“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
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,