With the facility we use for our local retreats now being situated on the Flathead Lake we were surrounded with a profound beauty emanating through the large body of water surrounded by mountains and also through the woods around the property. Engaging with nature embraces a deep longing for connection that I think we all share as a human body. Stepping out into nature, into the elements, feeling the wind on our face, the earth beneath our feet – this is of great benefit to the spirit.
(In case you like factual info about stuff: Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi in the contiguous U.S. It spans about 30 miles long and 16 miles wide. On average it sits at 164 ft. deep with a maximum of 370 feet deep, which makes it deeper than the Yellow Sea or the Persian Gulf. It is also one of the cleanest lakes in the populated world for it’s size and type.)
One night on retreat I opened my window in the room I was staying in and could hear the lapping of the lake on the shore and wrote this:
Through my open window
calls the fluid pounding heartbeat of the lake
Strong surges of water lap on pebbled ground
Early autumn trees sway quietly
amid the cover of night
My breath, like the lake’s tide,
moves in and out effortlessly
Nature’s voice harmonizing with itself
sings me to sleep
Here are some of the notes I took during Cheri Maples dharma talk on Saturday September 28th, 2013:
Without mindful awareness engaged practice can lead to burn out. Skillful action isn’t about giving answers to others, it’s about encouraging others to confront them with their own freedom. Without equanimity compassion can burn too hot.
Equanimity is to be equally near all things – it is not an absence of emotion, it is letting the emotions flow through and not getting latched onto them. Equanimity is unconditional friendship with ourselves, not passive acceptance. There is a great myth that if we lose our anger we will lose our care. Equanimity is about connection not division and requires the ability to rest in uncertainty. It is about letting go of our expectations that things will be different without giving up the possibility of change.
We can strengthen old habits or move towards a new way of being. How am I engaging with what I am complaining about? The more we think about what can go wrong the more we are primed for that to happen. Perceptions can be real but not true.
Ethical uncertainty is part of life. If the Mindfulness Trainings don’t make us a little uncomfortable in some way we probably aren’t fully understanding them. If we think we are going to change the world we will probably be disappointed.
The cause of suffering: there is a self that cannot control what is happening.
When compassion guides us our footprint is lighter – there isn’t so much residue left behind. Wisdom = embracing mistakes and imperfection. We simply continue to do the next good thing moving forward. Just as a tree should be a tree a human being should be a human being. We don’t have to deny, defend, or justify our mistakes and imperfection. We have to learn to remember what we stand for.
Letting go is accepting that all things pass. With equanimity no practice is more important than practicing with irritation and small inconveniences – this is how we train to work with the big stuff in life. If we can’t work with little irritations how will we work with strong emotions and difficulty?