so can you; because you in the next moment is the renewal of you. You are always changing, so you are experiencing impermanence in your happiness and in yourself. It’s wonderful to know that happiness can last only one in-breath or one step, because we know that we can renew it in another step or another breath, provided we know the art of generating mindfulness, concentration, and insight.”

See you Monday evening.

Namaste,

Bea

Beginning Anew

This week, Alison will facilitate.

In keeping with the “New Year, New Me” theme of our first Sangha of 2019, I wanted to share the following excerpt from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Happiness:

To begin anew is to look deeply and honestly at ourselves, our past actions, speech, and thoughts and to create a fresh beginning within ourselves and in our relationships with others.  We practice Beginning Anew to clear our mind and keep our practice fresh.  When a difficulty arises in our relationships and one of us feels resentment or hurt, we know it is time to begin anew.

Beginning Anew helps us develop our kind speech and compassionate listening because it is a practice of recognition and appreciation of the positive elements within our Sangha.  Recognizing others’ positive traits allows us to see our own good qualities as well.  Along with these good traits, we each have areas of weakness, such as talking out of anger or being caught in our misperceptions.  As in a garden, when we “water the flowers” of loving kindness and compassion in each other, we also take energy away from the weeds of anger, jealousy, and misperception.

We can practice Beginning Anew everyday by expressing our appreciation to the people in our community and apologizing right away when we do or say something that hurts them.  We can politely let others know when we have been hurt as well.  The health and happiness of the whole community depends on the harmony, peace, and joy that exists between everyone.

Thay goes on to describe a Beginning Anew practice that is done each week at Plum Village.  The practice has three parts: (1) flower watering, in which one acknowledges the wholesome and wonderful qualities of others, which helps alleviate feelings of anger and resentment; (2) expressing regrets for any action one has taken to hurt someone else; and (3) expressing ways one has been hurt by others.  While the Plum Village practice is directed at the members of that Sangha who share a more extensive experience with each other, I believe that this practice can also be useful in terms of how we address issues outside any particular sangha too.  I look forward to sharing and hearing others’ thoughts on Thay’s message and the Beginning Anew practice.

Namaste,

Alison

How and Why to Stop Running

This week Annie will facilitate.

We will listen to a talk by Thich Nhat Hanh on our habit of running. 

Running after people, places, projects, and things is one of my most ingrained habits. I have been practicing to slow down since the 1990's and it is still a challenge for me sometimes.

Listening to Thay Nhat Hanh, we will be reminded of the way that mindfulness can help us stop running. Wanting to stop is not enough. "The willingness to stop is not stopping yet." We need to have an insight in order to break this habit of running after another moment.

We are not always comfortable in the here and now. We run because we don't believe that happiness is available right now. However, when we are fully present in the here and now, then we are present to being fully alive. And our practice is what helps us to see this. We can recognize what is happening in the present moment and see that what we need is already here. And we can help both our body and mind stop running.

He says, "You don't just meditate with your mind, you meditate with your body.  The first meaning of samatha is stopping. Without stopping you cannot do much."

Once we can stop our running, we can begin to look deeply at what is really happening. We may have painful emotions, wounds, despair, or injustice that needs our attention. This is only possible when we are able to stop. So stopping can help us heal. 

I look forward to seeing you Monday. After listening to the talk, we will have time to share about what we heard and whatever else is on our hearts and minds. Some questions we can consider are: 

  • What am I running toward? What am I running from?

  • What practices help me arrive in the present moment? 

  • What do I find when I stop and look deeply? 

with love,

annie.

New Year, New Me

 

https://plumvillage.org/news/new-practice-phrases-for-2014/

“It is possible to live happily in the here and now. So many conditions of happiness are available—more than enough for you to be happy right now. You don't have to run into the future in order to get more.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace

As we move into the New Year may we do so with mindfulness and a focus on our heart and soul. The word resolution can often have a heavy tone and negative association.

It may remind us of intentions unmet and regrets. Mindfulness is of course a coming home practice, a practice that helps us to see clearly and see things as they are.

Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us in the above quote that we have so many conditions of happiness, more than enough to be happy right here and now.

Every year in Plum Village for the New Year and Lunar New Year, practice phrases, or couplets like the ones at the top of this page are created. They are considered a poetic gift and reminder to practice mindfulness.  

Rather than say New Year, New Me, I propose that we say New Year, Slightly Better Me. Looking deeply we know that this thing we call “me” is a product of many different influences and conditions. While it is impermanent, it is not likely to change completely overnight. Having a mindfulness practice and being part of a supportive community are great conditions for happiness. In the New Year we can build on this.

In pausing together at this beginning of the year we can come home to our heart to ask what do I really want for myself this year. More importantly, how do I want to feel this year. New year, New me. Our mindfulness practice helps us with New Year, New Me.

The other verse of the couplet is Joy Within, Joy All Around. Continuing with the inquiry on how you want to feel, you can inquire as to what brings you joy? Knowing what brings joy we can choose to water those seeds of joy in us more often this year.

The Zen teacher Suzuki Roshi taught about beginner's mind. He said:

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."

When we have a beginners mind there is a freshness in practice. We can see the world with an attitude of curiosity from the lens of not knowing. With the beginner's mind we can begin to see the Joy all Around. Mindfulness sees the pull of the old habits and allows us to side step and move in a different direction.  That direction is the direction of beginner's mind, the direction

of realizing all of the conditions we already have for happiness and joy.

I look forward to beginning the New Year together and contemplating and discussing our conditions for happiness and the joy within us and all around.

Mick

2019 Resolutions or Intentions

New Year's resolutions come around annually, if at all. 

Even if we never make one, we all have intentions, however and whenever they may be voiced.

Most new years I do not make a resolution, but once in a while there is a big one.  New Year's eve 1981 while having a blue evening in a neighborhood blues bar I decided to move away from New York City to New Orleans, to end a period of musical experimentation, and to rejoin the long path to becoming a physician—and I did.  Another New Year's in the mid 1990's I set an intention to open my heart by (figuratively) peeling back the crusty covering layers.  This resolution was less outwardly dramatic than the earlier one but was in many ways harder and was much longer to accomplish--in fact, this peeling back is still a work in progress!  Other years, the resolutions have dealt with relationships: one year I vowed to criticize my wife less and to provide more encouragement to my kids.   One year my sister-in-law, inspired by something I said but do not remember exactly, was inspired to resolve to quit smoking and did it!  Perhaps there also were resolutions that never went anywhere, but I do not recall them; and I definitely cannot recall a resolution being harmful, although of course such a scenario is possible, and resolutions should be chosen carefully with consideration of all their effects. 

This year I do not yet know what the resolution will be or if there will be one. The resolutions that seem to work for me are those that build on at least some existing foundation.  Sometimes we have foundations about whose existence we may not even be aware.  So it can be useful to take stock of: to whom and to what we are connected, and on what we stand, sit and lie.   A next step then can be to visualize and project forward where we can then go.  Too much focus on the future can lead to anxiety, but some planning is needed and makes great sense.  Sometimes the plan is just about the next step....

Thich Nhat Hahn's 2014 New Year resolution: "I am determined not to waste my life. I dare to live the life that I want to live. I want that every step I make on this planet to bring joy to me and to other people, and to touch Nirvana and the Kingdom of God with every step."

Thay’s resolution talks about “steps” and so uses elements of walking meditation. Inspired by his resolution, I wonder whether it might help to have my new resolution have a mindful breathing-ready component such as “breathing in I want X, breathing out I am determined to do Y.”  That way it can be regularly reinforced with meditation.

Do you have a resolution (or intention) for this year, or a prior resolution that retains meaning?

What is the foundation for it?

Can mindfulness play a role in the genesis and execution?

On Monday, we can sit together with these questions and whatever else you bring to share on the eve of 2019.

December 17 Completely Lovable

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” -- Thich Nhat Hanh


I spent several days on retreat at Upaya Zen Center last month for a program about Love and Death. On the subject of death and forgiveness, one participant shared deeply about the last moments of her partner's life. 

Both she and her partner had experienced abuse and carried trauma in their bodies. So the gift she offered him at his death bed was profound and beautiful. As he was dying and unable to speak, she reminded him that every part of him was completely lovable. The parts that had been abused, the parts that had abused others, the parts that were in pain. 

The woman sharing, who was a true Bodhisattva, told us how she practices this with her own wounded and fragile parts. As she sits in meditation she mentally touches each part of her body and says, "Is this foot lovable? Yes, completely lovable. Is this leg lovable? Yes, completely lovable." And so on.

She got to her mouth, which had been sexually abused as a child, and she asked, "Is this mouth, the one that was abused, is it still lovable?" And she answered to herself, "Yes, completely lovable." 

I found this practice to be moving and extremely healing for my own body, which experienced physical abuse as a child and which I abused with an eating disorder during my youth. Is the finger that I used to purge myself lovable? Yes, completely lovable. Is my mind, with its mean thoughts and bad ideas lovable? Yes, completely lovable.

This practice of Completely Lovable invites our ultimate body to express love for our human body, the one that has experienced so much in our human lifetime. Practicing this, we start to know that our body is completely lovable no matter what it has experienced. And this allows us to walk less encumbered through the world. More free.

This week, after our sitting and walking meditation periods, I will offer us a guided meditation on Completely Lovable, and afterward we will have time to share about our experiences.

I hope to see you there.

with love,

annie

December 10 Mindfulness and Lifestyle Medicine

This Monday, Miles will facilitate.

After finishing my medical training in public health and preventive medicine I became aware I had to apply what I had learned to my own life. I was a husband and father of young children with a demanding job, and I saw my blood pressure periodically spiking to disturbingly high levels.  Stress was an important contributor to this problem.  Even more stress was created when I ruminated intensely on whether I was on the way to repeating patterns within my family history including fatal heart attacks at young ages and severe & chronic anxiety and depression. Wanting to live healthily and also to see my children grow up, and even to see grandchildren someday, I began searching for an effective way to deal with my health challenges.

My training in public health and preventive medicine taught me that the leading causes of death in the United States, including heart disease & stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and chronic lung diseases, are all related to the choices we make in our daily lives. When health care providers and educators teach about “lifestyle medicine” they can focus on six “buckets” or areas of concern: diet, exercise, sleep, social support, stress management and avoiding toxins. Below are some observations from my 25 years of personal experience.

Diet: inspired by a talk at a yoga retreat about 25 years ago I removed meat and poultry from my diet (but retained occasional fish/seafood.) This change was motivated by health concerns, by feelings of compassion for animals, and by memories of dissecting cadavers in gross anatomy class. (It also helped that a yoga teacher pointed out that gorillas are vegetarians and are really strong!) An additional dietary change was cutting way back on butter, cheese and other sources of saturated fat and trans fats (which are only now, 25 years later, being removed from our food supply by the Food and Drug Administration).  It took a couple of decades, but now my wife and adult son are pretty much on the same program—maybe someday my daughters too!

Exercise: For many years I have been exercising, usually for a half hour, six days a week.  If I am anxious about something, exercise helps takes the edge off and maybe even allows time and space for some new insight into coping with the source of stress.  Hiking in the woods, or even just walking on a quiet tree-lined street, is not only enjoyable exercise for me but also an opportunity to “bathe” in nature.  I love the upbeat mood that always follows exercise!

Sleep: Although a good night’s sleep is key to recharging my batteries, sometimes I will awaken in the middle of the night and not easily fall back to sleep due to worry, something I ate, some unresolved issue or who knows why?   When this happens, one natural sleep aid that I like is to lie in bed under the covers and do a gentle version of yogic breathing called ujjayi.  Although there is some technique involved, essentially this is just following regular breathing like we commonly do in meditation.  The last few years, I have also noticed that alcohol (especially red wine) can lead to more sleep interruptions, so the solution for that is clear!

Social support: At the end of my daily yoga practice, I often seal it by dedicating its merits in concentric circles to my wife, children, extended family, friends, neighbors, the “difficult people” and everyone else.   The closer to the center of the circle, the more contact, trust, intimacy and mutual support there is.  For me now, sangha falls into the important friends-neighbors circle. TOMAIL NEWSLETTER

 

Stress management: Six days a week practice of yoga postures (asana) with meditation/savasana toward the end is a key anchor for my riding out not just the daily stresses but also the big ones like when my sister (who was single, with no parents alive or other siblings) passed away 3 years ago.  No matter what happens I always feel better physically, mentally and spiritually during and after yoga, so the practice simply reinforces itself.  If I miss more than a day, I just don’t feel right.  Sometimes I wonder what would happen if, because of some accident or illness, I could not practice asana.  It is reassuring to know, though, that as long as I am around, at least my breath will be around too and can be followed!

 

 

Avoiding toxins:  Although there are numerous serious and important environmental toxins to be concerned about, sometimes the toxins are of our own creation.  A couple of days ago, my wife had a skin biopsy performed by a physician who, a few days later, left a 6PM telephone message asking for a return call to obtain the biopsy results.  Too late to contact the physician the same day, the overnight uncertainty about the results opened the door to me (which I did not have to proceed through) to creating elaborate scenarios centered on devastating disease progression.   This imaginative exercise was, fortunately, restricted to my body-mind-spirit and had some paradoxical benefits (from the swamp’s mud grows the lotus!)  I tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to accept not knowing the biopsy results and to wait with equanimity.  Occasionally, though, I would return to my breath and grow enough compassion to prevent my sharing verbally with my wife the unhelpful catastrophic scenarios I was fabricating.  The next day, the results were obtained and were mainly reassuring.   So, chalk up another time-limited anxiety “hijacking”, with a bit of skillful means embedded in the event that can be built upon!

 

Monday evening together in our Dharma sharing we may reflect on and share about these three questions:

– What are some of the wholesome lifestyle choices we have made or are making?


– What are some of the less wholesome choices that we are still making?


– In what ways does (or might) mindfulness practice help us make more skillful choices?

You are invited to join us.  Below is the text of Thich Nhat Hanh’s fifth mindfulness training, Nourishment and Healing:

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.

* thanks to Mitchell Ratner for his catalytic and supportive involvement in some of the above text

December 3 Aspirations for Practice and Coming Home

OHE.jpg

You have to come to the Buddha with all your suffering. Suffering is the path. By true suffering, you can see the path of enlightenment, the path of compassion, the path of love. According to the teaching of the Buddha, it is by looking deeply into the nature of your sorrow, your pain, of your suffering, that you can discover the way out. If you have not suffered, you can not go to the Buddha. You have no chance to touch peace, to touch love. It is exactly because of the fact that you have suffered, that now you have an opportunity to recognize the path leading to liberation, leading to love, leading to understanding.

--Thich Nhat Hanh


This Monday Mick will facilitate.


Practicing presence. At a recent class that I am in, we were asked to sit across from a partner and ask them repeating questions, without responding. The first question or inquiry was "What blocks you from being present?"  Each time the partner came to a pause, the question was asked again. This went on for about a minute and a half. The second question was "What supports you to be present?"


Answering a repeating question is an experience of unpeeling the layers of the mind to shine a light on answers that are in plain view and deep below the surface.  "What blocks you from being present?" and "What supports you to be present?" are powerful and helpful companions. The practice of mindfulness is, of course, a coming home practice. Our daily habits, of course, are running to be occupied, distracted and entertained practices. What blocks us from coming home? What brings us home? The umbrella over these questions is around our aspiration to practice and our larger aspirations.


Thich Nhat Hanh writes:


To aspire means to aspire to something. There should be a kind of deep desire that pushes you to go in that direction. That desire makes up the vitality of the person. Each of us needs to have enough vitality, joy, an aspiration, a deep desire. So it is good to sit down and look deeply to recognize the deepest desire in us. Without this, a person is not very much alive. When we speak of an "aspirant", we think of the will that is there in the person. If that person is determined to go in that direction, it is because there is a force that is pushing them. That force is the deepest desire that we can find in us.


People often come to the practice of mindfulness, meditation or Buddhism because of pain, suffering, dis-ease. We bring the pain and sorrow that has been born from our family, environment and life experience. The practices and teachings give us a path, a way to transform our suffering and to experience healing. With the practice of mindfulness and meditation, we can look deeply into our suffering and begin to see the roots and conditions that have led to suffering.


In doing so we become more connected to ourselves, others and the world as we open our hearts to all of the above. To transform, heal, and see clearly, we take the path of the brave warrior in coming home to the present moment, to stillness, to silence.

Reflections on Practice

How has my practice of mindfulness, expanding my capacity for understanding, love, and compassion, helped me to transform my own "ill-being"?

-- E.g. anxiety, anger, fear, depression, regrets, craving, heedlessness, despair, distractedness?

-- What are my specific, past and current, experiences of "ill-being"?

-- What are the challenges in the practice for me at this time?

-- Where do I meet resistance, discomfort, and fear?


Engaging Practice

How do I now use the practice of mindfulness in the context of my family, social life, workplace, and livelihood?

-- How could I do this even more?


From orderofinterbeing.org


Please note that this week is a Newcomers week, our facilitator will be at the  studio at 6:15 pm for a brief overview of the logistics of the evening and mindfulness practice.