#MarchMindfulness2016: Seeds of Mindfulness

3jewels.seedsofmindfulness1

As we enjoy the final days of March and the warmth of spring, I am feeling stretched by all the lessons that arose during this month spent renewing my commitment to compassion, understanding, and connection.

S T R E T C H E D and TESTED!

But those experiences only AFFIRMED what I know to be true:

Even in the hardest moments — after I’ve fussed and cussed through my frustrations (to good spiritual friends who listen deeply, see me clearly, honor my wholeness without co-signing my craziness, and respond skillfully with wise and loving support) — compassion calls me back again and again.

It offers a calming, centering grace that inspires me to seek the depth and breadth of understanding that in turn keeps my heart open to authentic connection.

“Sometimes we think that to develop an open heart, to be truly loving and compassionate,
means that we need to be passive,
to allow others to abuse us,
to smile and let anyone do what they want with us.

Yet this is not what is meant by compassion.
Quite the contrary.

Compassion is not at all weak.
It is the strength that arises out of seeing
the true nature of suffering in the world.

Compassion allows us
to bear witness to that suffering,
whether it is in ourselves or others, without fear;

it allows us to name injustice without hesitation,
and to act strongly,
with all the skill at our disposal.

To develop this mind state of compassion…
is to learn to live, as the Buddha put it,
with sympathy for all living beings,
without exception.”

― Sharon Salzberg
Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness

#MarchMindfulness2016: The Power of Collective Energy

margaretmeadquoteLining Margaret Mead’s quote up alongside Thich Nhat Hanh’s, we can begin to understand our capacity as a spiritual community to multiply the compassion, skillful understanding, and authentic connection beyond the sacred time we spend together each week. Collectively, we carry this nurturing energy from the cushion into the community.

 

“The Sangha is made out of the work of individuals, so we have a duty to help create the energy of the Sangha.

Our presence, when it is mindful presence, contributes to that energy…

Don’t think that we sit for ourselves. You don’t sit for yourself alone, you sit for the whole Sangha–not only for the Sangha, but also for the people in your city, because when one person in the city is less angry, is smiling more, the whole city profits.

If we practice looking deeply, our understanding of interbeing will grow, and we will see that every smile, every step, every breath is for everybody. It is for our country, for the future, for our ancestors.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh
“Go As Sangha” in Friends on the Path

 

my sunday kind of love!

my sundays are extra sweet because of the sacred time i spend in the full embrace of sangha.

the nourishment i receive from “listening to each other listen” sustains me at the cellular level. today, we contemplated the practice of Beginning Anew to honor the lunar new year as well as the seasonal mid-winter shift which heralds the return of the sun. we basked in that energizing and healing light and began to see ourselves clearly — our tender places and tight knots (samyojana) to which we offered loving and patient awareness and the spaciousness of breath so that those gnarly fetters may loosen, unfold, and be transformed. we watered flowers by celebrating our commitment to showing up, paying attention, telling the truth, learning to abide in the process rather than being attached to outcome, and trusting our capacity to begin anew again and again.

 

“self-love is the foundation for your capacity to love the other person.”

this day is all the more precious for my family because we celebrated my husband’s birthday with gifts from heart and hand: a card, my first attempt at scratch-made brownies (so yummy i had to get them out of the house and share them with the rest of our family), a trip to the local sledding hill (where, by the way, we both played as children), and an amazing dinner (i won’t taunt you, as i did my sisters, with that mouth-watering plate!) that i whipped up.

as thây’s quote above reminds us, tending to our well-being is crucial. when we practice cultivating love and kindness for ourselves, it fortifies us to be present and available for our beloveds…not just on “valentine’s day” or special occasions but each and every day.

On “Building A Community of Love” – bell hooks + Thich Nhat Hanh | Lion’s Roar

“…from childhood into adulthood we are often taught misguided and false assumptions about the nature of love. Perhaps the most common false assumption about love is that love means we will not be challenged or changed.”

Sixteen years and six days have passed since this conversation between bell hooks and Thich Nhat Hanh was published. It recently resurfaced in my social media network and incredibly — in ways both unfortunate and impressive — the message is so timely, it seems as if it was written today.

Thây and hooks have both figured prominently in my journey of spiritual awakening and self-understanding. Though I only held a cursory knowledge of their connection to one another, I am following the magical-mystical thread that connects us all (and merits its own reflection). This is the interbeing they speak of, what we Buddhists touch through our practice of looking and listen deeply in order to understand, to heal, to embrace, to love.

Read the full conversation on Lion’s Roar: Building A Community of Love

#WholyHappyHour [12/20]: Continuing the Practice of Becoming Our Own Refuge

Throughout this new season, our study and practice will be devoted to learning to hold space for ourselves and others in order to build trust, safety, skillful understanding and compassion in our spiritual community and in all relationships.

Dec 20th | 11 AM – 12:30 PM
at Heartdance Studio, 1806 E. Michigan Avenue

Taking Refuge in the Island of the Self is a mindfulness practice of self-study that awakens clear comprehension and nurtures self-compassion. We take refuge in breath, relying on the visceral texture and sound of it coursing through body. The breath is here: a tangible, sensate experience. It feeds and cleanses every cell and fiber. It anchors and calms the brain. Resting in the breath, we come home. We remember the self in its wholeness — its nature to change in body, thoughts, emotions, sensations, perceptions. We touch the heart and mind of love [read more].

Make no mistake, becoming an island unto oneself is not about disconnecting from others. I visualize myself as being anchored in the center of a vast sea, with waves rippling away from me and returning to me, each concentric ring is a sacred circle of love, safety, and support:

The space I hold for myself –> The space being held for me in which I am enveloped by the full embrace of good spiritual friends (my sangha as well as my circle of family and friends) –> The space in which I hold others.

When I tend to myself with the energy of mindfulness and compassion, I remain solid, fresh, fueled and aflame” and continuously expand my capacity to “love from my center” (Romans 12:9-13, MSG). And, just as the Metta Bhavana meditation instructs, those ebbing tidewaters are then able to carry off the compassion, understanding, and loving-kindness I have generated to others. Soon the ripples rush back to flood me with energies that renew and sustain me. In moments of distress, I send out my suffering — in all its heavy, hot, sticky textures — with the practice of Tonglen.  That which no longer serves me is released and dispersed, its potency diminished. I become awash with relief — cool, clear and light. I take refuge in the island of the self so that my heart does not shut down, withhold from, and harden against the world. But stays open and free to experience the interstitial wave of connection to all around me. I am an island with welcoming shores.

Notes + Related Readings:


 

ON THE HORIZON:

Dec 16th | 2:30  – 4:30 PM ~ Presenting “Criteria for Skillful Communication” at the Facilitators Guild.

Jan 10th | 11 AM – 12:30 PM ~ #WholyHappyHour: 5 Spiritual Faculties [Part 1]3 Jewels Yoga Sangha at Heartdance Studio.

Jan 17th | 1:00  – 3:00 PM ~ Conscious + Fit: Building Body Awareness at Heartdance Studio.

Jan 24th | 11 AM – 12:30 PM ~ #WholyHappyHour: 5 Spiritual Faculties [Part 2]3 Jewels Yoga Sangha at Heartdance Studio.

#WholyHappyHour [12/6]: Taking Refuge in the Island of the Self

Throughout this new season, our study and practice will be devoted to learning to hold space for ourselves and others in order to build trust, safety, skillful understanding and compassion in our spiritual community and in all relationships.

Dec 6th| 11 AM – 12:30 PM
at Heartdance Studio, 1806 E. Michigan Avenue

Taking Refuge in the Island of the Self is a mindfulness practice of self-study that awakens clear comprehension and nurtures self-compassion. We take refuge in breath, relying on the visceral texture and sound of it coursing through body. The breath is here: a tangible, sensate experience. It feeds and cleanses every cell and fiber. It anchors and calms the brain. Resting in the breath, we come home. We remember the self in its wholeness — its nature to change in body, thoughts, emotions, sensations, perceptions. We touch the heart and mind of love.3jewels.beislands

We do not abandon ourselves to seek outside refuges. We trust in this deeply-felt experience and return time and again, through the ebb and flow of change in external factors (relationships, finances, work, the thousand fleeting conditions we face daily), to our true home. We trust our capacity to be the source of refuge, to be an island unto ourselves. Here we calmly abide with understanding and ease.

Notes + Related Readings:


 

ON THE HORIZON:

Dec 9th | 7  – 9 PM ~ Leading Dharma Talk on Healing the Past at Lansing Area Mindfulness Community – Van Hanh Temple, 3015 S. Washington Ave.

Dec 20th | 11 AM – 12:30 PM ~ #WholyHappyHour: Taking Refuge in the Island of The Self [Practice I]. 3 Jewels Yoga Sangha at Heartdance Studio.

Jan 10th | 11 AM – 12:30 PM ~ #WholyHappyHour: TBD. 3 Jewels Yoga Sangha at Heartdance Studio.

#WholyHappyHour [11/22]: Continuing The Practice of Self-Compassion

Throughout this new season, our study and practice will be devoted to learning to hold space for ourselves and others in order to build trust, safety, skillful understanding and compassion in our spiritual community and in all relationships.

Nov 22nd | 11 AM – 12:30 PM at Heartdance Studio.

Self-Compassion provides the fuel for sustaining our own well-being so that we can be solid, whole, and free when called to serve others. At our practice earlier this month, we looked deeply into the factors of self-compassion and set the intention to gift ourselves with daily doses of kindness in creative and sustainable ways.

What does self-compassion look like in real time? How do we conjure this energy beyond the meditation cushion and the sacred circle of sangha where the conditions for shamatha–stopping, abiding in silence and stillness–seem more attainable and the arising sense of gratitude, calm, and well-being feel more palpable?

It begins with a commitment to develop an intimate relationship with ourselves. To practice taking ourselves as the object of love! If only for 15 minutes, block out time for self-tending throughout each day.

  • Create a personal peace treaty.* Write a note of vows, activities, mantras, or affirmative statements that remind you to be gentle and generous with yourself. 
  • Spend time in solitude enjoying activities that feel nourishing and restore or boost yourself sense of peace and well-being.
  • Whenever you hit a rough patch and feel overwhelmed, frustrated or sad, give yourself the freedom to acknowledge those thoughts and feelings. Shine the light on them. Breathe into them, creating space for them to disperse and dissipate. Release judgment. Do not succumb to the temptation of panic or despair, as dharma teacher Jack Lawlor recently encouraged at our annual Day of Mindfulness)! Take refuge in the wisdom of the breath–the flowing change and steadiness in tempo with life itself–to hold you moment to moment. Nowhere to go, nothing to do, nothing to attain, no one to be. No struggling, striving, fixing. Simply abiding where you are. See what changes when you take care of your suffering with tenderness.
  • Relax in the company of good spiritual friends who model healthy self-tending practices and can offer wise counsel and support.

As we practice looking and listening deeply to examine our aspirations, fears, gifts, wounds, misperceptions, and values, we create the conditions for developing clear and skillful understanding. Buddhist practice celebrates curiosity and openness by inviting us to repeatedly and gently ask: “What is this?” and “Are you sure?” By studying ourselves in this waywe can penetrate the causes of our suffering and identify our suchness–all the wondrous, mysterious, and quirky elements that make up our nature.

From this diligent effort grows respect, which holds at its very root the wise instruction to look back at! So we give ourselves the time and space to see ourselves completely: our history, our habits, our humanness. We keep turning back, again and again, to look inward at how we relate to ourselves and engage the world around us. We discern the skillful means to make compassionate actions and transform unskillful thoughts we hold about ourselves and unskillful behaviors that reinforce our suffering.

Notes + Related Readings:

  • In Creating True Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh suggests this exercise for couples in moments of conflict and lists skillful actions for both “one who is angry” and “the one who has made the other angry” such “refrain from saying or doing anything that might cause further damage or escalate the anger” and “respect the other person’s feelings, not ridicule him or her, and allow him or her enough time to calm down.”
  • Awakening The Voice of Self-Love [3 Jewels Yoga].
  • Teachings on Love by Thich Nhat Hanh.

 

ON THE HORIZON:

Dec 6th | 11 AM – 12:30 PM ~ #WholyHappyHour: Taking Refuge in the Island of The Self [Practice I]3 Jewels Yoga Sangha at Heartdance Studio.

Dec 9th | 7  – 9 PM ~ Leading Dharma Talk on Healing the Past at Lansing Area Mindfulness Community – Van Hanh Temple, 3015 S. Washington Ave.

Dec 20th | 11 AM – 12:30 PM ~ #WholyHappyHour: Taking Refuge in the Island of The Self [Practice I]. 3 Jewels Yoga Sangha at Heartdance Studio.

Jan 10th | 11 AM – 12:30 PM ~ #WholyHappyHour: TBD. 3 Jewels Yoga Sangha at Heartdance Studio.

earth day celebration: touching the earth

The practice of Touching the Earth is to return to the Earth, to our roots, to our ancestors, and to recognize that we are not alone but connected to a whole stream of spiritual and blood ancestors. We are their continuation and with them, will continue into the future generations. 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.

~ excerpt from the Plum Village blog.
Read more about practice of Touching The Earth.

embodied practice: caring for ourselves + others

As sanghas around the globe are breathing deeply for our beloved Thây who is recovering from his recent hospitalization, I am remembering this beautiful practice that he teaches, which my dharma sister has shared with our community over the years: Second Body Practice.

“Our practice is not an individual practice.
We practice with other people, we practice with our Sangha.
The Sangha is also our body…
The practice of the second body is one way we take care of each other in the Sangha.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh

View/Download Thich Nhat Hanh’s article in The Mindfulness Bell Issue #24: Taking Care of Each Other.

 

[18 March 2020 | Content updated to include quote + link to the .pdf of the original article.]