Dear Still Water Friends,
This Thursday evening, September 28, 2006, after our meditation period we will practice the guided movement meditation we call the Five Touchings of the Earth.
The first four of the five touchings helpus acknowledgeour place in the flow of life. They help us see our relationships withour blood family, our spiritual family, our country, and with those welove. They help us toconnect with where we come from and where we are going.
The first four touchings prepare us for the fifth touching–reconciliation with the people and the institutions that have made us suffer.
When I was younger I consciously separated myself from aclose relationship with my family of origin and with my religious tradition. Ifelt I had to. There seemed to be no place for me, no way to continue and betrue to myself. It seemed as if there were had only two choices – to remain andbetray myself (Submission) or to leave and cut the relationship (Rebellion).
The fifth touching suggests another option – Reconciliation.Looking back on my life, I understand now that reconciliation requires amaturity and a strength I simply did not have then. Out of weakness, I too oftensaw things only in terms of the extremes: it was all good or it was all bad.And my separation was fueled by an emotional antipathy that often surprised mewith its sharpness.
As I now understand it, true reconciliationis possible only when we are able to access our strengths. We are ableto look at what appears to us as healthy or toxic – in others, ininstitutions, and in ourselves – from a place of stability andcompassion. We are able to recognize our continuity with our blood,spiritual, and land ancestors. And we fully realize, rationally andemotionally, that we can choose in our lives to act in ways that accordwith our deepest aspiration.
You are invited to join us this Thursday for our meditation and our program.In our discussion we will share our personal experiences withsubmission, rebellion, and reconciliation.
The full text of the Five Touchings is available on our website (Click Here). Below is an excerpt on reconciliation from a 1998 Dharma Talk by Thich Nhat Hanh.
“Reconciling With Our Roots,” from a Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh on August 2, 1998, in Plum Village, France.
When I came to the West, I did not come as a missionary. I came inorder to call for an end to the Vietnamese war. Because I am a monk,wherever I go, I have to practice sitting meditation, walkingmeditation, and breathing. Young people in the West agreed with me, andwanted to work with me to bring an end to the war between the UnitedStates and Vietnam, and they learned how to breathe, they learned howto eat in mindfulness. While they participated in these things, theyfelt well, they felt light and happy, and they said, “Please, Thay,please teach us the way of practicing mindfulness. That is why I wrotebooks like The Miracle of Mindfulness, to help my young friends to beable to practice mindfulness. When that book was first published, itwas called The Miracle of Being Awake, because I was afraid that theterm “mindfulness” was a little too specialized. After that book hadbeen published, Pax Christi in England liked the book very much, andthey published it again, for people in their organization to be able touse. The people who did this were very intelligent, they were able torecognize the value of mindfulness practice in Buddhism for their owntradition, and their own congregation used this. I remember inCalifornia that there was an order of Catholic nuns who used this bookfor all the students of that order.
My friends encouraged me to lead retreats, where so many people havelearned mindfulness, and I have never said, “Please give up yourtradition to follow me.” I say, “If you are Jewish, please do notabandon your Jewish roots. You can study Buddhism with me, but thatwill help you to go back to Judaism and discover the jewels in Judaism,that may have been covered up by layers, so that you haven’t seenthem. If you are Christian, please do not abandon your Christian roots,do not abandon your Christian ancestors.” . . . Even though youare angry with your church, with your priests, with your parents, youshould know that those are your roots, and you come from those roots.So I encourage you, come to the Buddhist monastery, learn how topractice mindfulness, and then you will see that in your own spiritualtradition there are jewels, and you will return to that tradition, andhelp re-establish those jewels in your tradition. Although there arenegative things there, which have made the young people leave thatchurch, try to find the jewels in your own tradition, so that the youngpeople will have something to go back to, and there can bereconciliation between yourself and your ancestral tradition, andbetween yourself and your parents.
We have to reconcile not only with our spiritual traditions, but alsowith our blood traditions, and this is going back home. A tree whichhas been cut off from its roots cannot be happy. If you dig up a tree,and you put it in a strange environment, even though you give it a lotof fertilizer, it cannot be happy. A person is the same: if you pull itup by its roots, and put it down somewhere else, it will not be happy.I am very aware of this, and that is why I have never encouragedanybody to give up his or her roots. I say, “You are Christian; do notgive up your Christian roots. You are Jewish; do not give up yourJewish roots. This practice of mindfulness will help you to return toyour roots, to transform the things that have gone wrong in yourtradition, and allow the bright things to shine out again from yourtradition.” Therefore, I am determined to do that only, and I willnever allow somebody to lose their roots, and I will always encouragepeople to go back to their roots. . . . We have been wandering for somany generations, and we must return home in order to re-establish therelationship with our parents, reconcile with our native land, andreconcile with our spiritual ancestors.