Dear Still Water Friends,
I am amazed that each time I show up to Sangha, I am greeted by many friends who also show up on a regular basis. And week after week, we sit together, discuss Dharma topics together, and share some very intimate experiences together. So, when I was recently reading about the seven miracles of mindfulness in Thay’s (Thich Nhat Hanh’s) The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings, I had an overwhelming desire to discuss this topic and experience the dharma process focused on the idea of Right Mindfulness, and in particular the practice of appropriate attention, with our Sangha.
Thay writes that Right Mindfulness is the heart of the Buddha’s teachings, and describes it as the energy that brings us back to the present moment. Here is an excerpt from this chapter:
Right Mindfulness accepts everything without judging or reacting. It is inclusive and loving. The practice is to find ways to sustain appropriate attention throughout the day. The Sanskrit word for mindfulness, smriti, means “remember.” Mindfulness is remembering to come back to the present moment. The character the Chinese use for “mindfulness” has two parts: the upper part means “now,” and the lower part means “mind” or “heart.”
According to Thay, when we practice Right Mindfulness, we touch the healing and refreshing elements of life and begin to transform our own suffering and the suffering of the world. Thay describes the Seven Miracles of Mindfulness in this chapter, as ways and practices that we can use to develop Right Mindfulness:
- The First Miracle of Mindfulness is to be present and able to touch those around us.
- The Second Miracle of Mindfulness is to make the other present, also.
- The Third Miracle of Mindfulness is to nourish the object of your attention.
- The Fourth Miracle of Mindfulness is to relieve the other’s suffering.
- The Fifth Miracle of Mindfulness is looking deeply.
- The Sixth Miracle of Mindfulness is understanding.
- The Seventh Miracle of Mindfulness is transformation.
It was while reading the following description of the Third Miracle of Mindfulness that the idea to discuss this topic with the Sangha arose in me:
When was the last time you looked into the eyes of your beloved and asked, ‘Who are you, my darling?” Don’t be satisfied by a superficial answer. Ask again: “Who are you who has taken my suffering as your suffering, my happiness as your happiness, my life and death as your life and death? My love, why aren’t you a dewdrop, a butterfly, a bird?” Ask with your whole being. If you do not give right attention to the one you love, it is a kind of killing. When you are in the car together, if you are lost in your thoughts, assuming you already know everything about her, she will slowly die. But with mindfulness, your attention will water the wilting flower. “I know you are here, beside me, and it makes me very happy.” With attention, you will be able to discover many new and wonderful things — her joys, her hidden talents, her deepest aspirations. If you do not practice appropriate attention, how can you say you love her?
For our Dharma sharing topic this week, I would like to begin by rephrasing part of Thay’s quote:
Who are you, my sangha, who has taken my suffering as your suffering, my happiness as your happiness, my life and death as your life and death? My loves, why aren’t you a dewdrop, a butterfly, a bird? I know you are here, beside me, and it makes me very happy.
To help with the discussion, here are a few specific questions that may be useful:
1. Who are you and why do you meditate with Still Water?
2. How has the practice helped you realize Right Mindfulness?
3. What does the Still Water Sangha mean to you and your practice?
You are invited to join us.
An excerpt from The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching on the power of sangha is below.
The Power Of Sangha
by Thich Nhat Hanh from The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching
When we practice Right Mindfulness, we touch the healing and refreshing elements of life and begin to transform our own suffering and the suffering of the world. We want to overcome a habit, such as smoking, for the health of our body and mind. When we begin the practice, our habit energy is still stronger than our mindfulness, so we don’t expect to stop smoking overnight. We only have to know that we are smoking when we are smoking. As we continue to practice, looking deeply and seeing the effects that smoking has on our body, mind, family, and community, we become determined to stop. It is not easy, but the practice of mindfulness helps us see the desire and the effects clearly, and eventually we will find a way to stop. Sangha is important. One man who came to Plum Village had been trying to stop smoking for years, but he couldn’t. At Plum Village, he stopped his first day, because the group energy was so strong. “No one is smoking here. Why should I?” It can take years to transform a habit energy, but when we do, we stop the wheel of samsara, the vicious cycle of suffering and confusion that has gone on for so many lifetimes.
Practicing the Seven Miracles of Mindfulness helps us lead a happy and healthy life, transforming suffering and bringing forth peace, joy, and freedom.