Cultivating Peace Within

This Monday, Mary will facilitate.  She shares:

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.

First Mindfulness Training: Reverence For Life

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating 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.

To read all Five Mindfulness Trainings, please visit our sangha's website.

Below is an extract of an expanded commentary on the First Mindfulness Training from  Thich Nhat Hanh expressed in his book, For a Future to be Possible:

“Life is so precious, yet in our daily lives we are usually carried away by forgetfulness, anger, and worries, lost in the past, unable to touch life in the present moment. When we are truly alive, everything we do or touch is a miracle. To practice mindfulness is to return to life in the present moment. The practice of the First Mindfulness training is a celebration of reverence for life. When we appreciate and honor the beauty of life, we will do everything in our power to protect life.

“More and more people are beginning to realize that the survival of our planet depends on our sense of belonging-- to all other humans, to dolphins caught in dragnets, to chickens and pigs and calves raised in animal concentration camps, to redwoods and rainforests, to kelp beds in our oceans, and to the ozone layer. More and more people are becoming aware that every act that affirms this belonging is a moral act of worship, the fulfillment of a precept written in every human heart.

--- Brother David Steindal-Rast

Life is precious. It is everywhere, inside us all and all around us; it has so many forms. The First Mindfulness Training is born from this awareness that lives everywhere are being destroyed. We see this suffering caused by the destruction of life and we vow to cultivate compassion and use it as a source of energy for the protection of people, animals, plants, and minerals. The First Mindfulness Training is a training of compassion, karuna-- the ability to remove suffering and transform it.  When we see suffering, compassion is born in us.

It is important for us to stay in touch with the suffering of the world. We need to nourish that awareness through many means--- sounds, images, direct contact, visits, and so on--- in order to keep compassion alive in us. But we must ve careful not to take in too much. Any remedy must be taken in the proper dosage. We need to stay in touch with suffering only to the extent that we will not forget, so that compassion will flow within us and be a source of energy for our actions. IOf we use anger at injustice as the source of our energy, we mahy do something harmful, something that we will later regret. According to Buddhism, compassion is the only source of energy that is useful and safe. With compassion, your energy is born from insight; it is not blind energy.

We humans are made entirely of non-human elements such as plants, minerals, earth, clouds, and sunshine. For our practice to ve deep and true, we must include the ecosystem. If the environment is destroyed, human will be destroyed too. Protecting human life is not possible without also protecting the lives of animals, plants, and minerals.

...It is not just by not killing with your body that you observe the First Mindfulness Training. If in your thinking you allow the killing to go on, you also break this training. We must be determined not to condone killing, even in our minds. According to the Buddha, the mind is the vase of all actions. It is most dangerous to kill in the mind. When you believe, for example, that yours is the only way for humankind and that everyone who follows another way is your enemy, millions of people could be killed because of that idea.

Thinking is at the base of everything. It is important to put the eye of awareness into each of our thoughts. Without a correct understanding of a situation or a person, our thoughts can be misleading and create confusion, despair, anger or hatred. Our most important task is to develop correct insight. If we see deeply into the nature of interbeing, that all things inter-are, we will stop blaming, arguing and killing, and we will become friends with everyone. To practice non-violence, we must first learn ways to deal peacefully with ourselves. If we create true harmony within ourselves, we will know how to deal with family, friends, and associates.

When we protest against a war, for example, we may assume we are a peaceful person, a representative of peace, but this is not necessarily true. If we look deeply, we will observe that  the roots of war are in the unmindful ways we have been living.

We have not sown enough seeds of peace and understanding in ourselves and others, therefore we are co-responsible. A more holistic approach is the way of interbeing. The essential nature of interbeing is understanding that “this is like this because that is like that.’ We only exist in this interconnected way. This is the way of understanding and love. With this insight we can see clearly and be more effective. Then we can go to a demonstration and say, “This war is unjust, destructive and not worthy of our great nation.” This is far more effective than simply angrily condemning others. Acting and speaking out of anger almost always accelerates the damage.

Most important is to become nonviolence, so that when a situation presents itself, we will not create more suffering. To practice non-violence, we need gentleness, loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity directed to our bodies, our feelings, and other people. With mindfulness-- the practices of peace-- we can begin by working to transform the wars in ourselves. There are techniques for doing this. Conscious breathing is one. Every time we feel upset, we can stop what we are doing, refrain from saying anything, and breathe in and out several times, aware of each in-breath and each out-breath. If we are still  upset, we can go for walking meditation, mindful of each slow step and each breath we take.

By cultivating peace within, we bring peace in society. It depends on us. To practice peace in ourselves is to minimize the numbers of wars between this and that feeling, or this and that perception, and we can then have real peace with others as well, including members of our own family.”

Again, hope to see you tomorrow night!

Warmest regards,


The Five Mindfulness Trainings are one of the most concrete ways to practice mindfulness. They are nonsectarian, and their nature is universal. They are true practices of compassion and understanding that can lead to healing, transformation, and happiness for ourselves and the world. These trainings are not commandments or dogma, but are guidelines or suggestions to help support our mindfulness practice as a compass to orient our lives.  All spiritual traditions have their equivalent to the Five Mindfulness Trainings.