In one month from today,
I’ll turn forty.
Does that mean something?
I think it might.
I think it might mean
bidding a fond farewell to a decade of time
book-ended by zeros
and ushering in a new one,
as though it were a crisp,
unwrinkled, never worn gown
to slip into and dance on
endlessly into the night.
Everything that meant anything important
I’ve learned so far,
I’ve learned from unlearning something else.
Like how love means letting go
not holding on,
and a life filled with meaning
has little to do with money.
Or how kindness is a superpower
not a weakness,
and angling towards joy
doesn’t mean to ignore the darkness,
it means to not ignore the light.
I have inherited a body of knowledge
not my own –
a body of paper skin and earthen bones, too.
scarred, broken, perfect.
Did I mention perfect?
There is nothing on this splendid,
spinning, blue-green marble planet,
strung like a pearl on its cosmic necklace,
that wasn’t supposed to happen,
simply for the fact that it did.
If my years so far could be distilled
into one sentiment worth mentioning,
it would be this:
To live a well-contented life,
it’s crucial to stop fighting.
To stop fighting:
To stop fighting with the truth of how every single thing –
and every single one of us, our self included –
is of the nature to change.
Tag Archives: insight
Interloping flowers mixed with pines,
moisture soaked earth perfumed
Mormon Creek surges
rushing in my ears
eager to hear all they can of this place.
The forest is still,
steeped in an outer quietude
that translates inside,
where my heart beats with a fierceness
mirrored by the raging of fire
and glows with the luminosity
of 10,000 points of light.
And then there’s the settling –
once the trees penetrate the forest
of my armor and misgivings.
A calm that hushes the
swingings of thought
and presses pause on the ol’ to-do list,
in the most reasonable of ways.
And there’s never any doubt –
blatant or subtle –
that this interplay of self and nature
is anything other than right,
sensical, profound and sacred.
It’s never been – or ever will be –
a waste of time to ratchet down
and breathe among the trees,
where roots wind in sprawl underfoot
and plans become a thing to be had
some place else.
My tired eyes are propped open
held deliciously captive by
sprigs of budding growth,
and the greening underbelly
The Ninth Mindfulness Training: Truthful and Loving Speech
Aware that words can create happiness or suffering, we are committed to learning to speak truthfully, lovingly and constructively. We will use only words that inspire joy, confidence and hope as well as promote reconciliation and peace in ourselves and among other people. We will speak and listen in a way that can help ourselves and others to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. We are determined not to say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people, nor to utter words that might cause division or hatred. We will protect the happiness and harmony of our Sangha by refraining from speaking about the faults of other persons in their absence and always ask ourselves whether our perceptions are correct. We will speak only with the intention to understand and help transform the situation. We will not spread rumors nor criticize or condemn things of which we are not sure. We will do our best to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may make difficulties for us or threaten our safety.
I’ve been reading the Ninth Mindfulness Training every day for the past week, as part of a ongoing practice I’ve been doing with a friend of mine. And in rare form, I don’t feel as though I have much to say in added commentary in regards to this training. What I can say is this: I am committed to embodying this training as much as I possible can, for the sake of all beings (myself included). And, I’m a work in progress for sure.
This has been one of my very favorite passages to read from our Plum Village chanting book as of late and I wanted to share it. A big thank you to my friends at the Still Water Sangha in Minnesota for posting this on their blog, so I didn’t have to type it all out myself :)
Excerpt from “Chanting from the Heart” by Thich Nhat Hanh
Sitting here in this moment, protected by the Sangha,
my happiness is clear and alive.
What a great fortune to have been born a human,
to encounter the Dharma,
to be in harmony of others,
and to water the Mind of Love
in this beautiful garden of practice.
The energies of the Sangha and mindfulness trainings
are protecting and helping me not make mistakes
or be swept along in darkness by unwholesome seeds.
With kind spiritual friends, I am on the path of goodness,
illuminated by the light of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
Although seeds of suffering are still in me
in the form of afflictions and habit energies,
mindfulness is also there, helping me touch
what is most wonderful within and around me.
I can still enjoy mindfulness of the six senses:
my eyes look peacefully upon the clear blue sky,
my ears listen with wonder to the songs of birds,
my nose smells the rich scent of sandalwood,
my tongue tastes the nectar of the Dharma,
my posture is upright, stable and relaxed,
and my mind is one with my body.
If there were not a World-Honored One,
if there were not the wonderful Dharma,
if there were not a harmonious Sangha,
I would not be so fortunate
to enjoy this Dharma happiness today.
My resources for practice are my own peace and joy.
I vow to cultivate and nourish them with daily mindfulness.
For my ancestors, family, future generations,
and the whole of humanity, I vow to practice well.
In my society I know that there are countless people suffering,
drowned in sensual pleasure, jealousy, and hatred.
I am determined to take care of my own mental formations,
to learn the art of deep listening and using loving speech
in order to encourage communication and understanding
and to be able to accept and love.
Practicing the actions of a bodhisattva,
I vow to look with eyes of love and a heart of understanding.
I vow to listen with a clear mind and ears of compassion,
bringing peace and joy unto the lives of others,
to lighten and alleviate the suffering of living beings.
I am aware that ignorance and wrong perceptions
can turn this world into a fiery hell.
I vow to walk always upon the path of transformation,
producing understanding and loving kindness.
I will be able to cultivate a garden of awakening.
Although there are birth, sickness, old age, and death,
now I have a path of practice, I have nothing more to fear.
It is a great happiness to be alive in the Sangha
with the practice of mindfulness trainings and concentration,
to live every moment in stability and freedom
to take part in the work of relieving others’ suffering,
the career of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
In each precious moment, I am filled with deep gratitude.
I bow before the World-Honored One.
Please bear witness to my wholehearted gratitude,
embracing all beings with arms of great compassion.
Recap of the Five Bodhisattvas most common in our Plum Village Tradition:
Avalokiteshvara: Bodhi. of Great Compassion
Manjushri: Bodhi. of Great Understanding
Samantabhadra: Bodhi. of Great Action
Kshitigarbha: Bodhi. of Great Aspiration
Sadaparibhuta: Bodhi. of Never Disparaging
We invoke your name, Sadaparibhuta. We aspire to learn your way of never doubting or underestimating any living being. With great respect, you say to all you meet, “You are someone of great value, you have Buddha nature, I see this potential in you.” Like you, we will look with a wise, compassionate gaze, so we are able to hold up a mirror where others can see their ultimate nature reflected. We will remind people who feel worthless that they too are a precious wonder of life. We vow to water only the positive seeds in ourselves and in others, so that our thoughts, words, and actions can encourage confidence and self-acceptance in ourselves, our children, our loved ones, and in everyone we meet. Inspired by the great faith and insight that everyone is Buddha, we will practice your way of patience and inclusiveness so we can liberate ourselves from ignorance and misunderstanding, and offer freedom, peace, and joy to ourselves, to others and to our society.
I appreciate the mention of how looking with a wise, compassionate gaze is what enables us to hold up a mirror for others to see themselves more clearly – it doesn’t say: verbally tell others how you think they should change/aren’t doing it “right.” No one likes being judged.
Pondering: how would/do I remind those who feel worthless that they too are a precious wonder of life? I think my main go-to would be in the offering of my time and full presence and in my propensity for reaching out to others. Those who feel worthless tend to feel lonely and neglected; unseen. I’ve learned over the years that my true presence and my time are the greatest gifts I have to offer to others. I don’t have to do anything but simply show up and be there, in mind, body, and spirit.
There is a deep well of collective sorrow in regards to feelings of worthlessness. Many/most people lack self-esteem, self-worth, self-love. I feel as though culturally, we’re at a critical low point in terms of self-value. The watering of negative seeds is so incredibly pervasive. Individually and collectively, we need to learn and practice how to water positive seeds, so that our confidence and self-acceptance can grow and strengthen.
I doubt and underestimate people frequently. Mostly strangers; those I don’t have a personal connection with. Judgements of character, disposition, and values come swiftly for me – for all us I reckon. Sometimes it happens in a split second.
Case and point: last night, I attended The Moth storytelling event at the Wilma. As soon as a new storyteller appeared on stage, I’d made up my mind as to whether or not I liked them. And since this was a conscious happening, I then observed and investigated my inner workings around the judgements that arose. While my findings weren’t new, they were still helpful all the same. I doubt and underestimate people who are overly emotive/expressive/dramatic; those I perceive as emanating a certain airy vibe; and those who dress in certain ways (which I’m not sure quite how to describe – it’s one of those things where I just know it when I see it). And while it pains me to say, I tend to doubt and underestimate womenfolk much more readily than menfolk.
I’ve noticed that when I consciously engage with my judgements in the moments when they arise, I am able to work with them constructively and it greatly increases my ability to infuse understanding and compassion into the situation and change my initial assessment of the other person into one that more accurately reflects who they are.
Last night, I watched the film The 5 Powers, which is based off of the comic book I’m holding in the pic above (or vice versa, I’m not sure :).
The 5 Powers film is about Thich Nhat Hanh (TNH), Sister Chan Kong, and Alfred Hassler and their involvement in the peace movement back in the 60’s. I really enjoyed it and felt they did a nice job crafting it together. I plan on showing it to the kids who will be attending our upcoming local spring family retreat, as I think they’ll also enjoy it.
If you’re looking for a mindful movie you can watch solo, with your friends, or with your kids, I’d recommend checking this one out!
We invoke your name, Kshitigarbha. We aspire to learn your way of being present where there is darkness, suffering, oppression, and despair, so we can bring light, hope, relief, and liberation to those places. We are determined not to forget about or abandon those in desperate situations. We will do our best to establish contact with those who cannot find a way out of their suffering, those whose cries for help, justice, equality, and human rights are not being heard. We know that hell can be found in many places on Earth. We will do our best not to contribute to creating more hells on Earth, and to help transform the hells that already exist. We will practice in order to realize the qualities of perseverance and stability, so that, like the Earth, we can always be supportive and faithful to those in need.
The first thing that comes up for me around this verse is that as practitioners, we must be deeply in touch with our own self, in order to determine where our balance is in regards to being in touch with those who suffer. Learning and practicing to take good care of our self must be the first priority. If we attempt to try to be in touch with the suffering of others but are personally experiencing an imbalance of mind/body/spirit, it would not be beneficial to the other person or to our self. I think this is implied in this verse, however it is not directly addressed or spoken to.
There are many ways to be in touch with those who suffer. As the Fourth of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, entitled: Awareness of Suffering, states: …We are committed to finding ways, including personal contact and using telephone, electronic, audiovisual, and other means, to be with those who suffer…
For my own practice of staying in touch with the suffering of others, I volunteer with hospice and meet with patients every week; I intentionally watch documentaries that are centered around heart-heavy topics or that highlight hardship stories; I read news articles that are especially challenging and difficult to read, centered around trauma, mental illness, and matters concerning inequality; and I currently have a pen pal in prison who I stay in close contact with via letters. And, I am careful not to engage in such documentaries/news stories when I am not feeling well-balanced and stable in mind and heart. So I practice to stay in close relationship with myself, as some days I need to focus more on self-care and wellness vs. being in touch with the suffering of someone else. So for me it’s important to routinely and continually check in with myself, so that I know what I have to offer and when. It’s very easy to over-extend myself in this regard – and to put tending to others above my own self-care.
One of my guiding life mottos that I remind myself often of is: There is only so much time in the day. In relation to this verse on being present where there is darkness, it means that I must be careful not to get caught thinking that I need to step into ALL the darkness, ALL the ares of oppression, suffering, and despair. I used to have a world savior complex back in my teens and early 20’s – activism-minded – and I am not interested in reverting back to that.
I also find it really helpful to keep fresh in mind how wonderful it is that we have a world filled with so many people who gravitate towards different areas of need. I am only one person – and there’s both a lot I can do and only so much I can do. We all dig the well in different spots – and thank goodness for that.
1. How would you summarize this verse in your own words?
We aspire to do our best not to turn a blind eye towards matters of suffering and to keep our own practice strong, in order to be of support to others.
2. What do you see as being your own strengths and weaknesses in relation to the qualities of this Bodhisattva?
Strength: I feel as though I do pretty well in practicing to stay in touch with matters concerning suffering while also keeping an eye on my own balance, so as not to over-extend myself. For the most part I know what my limits are. Weakness: Sometimes I try to offer support to friends who are really struggling but I do so with an energy of “I’m going to save them!” and it isn’t what is most beneficial to them – or to me. People who are suffering may not be ready to transform and heal, no matter how much I may want to help them. Sometimes I can push too much. I recently watched a talk by a doctor as part of an online wellness summit and he said that his motto is to help only those who are swimming towards him, verses trying to go after all the people he saw and felt were struggling but ultimately weren’t ready to start healing. He said when he used to do that, it was a waste of time and energy, for him and the other person. I can still get stuck in trying to help those who aren’t swimming towards me.
3. What is something you’ve gleaned by reflecting on this Bodhisattva this past week?
What came up for me was the reminder of how important it is to 1. Be in close relationship with myself in order to know where my limits are in regards to delving into matters of injustice, suffering, and the desperate situations of others, so as not to lose myself and become overwhelmed and 2. To diligently dig the well in the places I can and know that I cannot dig all the wells in all the places; to draw from the Serenity Prayer: to accept the things I cannot change, have the courage to change the things that I can, and develop the wisdom to know the difference.