Week 5 – Online Winter Retreat

Week 5 – Online winter retreat, presented by Deer Park Monastery.  To follow along copy and paste this in your browser, there are talks, questions and readings posted every week: http://deerparkmonastery.org/teachings/the-ten-gates-online-course-winter-2012-2013/the-ten-gates-online-course-winter-2012-2013


Reflection Questions

1) Looking back over my own journey of practice, what were the moments, situations or people that were my noble messengers?

When the buddha traveled outside of the royal palace he grew up in he met four different people, four noble messengers that helped his awakening, someone who was old, sick, dead, and a spiritual practitioner.  Looking back over my path of practice from the beginning the first thing that comes to mind for me was a book I picked up on a friend’s counter.  That book started my awakening.  It was an SLAA book, Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous.  I was 18 years old at the time.  And to my surprise I related to the book on many levels.  I started realizing how much of my self-worth was wrapped up in needing to be in a relationship and it was very startling and very difficult to start unwrapping the habit energies I had acquired already at such a young age.  I was open to this particular practice only because of the work I did with SLAA.  And so when a different friend gave me Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh to read I was ready to receive the teachings offered in it.

Another noble messenger was my injury in 2005 that led to the chronic nerve disease RSD.  Now at 33 years old I still continue to deal with chronic pain every day.  Most moments through the day I am in physical pain.  And while that can spark much sympathy from people and when people find out they feel sorry for me and badly for what I must go through I have come into relationship with my disease in a way that I have much gratitude for.  It did not start out that way, of course, but over time with the great support of my practice I was able to transform my disease from a terrible enemy into a friend.  My RSD continues to guide me in many ways and is a great teacher on the path.

2) What, for me, does it mean to take refuge in the Sangha?

To take refuge in the sangha means to trust in the community.  To trust the community with my real human experience, to take both my joys and struggles to my sangha and lay them down.

3) What for me does it mean to take refuge in myself?

The other night I was unexpectedly confronted by someone at my house who was quite upset with me, among with many many other things and people.  They were quite ungrounded and angry.  Many things were being said by this person that were simply untrue but there was nothing I could say that was helpful, there was very little I could do.  In that moment I came back to my in-breath and out-breath and sat down in a solid meditation pose on my kitchen chair and practiced to listen as best as I was able to, both to what was being said and what was being left un-said.  While I was being verbally attacked I breathed and listened deeply.  That to me is an illustration of taking refuge in myself.  After they left I could feel tears brimming in my eyes and I was aware that I had a choice.  I could be swept down the river of that person’s turbulent emotions and take them on or I could take refuge in myself by staying in the here and now, by staying with my breathing.  I chose the latter.  And that choice is one of the fruits of the practice.

4) What does it mean to look at my Sangha as my body? Just as a body, my Sangha has needs – how do I respond to those?

In having founded the sangha I sit with 10 years ago I very much see the correlation between the Be Here Now sangha and my own practice.  As it has grown and expanded so has my own practice and vice versa.  Be Here Now and I are interconnected.  It is impossible to separate the two.  I care for the sangha just as I would a close friend and enjoy listening to people’s needs and feedback about what is working or not working.  To see the sangha as a living organism is very helpful and is needed to continue to grow and blossom as a community.

Suggested Practices

1) Following along with the teaching in this weeks’ podcast we are invited into the practice of mindfulness of the body in the body this week- in terms of the four main positions of the body as well as to become aware of the different parts of our body.

2) Let us make time this week for total relaxation – either a minute here and there throughout the day, or in the evening before going to bed. Maybe both!

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