The good ole days are happening right now and the answer to every question is: It depends.
I feel as though the above declaration could serve as an incredibly rich and powerful guiding statement to life. It pretty much sums things up. Life. The pursuit of whatever it is we’re looking for.
If we can crack open our hearts and know with every tendril of our understanding that this moment is it – if we can expand our consciousness to the point of embracing the truth of there being no one right way to do anything or be in the world – then we’ll find ourselves in the midst of living a full blown good life, the best life.
The best time of our lives doesn’t have to have happened already – it doesn’t have to get regulated to sometime down the road in the future. The best time of our lives really can be right now, today. With our thoughts we make the world, as the Buddha said.
If you think your life sucks, then it does. If you think your life is good, then it is. If you think you have great abundance beyond measure – that every day is a gift bestowed upon you – then the freedom to enjoy each moment is boundless.
And, it doesn’t hurt if every once in a while you find yourself wearing matching chicken hats with your cat, too. Just sayin’.
The best definition I found for the word “sovereignty” is stated in the image above: autonomous; free from external control. I’ve been resonating with this word over the past year and find that my personal sovereignty is developing and deepening along with my mindfulness practice, as they seem to go hand-in-hand.
I’m finding that the state of sovereignty is much like the state of joy in that when I talk about it people inquire further, not knowing how to develop such qualities of being. So, this is my first attempt at trying to put into words what this particular characteristic is about, from my own experience that is.
Sovereignty, in regards to oneself, is about having a strong and unwavering sense of self-reliance, internal direction, and self-assurance (in a humble and well-grounded fashion) – it’s about taking and claiming full and total responsibility for one’s own quality of life and state of being. To summarize, sovereignty is about being at home with yourself wherever you go, regardless of outer circumstances. And this is the crux of Thich Nhat Hanh’s mindfulness tradition: to come back home to ourselves in the here and now, with joy and ease, so that we can then be of service and benefit to others.
Developing our own sovereignty is not about disconnecting from others or regarding ourselves as superior or becoming a “lone wolf.” It’s about being able to depend and trust in our capacity to generate joyfulness and solidity no matter where we are or who we’re with – to befriend and keep good company with our own selves and emanate that outwards, un-tethered from the clutches of self-consciousness, self-judgement, and self-doubt. It’s a state born from mindfulness, concentration, insight, and diligent practice.
I’ve often mentioned my interest in breaking down mindfulness/Buddhist-based teachings in order to make them more palatable and practical so that they might become more applicable to a wider demographic of people, especially those who are looking for more straight-forward “how-to” guidance. So with that in mind, what are some actions we can take to actually practice the development of sovereignty? Let’s see what I can come up with:
“You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour. And there are things to be considered . . .
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.”
Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, “This could be a good time!”
“There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are torn apart and will suffer greatly.
“Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water. And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
“The time for the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from you attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
— attributed to an unnamed Hopi elder
In the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, the three jewels in Buddhism (the buddha, the dharma, and the sangha) are emphasized not as something outside of ourselves. We are encouraged instead to practice taking refuge in them from deep within our own being. In this spirit, I have written the following verses, which may serve as a guide on our path of practice:
Taking refuge in the Buddha in myself – the one who shows me the way in this life – I am committed to cultivating mindfulness, concentration, and insight in order to strengthen my sovereignty, stability, ease, and joy. I will be diligent in continuously training in the art of knowing, befriending, and caring well for myself with kindness.
Taking refuge in the Dharma in myself – the way of understanding and love – I am committed to cultivating skillful and useful thoughts, speech, and actions in order to create as little harm as possible for myself, others, and the Earth. I will be diligent in continuously training in the art of developing, deepening, and extending compassion towards all beings.
Taking refuge in the Sangha in myself – the community that lives in harmony and awareness – I am committed to cultivating the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood in order to move beautifully into the future. I will be diligent in continuously training in the art of relationship building, firm in the understanding of how our inter-connectedness navigates our path in practice and in life.
When we “practice wholeheartedly, we ourselves may become an inexhaustible source of peace and joy for our loved ones and for all species.” And this is my fervent hope.
For the purposes of this particular post, I plan on focusing on Diversity Training #4 – to read all 7 of the Diversity Trainings, please click here: https://goingoutwordsandinwords.wordpress.com/?s=diversity+trainings. Our local sangha, Be Here Now, which meets on Monday nights at the Open Way Mindfulness Center here in Missoula, MT, has taken up the 7 Diversity Trainings as a 7-month series. Once a month, on the first Monday, we have a different sangha member give a short talk on one of the trainings, and then we open up for community sharing centered around whichever training we’re on. Tonight, we’ll be on #4.
I only recently became aware of these Diversity Trainings this past January, so I am still getting familiar with each of them and forming my own relationship to them. As a writer, what better way is there to foster this relationship than by writing about it?!
Diversity Training #4:
Aware of the suffering caused by intentional or unintentional acts of rejection, exclusion, avoidance, or indifference towards people who are culturally, physically, sexually, or economically different from me, I undertake the training to refrain from isolating myself to people of similar backgrounds as myself and from being only with people who make me feel comfortable. I commit to searching out ways to diversify my relationships and increase my sensitivity towards people of different cultures, ethnicities, sexual orientations, ages, physical abilities, genders, and economic means.