full moon + new year blessings

First of all: Y’all already know that every breath is a new chance to begin anew so today is no more special than yesterday for aligning your clear intentions with skillful actions!

For those who are already clear about what you’ve been called to manifest — the energies to conjure up and call toward you, the aspirations to crystallize into visions that contribute to your legacy — then it’s a beautiful day to draw on the full moon’s power and level up!

If your vision is not yet apparent, then invite the luminosity of the full moon to reveal your divine order, timing, purpose and placement. 

I’m calling in clear vision to cultivate lasting legacies rooted in transformative love and elder wisdom.

#HowWeSunday: Sangha resumes Sunday, January 7.

criteria for skillful communication

3jewels-vacasutta

Last December, I was invited to give a presentation to fellow members of my local Facilitators Guild on the 4 Gates of Speech after referencing them in one of our monthly meetings. As I prepared, I discovered overlapping ideas across various wisdom traditions and expanded my presentation into a list of Criteria for Skillful Communication below. 


Cultivating skillful communication is more than an intellectual endeavor. It is an embodied mindfulness practice comprised of Deep Listening and Skillful Speech.

We learn to listen deeply by paying attention to our thoughts, perceptions, bodily sensations, and emotions while listening to others and while speaking. Through this process, we can discern what to say, how to say it, and when, if at all, to say it–which is the foundation for impeccable speech.

Intention: To foster understanding and compassion.

Actions: Draw upon silence in order to give full awareness to our experience in the moment and to reflect on our speech before, during, and after speaking.

__________

Before speaking, let your words pass through these gates.
__________

Origins in Philosophical + Wisdom Traditions

I. 3 Sieves/3 Filters ~ Attributed to multiple sources (i.e. Socrates, Quakers, poets).

Is it True?
Is it Kind?
Is it Necessary/Useful?

II. 4 Gates of Speech ~ Possibly Sufi; misattributed to Buddhism.

Is it True?
Is it Necessary?
Is it Helpful?
Is it Kind?

III. 5 Factors of Right Speech ~ Buddhist; from the Vaca Sutta (italicized text mine).

It is spoken at the right time.
Will it be Heard, Received and Understood? Does it Improve Upon the Silence?

It is spoken in truth.
Is it Factual, Sincere, from the Heart?

It is spoken affectionately.
Is it delivered Gently, Kindly, with Compassion, Equanimity, Empathy?

It is spoken beneficially.
Is it Useful, Constructive, Informative, Necessary, Life-Affirming?

It is spoken with a mind of good-will.
Is it offered with the Clear Intention to Not Cause Harm, to Inspire, to Comfort, to Support?

[16 December 2015]


in the dharma circle

So what does this look like in action? Following our meditation practice, Sangha exercises the capacity for skillful communication through a discussion on a selected topic of contemplation.

Our skillful speech has the opportunity to become refined by three factors: silence, bowing (gassho), and breath.  

We speak from discerning through silence — using the sacred pause to garner clarity of thought/feeling and to measure those formations alongside the (3, 4, or 5) criteria named above.

We bow when we wish to speak. Sangha bows in return.
It is an embodiment of our commitment, as speakers, to speak skillfully and, as listeners, to listen deeply in order to cultivate our skillful understanding of what will be shared. 

We bow again at the completion of our sharing. Sangha bows in return.
It is an embodiment of our commitment to give space for understanding to unfold and for discerning whether to contribute a subsequent insight, question, or experience.

We pause and breathe, for at least 3 full cycles, to center and ground ourselves before contributing to the dharma circle.

The pausing, bowing, and breathing not only bridge the sacred energy of mindfulness to the practical aspect of turn-taking. But these practices also disrupt common communication patterns and de-condition our habits of interrupting, cross-talking, or sparking side conversations.

Whichever of the 3 Sieves, 4 Gates, or 5 Factors resonates most with you, use these criteria to gauge the quality of your awareness and ensuing impulses to respond when holding conversations. It can be jarring for practitioners who intentionally cultivate deep listening and skillful speech to recognize how wide the gap is between how we experience and participate in communication inside and outside of the dharma circle.

Elder Wisdom: Ruby Sales | On Being with Krista Tippett

Terence Crutcher. Another innocent, unarmed black man was assasinated. Unarmed. In need of help. In the middle of the highway.

Gunned down. On film. Demonized for simply existing. By another white cop.

Real talk: I don’t have enough skillfulness to see beyond the savagery of this act. The savagery of white cops who are authorized to wage war on black and brown bodies without repercussion, on a whim of a notion hastily stitched together by any misperceived glimpse of what?! suscipious movements or weapons?! direct or implied threat?!

Nope, plain and simple: their hate-fear and our melaninated skin.

I sat down to have lunch, inhaled the fragrant broth, and exhaled tears. In that moment I touched the amorphous and unameable feeling, which had been building for days (at turns, subdued by moments of refuge with beloveds and then piqued by a few personal and familial woes): A quiet deep-down hum of dread.

Dread…that we are doomed to the misery of oppression and supremacy no matter how many good white folks divest of their racism, bias, and fear and leverage their privilege to enter into the good work of liberation and justice. Dread that systemic change is too slow, that the real and apparent need for the transformation of millions of hearts and minds is inconceivable.

Dread that if I hear one more story like this, I won’t find my way back to the center from the cliff’s edge of my compassion.

I needed to hear this today. It had been in my queue of Must-Listen-To’s, and I woke to a text from my dear (white) friend telling me that she was in the middle of listening to it this morning. I was meant to hear it. So I sat with my dread and tears and listened deeply to the voice of elder wisdom.

It was salve and comfort — as nourishing as my steamy bowl of spiced broth and noodles. A touchstone to what holds most heart and meaning for me in building an inclusive spiritually-centered community of refuge where we can restore our wholeness, commit to nurturing skillful relationships, and engaging in practices that bring about reconciliation.

The dread dissipated. Still I make room for its return.

Thankful for these gems of wisdom from human rights activist and public theologian Ruby Sales.

Cry of Liberation: Black Lives Have Always Mattered

Let me just say something about Black Lives Matter. Although we are familiar with it within a contemporary context, that has always been the cry of African Americans from the point of its captivity, through enslavement, through Southern apartheid. And Northern migration and de facto segregation was the assertion that black lives matter in a society that said that black people were property, in a society that said that black lives did not matter.

Spiritual Crisis of White America

there’s a spiritual crisis in white America. It’s a crisis of meaning, and I don’t hear — we talk a lot about black theologies, but I want a liberating white theology. I want a theology that speaks to Appalachia. I want a theology that begins to deepen people’s understanding about their capacity to live fully human lives and to touch the goodness inside of them rather than call upon the part of themselves that’s not relational. Because there’s nothing wrong with being European American. That’s not the problem. It’s how you actualize that history and how you actualize that reality. It’s almost like white people don’t believe that other white people are worthy of being redeemed.

And I don’t quite understand that. It must be more sexy to deal with black folk than it is to deal with white folk if you’re a white person. So as a black person, I want a theology that gives hope and meaning to people who are struggling to have meaning in a world where they no longer are as essential to whiteness as they once were.

Love, Outrage + Redemptive Anger

...love is not antithetical to being outraged. Let’s be very clear about that. And love is not antithetical to anger. There are two kinds of anger. There’s redemptive anger, and there’s non-redemptive anger. And so redemptive anger is the anger that says that — that moves you to transformation and human up-building. Non-redemptive anger is the anger that white supremacy roots itself in. So we have to make a distinction. So people think that anger, in itself, is a bad emotion, and it’s where you begin your conversation.

I became involved in the Southern Freedom Movement, not merely because I was angry about injustice, but because I love the idea of justice. So it’s where you begin your conversation. So most people begin their conversation with “I hate this” — but they never talk about what it is they love. And so I think that we have to begin to have a conversation that incorporates a vision of love with a vision of outrage.

And I don’t see those things as being over and against each other. I actually see them — you can’t talk about injustice without talking about suffering. But the reason why I want to have justice is because I love everybody in my heart. And if I didn’t have that feeling, that sense, then there would be no struggle.

On Human-ness: Universality + Particularity

What it means to be humans. We live in a very diverse world, and to talk about what it means to be humans, is to talk with a simultaneous tongue of universality and particularities. So as a black person to talk about what it means is to talk about my experience as an African American person, but also to talk about my experience that transcends being an African American to the universal experience.

So I think it — we’ve got to stop speaking about humanity as if it’s monolithic. We’ve got to wrap our consciousness around a world where people bring to the world vastly different histories and experiences, but at the same time, a world where we experience grief and love in some of the same ways. So how do we develop theologies that weave together the “I” with the “We” and the “We” with the “I?”

HEAR HERE [for deep listening]: Ruby Sales | “Where Does it Hurt?”
READ [for clear-seeing]: Transcript 

 

 

#WholyHappyHour [Sunday, 10/25]: “Holding Space” + Cultivating Skillful Communication

This Sunday at Heartdance Studio, we’ll continue our month-long discussion of “The Suchness of Sangha: Holding Space for Ourselves + One Another” by looking deeply into the practices of Loving Speech + Deep Listening as the grounds for building skillful understanding, trust, authenticity, compassion and accountability.

ON THE HORIZON:

Nov 1st | 11 AM – 1:00 PM ~ Inviting Mindfulness: Reconciling with the Body at Just B Yoga.

Nov 8th | 11 AM – 12:30 PM ~ #WholyHappyHour: 3 Jewels Yoga Sangha at Heartdance Studio.

Nov 15th | 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM ~ Conscious + Fit: Building Body Awareness at Heartdance Studio.

Nov 22nd | 11 AM – 12:30 PM ~ #WholyHappyHour: 3 Jewels Yoga Sangha at Heartdance Studio.

 

HEAR HERE [for deep listening]: Opening The Question of Race to the Question of Belonging | On Being with Krista Tippett

And I think being human is about being in the right kind of relationships. I think being human is a process. It’s not something that we just are born with. We actually learn to celebrate our connection, learn to celebrate our love. And the thing about it — if you suffer, it does not imply love. But if you love, it does imply suffering. So part of the thing that I think what being human means to love and to suffer, to suffer with, though, compassion, not to suffer against. So to have a space big enough to suffer with. And if we can hold that space big enough, we also have joy and fun even as we suffer. And suffering will no longer divide us. And to me, that’s sort of the human journey.
~ john a. powell

I was invited to facilitate a dharma discussion for my root sangha to address the wellspring of emotions and concerns members have expressed following the tragedy in Charleston last week. Drawing on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, I entitled the talk “Good Spiritual Friends: Taking Care of Ourselves & One Another in the Face of Racism, Bias, & Injustice” and asked that we actively investigate our own perceptions, intentions and behaviors as we reflect on how to apply and cultivate the dharma in response to such devastation. We expressed our confusion, anger, shame, fear, helplessness, outrage. We cried. We breathed. We sat with our discomfort. 

I asked that we continue to find refuge in practices that help to nourish and ground us as well as those that illuminate unskilfulness, awaken clear comprehension, and inspire compassionate actions.

That sweet space of refuge is fleeting: Our hearts burst open with the victory of the Marriage Equality Act last Friday. Then they are crushed once more with every church that goes up in flames at the hands of racist terrorists. 

For sanity and nourishment, I am mindful about what I consume–attempting to combat this madness by sharing this dose of sustenance (clear, compassionate understanding) for the mind and soul.

Hear Here: john a powell ~ Opening the Question of Race to the Question of Belonging

KnowTheirNames
artist: sarah green

embodied wisdom: 15-mile meditation

My foot, poised for motion, rests upon solid Earth.

My lungs balloon open to capture Air. An expansion that readies my heart for the journey.

Oxygen combusts into compassion. Fueled, I step into Wind’s welcoming arms.

Blade-sharp chill cuts through illusion.
Clear comprehension arises.

Movement is my refuge: those sensations, vibrating upward from sole to soul, become a massage that awakens equanimity.

Steady footfalls, rhythmic and soothing, lull mind inward.

Penetrating deeply but gently. Flushed through arteries to appendages. Aligned. Attuned.

The course (my design) landmarked by old injuries and hard-won victories in self-understanding.

A training in awareness: an inside-out, 360 degree study of my body gliding through space, covering distances immeasurable by miles.

No striving. No pursuing. (No race, no finish line, no medal.)

Simply abiding.

Cheered on by the thrumming of heart and the rejoicing of cells and muscle fibers.

Spirit soars. Boundless.

In call and response, I am guided by the synergistic conversation between my lungs and legs.

Who will lead? Walk now? Or run? They negotiate in whispers with the lumbar.

Adjustments are made to pace and posture. Muscles contract and relax in a reassuring hug.

My complex weave of supple tissues and resilient fibers, in harness, I am anchored–

Head to heart, hip to heel–as shoulder blades kiss my spine to bolster each vertebrae toward open Sky.

By my stride: 30,000 steps or so.

By my breath: a fusion of body, mind and heart.

Reclaimed. Reconciled. I am solid, steady, free. In this body. As it is.

embodied practice [for deep listening]: attuning the heart

May our hearts be as full, open, strong + clear as the bell itself.

bell meditation practice with sangha [sit+study, 4 may 2014]

my gatha for attuning the heart to mindfulness

embodied practice: on whole body awareness

Living, the whole body carries its meaning and tells its own story, standing, sitting, walking, awake or asleep.

It pulls all the life up into the face of the philosopher, and sends it all down into the legs of the dancer.

A casual world over-emphasizes the face. Memory likes to recall the whole body.

It is not our parents’ faces that come back to us, but their bodies, in the accustomed chairs, eating, sewing, smoking, doing all familiar things.

We remember each as a body in action…

Thus the stuff of the ages goes into man’s thinking,
is interpreted and comes out in movement and posture again.
Personality goes into structure—by denial or affirmation into person again.
It is an aspect of life in evolution.

~Mabel E. Todd
The Thinking Body

HEAR HERE [for deep listening]: The Biology of the Spirit |Sherwin Nuland + On Being With Krista Tippett


SN: 
Well, you just got the word. I’ve been sitting here on the edge of my seat, hoping, ‘When am I going to get to say this word, wonder?’

Wonder is something I share with people of deep faith. They wonder at the universe that God has created, and I wonder at the universe that nature has created. But this is a sense of awe that motivates the faithful, motivates me. And when I say motivates, it provides an energy for seeking. Just as the faithful will always say, ‘We are seeking,’ I am seeking.

We’re seeking different things. I’m seeking an understanding of this integrity of everything, of this unity of everything, of the equilibrium of not just the homeostasis, as the physiologists say, the staying the sameness, but of the closeness that we are constantly coming to chaos. I have had chaos. I’ve had chaos to the point where I thought my mind was lost, which gives me a deeper appreciation of equanimity, not just to continued existence but to continued learning, continued productivity, this kind of thing.

KT: …I mean you really do suggest that the human spirit is something of an evolutionary accomplishment.

SN: I think there is an evolutionary accomplishment of the human cortex, the cortex of the brain, and the way it relates to the lower centers of the brain and the way it relates to the entire body, the way it accepts and synthesizes information, uses information from the environment, from the deepest recesses of the body, the way it recognizes dangers to its continued integrity. And I think that this is precisely what the human spirit is doing. The human spirit is maintaining an equilibrium, and it largely is related to its normal physical and chemical functioning…

Consciousness is only a kind of an awareness of our surroundings, an awareness of our emotions, an awareness of our responses. The human spirit is something much greater. The human spirit is an enrichment. It’s the way we use our consciousness to, I keep using this word, to synthesize something better than our mere consciousness, to make ourselves emotionally richer than we in fact are.

HEAR HERE [for deep listening]: The Biology of the Spirit

HEAR HERE [for deep listening]: Ann Hamilton + On Being With Krista Tippett

AH: A friend of mine who’s a wonderful poet, Susan Stewart, said that hearing is how we touch at a distance.  Isn’t that beautiful?

…But I think that’s also how, like, how I start projects is, in some ways, just to try to listen.

And what is the form of that listening for what something needs to become?

Or to find the question.  Or, you know, listening is obviously a very specific thing in a conversation, but also as a practice, for me, because I respond to spaces, the first architecture maybe is the coat.  But then the next one is this building around us.  And, the felt quality of that already has all this, as you say, information in it.  And so it’s like what is it that is here that maybe asks a question or that can be brought forward.

KT: You’re listening to the space…I also think listening is something we really have to practice, because our everyday spaces are not set up for listening.

HEAR HERE [for deep listening]: Making, and the Spaces We Share