Feeding our Intentions

womens' march

Making mindful steps with Sangha in Hartford, CT

 

“May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.

May he/she know how to nourish the seeds of joy in him/herself every day.

May they know how to nourish the seeds of joy in themselves every day.

May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free.

May he/she be able to live fresh, solid, and free.

May they be able to live fresh, solid, and free.

May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.

May he/she be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.

May they be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

“It helps to remember that our spiritual practice is not about accomplishing anything—not about winning or losing—but about ceasing to struggle and relaxing as it is.”

~ Pema Chödrön, The Pocket Pema Chodron

“Choose to be optimistic, it feels better.”

~ H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama

Dear Friends,

I’m hoping you are well and nourishing the best and most joyful parts of yourselves. Yesterday I was at the Women’s march in Hartford, CT. An impressive group of engaged citizens showed up to be visible dissenters from the rhetoric of scarcity, fear, and exclusion that is coming from the present U.S. administration.

A friend I walked with commented on how she felt re-energized during the march and it gave her hope and strength to keep on writing letters, making phone calls, and letting her voice be heard. The march and all the folks present fed the commitment to continue along the path of peaceful protection for the most vulnerable members of our planet, and for the planet herself.

The Buddha is recorded as saying, “All beings subsist on nutriment.” This includes our volition, our desire. The Buddha taught for over forty years. Speaking as a pre-enlightened being, that’s a long time to do anything, unless satisfaction and nourishment bring encouragement to keep going. The Buddha established a sangha of ten thousand bhikkhus; he had many enlightened students and taught kings. He also experienced great trials. His cousin Devadatta spread rumors about him, left the sangha and began his own, taking half of the Buddha’s followers. He tried to have the Buddha assassinated by a hired killer and an enraged bull elephant. Devadatta had a woman’s murdered body buried on the sangha’s grounds to incriminate the Buddha and his followers. The discovery of the buried woman caused the monastics to be looked upon as violent, hypocritical, sexual predators. The Buddha and his followers were eventually exonerated but endured shame and distrust from the lay community that supported them.

So, what kept the Buddha going through all these tribulations? He possessed the paramita, or perfection of equanimity. He worked to free all beings from suffering and understood that his misfortunes or perceived successes were not personal. They were a continuation of the thoughts, words, and deeds of many lifetimes and of the collective community he inhabited. He didn’t get depressed because his work bore no fruit. He didn’t get puffed up and demand a better parking spot or refuse to eat what was offered because he taught royalty and had people travel hundreds of miles for his teachings.

He did what he did because he knew that the betterment of the planet and humankind was not something that could be abandoned. It was part of his life as much as breathing and walking. It was not optional. Nor is it work that is finished in one’s lifetime. Humanity has spent a very long time getting to where it is right now, balanced on the cusp of war and possible irreversible damage to our food, air, and water source, this Earth. As practitioners who have not reached the perfection of equanimity, we could use some nourishment and encouragement to keep going.

Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that we need to cultivate our happiness so we will be able to be with our personal and collective difficulties. Happiness and contentment are a necessary nutriment for continuing to care. If we spend all our time taking care of others, we will run aground, lose our health, energy, and commitment. In No Mud, No Lotus, Thây writes, “Happiness is impermanent, like everything else. In order for happiness to be extended and renewed, you have to learn how to feed your happiness. Nothing can survive without food, including happiness; your happiness can die if you don’t know how to nourish it. If you cut a flower but you don’t put it in some water, the flower will wilt in a few hours.” Being in a loving community nourished our hearts and minds and reminds us that we are part of something larger than ourselves. Nourishing the insight that we are all one family, is essential for us to continue to feel unified and that our contributions make a difference, even if they seem like the smallest of gestures. What we all do matters.

This week, I am asking the question, what nourishes my happiness and connection? What keeps my caring alive and reminds me that kindness, no matter how small is the way out? Make your own inquiry. What nourishes your connection to this world and helps feed your bodhisattva vow to free all beings from suffering? What is the food that brings you into a loving state?  So far, I’ve found that when I practice loving, with a smile, an acknowledgment, a helping gesture—it all comes back to me as more love, from strangers who are not strange, but parts of myself I never knew before.

May we all trust our light,

Celia

happiness is here and now

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True Liberation Frees Us All

MLK and religious leaders

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. “

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Our daily lives have the most to do with the situation of the world. If we can change our daily lives, we can change our governments and we can change the world. Our presidents and our governments are us. They reflect our lifestyle and our way of thinking. The way we hold a cup of tea, pick up a newspaper, and even use toilet paper have to do with peace.”

~Thich Nhat Hanh

 “Whereas the violence of the oppressors prevents the oppressed from being fully human, the response of the latter to this violence is grounded in the desire to pursue the right to be human. As the oppressors dehumanize others and violate their rights, they themselves also become dehumanized. As the oppressed, fighting to be human, take away the oppressor’s power to dominate and suppress, they restore to the oppressors the humanity they had lost in the exercise of oppression.”

~ Paolo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“The Bodhisattva helps row living beings to the other shore but in fact, no living beings are being helped to the other shore.” ~ The Prajnaparamita Sutra

Dear Friends,

Tomorrow in the United States we celebrate the life’s work and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King. Looking at his life’s goals and objectives, we see the justice, equality, and freedoms that Dr. King envisioned for people of color and all Americans are still not reality and seem to have slipped further away during this current administration. Many people who value basic human freedoms of justice and equality are experiencing frustration and shame about the words and actions of the representatives elected to support America’s alleged interests and ideals. Witnessing the words and deeds of the highest elected official in our country can make us wonder what direction we are headed in. Our policies reflect fearful, deluded minds and there is a clear demarcation between those who have power and those who do not.

In Buddhism, there is a teaching of non-duality. This is the understanding that there are “not two,” no separation of cause and effect and that “this is because that is.” We see this union enacted in the integrated system of discrimination and oppression that is held in place unknowingly and participated in by the majority of white-skinned US citizens, even those who want equality and justice. The problem is that there is the idea of helping. When one person helps another, there is a tacit understanding of power, of a superior being and an inferior being. Help is not liberation.

The father of critical pedagogy, Paolo Freire writes:

“In order to have the continued opportunity to express their ‘generosity,’ the oppressors must perpetuate injustice as well. An unjust social order is the permanent fount of this ‘generosity,’ which is nourished by death, despair, and poverty. That is why the dispensers of false generosity become desperate at the slightest threat to its source.

True generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity. False charity constrains the fearful and subdued, the ‘rejects of life,’ to extend their trembling hands. True generosity lies in striving so that these hands—whether of individuals or entire peoples—need be extended less and less in supplication, so that more and more they become human hands which work and, working, transform the world.”

When we are able to step out of the role of the one who dispenses generosity and helpfulness, we lose the conceit of superior when we are truly of service. When we act from compassion, we not only liberate others, we liberate ourselves from the superiority complex and we cease to perpetuate the system that keeps us in a small limited self and separate from the imagined other.

In the book Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hahn gives a contemplation on detached action. Bringing to mind a social project we believe is valuable, he asks us to consider:

“that the work is to serve, to alleviate suffering, to respond to compassion, not to satisfy the desire for praise or recognition. See that the methods used encourage cooperation between humans. Don’t consider the project as an act of charity. Consider the people involved. Do you still see in terms of ones who serve and ones who benefit? If you can still see who are the ones serving and who are the ones benefiting, your work is for the sake of yourself and the workers, and not for the sake of service.”

When we respond from a place of love and compassion, there is no “I” who is doing the action. There is only compassionate and wise response to a situation.

How do we do this in our lives? In my experience, it comes with listening and letting go of my ideas of what help looks like. If I believe I can teach the “right” way to view a situation or a concept, I am already investing in the idea of a self who is going to make someone’s life better and lift someone up. This way of looking at my contribution as something I do to, or, for you, creates expectation and hierarchy. Firstly, it puts a lot of pressure on me to get it right and secondly, it doesn’t honor the needs and intelligence of those I am serving. True helpfulness responds to the situation and allows each person’s unique intelligence to meet this moment in a shared understanding. This is Interbeing. It is the ability to see beyond the role we identify with, the oppressor, the oppressed, teacher, student, powerful, or disenfranchised. Interbeing reminds us that this moment does not belong to anyone. It is a creation of contribution, the pooling of immeasurable tributaries of time, space, and conditions. This shared moment belongs to us all and in the present moment, we find the way to liberate ourselves and all beings from the prison of wrong perceptions.

In the spirit of continuing the work of the Buddha and Dr. King, let us each reflect on our own liberation and the wholesome desire to free ourselves from our wrong perceptions and recognize that true liberation allows both the oppressed and oppressors to be healed, whole, human beings.

May we all trust our light,

Celia

Be there for eachother