Identifying Our Strengths

Identifying Our Strengths

Discussion date: Thu, Aug 16, 2007 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

Most mornings I read the Washington Post. I want to know what is goingon in my neighborhood, in Congress, and in the larger world. If thereare problems, if there is suffering, I want to know about it. Idon’t want to hide from it.

Even though I read the Post, I also have a strong feeling thatthere is something insidious about how the news is reported in theWashington Post and through other “professional” newsoutlets. The reporters and writers focus on being objective. They tellus what is going on. They give us more and more details. But thereporters do not tell us how to respond to suffering and environmentdegradation with love. They don’t tell us how to connect. Theydon’t even entertain the possibility that one would want to. Theyjust give us more and more details. Towers of details. It is easyto numb out, to sink into despair,

In Calming the Fearful Mind, A Zen Response to Terrorism,Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that in this difficult world moment, asmindfulness practitioners we are called to open our hearts to sufferingand, also, to nourish love and hope in our lives and in our communities:

Whether or not the twenty-firstcentury becomes a century of spirituality depends on our capacity ofbuilding community. Without a community, we will become victims ofdespair. We need each other. We need to congregate, to bring togetherour wisdom, our insight, and our compassion. The Earth is our truehome, a home for all of us. We invite everyone to look deeply into ourcollective situation. We invite everyone to speak out to spread themessage. If we fail in this task of Sangha building, then the suffering

We can bring the spiritual dimension into our daily life, as well asour social, political, and economic life. This is our practice. Jesushad this intention. Buddha had this intention. All of our spiritualancestors, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist hadthis intention. We can display the light of wisdom and come together inorder to create hope and to prevent society and the younger generationfrom sinking in despair.

In this spirit, this Thursday evening after our meditation period wewill focus our attention on the excerpt below by Sharif M. Abdul from The Power of One.We will identify personal and global “problems” and alsoidentify the strengths and resources we bring to the resolution ofthese problem.

I hope you can be with us. The best times to join us are justbefore the beginning of our 7 p.m meditation, just before we beginwalking meditation (around 7:25), and just after our walking meditation(around 7:35).

Also, beginning at 5:30, some of us will be meeting at the LebaneseTaverna (next to the fountain on Ellsworth Avenue) for dinner beforethe sitting meditation. (If you have questions about the dinner, pleaseemail Steve Allen — stephen_s_allen@yahoo.com.)

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher


Authentic Power as a Spiritual Practice, by Abdullah M. Sharif, from The Power of One

Catsand rats. A few years ago, I experienced a recurring dream. In mywaking life, I faced severe economic problems. The elements of therecurring dream were always the same; there was always a cat and a rat.

Therats were very detailed and very distinct. They were 3 or 4 feet high,they would sit up on their hind legs, they were well-muscled, I couldsee every hair on their bodies. They looked very intelligent, withquesting eyes. The cats were always very lethargic, most of the timethey couldn’t even stand up. They    would lie in puddles on the floor.They were indistinct; I couldn’t tell head from tail.   

Nightafter night, I would have this dream. Super-articulated rats andindistinct, weak cats. Finally, I realized what the dreams meant. Therats were my debts, the problems in my life at that time. I focused onmy debts, I looked at them, I analyzed them. I would round up my billsand go through them, add them, worry over them. I dwelled on the debts;I fixated on them.

The cats were my abundance, my resources. I paid no attention to them. They were lethargic.

Assoon as I realized the meaning of the dream, I asked myself: what aremy assets? What is my abundance? I sat down and made a list of myspiritual, physical and financial assets. By the time I finished withthe list, I saw the solution to my pressing debt problem. My answer tomy financial problem was right in front of me all the time. I couldn’tsee it when I was preoccupied with focusing on the problems.

Thenext night, I had a dream. The dream was about a beautiful black cat:huge, sleek, powerful. And, there was a little tiny mouse scurryingalong the floor.

We all do this; we all tend to focus on theproblems instead of the solution. And in doing this, we ignore or denythe solution, or at least deny the possibility of solution.

Isit in meetings of people who very correctly see and analyze themega-crises. They analyze and reanalyze. They issue reports andstudies. These are the same people who come up to me and (quiteproudly) recite the latest military atrocity or ecological catastropheor social travesty.

These committed individuals stare blanklywhen I ask them to articulate their solution. At best, their statedsolution is making someone else act.

We focus on the rats whileavoiding the cats because creating a solution also creates theresponsibility for implementing the solution. We want someone else todo that. The Democrats want the Republicans to come up with thesolution, so they can shoot at it. The blacks want the whites to comeup with the solution, so they can criticize it.

Changing focus from problems to solutions, from rats to cats, takes willpower. And nothing else.

Whatis authentic power? … In Chinese, the character for “power” has threeelements. One of them is forward motion; the second part is a Heart;the third part is a goal. Therefore, the Chinese definition of power ismoving forward, with heart, to achieve a goal. When you have all thethree elements, heart, forward motion, and a goal, you are beginning toachieve authentic power. If you do something without Heart, withoutLove, it lacks power. If you act without a goal, you act without power….

Discussion Date: Thu, Aug 16, 2007


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