Fleeting Pleasures

Fleeting Pleasures

Discussion date: Thu, Dec 17, 2020 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Silver Spring, Maryland, Community Online on Thursday Evening
December 17, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Open to all Online on Friday Evening
December 18, 7:00 to 8:45 pm

Dear Still Water Friends,

The Fifth Mindfulness Training was one of the primary reasons I decided to receive the Mindfulness Trainings from Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) in 1999 on my very first encounter with him and with the trainings.

I have a long history of using substances and habits to distract from and avoid the present moment. When I read the Fifth Mindfulness Training, I knew I needed the support it provided in order to begin to reestablish myself in the present moment:

Nourishment and Healing

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming

I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness.

I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations.

I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment.

I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.

The Fifth training contains a lot of prohibitions of things that we might find pleasurable or exciting. And, I’m a big believer in pleasure! That’s why I spent significant time during my second and third decades of life in a haze of alcohol, drugs, bingeing, purging, and starving myself, on top of plenty of time in front of the TV – thinking this was as good as it got.

What I’ve discovered since is that these particular habits only brought me fleeting pleasure and increased my craving for more. Over years of practice, I have found a deeper joy and contentment that’s accessible only when I refrain from distracting myself from the present moment. For some of us, letting go of these habits comes easily, while others of us need a lot of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha to support us as we slowly learn to tolerate the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that arise when we resist our habits.

When my kids were younger, I remember my son – then elementary school age – pleading with me to please stop being on my email so much. As much as I wanted to be there for him, my addiction to working and checking email was so powerful. In fact, working may be one of my most persistent addictions.

Losing myself in consumption only puts a very loose lid on loneliness and anxiety, it doesn’t transform it or prevent it from reemerging. In fact, it can cause me to be neglectful of my own body, my awareness, and my loved ones. I want to be present for what I most love in life, and to “practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me.” This training helps me remember that.

I practice for the sake of my descendants (and ancestors) and I know that my physical and mental health contributes in wholesome and unwholesome ways to the world. I have a deep aspiration to show up for the world and for my beloveds in the most healing way that I am able to: by setting aside unhelpful and distracting habits. I also recognize that I will be practicing with this training (and all the trainings) until I take my last breath.

On Thursday and Friday this week, we will read the Fifth Mindfulness Training together and ponder these question:

  • What habits (from the list in the training or others) prevent me from being in the present moment and from accessing the deep joy that results?
  • What habits am I willing to let go of right now?
  • What does it mean to me to “consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth?

I look forward to seeing you then.

Several excerpts from Thay on The Fifth Mindfulness Training are below.

With love,
Annie Mahon

This Thursday and Friday evening’s program serves as one of the preparatory classes for practitioners who wish to formally receive the Five Mindfulness Trainings on January 2, 2021. More information about the classes and the transmission ceremony is available on the Still Water website.

Also, the Still Water Mindfulness Practice Center will have an online New Year’s Day Brunch, January 1, 9:00 – 11:30 am. More information, soon.


Excerpts from Thay’s Commentary on The Fifth Mindfulness Training
from The Mindfulness Survival Kit

Volition is your aspiration, your deepest desire, what you want to do with your life. This is a very powerful source of energy that helps us to be alive. Yet many of us don’t take the time to sit down and identify our deepest desires. If your deepest desire in you is to help save our planet, this is good nourishing food. If your deepest desire is to help children to be better protected, to have better education, to have a better environment, that is good food. But if your deepest desire is to have more money, fame, power, and sensual pleasure, this is toxic food that leads to craving, attachment, overwork, taking what should go to others, and other forms of living without mindfulness.

If we’re motivated by compassion and a desire to help ourselves and others to suffer less, that’s a much healthier and more nourishing kind of food. The energy provided by this kind of deepest desire, the ideal to serve, is very powerful and can give us a lot of strength to confront the difficulties presented to us in our daily lives. Our practice is to reexamine the food of intention that we consume every day, to make sure we’re providing ourselves with good, high quality food in terms of our volition. …

The Fifth Mindfulness Training is about happiness. We consume because we want to be happy. But consumption is not true happiness. People consume in order to cover up their suffering. Many people pour themselves a glass of alcohol or open the refrigerator to take something to eat or drink in order to help them forget their suffering, their difficulties, their loneliness, or their weariness with life. This is something peculiar to our modem society.

Happiness is not something that we have to look for and find somewhere else. Returning to the present moment, we are in touch with the wonders of life inside and around us. With the help of our mindful breathing and mindful steps, we can produce happiness straightaway. When we have mindfulness, concentration, and insight we become very rich people who are able to produce much happiness for ourselves and others; we don’t need to run after anything anymore.

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Dec 17, 2020


This week
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Tue, April 16

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Silver Spring Morning Meditation

Sat, April 20