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?