Both Dreadful and Wonderful

Both Dreadful and Wonderful

Discussion date: Thu, Jul 05, 2007 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

The first section of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Being Peaceis titled “Suffering is Not Enough.” In it, he reminds us that althoughthere may be suffering all around us, “We must also be in touch withthe wonders of life. They are within us and all around us, everywhere,any time.”

For many of us, learning to live more mindfully includes slowing downand connecting more fully with the experiences of our life. Webecome connoisseurs of our breath, our physicalsensations, our emotions, our thoughts and intentions. Werediscover simple joys. We encounter moments of peace and deepcontentment.

Thich Nhat Hanh also reminds us, however, that although we learn toappreciate what is wonderful, we can’t simply abandon the suffering ofthe world. We should not be lulled into a life of pleasantdistractions. “Life is both dreadful and wonderful.” he writes, “Topractice meditation is to be in touch with both aspects.”

Some years ago I asked a high-ranking Soto Zen Roshi who was living ina dormitory with other Plum Village retreatants what brought him toPlum Village. He answered that he came simply to be in the presence ofThich Nhat Hanh. He was, the Roshi said, “one of the few people on theplanet who can eat a cookie and enjoy it and still hold the sufferingof the world.”

This Thursday evening after our meditation period we will exploretogether how we are learning to stay in touch with both the dreadfuland the wonderful. What concrete practices work for us? What do westill need to work on?

We will also have our monthly Still Water Orientation this Thursday,beginning at 6:30 pm. It is a time for practitioners to learnthe basics of meditation and to ask questions about beginningmindfulness practice and being part of the Still Water community. Ifyou are planning to attend, it is helpful if you email us

You are invited to join us for our orientation, our meditation hour,and our program. If you are not attending the orientation, the besttimes to join us are just before our meditation period beginsat 7 pm, just before our walking meditation at 7:25, or just after ourwalking meditation at 7:35.

Our Sharing Silence Day of Practice this Sunday at Blueberry Gardensis just about full. Please email us at assoon as possible if you are planning on attending. (Information aboutthe day is available on our Website.)

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher

Suffering is Not Enough, from Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh

Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders,like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby. To suffer is notenough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They arewithin us and all around us, everywhere, any time.

If we are not happy, if we are not peaceful, we cannot share peace andhappiness with others, even those we love, those who live under thesame roof. If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile andblossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society,will benefit from our peace. Do we need to make a special effort toenjoy the beauty of the blue sky? Do we have to practice to be able toenjoy it? No, we just enjoy it. Each second, each minute of our livescan be like this. Wherever we are, any time, we have the capacity toenjoy the sunshine, the presence of each other, even the sensation ofour breathing. We don’t need to go to China to enjoy the bluesky. We don’t have to travel into the future to enjoy ourbreathing. We can be in touch with these things right now. It would bea pity if we are only aware of suffering.

We are so busy we hardly have time to look at the people we love, evenin our own household, and to look at ourselves. Society is organized ina way that even when we have some leisure time, we don’t know howto use it to get back in touch with ourselves. We have millions of waysto lose this precious time we turn on the TV or pick up the telephone,or start the car and go somewhere. We are not being with ourselves, andwe act as if we don’t like ourselves and are trying to escapefrom ourselves.

Meditation is to be aware of what is going on-in our bodies, in ourfeelings, in our rninds, and in the world. Each day 40,000 children dieof hunger. The superpowers now have more than 50,000 nuclear warheads,enough to destroy our planet many times. Yet the sunrise is beautiful,and the rose that bloomed this morning along the wall is a miracle.Life is both dreadful and wonderful. To practice meditation is to be intouch with both aspects. Please do not think we must be solemn in orderto meditate. In fact, to meditate well, we have to smile a lot.

Discussion Date: Thu, Jul 05, 2007


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