August 12, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Open to all Online on Friday Evening
Dear Still Water Friends,
This July, I was fortunate to visit my mom and other family in New England for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. Mom has always been physically active, until recently she still practiced Pilates and hiked. When I saw her in the memory care facility in which she now lives, I was sad to recognize the toll her journey with dementia has taken in the last year, not only on her mental health but also her physical capacity. The visceral reality of seeing Mom’s torqued posture as she got up from her chair to greet me, needing her walker after only a few steps, was a shock. Though I knew about her decline from Zooming with her, being in person together at first felt overwhelming.
After returning home from my trip, this sentence from the Second Mindfulness Training on True Happiness reminds me to include Mom in my practice:
I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering; that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion.
On my morning walks, I’ve been silently inviting her to walk with me as if she were with me. As I walk with her, grief, anger, relief, and compassion arise and subside with my steps. I imagine her as a strong, rebellious child and my heart aches at how she is now.
One memory from my visit stands out. As my aunt and I accompanied my mother on a walk, Mom exclaimed at the daisies planted at the edge of the parking lot and paused to marvel at the green leaves of an oak tree. My grief is tempered by Mom’s continuing gratitude for beauty, which she still appreciates even in unlikely places. She reminds me, as it says in the Second Mindfulness Training, “that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy.” In walking with my mother, I experience compassion for her suffering, and begin to understand the gifts, like appreciation of beauty, that she has given me.
This Thursday and Friday after our meditation, we’ll recite the Five Mindfulness Trainings together and explore these questions in Dharma sharing:
- Have you found moments of happiness in the present moment, even in the midst of suffering?
- Are there other parts of the Second Mindfulness Training that touch your heart?
You are warmly invited to join us!
An excerpt from A Rose for Your Pocket by Thich Nhat Hanh is below.
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From A Rose for Your Pocket: An Appreciation of Motherhood by Thich Nhat Hanh
When you make a step, you may visualize that your mother is taking that step with you. This is not something difficult, because you know that your feet are a continuation of the feet of your mother. As we practice looking deeply, we see the presence of our mother in every cell of our body. Our body is also a continuation of our mother’s body. When you make a step, you may say, “Mother, walk with me.” And suddenly you feel your mother in you walking with you. You may notice that during her lifetime she did not have much chance to walk in the here and the now and to enjoy touching the earth like you. Suddenly compassion, love, is born. And that is because you can see your mother walking with you—not as something imagined but as a reality.
You can invite your father to walk with you. You may like to invite the people you love to walk with you in the here and the now. You can invite them and walk with them without the need for them to be physically present. We continue our ancestors; our ancestors are fully present in every cell of our body. When we take a peaceful step we know that all of our ancestors are taking that step with us. Millions of feet are making the same movement. With video techniques you can create that kind of image. Thousands of feet are making a step together. And of course your mind can do that. Your mind can see thousands and millions of your ancestors’ feet are making a step together with you. That practice, using visualization, will shatter the idea, the feeling, that you are a separate self. You walk, and yet they walk.
It is possible for you to walk with the feet of your mother. Poor mother, she didn’t have much opportunity to walk like this. You can say, “Mother, would you like to walk with me?” And then you walk with her, and your heart will fill with love. You free yourself and you free her at the same time, because it’s true that your mother is in you, in every cell of your body. Your father is also fully present in every cell of your body. You can say, “Dad, would you like to join me?” Then suddenly you walk with the feet of your father. It’s a joy. It’s very rewarding. And I assure you that it’s not difficult. You don’t have to fight and struggle in order to do it. Just become aware, and everything will go well.
You may also like to sit for your mother. Many mothers don’t get many opportunities to sit down and do nothing. This is important work! You can sit and just breathe mindfully, and this will be something you can do for your mother, whether she has passed on or is still with you, whether she is far away or near. After you have been able to walk for your dear ones, you can walk for the people who have made your life miserable. You can walk for those who have attacked you, who have destroyed your home, your country, and your people. These people weren’t happy. They didn’t have enough love for themselves and for other people. They have made your life miserable and the life of your family and your people miserable. And there will be a time when you’ll be able to walk for them too. Walking like that, you become a Buddha; you become a bodhisattva filled with love, understanding, and compassion.