Dear Still Water Friends,
Forme, the essence of a Dharma Discussion is that we are bringing together, incommunity, the Dharma (the teachings) with the experiences of our lives. Itrequires us to be both analytic and expressive:
- Analytic in the sense of being clear about what a specific teaching is saying, in particular its transformative seed – how the teaching leads us toward a new way of seeing and acting, leads us to find a way of living in this world with less suffering.
Expressive, in the sense that we are speaking honestly and openly, from the depth of our hearts. Essentially we are saying: “This is how I really am, please help me grow.” Or “This is how I was and this is what I have learned.” Or “This is how I am and I want you to know.”
Oftenwhen I explain Dharma discussions I suggest we “talk from our hearts,”“listen from our hearts,” and “be of lean expression.”
Whenwe talk from our hearts we talk from the center of our being, we are in touchwith the life force that is in us. There is passion and there is engagement. Weare talking about what really matters.
Whenwe listen from our hearts, we are truly present, in mind and body. When our mindwanders, we come back to the present moment, to the speaker and to thesituation. Like Avalokitesvara, “We will sit and listen so attentively that wewill be able to hear what the other person is saying and also what is being leftunsaid.”
Beingof lean expression simply means we are brief. Like a poet, we say what we needto say and no more. We are aware that others in the group also wish to share.
RecentlyI discovered that these three aspects or intentions come from “The Way ofCouncil.” It is method similar to dharma discussion which encourages deepsharing in groups. Instead of bowing in and bowing out, they pass a councilstick. When I looked further, I found that Jack Zimmerman, the originator of themethod has added a fourth intention: “Spontaneity” which asks us to trustourselves and the group more. He explains:
Asthe talking piece moves around the circle, a flood of memories and thoughts maybe triggered, each one of which is a candidate for sharing. Trying to hold on tothese while waiting to speak can be overwhelming. To counteract this tendency,set the intention not to rehearse what is to be said. The importance of this inregard to listening is obvious: Preparing an agenda while others are speakinglimits the ability to listen attentively.
Rehearsingmay also limit the ability to speak from the heart. Freed from the need toprepare, the ordinary mind is more likely to step out of the way and let themore intuitive voice speak. Holding the stick silently for a short while andletting the presence of the circle and the moment evoke what needs to be said,somehow dissolves habitual reactions and attachment to long-held positions.Perseverance with this practice leads to the realization that everything thatfeels important at the time doesn’t have to be spoken. Council teaches us that,often what we forget to say is either not essential or will be brought to thecircle by someone else.
Ultimately,we learn that each voice in the circle, including one’s own, is part of thelarger “voice of the circle.” We speak personally and, as an aspect ofthis composite voice, simultaneously. In order for the transpersonal quality tofully emerge the I-better-prepare-because-I’m-nervous part of us needs to getout of the way. Veteran members of a circle come to trust that when they arehanded the talking piece, everything they have already heard in the circle willhave been internalized and integrated with their personal associations andmemories in just the appropriate way. They come to trust that they will sayexactly and uniquely what the circle needs to hear from them in that moment …
This Thursday evening, after our regular 7:30 sitting,as our Dharma Discussion, we willwork with the Four Intentions of Council in small groups and in a large group.Our question will be: In what ways doesthe practice of mindfulness allow me to share myself more fully with others? Ornot? To help us slow down our tendency to respond immediately to anotherperson’s sharing, either before or after we have bowed into the group, we willbreathe in and out for at least three breaths.
Youare invited to join us this Thursday evening.