The Five Earth Touchings

The Five Earth Touchings

Dear Friends,

This evening we will enjoy the Five Earth Touchings together (see full text below).  The Earth Touchings are a Buddhist meditation practice where we bow down and surrender to the Earth. Also called the Five Prostrates, we join the mind and body to help us "return to the Earth and to our roots, and to recognize that we are not alone but connected to a whole stream of spiritual and blood ancestors.  We touch the Earth to let go of the idea that we are separate and to remind us that we are the Earth and part of life.  When we touch the Earth, we breathe in all the strength and stability of the Earth, and breathe out our suffering – our feelings of anger, hatred, fear, inadequacy and grief.  This is a wonderful practice." (From Plum Village web site).

The Three Complexes

The Three Complexes

We are so grateful to Sister HaiAn (Sister Ocean) for joining us this Monday. Because of our guest, we will extend our evening to 8:45 pm instead of 8:30

She will share about: The Three Complexes

The contemplation before chanting invites us to "Let the whole Sangha breathe as one body, listen as one body, chant as one body transcending the boundaries of a delusive self, liberating us from the superiority complex, the inferiority complex, and the equality complex."  The suffering of inferiority and superiority complexes are easier to understand than that of the equality complex.  Join us for an evening of practice to understand the nature of the complexes, ways to practice with them in daily life, and their role in personal and social liberation.

The evening will include sitting meditation, walking meditation, a Dharma Talk, written exercises, and group reflection.  Please bring a pen and paper with you.

Showing Up

Showing Up

When we show up and are fully present, the possibilities are limitless. This summer I had a number of experiences that made me reflect on what it means to truly show up. I am the first one to admit that I often confuse the meaning of “showing up” with “doing a lot.”  I am, by nature, an extrovert and I love to be out there and experience the world fully. There are many issues that I am passionate about but for me it is impossible to truly “show up” for all them AND be present.

Grasping On to the End of Summer

Grasping On to the End of Summer

I am someone who loves summer. I even love DC summers. Bring on the sun, bring on the heat. As summer closes, the days shorten and nights get longer. I have always felt my mood shift and it’s been hard to get excited about pumpkins, ghouls, tinsel or cozy sweaters - albeit fall bike rides do help.

My summers are usually accompanied by travel and one of our family jokes is that almost wherever I end up I usually say “I could stay here for a year.” What I mean by this is that I do not want summer to end and I want to hold onto the moment that I am in and to stop time. As I think about this, it is a very common thought pattern for me when either I have found some happy place or am doing some activity or task and I am really in my element. This grasping and wanting to cling onto such moments has been a constant companion.

Watering the Seed of Vulnerable Self-Expression To Water the Seed of Collective Care

Watering the Seed of Vulnerable Self-Expression To Water the Seed of Collective Care

Special Guest Sandra Kim will lead our sangha this Monday.

A sangha that aspires to support its members in becoming free from suffering and realizing our interbeing-ness needs to have a culture of collective care - where all are cared for because all are caring. While at any given moment, who and how we are giving and receiving may be different, we can trust in the sangha to hold us.

Like all aspirations, nurturing a culture of collective care in our sanghas is not easy, particularly in a society that promotes hyper-individualism, consumerism as the cure to all, and work being the only valid activity to focus on. And in our society that expects people to be perfect in order to be acceptable, it can be very difficult for many to acknowledge their own difficult feelings and express their need for support.

The Power of Compassion

The Power of Compassion

This Monday night, Alison will facilitate. She shares:

When I first learned of the most recent double mass shooting in America and the death of innocent children, women and men, my initial response seemed to be one of emotional detachment – just another news story to acknowledge and move on.  That’s what it felt like but it wasn’t.  When I really allowed myself to be “present” with the stories, I knew that my original reaction was merely an attempt not to acknowledge a whole wealth of emotions – fear, pain, sadness, anger, frustration, rage, anxiety – none of which I wanted to feel. 

Cultivating Inner Compassion

Cultivating Inner Compassion

This Monday night, Laurie Cameron will facilitate. She shares:

I was at Magnolia Grove Monastery with my family one steamy autumn week when Thich Nhat Hanh taught us how to cultivate a heart of living with more happiness. He shared with us that there is no realm where there is only happiness and no suffering, that suffering is a part of our human experience. With mindfulness I have learned to acknowledge, allow and understand my suffering, know that it is part of being human, and meet it with kindness.  

The bread in your hand is the body of the cosmos

The bread in your hand is the body of the cosmos

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.

 

Relating to Fear in a Different Way

Relating to Fear in a Different Way

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.

How to Love All of Ourself - the Sweet and the Bitter

How to Love All of Ourself - the Sweet and the Bitter

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.

Special Guest Sandra Kim: Cultivating Deep Togetherness - Even When We Feel Disconnected

Special Guest Sandra Kim: Cultivating Deep Togetherness - Even When We Feel Disconnected

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.

Exploring Togetherness

Dear Friends,

Please note that Sandra Kim’s visit is postponed by a week, to Monday, June 24th.   We will start laying the groundwork for her visit tomorrow night by exploring the topic of togetherness.

The Plum Village website describes how sangha can play a role in our feeling connected:   “In society, much of our suffering comes from feeling disconnected from one another. We often don’t feel a real connection even with people we live close to, such as our neighbors, our co-workers and even our family members. Each person lives separately, cut off from the support of the community. Being with the Sangha can heal these feelings of isolation and separation. We practice together, share a room together, eat side by side and clean pots together. Just by participating with other practitioners in daily activities, we can experience a tangible feeling of love and acceptance.

Thay often says that the sangha is a garden, full of many varieties of trees and flowers. When we can look at ourselves and at others as beautiful, unique flowers and trees, we can truly grow to understand and love one another. One flower may bloom early in the spring and another flower may bloom in late summer. One tree may bear many fruits and another tree may offer cool shade. No one plant is greater, or lesser, or the same as any other plant in the garden. Each member of the sangha also has unique gifts to offer to the community. We each have areas that need attention as well. When we can appreciate each member’s contribution and see our weaknesses as potential for growth we can learn to live together harmoniously. Our practice is to see that we are a flower or a tree, and we are the whole garden as well, all interconnected.”

Over the next week, please ask yourself some questions.

When do you have feelings of deep togetherness?    What are the conditions - internal and external - that cause this feeling to arise?  What gets in the way of that feeling and causes you to feel more isolated and apart?  To what extent are you aware of these feelings and their underlying causes? To what extent are you longing for connection and/or protecting yourself by being apart?   Does your practice and/or sangha help you to feel more connected, and, if so, how?

I look forward to learning about your experience tomorrow (Monday, the 17th), and when Sandra joins us on the 24th, she will share how her practice has helped her care for the pain of disconnection with others and look deeply at its underlying source. Weaving together her Buddhist practice, anti-oppression analysis, and organizing work, she will share how she is able to consistently reconnect with herself and others and develop the deep togetherness we often long for.

Warmly,

Marie



The Four Immeasurables

The Four Immeasurables

This Monday, Mick will facilitate.  He shares:

The Four Immeasurables

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.

Cultivating Peace Within

Cultivating Peace Within

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.

Returning Home

Returning Home

This Monday night's facilitator, Andy, shares:

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.

Mindfulness and Singing

Mindfulness and Singing

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.  

Hold On Loosely

This week Mick will facilitate. He shares:

How do we cherish a present moment? How can we come to appreciate the life that we have and all that is here for us to enjoy? There is quite a difference in setting a timer for 10 minutes and sitting in silence versus meditating in the many moments of the day.

This slippery present moment. How do we get to “it” in order to be here, to switch off of auto-pilot. The slippery present moment can be filled with thoughts, with calm, with challenge, with ease. In thinking about it my mind goes back to the lyrics of a song from the 80’s.  38 Special sang"Hold on loosely but don't let go. If you cling too tightly, you're gonna lose control." While these lyrics from a song about a relationship can be helpful, we could use a little more to go on when it comes back to training the mind to the present moment.

Of course, Thay has provided a simple, and powerful way to help us attend to the present moment.  In his book Present Moment, Wonderful Moment, Thay writes:

When I entered the monastery as a novice in 1942, Thay received a copy of Gathas for Everyday Use. Gathas are short verses which we can recite during our daily activities to help us dwell in mindfulness. 

Gathas are the original reminder, long pre-dating the reminders that people set on their phones. While phone reminders cue us to do, Gathas cue us to beawake and aware. These phrases help to bring us into a present moment, a wonderful moment.

In Present Moment, Wonderful Moment Thay writes about practicing with Gathas: 

When we practice with gathas, the gathas and the rest of our lives become one, and we live our entire lives in awareness.

This helps us very much, and it helps others as well. 

We find that we have more peace, calm, and joy, which we can share with others.

Here are two Gathas.

 WAKING UP

Waking up this morning, I smile.

Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.

I vow to live fully in each moment

and to look at all beings with the eyes of compassion

 

BRUSHING YOUR TEETH

 Brushing my teeth and rinsing my mouth,

I vow to speak purely and lovingly

When my mouth is fragrant with right speech,

a flower blooms in the garden of my heart

  

Many people use gathas as a way to build and strengthen their mindfulness.

People write them down and post them around the house or carry them in their pocket.

Others write their own gathas.

The practice of mindfulness as taught by Thay is a Coming Home practice. We learn to come home to our body, to our breath and the present moment. Gathas are another avenue on which to come home. 

This Monday we will read several gathas and have time to share and reflect on how we return to ourselves to be aware and awake.

The Toxicity of Information - How Much News is Too Much? The Fifth Mindfulness Training

When someone asks, "Do you care? Do you care about me? Do you care about life? Do you care about the Earth?", the best way to answer is to practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings. This is to teach with your actions and not just with words. If you really care, please practice these mindfulness trainings for your own protection and for the protection of other people and species. If we do our best to practice, a future will be possible for us, our children, and their children.” From “For A Future To Be Possible” by Thich Nhat Hanh

This week we will look more deeply at the sense impressions we consume and consider whether and how we are taking in toxins, especially with regard to listening and reading the news.  

In the Fifth Mindfulness Training it says:

..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 have heard many friends talk about how they can no longer watch or listen to the news because they feel it is making them sick. So they take a news fast or they stop paying attention to the news at all. 

Think about what happens when we take in toxic foods and medicines. They make us sicker and/or they make our children and future generations sick. It's complicated by the fact that some foods and medicines make us feel worse before they make us better. So feeling bad isn't necessarily an indicator of toxicity.

Toxic information, then, would be information that makes us sicker or makes future generations sick. Some information, like strong medicine, may make us feel uncomfortable and unwell at first, but serve to motivate us to be and do in ways that create a better outcome for all. 

For me, this translates into being aware of when I am taking in difficult information, such as watching videos of violent police abuse or shooting unarmed Black men, and making sure I am taking the right "dose". 

The right does for me is one that will spark awareness, compassion and motivation and not cause me to collapse in despair.

The reverse is also my practice - to enjoy taking in laughter in the form of funny movies and TV shows. I try my best not to overuse them to simply numb out and escape. 

How do we know how much is the right amount? Just like medicine, we sense into our bodies and minds and see whether the medicine we are taking in (in this case our sense impressions) are having a healthy/wholesome or unhealthy/unwholesome effect on us and therefore on the greater world.

When we consume more than the appropriate dose, we may get overwhelmed, be chronically angry or depressed or have difficulty talking about anything other than what we saw or heard. If we are taking too low of a dose, we may end up disconnected from our own empathy and compassion.  

Some questions we might ask ourselves:

  • Does listening to the news the amount I listen each day cause me to feel hopeless or on edge or does it generate compassion and energy for helping?

  • When and if I stop listening to the news, do I end up living in a bubble of delusion and simply ignore the suffering of others?

  • Does reading about suffering cause me less distress than watching a video?

  • How strong does the information source need to be in order to spark my empathy?

  • What intake of information allows me to feel I can live in harmony with my values?

After our sitting and walking meditation this week, we will read the Five Mindfulness Trainings together (see below for full text of the trainings) and focus on this Fifth training. After, we can share our experiences with calibrating taking in the right about of information that is non-toxic for us or whatever is on our hearts.

I look forward to seeing you. 

with love,

annie.

  

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The Five Precepts are not prohibitions to restrict our freedom, and they are not an authority, which we have no choice but to follow. The precepts are the fruit of our mindfulness and experience. Because we are mindful, we can see that the precepts protect us and our happiness, as well as that of those with whom we live. We take the vow to receive and practice the precepts in order to preserve our freedom and happiness in days to come. 

 

Being the fruit of mindfulness, the precepts are the embodiment of enlightenment, which is the Buddha himself. They are the embodiment of the Dharma, which is the path shown by the Buddha. They are also the embodiment of the Sangha, the community of all those who have taken up the path. Practicing the Five Precepts is to be one with the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. To recite the precepts is an exercise in mindfulness of their teachings and a way of looking deeply at the benefits of keeping them.  – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

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The Five Mindfulness Trainings

Reverence For Life

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non- attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.

True Happiness

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering; that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion; and that running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair. I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy. I am committed to practicing Right Livelihood so that I can help reduce the suffering of living beings on Earth and reverse the process of global warming.

True Love

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.

Loving Speech and Deep Listening

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.

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