Last week, I attended our local fall retreat up on the Flathead Lake. (This “peace is every step” pumpkin was a pic I took at said retreat.) Part of me wants to offer my typical post-retreat accounting here on this blog. But a bigger part of me has little interest in doing so. And part of me wants to tell you why I don’t have interest in relaying my retreat field notes and part of me doesn’t.
Instead, I think I’ll say this: it’s been a hard week. The hardest I’ve had in a very long time.
Over the last few days, it’s been interesting relaying this truth to people who have casually asked: how’s it going? I am someone who is interested in not answering on auto pilot with such empty responses such as: fine and good when confronted with that how are you question. However, I’m also interested in being brief. It’s a challenge, to say the least. On the best of weeks I am at a loss for how best to answer this question in such a way that is honest and also quick and to the point.
When I’ve told people: this week has been hard or I am being really challenged this week it solicited a range of responses I did not care for being on the receiving end of. It puts me in touch with how poorly skilled we are as a human collective to listen deeply and to respond in the spirit of interbeing.
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.
To read the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, which are the foundation of the Order of Interbeing, click here
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.
On Saturday, while standing in line at the Good Food Store (our local organic food market), I overheard the dude in front of me telling the cashier that he was going to see the new Star Wars movie. In the interest of working on my small talk/social engagement skills, I chimed in: “Oh, there’s a new Star Wars movie out, eh?” To which he replied – friendly enough, but still incredulously – “Where have you been? Under a rock?!”
How do I respond? I pondered internally. Hmm.
After a brief pause – quickly deciding that it was not at all the direction I wanted to tread in to toss back some kind of sarcastic barb about how when I read the world news, other more pressing matters are thankfully covered than what’s hot at the box office – I said: “I like rocks! It’s kind of nice under there.”
This is such a frequent occurrence! We use unskillful words and judgemental tones of voice based on our ongoing assumptions that the reality of those around us is the same as our own. It never ceases to amaze me how potent our choice of words really is and how big of a difference it makes to develop a kind disposition when speaking.
May we all practice – myself super included! – to watch what we say and how we say it. Too often, we just speak and have little to no idea of what it is we’re saying and why it is we’re talking. It’s really important to know that we spread the seeds of either benefit or harm in every word we offer – and don’t offer.
Words matter. Truly.
Let us be good to one another and use words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope and help foster the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood in our wake.
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.