Going for Refuge

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Dear Still Water Friends,

On January 3rd the Still Water community will join with other mindfulness communities in the Washington area for a Five Mindfulness Training Transmission Ceremony. In our program this Thursday evening at Crossings in Silver Spring, and (on December 21st at the Yoga Center of Columbia) we will explore the significance of taking mindfulness trainings and the impact they have on our lives.

The Five Trainings are spiritually based commitments. They are statements we make to ourselves and to our community: This is how I want to live my life. These are my intentions.

In the transmission ceremony, as well as committing to one or more of the trainings, the ordinees, as they are called, are asked to take the Three Great Refuge Vows:

I take refuge in the Buddha, the one who shows me the way in this life.
I take refuge in the Dharma, the way of understanding and Love.
I take refuge in the Sangha, the community that lives in harmony and awareness.

The vows are a recognition that intentions may be more than we can accomplish by ourselves. In going for refuge, we acknowledge our intimate interdependence with others. We need the guidance of someone who embodies our ideals, or represents a spiritual way of being, such as the historical Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, or Martin Luther King.

We need a Dharma, a set of life teachings, to nourish us. This can be the practices developed in the Buddhist tradition since the time of the Buddha, or another wisdom tradition, followed along with or instead of the Buddhist tradition.

And we need a Sangha. We need a community or group of spiritual friends to nourish us, challenge us, and support us.

The aftereffects of taking the trainings are often surprising and powerful. This Thursday at Crossings Annie Mahon, Maria Sgambati, Mary Beth Hatem, and Stephen Allen will reflect on how the trainings have touched their lives. (Members of the Columbia Still Water community will share their experiences on December 21st.)

I invite you to be with us this Thursday.

If you would like to take (or are considering taking) one or more of the trainings through the Still Water Mindfulness Practice Center, please let me know in person or through an email to info@stillwatermpc.org. If you are not receiving the trainings this year, I invite you to attend to nourish your seeds of spiritual commitment and to offer support to the ordinees. More information about the transmission ceremony on January 3 is available on our web site. A copy of the five mindfulness trainings used by the Washington area mindfulness communities is below.

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher


The Five Mindfulness Trainings

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 of life.

Second Mindfulness Training

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to cultivating loving kindness and learning ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals.

I will practice generosity by sharing my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.

Third Mindfulness Training

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful sexual behavior, I am committed to cultivating sexual responsibility and respect in myself and in others.

I will learn ways to protect the physical and emotional integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. If I choose to engage in sexual relations, I will do so only in a loving and committed relationship. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my emotional, physical, and legal commitments to my partner, as well as commitments among other persons. I will do everything in my power to protect children, women, and men from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by unmindful sexual behavior. I will be mindful of loneliness and sexual suffering in myself and others and I will be compassionate and nonjudgmental concerning the sexual behavior of others.

Fourth Mindfulness Training

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering.

Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to learning to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

Fifth Mindfulness Training

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 ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.