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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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The Same & Different

I’ve been thinking lately about the importance of recognizing and holding both elements of sameness & non-sameness, when it comes to our relationships and interactions with others. Too often, we’re stuck in operating from the perspective of either one OR the other, rather than being able to blend both together. In other words, we either think: Yes, we’re all the same! We all have the same woes and struggles and the same desire to be happy. There is no separation. Or, we think: I’m right and that dude’s wrong! I’m like this and that person is like that and we’re on opposite/opposing sides, we are sooo different.

I feel as though this is a tricky topic to address. Many of the teachings foundational to mindfulness, or the Buddha, are of a rather complex nature and extremely easy to misunderstand or misinterpret. One of the biggest factors in this complexity is our western mindset. Our common cultural tendencies for goal-setting, intellectual processing, needing to see results, and our propensity for ego development, mental dispersion, and emotional disconnect. All of that is to say: This post might be a bit of a schlog to read, for a few different reasons.

I’m reminded of a great quote from Albert Einstein: If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. I love this insight and try to keep it in mind when writing, giving a talk, offering a consult, or helping to lead or guide a group. This post, however, may wind up being a clear indication that I need to further my understanding :)

Let’s see if I can whittle it down: If we think we are all ONLY the same, we lose sight of the variety of experiences, causes, and conditions that impact and affect others. If we think we are all ONLY different, we lose sight of our shared humanity, and reduce greatly our capacity for developing understanding and compassion. Hmm. That actually turned out pretty well as a simplified account of my own thoughts around this particular subject.

Non-duality is rather a tangled mess for our western minds to wrap themselves around. To deeply understand that life rarely, if ever, consists of a “this” or “that” arrangement takes a fair amount of time and practice, in order to untangle our thick web of misperceptions. We have a wealth of strongly held notions in regards to the many pairs of duality that we often get so stuck and mired down in: right/wrong, good/bad, yes/no, republican/democrat, happy/sad, same/different. In reality, the truth of life’s very essence most often resides in a mixture of both dualistic pairs happening at the same time. Rather than a situation or occurrence fitting neatly into the box labeled “right” or “wrong” the chances are more likely that it could fit into both boxes, simultaneously.

Ah, the great confusing beauty of the teachings around non-duality!

 
 

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Middle Way

A few days ago I received a message on Facebook, notifying me that a friend of mine had mentioned me in a comment. When I clicked through, to find out what it was regarding, I read the following post, from a local wilderness group:

With warmer weather already here, or just around the corner, this is a good reminder from Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“Some people stack rocks…as a form of meditation. Some do it and call it art. More often than not, it makes for a neat Instagram picture and is never thought of again.

But what you may not realize is that stacking river rocks is doing serious damage to the delicate river ecosystem. And it’s not just cairns, the same goes for moving rocks and creating dams to make chutes or pools in a stream for tubing. Aquatic plants and animals make their homes on, under, and around these rocks. Some of the 68 species of fish in the park build their nests in small cavities under rocks. When people move the rocks, the nest is destroyed and the eggs and young fish die.”

#KeepItWild

My friend, knowing of my love for building cairns, then commented on this post with: Nicole Dunn uh-oh!

For a few minutes I thought about whether it would be worth my replying to her comment, or if it was better to simply let it go and not say anything. I decided I did want to voice my opinion, so here’s what I posted in response:

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Things Can Change Quickly

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A few days ago I posted an entry entitled: Things Take Time.  This entry may seem to counter that post but really it’s a matter of the This AND That teaching on non-duality.  It recently occurred to me that things do take time AND things can change quickly too.

Where it is most evident to me that things can change quickly is in my daily reading of local and world news.  And while on a bigger picture scale (Buddhist psychology would call it the ultimate dimension) even the things that are seemingly changing quickly involve a compilation of choices, experiences, and time lines playing out, on a smaller localized level (the historical dimension) life can be altered dramatically in the blink of an eye.

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Non-Duality

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“All of you are perfect just as you are and you could use a little improvement.”  – Shunryu Suzuki-roshi (1905 – 1971)

I’m pretty sure I’ve shared this quote before on my blog but the way I figure it, when it comes to deep and important teachings, you can’t really hear them enough.  In my experience understanding teachings is a long process.  And the more “simple” the teaching appears the more complex the understanding process gets.  It is quite easy to say to ourselves, “Yeah, yeah, that makes sense, I get it, and I totally do that already,” when really we have very little concept of a certain teaching.  Just because we hear something and absorb it on an intellectual level does not necessarily mean we absorb it on an emotional level and know how to actually put it into practice in our everyday lives.

The above quote by Suzuki-roshi is one of my favorites.  It speaks to the heart of our human condition and to the root of our struggle.  For better AND for worse our collective society is very dualistic in nature.  What this means is that we function in an EITHER/OR manner.  For instance: people are either good OR bad, we feel either happy OR sad, life is either black OR white, decisions made are either wrong OR right.  We can get terribly confused when it comes to teachings on non-duality, which involves the practice of seeing things as part of BOTH sides, not just one or the other.

What Suzuki-roshi is encouraging us to practice is seeing that in this very moment, with this very breath, we are all both perfect AND in need of improvement.  When we get caught in duality in regards to this teaching we can become very off balance and cause a lot of distress for ourselves and others.  If we only focus on the first part of seeing that we’re perfect we can become very self-absorbed, callous, and disconnected from the effects we have on others.  Our ego becomes inflated, we form shallow relationships, and we are unable to grow.  And if we only focus on the second part of seeing that we need improvement we can become very self-conscious, emotionally over sensitive, and unable to socially engage and interact with others.  Our sense of self is deflated to the point of self-pity, loathing, depression, and worthlessness.  In both instances we will be unable to grow and transform.

To begin to understand this teaching we need to practice seeing that both parts of us exist at the very same time.  We are perfect just as we are AND we are all in need of a little improvement.  Practicing with both sides allows our ego to not become overly inflated while also not beating up on ourselves for the parts of us we wish were different or better.

What a completely beautiful, complex, confusing, and enthralling opportunity it is to be human eh?

 

 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on September 14, 2014 in Everyday Practice

 

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Zen Frog

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“All of you are perfect just as you are and you could use a little improvement.”

– Shunryu Suzuki-roshi (1905 – 1971)

 

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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Everyday Practice

 

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