Day 16 – I did my sitting this morning before I took off up north to the Flathead Lake area with my friend and co-director of our upcoming local mindfulness retreat in early May. This will be third retreat that I’ve co-directed with her. Today we went to visit with the staff at the facility we’ll be using for our retreat. It is a beautiful location, the Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp, and sits right on the western shore of the Flathead Lake. This will be our second spring using the facility.
Our collective Open Way Montana Sangha (of which we have four practicing groups, in the same Plum Village tradition with teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, in three towns in western Montana) puts together two annual retreats a year – one in the spring and one in the fall. For one retreat a year we keep one consistent dharma teacher and for the other retreat we rotate through various dharma teachers. (If ever you’re in the Montana area in the spring or fall and want to join us for a retreat check out http://www.openway.org for retreat info :)
Tonight was our regular practice night for our Be Here Now Sangha that meets at the Open Way Mindfulness Center in Missoula, Montana. Our format includes sitting and walking meditation, a reading, sharing circle and then closes with a gratitude and healing circle. Although tonight we had a little bit different of a format and instead of the walking and reading someone gave a talk on the Fourth Mindfulness Training: Loving Speech and Deep Listening (see below). For the last 3 years now we’ve been having a mindfulness training talk series where once a month, from January through May, a different practitioner gives a short talk on one of the trainings (of which there are five) and about how they are working with it in their daily lives. The talks are a nice opportunity to get more insight and understanding about different ways to work more deeply with the trainings as an ongoing practice.
The Fourth Mindfulness Training: Loving Speech and Deep Listening
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.
Originally the Five Precepts (now called: Mindfulness Trainings) were very short, one line sentences that the buddha offered as his only official teaching that he offered to lay people (people that were not monks & nuns). They were as follows (as taken from the literal translation from the Pali language):
1. I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking life.
2. I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking what is not given.
3. I undertake the training rule to abstain from sexual misconduct.
4. I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech.
5. I undertake the training rule to abstain from fermented drink that causes heedlessness.
The fourth mindfulness training, as included above, entitled: Loving Speech and Deep Listening is part of an expanded version of the original five trainings as offered by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Order of Interbeing. As you can see, the fourth training, just like the others, has been brought into the 21st century and modernized to include more support and detail for those of us looking to lead a fuller, more mindful and deeper connected life. The trainings represent a vision for a more engaged spirituality and ethical values. They can help us wake up to ourselves, our surroundings, and to our relationship with the present moment.
I deeply appreciate working with these trainings and having them available as ongoing teachings. They are not designed as have to’s or supposed to’s and I also appreciate that about them as well. They are set up as a guiding light on the path of understanding and love. In the west especially I think it’s easy to read the new expanded version and think, “I have to do these perfectly!” and then use them to beat ourselves up with. So it is important to note that perfection is a dangerous illusion, a trap that we can get stuck in all too often. If you use the trainings as a practice in your daily life please embrace them with openness, lightness, diligence, and ease.