Dear Still Water Friends,
In a just-before-New Year’s Dharma talk in 1997 Thich Nhat Hanh suggested that the transition to a new year is a wonderful time to do a Beginning Anew with ourselves:
Before the year ends and before the New Year begins, we may practice sitting meditation and walking meditation in order to see how we can begin anew, how we can prepare ourselves. So that the New Year will be a much better year than this one. Before the New Year begins, we can already have everything renewed. Of course we have made mistakes. Of course we have been not very skillful. Of course we have made ourselves suffer. Of course we have made the people around us suffer. But that does not prevent us from beginning anew and to make things much better next year, or even the next moment. We should look at our suffering in such a way that the suffering can become a positive thing. Of course you have made some mistakes. You have been unskillful. All of us are the same. We always make mistakes. We are very often unskillful. But that does not prevent us from improving, from beginning anew, from transforming.
Whether it is with ourselves or with others, for a Beginning Anew to have potency there must be a heart-felt-and-accepted belief that transformation is possible, that we and others can change the texture of our lives, no matter what has come before. Yes, it is true that all that we feel, think, and experience now is influenced by our ancestors, parents, early childhood, schooling, friends, media, and life experiences. However, if we can clearly see this process of conditioning, if we can mindfully observe our mental states, rather than being overwhelmed by them, we can transform our experience of life.
Recently, as part of a Day of Practice, Barbra Esher (a long time Still Water practitioner and Nonviolent Communications trainer) and I introduced a five step Beginning Anew With Ourselves process
- Having the intention to nourish gratitude, compassion, and harmony within ourselves
- Identifying and appreciating the actions that we have taken that have brought joy or relieved suffering, often called Flower Watering
- Identifying and expressing our regrets: acknowledging without self-condemnation that something we have said or done might have contributed to our own or someone else’s suffering
- Identifying and expressing our hurt and suffering: acknowledging to ourselves that something we or others have said or done might have contributed to our suffering
- Often, but not always, there may be a final step of making a commitment to act in a way that nourishes more gratitude, compassion, and harmony within ourselves
This Thursday evening we will end our silent meditation a little early. Then, after walking meditation, we will practice together a guided end-of-year Beginning Anew With Ourselves, followed by a Dharma sharing.
You are invited to join us.
Several more paragraphs from Thich Nhat Hanh’s 1997 Dharma talk on Beginning Anew are below. The full transcript is available on the Still Water website.
On New Years Day, Tuesday, January 1:
- There will be no morning sitting in Takoma Park at the Takoma Park Presbyterian Church
- The evening programs in Gaithersburg at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension will be rescheduled for the following evenings (Wednesday December 26 at 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. and Wednesday January 2 at 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.)
- The morning sittings at Blueberry Gardens in Ashton, Maryland, will be held as usual (7:00 am to 8:10 am).
May 2019 bring you peace, love, good health, and much joy.
An Opportunity to Begin Anew
From a Dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh on December 28, 1997
The New Year is a great opportunity to begin anew. Because many people look at the new year, the year to come, with hope. “I will do better next year,” you promise yourself. … [B]efore the year ends and before the New Year begins, we may practice sitting meditation and walking meditation in order to see how we can begin anew, how we can prepare ourselves. So that the New Year will be a much better year than this one.
Before the New Year begins, we can already have everything renewed. Of course we have made mistakes. Of course we have been not very skillful. Of course we have made ourselves suffer. Of course we have made the people around us suffer. But that does not prevent us from beginning anew to make things much better next year, or even the next moment.
We should look at our suffering in such a way that the suffering can become a positive thing. Of course you have made some mistakes. You have been unskillful. All of us are the same. We always make mistakes. We are very often unskillful. But that does not prevent us from improving, from beginning anew, from transforming. The Buddha said that if you have not suffered, there is no way you can learn. If the Buddha has arrived at full enlightenment, that is just because he had suffered a lot. The suffering was the path that helped him to arrive at full enlightenment, at full compassion, at full understanding.
If you want to go to the Buddha, you need your suffering. Because if you do not know what is suffering, then there is no way you can come to the Buddha. You have to come to the Buddha with all your suffering. Suffering is the path. By true suffering you can see the path of enlightenment, the path of compassion, the path of love.
According to the teaching of the Buddha, it is by looking deeply into the nature of your sorrow, your pain, of your suffering, that you can discover the way out. If you have not suffered, you can not go to the Buddha. You have no chance to touch peace, to touch love. It is exactly because of the fact that you have suffered, that now you have an opportunity to recognize the path leading to liberation, leading to love, leading to understanding.
Don’t be discouraged when you see that in the past you have suffered and you have made other people suffer. If we know how to handle the suffering, we will be able to profit from our suffering. It is like an organic gardener. If she knows how to handle the garbage, she will get a lot of compost for the growth of her vegetables and her flowers. It is with the compost of the suffering that we can nourish the flower of understanding, of peace, of love. That is why we have to learn how to manage our suffering, how to cherish, how to preserve, how to transform our suffering.
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