Dharma Topic: Touching the Earth – Mindful Politics

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Dear Still Water Friends,

This Thursday evening we will begin our newschedule of starting our sitting meditation at 7 pm. Please come a few minutesearly, if you can, to help us set up. We will sit for 25 minutes, walk for about10 minutes, and sit for another 25 minutes. If you wish come at 7:30, as before,that is fine – join us for the walking and the second sitting.

This Thursday, after our second sitting, wewill practice the Five Earth Touchings, a guided movement meditation. The FiveEarth Touchings helps us recognize our connection to our blood families,spiritual families, and our national histories, and encourages us to bring joyto those we love and reconcile with those who have caused us harm.

In light of the upcoming election, ourdiscussion will focus on the third earth touching, on our connection to ournational history (the text of the Third Touching is provided below).

In the mindfulness tradition of Thich Nhat Hanhthere is an encouragement to be engaged in the struggles and concerns of ourtime, and, at the same time, to not be politically partisan while doing it.

We are encouraged to bring spiritual concernsinto the political arena:

I think we might like to write our Congressmen letters suggesting that in Congress they practice deep listening and loving speech. I would like to vote for those who have the capacity to listen and use loving speech. And I suggest there be a committee of deep, compassionate listening. Not only should they listen to other people, but to all colleagues, and listen to the people who suffer everywhere in the world. (Thich Nhat Hanh, speaking in Berkeley, California, Sept 13, 2001)

Our century should be a century that is equipped with a spiritual dimension, if we want to get out of our present situation. The spiritual dimension should be there in the realms of politics, business, science, the family setting, in schools, in society in every sector of social life. . . .

When we look deeply into the cause of suffering, we can see anger and despair, not just policies. Policies are not the enemy, but rather the anger, hatred and despair that are behind the policies. A political leader can at the same time be a spiritual leader; he or she should have the spiritual leader inside him or herself.

We all have at least three people inside of us: the fighter, the monk and the artist. The artist is very important. The artist can bring freshness, a meaning to life, joy. The spiritual leader can bring lucidity, calm, and deep vision. And the fighter brings a determination to go ahead. We have to mobilize all three of these people inside of us, and never let one of them die or become too weak. If you are a social activist, a peace activist, a political leader, or a community leader, you have to know how to cultivate these three people within yourself, so you can be balanced and steady for your people. (Thich Nhat Hanh, welcoming the Palestinian Israeli group to Plum Village, July, 2001).

And we are encouraged not to make our spiritualcommunities political.

Aware that the essence and aim of a Sangha is the practice of understanding and compassion, we are determined not to . . . transform our community into a political instrument. A spiritual community should, however, take a clear stand against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts. (From the Tenth Mindfulness Training of the Order of Interbeing).

In our Dharma discussion we will share ourexperiences along the path of mindful politics–the ways we have learned,struggled (and sometimes failed) to approach politics and the issues of ourtimes with a loving and open heart.

Please join us if you can.

For those of us who are wish to see the beginning of the George W. Bush – JohnKerry debate, it will be possible to leave after the second sitting, or afterthe Touchings of the Earth.

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher