Dear Still Water Friends,
Years ago, when I was exploring mindfulness practice, one of the implicit messages that drew me in was that transformation is always possible. We can change our lives, no matter what has come before. Yes, it is true that all that we feel, think, and experience now is influenced by our parents and our early childhood. Many Buddhists might even add to that we are also influenced by all that happened early in our parent’s lifetimes and in the generations before them, and also, by what has happened every day since our childhood. However, if we can clearly see this process of conditioning, if we can observe our mental states, rather than being overwhelmed by them, then we can transform our experience of life. The texture of our lives can be changed.
In the Plum Village tradition, the Beginning Anew Ceremony is often used to help practitioners resolve conflicts and to see more deeply into the habitual responses that have created suffering for themselves and others. The basic elements of the ceremony are to bring together the individuals in conflict, or the members of a family, work group, or residential community, to:
- share appreciations (often called Flower Watering),
- express regrets (acknowledging what we have said or done that might have contributed to someone else’s suffering), and to
- express our hurt (making known that what someone else has said or done might have created difficulties for us or contributed to our suffering).
We can also use the Beginning Anew process with ourselves to reconcile inner conflicts and to set new intentions. The power of Beginning Anew is great, as Thich Nhat Hanh explained in a Plum Village Dharma Talk on May 10, 1998:
The Buddhist teaching on Beginning Anew is very clear: “The unskillfulness comes from our mind, and the unskillfulness can be transformed by our mind.” … The mind is a painter. The painter can paint anything, and the painter can erase everything. So if in the past you have painted something you don’t like, and if you are determined not to paint it again, then you erase all of that. It depends on your mind, your consciousness.
This Thursday evening, after our meditation period, we will read together the Introduction to the Beginning Anew Ceremony and share our experiences. How have we, or might we, begin anew?
You are invited to join us.
You are also invited to join us this Thursday for a brief newcomer’s orientation to mindfulness practice and the Still Water community. The orientation will begin at 6:30 pm and participants are encouraged to stay for the evening program. If you would like to attend the orientation, it is helpful if you let us know by emailing us at info@StillWaterMPC.org.
The Introduction to the Beginning Anew Ceremony is below.
Places are still available for Nurturing True Presence: Still Water Mindful Family Retreat, Friday, November 13 to Sunday, November 15, 2015, at the Charter Hall Retreat Center in Perryville, Maryland.
by Thich Nhat Hanh, from Chanting from the Heart: Buddhist Ceremonies and Daily Practice.
With great respect, we turn towards the conqueror of afflictions,
offering heartfelt words of repentance.
We have lived in forgetfulness for a long time.
As we have not had the opportunity to encounter the Dharma,
our habit energies have led us into suffering.
We have made many mistakes out of unskillfulness.
We have been blinded by our wrong perceptions
for a very long time.
Our heart’s garden is sown with attachment, hatred, and pride.
In us are seeds of killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, and lies.
Our everyday deeds and words do damage.
All these wrong actions are obstacles to our peace and joy.
Let us begin anew.[BELL]
We see that we have been thoughtless,
straying from the path of mindfulness.
We have stored up afflictions and ignorance,
which have brought about so much aversion and sorrow.
There are times we have been weary of life
because we are so full of anxiety.
Because we do not understand others,
we are angry and resentful.
First we try to reason with each other, then we blame.
Every day the suffering increases, making the rift greater.
There are days when we are unwilling to speak to each other,
unwilling to look each other in the face.
And we create internal formations, which last for a long time.
Now we turn to the Three Jewels.
Sincerely recognizing our errors, we bow our heads.[BELL]
We know so well that in our consciousness
are buried all the wholesome seeds —
seeds of love and understanding and seeds of peace and joy.
But because we do not know how to water them
the wholesome seeds do not sprout fresh and green.
We continue to allow sorrow to overwhelm us
until there is no light in our lives.
When we chase after a distant happiness,
life becomes but a shadow of the reality.
Our mind is occupied by the past,
or worrying about this or that in the future.
We cannot let go of our anger,
and we consider of no value the precious gifts of life
which are already in our hands,
thereby trampling on real happiness.
As month follows month, we are sunk in sorrow.
So now in the precious presence of the Buddha,
fragrant with sandalwood incense,
we recognize our errors and begin anew.[BELL]
With all our heart we go for refuge,
turning to the Buddhas in the Ten Directions
and all the Bodhisattvas, noble disciples, and self
Very sincerely we recognize our errors
and the mistakes of our wrong judgments.
Please bring the balm of clear water
to pour on the roots of our afflictions.
Please bring the raft of the true teachings
to carry us over the ocean of sorrows.
We vow to live an awakened life,
to practice smiling and conscious breathing,
and to study the teachings, authentically transmitted.
Diligently, we shall live in mindfulness.[BELL]
We come back to live in the wonderful present,
to plant our heart’s garden with good seeds,
and to make strong foundations of understanding and love.
We vow to train ourselves in mindfulness and concentration,
practicing to look and understand deeply
to be able to see the nature of all that is,
and so to be free of the bonds of birth and death.
We learn to speak lovingly, to be affectionate,
to care for others whether it is early morn or late afternoon,
to bring the roots of joy to many places,
helping people to abandon sorrow,
to respond with deep gratitude
to the kindness of parents, teachers, and friends.
With deep faith we light up the incense of our heart.
We ask the Lord of Compassion to be our protector
on the wonderful path of practice.
We vow to practice diligently,
cultivating the fruits of this path.[BELL, BELL, BELL]