In our mindfulness tradition we have a practice called Flower Watering. There are different ways in which it can be done but it basically involves telling others all of the good things you appreciate and like about them and allowing them to do the same with you. Yesterday we had one of our Montana Open Way Sangha board meetings. Our board members come from three different areas around western Montana and we meet to talk about local retreats, days of mindfulness, and other sangha related business. Our meetings tend to be an all day event, since we don’t meet very often. Each of our local sanghas also has their own council meetings regularly but our state wide board only meets 2-3 times a year. Yesterday, to close our board meeting, our final agenda item was to do Flower Watering. We had never done it before together as a board and it was just wonderful.
We had a vase of flowers and it was set in front of someone to start, which happened to be me. We were a circle of 8 and one by one people offered me their words of appreciation and other thoughts of honoring and love. We then passed the vase around and continued the process which each person. It took us quite a while to go through everyone but the spirit that was generated and held was so sweet that the time passed by rather effortlessly. It was a lovely way to end our board meeting and while I was quite tired at the end of the day I was also refreshed from the Flower Watering.
And so it was posed to me, a question to ponder from Rowan, our local dharma teacher, “How will I know when I’m enough?” Hmmm….
Tomorrow we’re having an OI (Order of Interbeing) training day with this question as our potential topic. Rowan said that it will either be his longest dharma talk or his shortest, to which we both laughed. He asked that I think about this question and offer him any insight that I may happen to come up with. He also instructed me not to think about it too much.
There are some questions, well, many questions really, that the intellect loves to ask and the heart is slow to understand. There are many questions that cannot be properly answered in words. The intellect, which of course is a wonderful tool, can also serve as a barrier. There are some things to which the intellect will never be able to help with. Some things can only be truly understood and appreciated with the heart through practice.
This little shell necklace picture above may not look like much. It’s as simple as it looks: a shell dangled from a braided hemp rope. What makes this picture interesting, to me, is that I’m holding it and not wearing it. Let me explain.
When I was in high school, in my junior year I think it was, I went on a vacation with my dad and stepmom to Sanibel Island in Florida on the Gulf coast. My uncle owned a condo right on the water. I found the shell while taking an evening stroll on the beach one night. Seeing the natural hole in it made it an obvious choice to turn it into a necklace. Although I had never been a big jewelry wearer previously nor was I a devoted lover of shells (I mean, they’re great and all but I’m more of a rock gal) I proceeded to wear the necklace everyday….for the next 19 years.
Photo by local photographer and sangha friend Bill McDavid – http://www.billmcdavid.com
In the book I’m currently reading entitled Meeting Faith: The Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun the author speaks about the Four Sublime States of Mind. “The Buddha often spoke about four states of mind as the four “Brahma-viharas”: the divine or god-like dwellings, the lofty and excellent abodes in which the mind reaches outwards towards the immeasurable world of living beings, embracing them all in these boundless emotions.” (from vipassana.com). The states of mind are: loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.
“These four attitudes are said to be excellent or sublime because they are the right or ideal way of conduct towards living beings. They provide, in fact, the answer to all situations arising from social contact. They are the great removers of tension, the great peace-makers in social conflict, and the great healers of wounds suffered in the struggle of existence. They level social barriers, build harmonious communities, awaken slumbering magnanimity long forgotten, revive joy and hope long abandoned, and promote human brotherhood against the forces of egotism.” (from vipassana.com)
Our Montana sanghas have had another wonderful retreat. This past weekend was our annual spring retreat. Our greater Montana sanghas put together two retreats every year, one in the spring and one in the fall. This spring we had a family retreat and kids were welcome to attend. And we had our biggest retreat yet! 71 people all together, including the children. Our Montana sanghas include Open Way and Be Here Now in Missoula, Flowing Mountains in Helena, and Open Sky in Kalispell. We’re all one big happy sangha family in the big sky state :)
With the presence of children there was a good deal less silence held during the course of our 2 1/2 day retreat. But I found that the silence was replaced with joy, laughter, more smiling, and a rich sweetness that can only be offered by children. I am so grateful for all of the families that came with their kids to experience a retreat together. The energy of the children enriched our sangha and brought the much needed element of lightness into our retreat. Sometimes as adults we can become too serious, rigid, and somber. Children can be wonderful teachers in the art of lightening up and coming back to the present moment with joy and ease.