Dear Still Water Friends,
This Thursday we will have the pleasure of having Jindra Cekan with us. I’ve known Jindra for twenty years and appreciate the many ways she offers her energy and presence as a friend, mother, Sangha-builder, international development consultant, and spiritual guide. After our meditation period, Jindra will offer some exercises to help us “Heal the Present through the Past.” A note from Jindra on this topic is below:
“The moon is shining after the rain
The yard fragrant with perfumed breeze
The bell resounds in the evening silence
Asking whose souls have awakened.”
— Zen master Mat The
For two decades I have been inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh, especially his teachings on how to keep returning to the present moment. He writes in Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm:
Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.
Martha Beck is a more recent inspiration. Beck is a master coach who has combined mindfulness practice with mysticism and coaching to provide new doorways to heal our suffering. I especially appreciate her practice of using visualizations to help us heal. In the present moment we can not only enjoy our well-being, we can visit earlier versions of ourselves from a safe vantage-point, transforming our fears from the past. In other words, it is possible to return to our memories of the past and clean house.
This Thursday evening I invite you to join me in a healing visualization I was taught by Martha Beck and also a visualization I created built on the foundation of these wonderful teachers.
Below are excerpts on “letting go of the past” by Thich Nhat Hanh and Martha Beck.
Our new website launched this past week. One of the nice new features is that we now have the past 12 years of Dharma Topics in a searchable database. Please take a look at the web site —www.stillwatermpc.org — and let us know (at email@example.com ) both what you like about the web site and whether there are any improvements or additions you would like to see on it. Also, please let us know if you find any spelling errors, broken links, or other shortcomings.
Our list of upcoming Still Water special events is below. This Saturday we will have a Day of Practice with Kaira Jewel Lingo. It is focused on mindfulness and social justice and is filling up, so please register soon if you would like to join us.
Letting Go of Suffering
By Thich Nhat Hanh from “Resting in the River,” March, 1998, Shambhala Sun
— Why do we cling to our suffering?
— Many of us are not capable of releasing the past, of releasing the suffering of the past. We want to cling to our own suffering. But the Buddha said very clearly, do not cling to the past, the past is already gone. Do not wait for future, the future is not yet there. The wise people establish themselves in the present moment and they practice living deeply in the present moment. That is our practice. By living deeply in the present moment we can understand the past better and we can prepare for a better future.
Today I attended a Vietnam war veterans’ discussion, and my heart is still heavy. The condition of the war veterans-their heart, their mind, their body-do you think that they will ever be emotionally healed in this lifetime? I think if they practice with all their heart and they are determined to relieve the past, they will be healed.
We cling too much to the past; we have to face the future. We have to stand on the ground of the present moment. The war in Vietnam was just a war. There are many wars still going on and we continue to create victims of war and war veterans. The number of American soldiers who died in Vietnam was something like 55,000. Every year the number of people who die in car accidents in America is exactly that number, 55,000. So there is the equivalent number of dead people caused by alcoholism and unmindful driving. This is another war. The toll is as huge as the damage inflicted by war, and every time a person dies because of a car accident, it creates many war veterans in the children who lose their mother, the mothers who lose their son.
If we stick to our suffering we can never stand up for healing and prepare the future for our children and their children. I would say to the Vietnam war veteran, okay, you did kill five children. We know that. But here you are, alive in the present moment. Do you know that you have the power to save five children today? You don’t have to go to Vietnam or southeast Asia. There are American children who are dying every day; they may need only one pill to be saved from their illness.
Never Stop Learning
By Martha Beck from “Yes, It Was Awful; Now Please Shut Up,” O, The Oprah Magazine (July 2006)
Getting bogged down in old stories stops the flow of learning by censoring our perceptions, making us functionally deaf and blind to new information. Once the replay button gets pushed, we no longer form new ideas or conclusions—the old ones are so cozy. But becoming present puts us back in reality, where we can rigorously fact-check our own tales.
Try dredging up one of your favorite stories—maybe a classic like “I’m not good enough.” Treat it as a hypothesis. Research it. Is there any evidence that contradicts it? Have you ever, in any way, even for an instant, been good enough? You may need to ask someone for coaching at first. Evidence that contradicts your hypothesis will be hard for you to see, while to an objective observer, it’s obvious (“Well, you’re good enough for me, your dog, and everyone down at the bingo hall, you dumb cluck”). However you get to it, the moment you absorb a fact that disproves your hypothesis, you’re half out of the mire.
Whatever terrible things may have happened to you, only one thing allows them to damage your core self, and that is continued belief in them. Kristin’s mother may have been Stalin in a bra, but by the time Kristin got to my office, what was silencing her was the conviction she’d formed during interactions with Mom: “It’s no good to speak up; no one will ever hear me.”
Kristin couldn’t redo her past, but she could change that belief. In fact, the loop she replayed in her head was the one thing standing in her way, since evidence disconfirming her hypothesis was everywhere. Lots of people listened to Kristin. Once she acknowledged that, she couldn’t be a tiny victim, waiting haplessly for her chakras to open. She was just a woman with a scary job to do. I know how much this realization bummed her out; it always bums me out. But then, it’s also the doorway to freedom.