Dharma Topic: A Fresh Beginning

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Dear Still Water Friends,

A lovely Plum Village tradition is to practice the Three Touchings
of the Earth on or near New Year’s Eve. Thich Nhat Hanh explained
(in a 1997 Dharma talk):

It is very important to touch our ancestors. When we touch our
ancestors, we touch ourselves. We know that we are one. If we know that
we are from the same roots, then we know that we are one. After having
bowed to our ancestors, we turn around and bow to each other and
embrace each other and forgive each other for the unskillfulness that
has been committed in the past. That is also beginning anew. It would
not mean anything if you bow to your ancestors and you don’t
forgive your brother or your sister. In the Christian Bible you find
the same teaching. Before you place an offering on the altar of God,
make sure that you have reconciled with your brother. If you have not
reconciled with your brother, placing an offering on the altar of God,
does not mean anything. Celebrating New Year, we have to celebrate in
such a spirit, touching our ancestors, blood ancestors and spiritual
ancestors, we have an opportunity to realize that we are brothers and
sisters to each other.

Following Thich Nhat Hanh’s suggestion, this Thursday evening, after
our meditation period, we will practice together the Three Touchings of
the Earth and share together on the theme of connecting and

I like the formulation of forgiveness used by Edith R. Stauffer in Unconditional Love and Forgiveness which emphasizes that we forgive in order to heal ourselves, so that we can love again:

To forgive is to cancel all demands, conditions, and expectations held in your mind that block the Attitude of Love. . . .

Canceling is not the same as pardoning, condoning, or approving. It
does not wipe out the wrong of another. We cannot cancel another’s
action or another’s error. Forgetting or clearing the memory of the
wrong is not canceling. Canceling is the dropping or removing of the
requirement that the other person perform in any certain way in order
to be loved.

As 2006 comes to an end we might ask ourselves: is there someone close
to me I am ready to forgive for their unskillfulness so I can
begin the new year fresh? Perhaps it is myself. 

Warm wishes for the New Year: May you and everyone in your heart be safe and free from suffering.

Mitchell Ratner

Senior Teacher