A Non-Toothache is Very Pleasant

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Dear Still Water Friends,

In my life I have found gratitude to be a wonderful counter-balance to dissatisfaction. It orients me to the many gifts I have been given, rather than dwelling on the pieces I perceive as missing in my life. This Thursday evening, after our meditation period, we will focus our Dharma sharing on gratitude as a conscious practice. 

Our program will be facilitated by Lynda Martin-McCormick. Lynda was one of the first Still Water regulars and often guided the Still Water community, serving many years as a member of the Working Group and of the Board of Directors. With a background in organization development, she played an instrumental role in formulating Still Water’s way of “doing business,” bringing together our values and the needs of the community. For this and much more, I am grateful to Lynda and her late husband David. Lynda has returned to Maryland for a few days from her new home in Portland, Oregon. Lynda’s opening thoughts on gratitude are below: 

Ten years ago I attended a retreat at Plum Village. Participants were invited to commit to some kind of practice and to write a note about it to Thich Nhat Hanh. I promised Thay that I would say the morning gatha every day: “Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.” 

Looking back, I see that this gatha contributed to helping me weather some big transitions. Consider the first sentence: beginning every morning with a smile. I stop for a moment the complaining mind, the fearful mind, the angry mind, the planning mind, even the numb mind.  That first moment of  smiling causes a sense of well-being; and it shows that gladness–gratitude–is available all the time. 

There are many concrete practices for cultivating gratitude in the Buddha’s teachings and, more and more, also in psychology, as neuroscience discovers that mind and mood are more malleable that was once understood. Here is one practice recommended by Thich Nhat Hanh, and known informally as the “Not-a-Toothache Meditation:

“If we are not aware that we are happy, we are not really happy. When we have a toothache, we know that not having a toothache is a wonderful thing. But when we do not have a toothache, we are still not happy. A non-toothache is very pleasant.”

On Thursday evening, we will consider gratitude as a conscious practice, and share with one another practical ways we have learned to nourish our gratitude. 

Below is an excerpt on Gratitude from Anger by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Our new website has been up for about ten days. One of the nice new features is that we now have the past 12 years of Dharma Topics in a searchable database. Please take a look at the web site — www.stillwatermpc.org — and let us know (at info@stillwatermpc.org ) both what you like about the web site and whether there are any improvements or additions you would like to see on it. Also, please let us know if you find any spelling errors, broken links, or other shortcomings.  

Our list of upcoming Still Water special events is below. Our Mindful Family retreat is this weekend, May 6 – 8. The theme will be “Go as A River, Creating Peace Together.” Please register soon if you would like to attend.

This week is also the first Thursday of the month and, as is our tradition, we will offer a brief newcomer’s orientation to mindfulness practice and to the Still Water community. The orientation will begin at 6:30 pm and participants are encouraged to stay for the evening program. If you would like to attend the orientation, it is helpful if you let us know by emailing us at info@StillWaterMPC.org.

Many blessings,

Mitchell Ratner 

Moment of Gratitude, Moment of Enlightenment

by Thich Nhat Hanh from Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

There are moments when we feel very grateful for the other person in our life. We deeply appreciate his or her presence. We are full of compassion, gratitude, and love. We have experienced moments like this in our life. We feel so grateful that the other person is still alive, that she is still with us, and has stood by our side during very difficult times. I would suggest that if such a moment happens again, take advantage of it.

To truly profit from this time, withdraw to a place where you can be alone with yourself. Don’t just go to the other person and say. “I’m grateful you are there.” That is not enough. You can do this later. Right at that moment, it is better to withdraw into your room or to a quiet place, and immerse yourself in that feeling of gratitude. Then write down your feelings, your gratitude, your happiness. In half a page or one page, do your best to express yourself in writing, or record yourself on tape.

This moment of gratitude is a moment of enlightenment, of mindfulness, of intelligence. It is a manifestation from the depths of your consciousness. You have this understanding and insight in you. But when you get angry, your gratitude and love do not seem to be there at all. You feel as if they have never existed, so you have to write them down on a sheet of paper and keep it safely. From time to time, take it out and read it again.

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