First Mindfulness Training

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Dear Still Water Friends,

This Thursday evening, we will read the Five Mindfulness Trainings together. After the recitation, we will share and discuss the First Mindfulness Training:

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 condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking and in my way life.

When I first began reading the mindfulness trainings, I remember thinking ‘How hard can this first training be?” I basically think of myself as a good person, and am opposed to violence in general. Although I am not a vegetarian, I am moving in that direction. So I only saw the first training as applying to humans, and to animals that I might consume for nourishment.

But as I read and studied this more deeply, I began to see that the teaching of the first mindfulness training has many layers and calls us to more than that. It calls us to be aware of the lives of plants and minerals, of all living beings. And it calls us to accept that simply by living, we take life. Thich Nhat Hanh says in ‘For a Future to Be Possible’ –

Simply by living, we take life. Leather shoes and belts, breathing in and breathing out, a cup of water, a stroll in the forest, raising mustard greens, flying here and there, the daily newspaper: in each, a thousand things are dying and being born.

How than do we try to live mindfully in practice of the first training? How do we live accepting that we kill all the time? How do we live in the midst of all this inter-being and not become paralyzed by each decision and action? For me, I keep looking to mindfulness and gratitude for help. I try to remember to thank the food for giving its life so I may live. During a walk in the woods the other day, I contemplated that my footsteps might be taking the lives of small insects and organisms. I thanked them for making the land, the soil for me to walk upon and for things to grow in. It’s hard to do all the time, but each time I do it, I feel more at peace, more in the present moment and more compassionate.

Warm regards,

Maria Sgambati