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Diversity Trainings

The Seven Trainings in Diversity
Written by Larry Yang in “Friends on the Path”, by Thich Nhat Hanh, compiled by Jack Lawlor, published in 2002.

Intro:

The practice of these trainings is an opportunity to begin the journey towards narrowing the experience of separation. As humans, we all participate in the harmful behaviors that these trainings are addressing. We all have been the perpetrator and victim, at one time or another. These trainings are for all of us, not just for any particular group or community.

The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings of Thich Nhat Hanh were an invaluable inspiration and nourishment of these trainings in diversity. Thich Nhat Hanh has written: “Many of today’s problems did not exist at the time of the Buddha. Therefore, we have to look deeply together in order to develop the insights that will help us and our children find better ways to live wholesome, happy, and healing lives.” This encouragement and suggestion becomes especially important with issues of diversity.

The invitation offered is to begin by transforming a piece of oppression, rather than being intimidated by the vastness of its suffering. The concept of “practice” presents itself as an incremental and cumulative process. The practice of diversity is also such a process. The hope is that this process can invite us into taking important steps in transforming our experience with oppression in deep and meaningful way.

(This intro was shortened from one that Larry Yang wrote himself)

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1. Aware of the suffering caused by imposing one’s own opinions or cultural beliefs upon another human being, I undertake the training to refrain from forcing others, in any way – through authority, threat, financial incentive, or indoctrination – to adopt my own belief system. I commit to respecting every human being’s right to be different, while working towards the elimination of sufferings of all beings.

2. Aware of the suffering caused by invalidating or denying another person’s experience, I undertake the trainings to refrain from making assumptions or judging harshly any beliefs and attitudes that are different or not understandable from my own. I commit to being open minded and accepting of other points of view, and I commit to meeting each perceived difference in another person with kindness, respect, and a willingness to learn more about their worldview.

3. Aware of the suffering caused by the violence of treating someone as inferior or superior to one’s own self, I undertake the training to refrain from diminishing or idealizing the work, integrity, and happiness of any human being. Recognizing that my true nature is not separate from others, I commit to teaching each person that comes into my consciousness with the same loving kindness, care, and equanimity that I would bestow upon a beloved benefactor or dear friend.

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.

5. Aware of the suffering caused by the often unseen nature of privilege, and the ability of privilege to benefit a select population over others, I undertake the training to refrain from exploiting any person or group, in any way including economically, sexually, intellectually, or culturally. I commit to examine with wisdom and clear comprehension the ways that I have privilege in order to determine skillful ways of using privilege for the benefit of all beings, and I commit to the practice of generosity in all aspects of my life and towards all human beings, regardless of cultural, ethnic, racial, sexual age, physical, or economic differences.

6. Aware of the suffering caused to myself and others by fear and anger during conflict or disagreement, I undertake the training to refrain from reacting defensively, using harmful speech because I feel injured, or using language or cognitive argument to justify my sense of rightness. I commit to communicate and express myself mindfully, speaking truthfully from my heart with patience and compassion. I commit to practice genuine and deep listening to all sides of a dispute, and to remain in contact with my highest intentions of recognizing the Buddha nature within all beings.

7. Aware of the suffering caused by the ignorance of misinformation and the lack of information that aggravate fixed views, stereotypes, the stigmatizing of a human being as ‘other’, and the marginalization of cultural groups, I undertake the training to educate myself about other cultural attitudes, worldviews, ethnic traditions, and life experiences outside of my own. I commit to be curious with humility and openness, to recognize with compassion the experience of suffering in all beings, and to practice sympathetic joy when encountering the many different cultural expressions of happiness and celebration around the world.

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On Global Warming

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I’m entering a topic where when I searched online for images to accompany a post pertaining to it, I was accosted with pictures of the earth engulfed in violent flames, sad looking arctic animals stranded on frozen chunks of ice bobbing in the sea, and giant smoke stacks belching out plumes of exhaust. But amid all of the alarming and heart-wrenching images, I found this one, shown above, which I greatly prefer. I also think this image has the capacity to possibly motivate and support people, rather than just scare the crap out of them, which is a bonus.

I’ve purposefully avoided this topic, much like one would avoid the plague. Anything having to do with the word “activism” scares me. Right or wrong, and probably a bit of both, when I think of activism, centered around any topic, I immediately think of angry-ridden crowds, shouting and shaking their rock-fists in the air at some invisible collective entity that they’ve obsessively devoted their lives to hating passionately, and short-shortsightedly. This does not appeal to me in the slightest. Now, of course, there are those who would consider themselves an activist who are not filled with a boiling surge of rancor and enmity. I just happen to leave out this demographic of folks when conjuring up my idea of what an activist would look like. It’s similar to when I clean the house without wearing my glasses (I have very poor vision without them) – I do a half-ass job in addressing the art of cleanliness because I’m only taking the time to look at a fraction of the task at hand. In my defense, the house looks super clean after I’m finished, glasses-less of course.

When I think of the topic of global warming part of me shuts down. I start tuning out right away because I’m not interested in engaging in someone’s endless tirade about the accredited science, either for or against it, or how we should all be throwing ourselves in front of the freight trains hauling long trails of coal-filled containers through our mountain town of Missoula, Montana. And in all honesty, I’m not convinced there’s a whole lot that we can really do to stop the process of global warming. This is because that is, as a common Buddhist teaching puts it. Perhaps we’re simply not meant to continue on the way we’ve been and perhaps that means we can make a global shift in thinking and acting and perhaps it means the end of our particular way of life. Who knows?

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Fortunate Ones

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Yesterday after work I went to our local organic market to pick up some food for dinner.  While in the checkout line the cashier asked me what I was up to and I replied by saying that I had just gotten off from work and was getting food for dinner.  “So, your day is picking up then,” he remarked.  In that instance it occurred to me that there was a teaching moment, of sorts, at hand.  I replied by saying, “Well, actually I enjoy my job.”  After a brief pause, as if processing an unexpected answer, he said, “You’re very fortunate.  I like my job and all but if I were given the choice I’d prefer not to work.”

I found it an interesting exchange.  In assuming that my workday being over was the equivalent of my day improving he was projecting his notions of happiness onto me.  In telling me I was fortunate that I enjoyed my job I also got the sense that he held the belief that I must have some kind of rare, coveted position that was inherently wonderful.  I don’t imagine that it ever occurred to him that I practice the art of enjoyment, that I put diligent effort everyday into this practice, and that true happiness is only possible in the here and now.  Our collective idea about happiness is that it awaits us in the future, always in the future, when things align in all the ways we want them to.  The trouble is that once we reach that future point our ideas about happiness change and it leaps further down the road.  Our conventional ideas about happiness are illusory and oftentimes keep us stuck in patterns that are of little or no benefit to our own well being.

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Posted by on February 10, 2015 in Everyday Practice

 

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Deer Park, Day Nine

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Deer Park, Day Nine

(written on Sunday January 19th)

4:14pm.

Today we had our open community mindfulness day starting at 9:00am.  Many people attended today, even more than last Sunday.  Perhaps around 100 or more!  We began the mindfulness day with outdoor walking meditation followed by listening to a dharma talk by one of the brothers in the big hall.  Here are some notes from his talk:

When we sit (in meditation) we should sit like we’re sitting in a spring breeze.  We let go of our preoccupations and relax the body and enjoy sitting without making an effort.  Sitting, smiling, and being present, that is the practice.  It is not so easy to be with our breath and our steps in the present moment because our minds are caught in the past or the future.  Our practice is to come back home to our body and to our five skandhas: form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness.  

Just like our breath takes no effort, we don’t need to make an effort to sit.  We let mother earth sit for us, to breathe for us.  The practice of no practice.  Allow the sitting and breathing to take place, simply be present.  The healing will happen. 

Large Meditation Hall, Deer Park Monastery

Large Meditation Hall, Deer Park Monastery

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Posted by on February 17, 2014 in Deer Park Monastery

 

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Daily Practice – Day 4

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Day 4 – After my sitting period I read the remainder of the 14 Mindfulness Trainings, in the Order of Interbeing.  I formally received the 14 Mindfulness Trainings in 2007 in a ceremony by Thich Nhat Hanh but seldom read through them.  I often read through the 5 Mindfulness Trainings and it is often said that the 5 are in the 14 and the 14 are in the 5.  So when I am reading one set I am also reading both sets.  The mindfulness trainings are a set of buddhist ethics that we can cultivate in our daily lives in order to live a more awakened, mindful and compassionate life.  They are not religious in nature and therefore many people from differing backgrounds opt to formally receive the 5 Trainings in a ceremony with the support of a dharma teacher and the sangha (community).  At most local retreats here in the states, based in the Thich Nhat Hanh tradition, there is an opportunity at the end of each retreat to formally receive the 5 Mindfulness Trainings from the dharma teacher who is leading the retreat.  It is a wonderful practice to personally commit to a more holistic and skillful path.

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