the grace of awareness

3jewels.thegraceofawareness

From Transformative Love to Taking Ourselves As the Object of Love, Sangha’s inquiry and discernment came full circle in 2018. During our final practices in December, we reflected on our year of learning together, naming what we felt inspired to rededicate ourselves to individually and what we collectively felt drawn to study in the season ahead.

The thread weaving through our experiences and aspirations was the celebration of awareness and the desire to diligently cultivate it where it was absent and to nourish it where it was blooming.

For me, the lessons of the Fall had brought me into a deep exploration of Grace. I kept returning to a phrase that my cousin had shared with me a year or more earlier, “You don’t have worry about rationing that which God has already set apart for you.” I didn’t know the full context of the sermon she had taken this note from, but it suddenly sprouted up in a conversation with another good spiritual friend. So I immediately reached out to my cousin who then shared a link to her pastor’s sermon, Grace: How To Be What You Can’t Earn (to view the full sermon, start at the 51:00 mark).

After watching the video, my curiosity deepened with the realization that, beyond saying grace over a meal, I didn’t have a fully-developed understanding of Grace, as is taught from a Christian perspective. In my practice of Buddhism, I have never encountered a sutra or dharma talk about this particular concept. Which is not surprising, for how would a non-theistic religion articulate the notion of Grace being bestowed through one’s relationship with God?

Still I was compelled to follow my curiosity, which is always leading me toward an embodied understanding and practice of my questions.

I turned to the Bible’s Hebrew roots and learned that Grace is derived from Chanan, meaning an encampment, a refuge, a dwelling place (here’s a second translation I read). In this I had found a thread of connection for dharma practitioners:

Just as the brahmiviharas — compassionsympathetic joyloving-kindness and equanimity — are divine abodes or dwelling places, I clearly recognized Grace as a divine abode. I now understood what the Christian teachings I’d explored meant by the explanation that Grace couldn’t be earned. It is an organic emanation of our relationship to awareness in the same way as it is an emanation of Christians’ relationship to God.

We dwell in Grace whenever we dwell in awareness.
It is a sacred space of being, of trusting, of resting.

Magically, within two weeks of sharing my contemplation with Sangha, a good spiritual friend spoke a prayer over me for deep restoration and referenced a scripture that has become yet another golden thread in my growing tapestry. One particular translation— “learn the unforced rhythms of grace” — inspired my personal season of contemplation and has become the mantra Sangha returns to in our collective study of The Grace of Awareness.

This guiding contemplation for 2019 invites us to enter into (or renew) a relationship with awareness by establishing ourselves in the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

It begins with the observation of the body, wherein the breath awakens our clear understanding of its suchness (functions, positions, activities, impermanence). It moves through observation of feelings, of mind/mental formations, and of perceptions/dharmas.

To fully live into The Grace of Awareness, we are moving with an intentional pace of steadiness and ease directed by the unforced rhythm of breath!

FOR CONTEMPLATION + PRACTICE

  • The Sutra on Mindful Breathing [.pdf]— from the Taisho Tripitaka 803 translated by Thich Nhat Hanh. Revised for Gender Inclusive Language by Tara Scott-Miller (3 Jewels Yoga).
  • Embodied Meditation— a guided practice from The Sutra on Mindful Breathing recorded by Tara Scott-Miller (3 Jewels Yoga).

on the dharma shelf | october 2017

Pedagogy of Hope: Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed — Paulo Freire

“No, my hope is necessary. But it is not enough. Alone it does not win but without it my struggle will be weak and wobbly. We need critical hope like a fish needs unpolluted water.”

The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture — Kevin Quashie

“Resistance may be deeply resonant with black culture and history, but it is not sufficient for describing the totality of black humanity.

In humanity, quiet is our dignity. This quiet is represented by our interior…In its magnificence, quiet is an invitation to consider black cultural identity from somewhere other than the conceptual places that we have come to accept as definitive of and singular to black culture—not the “hip personality” exposed to and performed for the world, but the interior aliveness, the reservoir of human complexity that is deep inside…

It is this exploration, this reach toward the inner life, that an aesthetic of quiet makes possible; and it is this that is the path to a sweet freedom: a black expressiveness without publicness as its forbearer, a black subject in the undisputed dignity of its humanity.”


As a contemplative and empath who has a heart for justice, liberation and healing, this excerpt from Kevin Quashie’s book rings loud and true for me!

Don’t mistake someone’s deep-soul need (or preference or disposition) for quiet/silence as passivity or inaction. In my practice, the opposite of active is not passive. It is receptive.

Some of us need to time to cut through the noise in order to thoroughly digest and reflect on the energy and information we receive. So I value and facilitate processes of discernment and self-inquiry that help us transform “silence into language and action” (in the words of the powerhouse Audre Lorde). From this place of quiet introspection, we can cull insight, clarity and resilience to move from personal healing and transformation toward skillful action.

on the dharma shelf | september 2017

IMG_20170907_141332_556.jpgwhen you value interfaith learning and being spiritually multilingual:

wisdom files

This is a living “library” comprised of suggested readings for Sangha and the frequently-referenced texts used in our practice, which I have also linked throughout my various writings over the years. It is certainly not intended to be comprehensive.

Rather it reflects my personal approach to this spiritual path of study and practice — informing what I teach and how I facilitate the rich conversations that support our learning and growing together as a spiritual community.

 

Foundational Wisdom Teachings

3 Jewels/3 Refuges: The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

The Three Jewels | Buddha 101
Taking Refuge | Plum Village
The Three Refuges (Audio) | Plum Village

4 Noble Truths: There is Suffering, There are Causes of Suffering, There is an End of Suffering, The Noble Path is the End of Suffering

The Buddha’s Four Noble Truths | Sylvia Boorstein
True Love + the 4 Noble Truths | Thich Nhat Hanh
What Are the 4 Noble Truths? | Melvin McLeod

4 Foundations of Mindfulness: Contemplation of Body, Contemplation of Feeling, Contemplation of Consciousness, Contemplation of Mental Objects

Embodied Practice: 4 Foundations of Mindfulness | 3 Jewels Yoga
Embodied Practice: Sutra on Mindful Breathing | 3 Jewels Yoga
Transformation and Healing: Sutra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness |         Thich Nhat Hanh

5 Mindfulness Trainings: Reverence for Life, True Happiness, True Love, Loving Speech + Deep Listening, Nourishment + Healing

5 Mindfulness Trainings | Plum Village
— For A Future To Be Possible | Thich Nhat Hanh
     2 versions: Commentaries on the 5 Mindfulness Trainings [1993]
                         Buddhist Ethics in Everyday Life [2007]

5 Spiritual Faculties: Trust, Wisdom, Mindfulness, Concentration, Diligence
Perspectives on the 5 Spiritual Faculties | 3 Jewels Yoga

8-Fold Path: Skillful Understanding, Skillful Intent, Skillful Speech, Skillful Action, Skillful Livelihood, Skillful Effort, Skillful Mindfulness, and Skillful Concentration
I have a particular fondness for the use of the word “skillful”  here; various translations of the Buddhist Canon also describe these eight practices of the “Middle Way” as “right” or “wise.”

Contemplations on Skillful Understanding + Thinking  | 3 Jewels Yoga
Contemplations on Skillful Speech, Action + Livelihood  | 3 Jewels Yoga
Contemplations on Skillful Effort, Mindfulness + Concentration  | 3 Jewels Yoga
The Eightfold Path | Buddha 101
The Way to End Suffering | Bhikku Bodhi
Discourse on the Middle Way | Plum Village
Beyond the Self: Teachings on the Middle Way | Thich Nhat Hanh

 

The Dhammapada

— Annotated + Explained | Max Müller + Jack Maguire
Access to Insight
— BuddhaNet
— Gil Frondsal


Insights on Practice + Study

On Sangha + Spiritual Friendship

— Creating Inclusive + Welcoming Buddhist Sanghas in the U.S. | Mushim Patricia           Ikeda
— The Fertile Soil of Sangha | Thich Nhat Hanh
— Gathered + Rooted | 3 Jewels Yoga
— Good Spiritual Friends | 3 Jewels Yoga
— The Sangha Without Thich Nhat Hanh | Matt Gesicki
— The Suchness of Sangha | 3 Jewels Yoga

Works by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

— Tell Me Something About Buddhism

Works by Thich Nhat Hanh

— Breathe, You Are Alive!
— Friends on the Path: Living Spiritual Communities
— Living Buddha, Living Christ
— Zen Battles: Modern Commentary on the Teachings of Master Linji
[alternate title: Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go]


Related Eastern Wisdom Teachings

Bhagavad Gita
— Annotated + Explained | Shri Purohit Swami + Kendra Crossen Burroughs
— Stephen Mitchell

Tao Te Ching
— 
Annotated + Explained | Derek Lin
— Stephen Mitchell


Radical Bodhicitta Reading History

In 2014, I facilitated a community-based dialogue entitled Toward Wholeness on the intersections of spirituality, identity (ability, race, culture, gender, sexuality) and embodied awareness. Sangha deepened its inquiry and study of our complex embodied experiences with the study of Zenju’s book, The Way of Tenderness, in the winter of 2015. Contemplations on how we are seen, heard, felt, understood, cared for and supported — and cultivate the capacity to extend such care to others — have become integral to Sangha’s practices of healing, transformation and liberation.

3 Jewels Yoga Sangha
— Body As Nature Series
Transformative Love Series
Embodying Refuge, Resistance, Resilience + Radical Self-Expression Series

Buddhist Peace Fellowship
— Gender Dysphoria and The Dharma
— White Privilege + the Mindfulness Movement

Everyday Feminism
— 9 Ways We Can Make Social Justice Movements Less Elitist + More Accessible
— I’m Not a Person with a Disability. I’m a Disabled Person.

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
— I Can Breathe: A Meditation Surviving Acts of Hatred
— The Way of Tenderness

Relevant Magazine
— 4 Misconceptions About Mental Illness + Faith
— How Church Can Lead Racial Reconciliation
— Why Are Sunday Mornings Still So Segregated

The Body Is Not An Apology
— Did You Do Any of These 6 Activities Today? Then You Have Class Privilege
— Lucky To Be Alive: The Everyday Ways We Tell People with Disabilities They Should Not Be Here
Nobody Bothers To Ask: The Challenges of Being Sexual in disabled/trans/genderqueer/etc..Body

angel kyodo williams
 Radical Dharma
— Social Justice + Buddhism

 Tim Wise
— Fighting the Normalization of Inequality 

Larry Yang
Awakening Together: The Spiritual Practice of Inclusivity + Community
— Directing The Mind Towards Practices in Diversity
— Remembering What It Means To Be Gay
— Toward A Multicultural Buddhist Practice

 

 

Updated 15 February 2019