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Posts Tagged ‘Thich Nhat Hanh’

“Every human being wants to love and be loved.  This is very natural.  But often love, desire, need, and fear get wrapped up all together.  There are so many songs with the words, “I love you; I need you.”  Such lyrics imply that loving and craving are the same thing, and that the other person is just there to fulfill our needs.  We might feel we can’t survive without the other person.  When we say, “Darling, I can’t live without you.  I need you,” we think we’re speaking the language of love.  We even feel it’s a compliment to the other person.  But that need is actually a continuation of the original fear and desire that have been with us since we were small children.”

~~Thich Nhat Hanh, Fidelity:  How to Create a Loving Relationship that Lasts

I was sick last week and did not get to post this. . . Aug 2nd was my parents’ 52 wedding anniversary.  I wish that everyone could experience the ups and downs that they have and the bond that has kept them together.

Much love and deep bows of gratitude to Bob & Judy Stevens.  Thank you for all the love, sacrifice, and compassion they have fostered in our family!

Namaste, Jennifer

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MORE OF A PHILOSOPHY THAN A RELIGION. BUDDHISM...

(Photo credit: ronsaunders47)

“Our Buddhist vows are basically good medicine

for our wayward minds and forgetful hearts.”

~~Thich Nhat Hanh,

For the Future To Be Possible:  Buddhist Ethiccs for Everyday Life

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The subtle suffering in our lives may seem unimportant. But if we attend to the small ways that we suffer, we create a context of greater ease, peace, and responsibility, which can make it easier to deal with the bigger difficulties when they arise.

Gil Fronsdal, “Living Two Traditions”

Have you ever listened to your thoughts?

I mean really listened?

Take 5 minutes right now and open Pages or Word and just type whatever comes to mind.

Or scroll through your wall on facebook.

Really pay attention to what’s there.

Do you see (hear) your thinking?

Do you see (hear) the suffering there?

Listen carefully. . . I’m such an idiot (because your computer and ipad weren’t on the same network and wouldn’t sync).

I’m such a loser (because I’m tired at work and bored with what I do because it seems so meaningless).

You’re welcome! (when the person you let go through the stop sign and they don’t wave to you in thanks or acknowledgment).

What the hell’s wrong with you? (when the person in the right lane moves ahead of you in your lane and never uses a signal light AND slows down).

I’m such a slacker (spending one weekend in pain from a root canal and the next two weekends out flat with a migraine).

Do you hear it?  Does it sound familiar?

Whining about the weather being too hot, too cold.

Not having enough money and wanting stuff that can really wait.

I keep crying, I’m such a baby (or one that bugs me. . . for you guys. . . when you say or think I’m crying like a little girl). . . because someone you love has died.

We bombard ourselves with stuff like this all day, all night, every day.

Would you talk to your kids this way?  Your best friend?  Would you let others talk to you this way?

There is a lot of talk today about bullying. . . and we need to talk about it.

And I think we need to first be aware of our own thinking and our own speech.

We can be pretty cruel and cause ourselves so much unnecessary suffering.

Life can be filled with pain, heartache, injustice, loss, and other tragedies. . . why do we add to all of this?

Stephen Levine, in The Grief Process, talks about the little injuries and losses that we sustain throughout our lives that we overlook and let chip away at us.

He questions, at one point, if we were able to have mercy for ourselves and acknowledge these little losses, would the losses of those we love be as big and hurt so much.

A new wound is most likely going to hurt more if it is at the point of a reopened wound.

So mindfulness helps us learn to acknowledge and bring into our full consciousness that which is usually below the surface, despite how much it can impact us.

With practice, we practice having compassion for these thoughts, feelings, and sensations.  Even if it feels rote or fake, we go through the process until our barriers begin to melt and we can hold our pain, our grief, our illness in our conscious awareness and experience patience, compassion, and equanimity.

This isn’t an easy practice but it is a life saving one.  And our very practice helps us to strengthen this life saving tool.

Listen to how you talk to yourself about your practice. . . do you make excuses for not getting on the cushion.  Do you beat up on yourself when you have a “bad session”?

Great moments to practice patience.

Maybe it will be easier to practice compassion for yourself in these moment than when you are in the midst of intense emotions or safer than situations (or people) that are really hurtful.

Life is filled with pain, danger, illness, discomfort, and other difficulties.  But it is vital to learn the difference between what is inherent because of the human condition of fragility and what is our own creation . . . our own layer of additional suffering.

And then of course, as those start to become clearer, mindfulness and lovingkindness give us the tools to transform suffering into peace.

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Thich Nhat Hanh, Sister Chan Khong and Kenley

Thich Nhat Hanh, Sister Chan Khong and Kenley (Photo credit: kenleyneufeld)

Here is a clip of a song which is often sung in Thich Nhat Hanh‘s tradition.

“Happiness is here and now,

I have dropped my worries,

Nowhere to go,

Nothing to do,

No longer in a hurry

Happiness is here and now,

I have dropped my worries,

Somewhere to go,

Something to do,

But I don’t need to hurry.”

And here is a PDF of some of their other songs

Today I had some dental work done and I can honestly say that I have more angst about going to the dentist than my own death.  At least with death, there is probably an end of suffering.  At the dentist, it certainly doesn’t feel like it.

I know I am not the only one who has this problem.  Google dentist and dukkha and you’ll see what I mean.

I try to bring my iPod and listen to Thich Nhat Hanh while I am there.  I find him comforting, especially when he is chanting in Vietnamese.  It soothes my “soul”.

What I was listening to was the audio version of Living Without Stress and Fear.

I didn’t plan to listen to that but I used the search function, typed in Thich Nhat Hanh and it was the first audio that came up.

Between my angst, the drill, stopping for Xrays, etc, I could actually hear bits and pieces of the talk.

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Inspired by:  Cultivating the Mind of Love:  The Practice of Looking Deeply in the Mahayana Buddhist Tradition by Thich Nhat Hanh

This afternoon when I came back to work from lunch, I started to notice my neck getting tight.  I had a good night’s sleep last night, had eaten healthy food, etc.  Luckily for me, but not for him, I found out that my colleague two doors down was “with a headache” as well.  I can always tell when there is something in the air when he gets one too.

My plan was to stay quiet today since I had no meetings and there wasn’t a lot being expected of me.  I had on some quiet music and opened the window to allow some of the odd Spring-like weather to flood my office.  At lunch, I had thrown to books into my bag so that if I had time, I found find a reading for my blog.

In the one book, I quickly found the section I wanted to read but put it down.  I picked up the other book and just let it open to any page.  I fumbled to the beginning of the chapter and found myself utterly delighted in the reading before me.

I had purchased this book back in 2002 while in Queens, NY.  I remember that time in my life.  It was a good and strong time, where it seemed all things were possible.  It was New Year’s Day and we went to Barnes & Noble just to get out of the apartment.  There could be no better time for me, for it was winter and I was in a place that I loved, longing to be back home to the East Coast.

Today, it was sweet to connect to those memories and I appreciated them for just what they were –memories.  I turned to the book and read this short chapter.  I remember feeling a tug when I read it the first time.  I was in love and it was so different from this experience described in the book and yet, I had a similar experience years before, when I was a child.

I knew that I was grieving a bit for a love like this; one that was so perfect that it was better to have let it touch your heart lightly and go than to have let it manifest fully.  And maybe part of the perfection was in the exquisite now-ness because there was no other place to be.  I hope Parallax Press forgives me being indulgent with the text as I am going to be as this is one of the most beautiful passages I’ve ever read.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“. . . In every temple, there is a special seat for the abbot, and I had to sit there, because the abbot was away for a few days and had asked me to serve in his stead.  I invited her to sit in front of me, but she sat off to the side.  Member of the community never sit in front of the abbot.  It is just the form.  To see each other’s faces, we had to turn our heads.

Her behavior as a nun was perfect – the way she moved, the way she looked, the way she spoke.  She was quiet.  She never said anything unless spoke to.  She just looked down in front of her.  I was shy, too.  I never dared look at her for more than a second or two, and then I lowered my eyes again.  After a few minutes, I said good-bye and went to my room.  I didn’t know what had happened, but I knew my peace had been disturbed.  I tried writing a poem, but I couldn’t compose even one line!  So I began to read the poetry of others, hoping that would calm me down.

I read several poems by Nguyen Binh.  He was longing for his mother and sister, and I felt the same way.  When you become a monk at a young age, you miss your family. . .  I remember that I had a few tears in my eyes when I chanted this classical Chinese:

Night is here.

The wind and the rain announce the news

That spring is coming.

Still I sleep alone, my dreams not yet realized.

Flower petals falling

Seem to understand my dreams and aspirations.

They touch the ground of spring in perfect silence.

. . . We had dinner together, and afterwards, I read her some of my poetry.  Then I went to my room and read poetry along.  Nothing had changed from the day before, but inside I understood.  I knew that I loved her.  I only wanted to be with her – to sit near her and contemplate her.” 

We tend to think of grief as something we experience when we have lost something.   But sometimes we grieve for what has eluded us.  I don’t think that Thay really eluded love because he was genuine in his ability to admit that it was there.

What I find endearing about this chapter is that he does not have condemnation for being a young monk who is loving another person.  He doesn’t flounder in what could never be.  But rather, he allows himself to be moved by this love, to accept the bits of discomfort, longing, and sweetness that it brings for him.  There is such a great acceptance of the moments.  I think his story personifies what happens when mindfulness is transformed from a practice to a way of being for us.  There is an unconditioned love and whole-heartedness when we can simply be with what is.

At the beginning of this chapter, Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that we use this as a meditation, to sit with the recalled experience of our first love.   He equates it to the koan, “What was your face before your parents were born?” and that as we look deeply we find that our first love is “still present, always here, continuing to shape your life.”

My gift to you is to suggest that you use something similar for your meditation. . . perhaps allowing yourself to sit and be present to the relationship that you have lost – it might be a relationship to your younger self or a relationship that has “ended” because of death and loss.  So much grief theory suggests that we “let go” of the relationship we have with the deceased.

I think what Thay suggests is what we are finally starting to realize with theories such as social constructivist views of grief – that relationship is always present and informing your life.  The love is not gone nor is the relationship even though you cannot physically put your arms around the person whom you miss.  That love is within the depths of you and accessible with every breath you take.

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I’ve written articles on mindfulness, shared quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh and Sharon Salzberg.

I’ve even given you some links to Youtube videos and a sneak peak of Mark Thornton’s work Meditation in a NY Minute.

So, how it changed your practice?

Do you have a daily practice?

Share via the poll or comments below this post.

Let us know what works, doesn’t work, what helps and what makes it a tougher struggle. . .

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Buddha Shakyamuni

Buddha Shakyamuni (Photo credit: secretlondon123)

“The Buddha said, “The mind, through its action, is the chef architect of one’s own happiness and suffering.”  It’s hard for the mind to be peaceful when the body is not in a physical space that’s peaceful.”

~~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Look around right now. . .

What’s your space like?

Does it reflect your interior space too?

Is the room you find yourself in cramped, cluttered, in total disarray?

If it is, are you in the middle of being creative. . . turning the chaos into magic?

Or it is the dark claustrophobic like cramped, “this doesn’t fit” kind of space?

Is the desk or table you sit at made of fine wood, leather, marble?

Or is it a 2×4 between milk crates because you aren’t buying furniture because you aren’t staying long?

And what color our your walls?

Are they three shades of off white?

Are they rich deep hues like wine, forest, crimson?

Are they light and airy like a French kitchen?

What about windows, light?  Is there a sense of spaciousness?

Does the air feel stagnant and stale or is there a crisp fresh breeze?

Now take a minute and close your eyes.

Breathe in and out slowly, 5 times.

Get in touch with your physical body and after you do, pay close attention to your heart space, your third eye. . .

Is your perception of your physical space mirrored in your body, mind, spirit?

Do your relationships and work resemble the area?

Are you satisfied with your answers?

If so, savor the feelings of coherence with your world.

If not, ask yourself, what now. . .

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A Post-it note is a piece of stationery with a...

A Post-it note is a piece of stationery with a re-adherable strip of adhesive on the back, designed for temporarily attaching notes to documents and other surfaces. Although now available in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes, Post-it notes are most commonly a 3-inch (76 mm) square, canary yellow in color. A unique low-tack adhesive allows the notes to be easily attached and removed without leaving marks or residue, unless used on white boards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You have sticky notes… I know you do… if not, you have scrap paper or something. . . old wrapping paper, etc.

You have a cell phone, a tablet, a computer. . . I know you do…

So why not turn these every day things into every day mindfulness bells?

Mindfulness bells, for those of you who are new to meditation or mindfulness, are things that wake us up and remind us to stop sleepwalking, to pay attention, and to be present to what is going on inside of us and around us.

Here are some ideas for you to put around your house, in your pocket (on your cell phone), to burn into wood, to write in lipstick on your mirror, because remember, wherever you go, that’s where you are…

Make every moment a time to pause and re-member what’s important.

“Forgetfulness is the darkness; mindfulness is the light.  I bring awareness to shine upon all life.” (great for light switches and lamps)

“The mind is like a computer with thousands of pages.  I choose a world that is tranquil and calm, so that my joy will always be fresh.”

“Mindful breathing brings your body and mind back together.”

“May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.”

“May I be safe and free from injury.” (Good one for the car?)

“May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.”  (Find your toughest place to be; maybe hang this all over that place.”

“May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.”

“May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.”

“May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.”

“May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself ever day.”  (Good for the kitchen, near the placemat, fridge, etc)

“May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.” (Great for work!)

All of these can be found in Thich Nhat Hanh‘s Creating Space.

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Fundamental group of the circle

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My first real experience with this shape was in high school.

I was in a program that combined peer counseling, leadership training, and learning how to provide a day camp experience for children.

It was the dreaded circle.  I could not come to pull my chair into the circle.  I didn’t feel like I belonged.

In college, I was part of a year-long intensive, studying Rogerian therapy in a program that was didactic and experiential.

I would not trade this for the world, but we were in circles again.  And as this was the second great experience that taught me about group process, it also taught me that groups can have a shadow side too.  There were times that business didn’t get finished.  People walked back to their dorms hurt, hand in heart, not knowing how to cope with what came up and how to live with it for the following week.

As a project for a meditation class I took in my second philosophy class, I visited my first Zendo. . . in New Paltz, NY.  And I was greeted into a strange circle where people sat facing the wall, in a dark room, with incense billowing.

After school was done, I went to work in social services. . . circles for staff meetings and staff retreats, circle for support groups . . . I couldn’t get away from them.  I was part of a women’s group — all of us were therapists, educators, etc and we came together to process.

As I became a group facilitator, I learned to love the group process and felt comfortable in the dreaded circle.  I was welcomed into a wonderful sangha in Madison, WI — Snowflower Sangha, in Thich Nhat Hanh‘s tradition and I got to see deep listening and compassionate speech.  I got to see a Starting Anew ceremony.  And I saw a wonderful community — like I got to experience at Upaya Zen Center in April.

Along the way, I came across a book, The Way of Council.  I yearned for this kind of group experience.

The lessons, guidelines, and spirit that is conveyed in The Way of Council works for a family, for close friends, for team members, for intimate relationships, etc.

Calling council gives one the guidelines and means for sustaining deep connections in community, to invite ritual into one’s life, and shares ideas for holding council in all of the relationships just mentioned above in the previous paragraph.

I will be writing more about holding council, about nonviolent communication, deep listening, compassionate speech.  I hold these practices in high esteem.  I have seen the light and shadow sides of groups (and families that I have worked with in therapy and in home visits through hospice, staffs that had a lot of undercurrents and lack of health).

I cannot think of a greater gift that I could give to the readers of this blog — to the therapists, to those who might want to start a peer-led grief group, to those who want to create intentional communities and have deep and meaningful relationships.

Creating the intimacy of council, of truly being present, is scary, doesn’t come easy, sometimes hurts, always heals, and is worth the time, energy, attention, and intention.

I hope you enjoy the blogs that will follow.

In the next post on this topic, I will discuss the Four Intentions of Council.

Stayed Tune.

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Cover of "Meditation in a New York Minute...

Cover via Amazon

I have a former client that I saw not too long ago.  He’s on a journey, like all of us, and has many of the same stuck places we have.  I listened while he told me that he didn’t have time . . .

No time at all.

No patience.

Meditation doesn’t work.

What’s the point, etc.

It reminded me that he was the kind of person who wasn’t going to be interested in the sweet calm of Thich Nhat Hanh or the empowered feminine wisdom of teachers like Pema Chodron, Tara Brach, or Roshi Joan Halifax.

He was a scientist and this whole thing was well, woo woo and hog wash.

What might, I got to thinking, as even MBSR was shot down as a suggestion was Mark Thornton’s Meditation in a New York Minute:  Super Calm for the Super Busy.

I’ve listened to the audiobook a few times.  At first “glance”, listening to it on my commute to hospice, I used to think it was technique-y.

He was young, a corporate-type, and addressed the matter of meditation like a professional speaker.

Hmmmm, sounds like just a different shade of “I’m too busy, I know better”, etc.

This former client, this scientist, this closed-hearted person gave me a gift.  He was a wise teacher that brought me back to this audiobook with a new awareness.  Wise in the way that Pema Chodron talks about in our troublemaker teachers.

I am still not sure that this will go on my top 10 list, but Mark’s straight forwardness that probably works in corporate America, cut through some things for me.  I would suggest the book or audio for anyone who has said, I want less stress, I want calm, but just can’t get started.

I learned new things when I listened to it again this time.

I plan to share some of his work because I think that, especially if you aren’t interested in a spiritual path, this words and techniques can be really helpful.

So, at least for today, this is what I will share:

Mark’s technique for teaching meditation is simple.  Start off small and allow your embodied awareness to be fostered during mini breaks throughout the day.

No one said it has to be one hour …

60 consecutive minutes …

it can be 60 seconds now, 10 minutes later, 2 minutes later . . .

Think of it as if they were talking about getting your steps in.. you “should have” X-amount of steps every day or X-minutes of exercise every day.  But, they find that 5 minutes now, then, later, etc is still effective.  And so can your meditation if you design it this way.

But probably more importantly, Mark shares 8 Laws of Meditation with us:

1.  Relax – they tell you this all the time.  They told me as I began my first All-day sit at the Shambhala Center here in the midwest, but, no, I had to do it perfectly. . . and ended up with pain, stiffness, stress, etc.

I realized the concept of No-Effort when I hooked up to biofeedback and realized that what I was doing as meditation and “relaxation” was stressing my system out more.  It was a lack of teaching; it was that I was not understanding in an embodied way.

2.  Have a sense of playfulness – Lately, I have realized how little playfulness and lightheartedness I have in my life.  Part of that is being away from family and friends that I love.  Part of it living in the middle of no where with nothing that I find fun to do.  Part of it is not allowing myself to experience freedom and expansion.

If I am not doing it in life, you know that it’s not happening on the cushion.  A friend suggested a comedian the other night and I laughed out loud, by myself, for the first time in a long time.  Foster a light touch and a sense of inquisitiveness for the sake of your mental and physical health.

3.  Practice Gentleness — This reminded me that Thay used to talk about holding your hands on your lap as if you had a baby bird or the baby Buddha in your hands.  Gentleness.  But we also practice gentleness in our minds as well.  No screaming and shouting at ourselves when our minds saunter off.  No judgment, just being.

4.  Have an open body – I laughed when I heard this one.  I’ve told mom this for years.  You have greater anxiety and stress when your heart is physically closed off. . . you don’t get enough oxygen and release in your autonomic nervous system.  And your diaphragm doesn’t flow unrestricted.  I laughed because a “professional” told her that this week and it was like it was the first time she’d ever heard that.  (Once a daughter, never a teacher.  LOL)

5.  Build Calm through Attention — As Mark simply put it. . . where your attention goes, so does your energy.  My friend had a problem with some plumbing.  Within little time, she got to a place of, oh good, new paint, no walls, new plumbing. . . not me, I thought, all that expense, all that time off from work, all that noise and dust… yes, this is why I sit and am not yet one with my enlightened self. . . point is, her attention went to the positive and the potential.  And it was a great experience.

6.  Build Calm through Your Intention to drop to your core — Mark defines meditation “as a way to directly experience your heart, moment-to-moment, so that others feel it.”  So Law #6 is about setting your intention to be in your heart-space, allowing yourself to sink down into the essence or core of who you are, rather than to grasp at the discursive mind that we allow to rule our lives.

7.  Maintenance of Calm — How do you maintain calm (or super calm as Mark likes to say?) moment to moment awareness and when you drop away from that and you realize it, drop the storyline and come back to moment to moment awareness.  Huh?

8.  Repetition — And how does this all get tied together?  In the same way you get to Carnegie Hall. . . practice, practice, practice.

What I like about Mark’s audio is that he uses the word mindfulness once or twice only.  He gives us different language, a different way of looking at the practice.  Sometimes teachers use the same words, the same teaching stories, and it doesn’t sink in.  That’s probably why relying on one guru isn’t probably the best way to go and we have many over a lifetime.

His work is not devoid of spirituality, he talks about spiritual masters, quotes Indian texts, but he’s no-nonsense, engaging, and I did get the feeling like I was watching someone who could be on Oprah’s network, cheering us all on.

But let’s face it. . . if you’ve ever meditated you have probably gotten hooked, been judgmental of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and gotten down on yourself.  We don’t all naturally cheerlead ourselves into health and happiness.

So if a cheerleader comes along it’s good if we listen to their pep and cheer.

More to come on Mark’s work. . . let this sink in.  Think about your own practice in these terms and ask if it jives for you.

And if you don’t have a practice, hopefully this will intrigue you enough to want to know more.

Meditation is a way of living.  It’s not to just be picked up when you lose your job, are flattened by pain, exhausted from caregiving, or broken-hearted over loss.  It is a way of living congruently while we learn to foster compassionate attention and intention.

Thank you Mr. TroubleMaker teacher for coming around and getting me to set the intention to go back to this audiobook.

Om Mani Padme Hum.

~~JRS

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