(written on June 19th, 2012)
This morning during my sit I came to see that this retreat, for me, is more about my relationships than about the dharma and understanding concepts. The dharma talks are like compost and we as the gardeners of our own plot of earth then cultivate it into the ground to enable transformation to root and grow. How am I interacting with people? How am I interacting with myself? With the world around me?
Here are some of the notes I took during Thay’s talk on June 19th:
“There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way. We should be able to rest in the here and now, we don’t have to wait to go home to rest. We can rest in every step. You step in such a way you find pleasure. Nothing to do, nowhere to go, just enjoy, We arrive with every step.
Any moment can be a moment of happiness, when you turn on the light, brush your teeth… We take the time to enjoy the pleasure. You get in the habit of being happy. To be alive is a great joy.
Mindfulness can heal depression. Your neuro-plasticity (in the brain) can open a new path. You don’t focus on your suffering, you can focus on the non-suffering side. Stopping the thinking, appropriate attention. Suffering is not enough. We all have the capacity to be happy. We have to be aware of each mental formation as it arises and call it by its name. When we know how to take care of suffering true happiness is possible.
Not only do you effect you, you effect others. We are only our actions. Each thing is made by everything else. All the candles come together, collective and individual light. Illuminate individual and collective. There is no individual suffering, our suffering contains our ancestors suffering and collective suffering. Individual and collective suffering inter-are.”
The rain was steadily tapping at the skylights during the dharma talk and it put me in touch with the teaching of how we should never be too sure of ourselves. A few times now I have heard a weather report for different days calling for rain or thunderstorms and inevitably while preparing for the day after breakfast one of my roommates will mention bringing a jacket or umbrella to walk to upper hamlet or just out and about. One of my other roommates will then give an opposite weather forecast with authority and absolute sureness and each time she is wrong. Today she said in response to rain preparations for the 45 minute walk, which everyone was taking to upper hamlet, “Oh no, there will be no rain today. It will be warm and cloudy but no rain.” There is a seed in all of us to want to be an authority about this or that, to want recognition and attention. When I take the time to look deeply I can always see myself within another.
Today I wrote a letter to my dad and shared about the practice and my experience with it, something I’ve been reluctant to do through the years for some reason. It was quite nice. I re-realize how much I enjoy expressing myself on paper every time I write.
It’s almost 10:00pm, I sit illuminated by my wonderful little book light in my t-shirt and shorts on top of my sleeping bag. I feel calm and much at ease writing in the top bunk of my darkening little room. Nobel silence has begun but it seems the people upstairs have forgotten. I am practicing not getting carried away by my irritation. I see that the voices of my neighbors can be a source of anger or a light guiding me back to my breath. Breathing in I embrace their voices, breathing out I smile (or try to). It is not easy to do.
We had dharma discussion this afternoon (my last one, there will be one more in the afternoon of the 21st but we’ll be gone by then) where I once again found no urge to speak. Talking is a bit overrated sometimes. I flow much more freely and with ease on paper. I am writing all of the time here – journaling, letters, poetry, notes. I’ve nearly gone through all of the ink in my favorite pen during these 3 weeks where at home it takes me 2-3 months to use the same amount.
Our evening program consisted of a presentation on mindful eating by the co-author of Savor (Thich Nhat Hanh is the other author). It was very well done and informative. It draws me to read the book, which I’ve hesitated reading. I see that I would benefit from it. I, like many others, maybe most others, was never taught how to eat healthfully. There are days where I still eat like a teenager who’s parents have gone away for the weekend. My habit energies are very strong and convincing and often whisper, “you’ve had a long day, you deserve some chocolate.”
Here are some of the notes I took during Dr. Lilian Cheung’s talk (she is from the department of nutrition at the Harvard school of public health) on mindful eating:
There is a stress epidemic: 75% of adults in the U.S report experiencing moderate to high levels of stress, and 1 in 4 adults in the european union. There is a combination of toxic food, toxic media and high stress. Fast food and soft drink companies are using the latest neurosciences (FMRI and EEG) to study and trigger the subconscious of youth making them more susceptible to advertising (Frito-Lay is one of the major companies using this tactic).
Health benefits of mindfulness: reduces stress (well documented), pain management, reduces anxiety and depression, improves the immune system, improves quality of life for chronic disease patients, aids in substance abuse rehabilitation, helps with smoking cessation, and helps with weight management.
“Mindful eating is not a diet or about giving up anything at all. It’s about experiencing food more intensely, especially the pleasure of it.” A quote from the New York Times.
7 Practices of a Mindful Eater: 1.) honoring your food, eat as the only task 2.) engage all 6 senses 3.) use modest portions (9″ plate) 4.) savor bites, chew thoroughly 5.) eat slowly 6.) don’t skip meals 7.) eat a plant based diet