Dear Still Water Friends,
Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay), in a 2012 Dharma talk, made a penetrating assessment of modern life and technology:
Loneliness is the ill-being of our time. We feel very lonely, even if we are surrounded by many people. We are lonely together. There is a vacuum inside of us, and we don’t feel comfortable with that kind of vacuum, so we try to fill it up by connecting with other people. We believe that we can connect with other people, and then the feeling of loneliness will disappear.
Technology supplies us with a lot of devices in order to stay connected. We always stay connected, but we feel lonely. We continue to feel lonely. We check our emails several times a day, we send emails several times a day. We post messages every time in the day. We want to share, we want to receive. We are busy through the whole day in order to connect, but that does not help with reducing the amount of loneliness within us. … We have used technologies in order to try to dissipate that feeling of loneliness, but we have not succeeded.
The underlying condition is that many people no longer have the capacity to connect deeply with themselves, with their bodies, feelings, emotions, and perceptions. And if we are not able to connect with ourselves, how can we connect with others? Given the conditions of modern life, coming back to ourselves, Thay says, is a form of resistance, a revolutionary act:
We walk, but we do not know that we are walking. We are there, but we do not know that we are there. We are alive, but we do not know that we are alive. We are losing ourselves, we are not ourselves. And that is happening almost all day long. So the act of sitting down is an act of revolution. You sit down and you cut off, you stop that state of being: losing yourself and not being yourself. When you sit down you connect to yourself, and you do not need an iPhone or a computer to do that. You just need to sit down mindfully and breathe mindfully, and in a few seconds you will connect with yourself. You know what is going on — in your body, in your feelings, your emotions, and your perceptions, and so on. You are already home.
I am aware of my feeling of loneliness, of sickness, of fear, of anxiety. I smile to the feeling of loneliness, of fear, of anxiety. I say “My dear, loneliness, I know you are there, I am home to take care of you.” And you make peace with your loneliness, you make peace with your fear. There is a wounded child in you and you recognize her or him. And you embrace her or him tenderly in your arms. That is the act of going home and taking care of home. … You don’t need a lot of technology to do that, and this is the revolution. This is the way to heal ourselves and our society.
Thay also notes that as we begin to connect more deeply with our own lived experience, we can help others do the same:
If you can find a home for yourself, you can help your partner to find his or her home, because he or she is lonely also. And he or she is looking for home, for some warmth, for some safety. That is why once you have got a home, you can go to your partner. … You are confident because you know how to connect with yourself. … So the confidence in you will inspire him or her to do the same.
This is the way prescribed by the Buddha. Everything has to begin with yourself. And the practice is very clear. Every breath, every step, every sitting, every act like drinking or cleaning, if done in mindfulness, helps you to go home and to enjoy the wonders of life around you and in you. Your body is a wonder, and the hill, the clear streams of water, they are all wonders, and they have the power to heal.
This Thursday evening, after our meditation period, we will watch a video of Thay’s teaching on loneliness from his December 13, 2012, Dharma talk. Our Dharma sharing will focus on loneliness and mindfulness practice:
What are the causes and conditions that have feed and sustained our loneliness?
What are the causes and conditions that have nourished our capacity for true connection with ourselves and with others?
You are invited to ask yourselves these questions and to join us if you are can. Thay’s Dharma talk is online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoYKHy78oiw .
As is our tradition on the first Thursday of the month, we will also offer a brief newcomers’ orientation to mindfulness practice and to 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 email@example.com.