Why I Practice

Why do I practice? And more specifically: Why do I practice in this Plum Village mindfulness tradition, in all the ways that I do?

Why I do see fit to attend retreats, spend time at Deer Park Monastery, sit for 30-minutes in meditation each morning, show up to my weekly sangha every Monday night, read sutras, chant, and spend hours each week tending to our local and statewide sanghas and mindfulness center’s business turnings? Why do I put so much attention, effort, care, and diligence into developing and strengthening the seeds of mindfulness, joy, ease, liberation, and heartfulness in my daily life?

For me, the spirit of these questions is worth while to to keep alive and answer periodically from time to time.

Right now, here in this moment, I am inspired to answer in two different ways: a practical way and a poetic way.

First, the practical way:

I practice because I feel nourished and supported by my teachers, the dharma, and the sangha. I practice because even when it’s hard, it feels like the right thing to be doing. I practice because I am able to see the fruits that develop and strengthen in my daily life as a result of my efforts, such as growing my capacity for being more kind, caring, present, connected, open, and understanding. I practice because I know life would be hell if I didn’t. I practice in the interest of life being precious and time being short. I practice because I want to help support and care well for others and I see clearly that in order to do that, my own well-being must be continuously maintained and protected. I practice because this tradition brings me to a vibrant, joyful, and grounded frame of mind, body, and heart, over and over again.

And now the poetic response:

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My two new practices from 2018 (part 2 of 2)

The second new mindfulness practice I added into my routine this past year was centered around words. I’ll explain.

Every year for the past 10 years or so, as I mentioned recently in my post entitled Into the Woods, my husband Mike and I – and sometimes friends – have been going hot springing on Christmas Day. While soaking on Christmas Day in 2017, accompanied by our friends Marko and Jeff, Mike came up with a group question for us all to answer: What’s your favorite word? After quickly deciding that choosing our favorite word was too big a task, we revamped the question a bit: What’s ONE of your favorite words?

Let’s see if I can remember them. Mine was falderal, which means nonsense, and is apparently so seldom used that WordPress has seen fit to underline it in red as I’m typing, indicating that I’ve made a tragic spelling error (though of course that won’t translate on your end, dear reader). Marko’s was detritus, which is the term for small particles of rock or other earthly debris. I’m afraid I don’t recall Mike and Jeff’s.

After that, Marko and I continued this word sharing thread, as both he and I are writers and enjoy words. We started emailing each other a word of the day, though it was more like once or twice a week to start and then less frequently as time went on. Only mid-way through the year did I start keeping track of the words we would send to each other back and forth. Here are a few of my favorite ones:

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My two new practices from 2018 (part 1 of 2)

Every January, for the past few years, in an effort to keep my practice fresh, vibrant, and strong, I’ve come up with 2-3 new mindfulness-based practices in which to enfold into my daily/weekly life throughout the year. For me, these new practices each year serve as the ultimate homage to the tag line of this blog, the URL of my website, and my social media namesakes on Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube: In Mindful Motion.

As I don’t think I’ve made much reference to them here over the course of the past calendar year, I thought I’d take the opportunity to do so, as 2018 comes to a close.

This past year, I’ve had two new practices. The first of which is shown above (my second practice will be fleshed out in a part 2 post). Inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and coming across his set of Thirteen Virtues, which he formulated at age 20 in 1726 as a system to help him develop his character, I came up with a similar approach to the charts he made for himself in order to help keep track of his progress.

 

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On Diligence

From the blog post of: https://stillwatersanghamn.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/right-diligence/

Excerpt from a Dharma Talk by Thich Nhat Hanh, June 11, 2009.

I prefer the term right diligence rather than right effort. Making efforts can make you tired, but when you are diligent, you don’t need to be tired.

I don’t want intensive practice, I want regular practice, diligent practice. There are those of us who practice very intensively for a few weeks and then after that abandon the practice. But there are those of us who practice regularly, not intensive but continuously, that will bring good results. That is why I prefer the word diligence.

Why do you continue to do it? Because I like it. That is a good answer. Because I enjoy doing that. That applies to the practice. If you don’t enjoy the practice you have to make an effort, you get tired, and finally you abandon the practice.

You continue to do it because you like it. It is not because you have to do it. Why did you practice sitting meditation. The best answer is: because I like it. Why do you practice walking meditation? Because I like it. . . .

That is true diligence, right diligence. We know that right diligence brings well-being. The practices of mindful walking, mindful breathing, smiling, bring well-being, happiness.

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There’s a very good reason as to why the quality of diligence is included in the Eightfold Path, the Five Powers, the Six Paramitas, AND the Seven Factors of Awakening in Buddhism. It speaks to the power of its incredible importance. Diligence is a critical component of developing a strong spiritual practice (whatever spiritual practice/religion we resonate with). And not just any kind of diligence, right diligence.

This morning, I was listening to a talk online by Sister Hoi Nghiem in our Plum Village tradition. She spoke about spiritual bypassing and described it as such: spiritual bypassing means that we think that we are practicing but actually we are not. She went on to say that if continue to run away from our suffering that we will never learn how to understand it, which is what is necessary in order to transform it.

The Sister is talking about right diligence. If we consider ourselves to be a practitioner in the Plum Village mindfulness tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh (TNH), we must cultivate right diligence in our daily lives, on a number of levels.

As the founder and program director of a weekly sangha, Be Here Now, since 2002, I have had the pleasure and fortune of being in continuous contact and relationship with many folks over our 16+ years of operation. One thing that has become clear to me is that the usage of the word diligence makes people shutter and scrunch their foreheads in mild to wild pangs of disapproval. Diligence is NOT sexy. If people are asking for suggestions or advice in relation to their practice and I use the word diligence at any point, the chances are good that they will mentally gloss right over that word and not allow it to penetrate and absorb. Or worse, they might just high-tail it to some other tradition or practice that doesn’t put emphasis on that quality all together.

As an aspiring Dharma-teacher-in-training, I am invested in finding creative approaches to such common obstacles and dilemmas. I am forever investigating for myself how to go about offering teachings in such a way that won’t send people off in an agitated huffy state of mind, body, and heartspace. Words matter. And I am interested in finding ways to talk about such things as diligence in modern ways and vernacular that maximizes approachability and minimizes the scare-factor.

As a student of Thay’s (aka TNH), I especially look to his teachings on this subject matter, to help inform me in the unfolding process of finding my own voice as a budding teacher:

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Paper Forms of Connection

Perched in our kitchen is this magnet board that Mike and I made when we did our renovation a couple of years ago. It was our creative solution for covering over the large electrical panel that resides front and center on that section of open wall space.

During the holiday season, it turns delightfully into a posting board of love, as it becomes decorated with the cards sent and given to us by our friends & family.

It used to be that my dis-ease with the waste of paper resources outweighed my enjoyment of receiving holidays cards – but thankfully the tides have shifted and I’ve come to understand the great importance of these paper forms of connection and care.

And this year it even prompted me to grow our magnet stash :)

Into the Woods


On the trail to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs, Idaho. Dec 25th, 2018

 

Yesterday, while Mike and I were hiking through the woods amid the winter wonderland-scape en route to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs, we were trying to figure out how many years we’ve been upholding the tradition of hot springing on Christmas Day. The best we could figure is that it’s been around 10 years.

Here’s to having lovely holiday traditions that allow our hearts to crack open just a little bit more with every passing.

I’ve walked these woods
10,000 times,
carried them with me
through every turning of day
and maturation of thought

I’ve made use of their good tidings
as cordage to anchor me home

and when storms have raged,
as they have tendency to do,
I’ve held firm to their wisdom
of  resiliency and strength,
so that I may learn
when to sway
and when to shed

 

P.S

I made a 6-minute video montage of our excursion yesterday – here it is! (And it’s set to my newest favorite song: Trevor Hall’s You Can’t Rush Your Healing.)

 

 

An Ushering Forward

December 2018

End of year letter of support & encouragement and an ushering in of 2019

offered by Nicole Dunn, BHN Founder & Program Director

 

The ticking of the clock is real, dear friends. The incessant chattering of time and the accompanying approach of growing older are a thing – a thing not to fear and run panic-stricken into the streets mind you, but a thing to keep closeful watch over, so as not to fritter our time away on trinkets of thought and harmful actions, in the interest of time being short and life being precious.

We are ripe with excuses to run, to hide, to distract our attention away from what is true and present and even good. We know what medicine we would do well to take yet we do not take it. We stand anchored in our own way, unable to move past our own barrier of self.

It is important to hold time in our peripheral vision; to know it is there like a friend reminding us to live and love well every chance we get. Still we mustn’t be beholden to it. We mustn’t listen to every tick, tick, ticking like a time bomb about to explode. We must allow it to inform our path forward without putting it in charge of dictating where we go. We must regard it as sunset or rise and greet it warmly with reverence, knowing we cannot hold onto it or make it last.

With a tender ushering, as though we were to sway a fragile bud to open, we can learn what it really means to Be Here Now, with all of the beauty and messiness that it entails.

We must learn and practice to live a non-fiction life – to let go of all that is not serving us well, largely: the notion that this moment should be some other moment. For our romantic partner to be some other partner – our job to be some other job – our bank account to be some other bank account – the landscape outside our window to be some other landscape – the weather (exterior or interior) to be some other weather – our hardship to be some other hardship.

As we embark upon the new year, let us stretch into our discomforts. Let us unfurl just a little bit, into those places we avoid like the plague. Let us dance wide in the joyful field of our heartspace, but not as though no one is watching. Dance wide as though everyone is dancing with you, because they are.

 

Breathing & Smiling,

Nicole Dunn

Chān Diêu Hoa,

True Wonderful Flower