Celebrating Life in the Present Moment

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July 8, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Silver Spring, Maryland, community online on Thursday evening
July 9, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Open to all online on Friday evening

Dear Still Water Friends,

I have been reflecting on the importance of celebration, particularly the relationship between the things we celebrate and the things we protect. Pride month, Juneteenth, and Independence Day are opportunities for parades, picnics, and commemorations, and a way of communicating important values. In some ways, all three are about protecting people’s safety and freedom. Independence Day enshrines the concept of freedom as central to our national identity. Pride Month and Juneteenth reinforce the imperative that this freedom and safety apply to all people, not just the white male property owners to whom our founding fathers granted these basic protections.

I have also been reflecting on the everyday ways I might also celebrate and protect life. For example, this past week, I found myself in many labs and doctors’ offices for annual exams and screenings. Instead of my usual feelings of exhaustion, I reframed these activities as ways to celebrate and protect my own life.

Thich Nhat Hanh is ever aware of joy, even in the presence of solemnity or struggle. In Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices he observes:

Being alive is a miracle. Just sitting there, enjoying your in-breath and out-breath is already happiness. Since you’re breathing in and out, you know that you’re alive. That’s something worth celebrating. So sitting meditation is a way to celebrate life with your in-breath and your out-breath… . Just enjoy sitting and accept yourself as you are.

On Thursday and Friday evenings, after our meditation period, we will recite together the Five Mindfulness Trainings and focus our Dharma sharing on the First Training, Reverence for Life:

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.

You are invited to join us. We will begin our discussion with these questions:

  • In what ways have our mindfulness practice (or other practices) allowed us to protect and celebrate life?
  • How do we extend our celebration to the lives of others?
  • What is helpful, or not so helpful, in our efforts to celebrate life?

Related excerpts by Thich Nhat Hanh and Sharon Salzberg on celebration and joy are  below.

Lotuses, Food, & Mindful Friends at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is this Saturday, July 10. You are invited to join us. Please register soon.

Warm wishes,

Rachel Phillips-Anderson

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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 not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They are within us and all around us, everywhere, any time.

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

The Heavenly Abodes (the Four Bramham Vihara)
From A Heart as Wide as the World by Sharon Salzberg

Sympathetic Joy, the third Brahma Vihara, is the practice of actively taking delight in the happiness of others, rather than feeling threatened or diminished, as if the happiness of another takes something away from us…Love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity do not distort our ability to see clearly, but rather as we realize we are together with all beings, they transform the reasons we work to create change. Our motivation, or mental posture, becomes one of inclusion rather than separation. And as we grow stronger in the practice of the Brahma Viharas, we find that we can honestly and directly look at problems, and take strong action as we take care of ourselves and others. We find the ultimate healing truth of connection.

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