Archive for March 2011

ATTAINING HAPPINESS and the practice of gratitude

This Thursday Leslie will explore attaining happiness, and, on Friday, we will turn to the practice of gratitude.

From Steve on gratitude:

Behind The Carousel

Last night, retiring to a comfortable bed, my mind was unsettled. The remnants of morning caffeine offering one thought, then another. Turning a carousel in a tourist shop. Noticing, accepting, settling, an underlying feeling gradually uncloaked. It first took a vague form as unease with the accumulation of misunderstandings, fumbled opportunities and reactivity in interactions with those I care about. Then the feeling became a more luminous presence of the bundled miracles that happen each day. The smiles, especially. Aware of the mind looking beyond the litany of disappointments, expanding to embrace the many gifts this day had brought.

Gratitude was waiting for me to make room. It cannot fit in a narrow space.

Reading the headlines of the 50 Japanese utility workers who brave the radiation and explosive hydrogen leaks, trying to cover the melting plutonium rods with fresh water, as the old boils away. Their white space suits and air filters only the pretense of protection. The Emperor counsels the practice of compassion. I wonder at how their minds must have expanded, how filled with gratitude, to act with a courage that sacrifices their lives. A courage that touches the fear and desperation that they face with each struggling step. For them to act and not be frozen in the fierceness they face. That is a miracle beyond my understanding.

SURVEY OUR OWN TERRITORY

This Thursday Barry will explore the energy of mindfulness, and, on Friday, Michael will lead us into thoughts that turn the mind.

In Teachings on Love, Thich Nhat Hanh writes that we can practice looking deeply, first at our bodies, then at our feelings and perceptions, as we sit and walk in group practice.  He invites us to observe the peace, happiness and lightness that is already present.  And to notice how much anger, fear, irritation, anxiety or worry is also there.  We can then recognize our deep desire to live in peace and safety, to have the support we need and to practice mindfulness.  We can begin to see the conditions that have caused us to be the way we are, and this makes it easy to accept ourselves.

Barry writes:

This week I will read from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book True Love, the chapter titled “The Energy of Mindfulness”.  This reading is an insightful elucidation of what mindfulness meditation truly is, and also what it’s not.  I will then offer a brief healing meditation to start the first sitting.

Michael writes of some of the formal teachings of the Tibetan school:

Thoughts that turn the mind.

Most people who are even casually familiar with Buddhism may have heard of or may be well acquainted with the Four Noble Truths.  This 2500 year old thinking helps explain the human condition of pain and suffering, its causes, reasons and remedies.

But those of you interested in Mindfulness may find this useful.

The four thoughts that turn the mind:  The first is this precious human life.  Of all the reincarnations possible, we have been given a human life and the opportunity to practice Dharma.  The second is impermanence.  We all understand how compounded realities dissolve over time, be they our lives, plants, Sun, the universe and our cars.  The third is cause and effect laws about karma and the twelve links of dependent causality.  We all know the cliches about what goes around, comes around..etc.  But this is more involved that that type of simplifying.  The fourth is cyclic existence involving the six realms from hells to divine venues.  The two most interesting for me are the animal and the human realms.  The latter leading us back to this precious human life.

SELF COMPASSION: The Other Side of Self Discipline

Our format for the Thursday and Friday group meditations is choosing a theme for the evening.  This Thursday and Friday Steve will lead us in visiting again the practice of loving kindness, in particular as we direct it toward ourselves.  After the third meditation, Steve will share how this teaching infuences his practice.  Then the other members of the group will be invited to share.

At the end of our time together we form a sharing the merit circle.   It is a time to recognize our compassionate presence to each other, our family and friends, especially those in need.   

Charlie Sheen was quoted this week when asked how he would overcome addictions.  He responded something like “I think it in my head and it becomes so.”  For most of us, thinking our way through unskillful habits and behavior patterns often comes up short of being effective.  We seem to lapse back into familiar responses and then live with the regret and lack of self-approbation.  Self discipline can devolve into learning to accept a less than satisfactory daily life.  My Victorian bred Irish aunts used to lecture me on the necessity of exercising strength of character.  Tough it through the hard moments and they will pass.  Only the hard moments can seem endless and strength of character can become tempered in trial and train a closed heart.  Many have made that bargain.  Some have had no choice, but we do.

Mindfulness practice can begin at this point.  The ethical underpinnings of mindfulness make good use of self discipline and strength of character.  As we touch the present moment with the breath, the freshness and vitality we experience invite us to move toward health and well being. 

Our earth sorely needs our compassionate presence.  We can begin by practicing compassion towards ourselves.  If we touch ourselves deeply with compassion, we are in touch with everything.

In, out,
Deep, slow,
Calm, ease,
Smile, release,
Present moment,
Wonderful moment

(A song of practice from Plum Village)