Mind Wanting More,

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Dear Still Water Friends,

After our meditation period this Thursday evening we will recite the Five Mindfulness Trainings. Our program will focus on the Fifth Training, on mindful consumption.

Why do we consume unmindfully? A delightful poem by Holly Hughes offers one answer:

Mind Wanting More
Only a beige slat of sun
above the horizon, like a shade pulled
not quite down.  Otherwise,
clouds.  Sea rippled here and
there.  Birds reluctant to fly.
The mind wants a shaft of sun to
stir the grey porridge of clouds,
an osprey to stitch sea to sky
with its barred wings, some dramatic
music: a symphony, perhaps
a Chinese gong.
But the mind always
wants more than it has —
one more bright day of sun,
one more clear night in bed
with the moon; one more hour
to get the words right; one
more chance for the heart in hiding
to emerge from its thicket
in dried grasses — as if this quiet day
with its tentative light weren’t enough,
as if joy weren’t strewn all around.

Is there more than a wanting mind that drives our unmindful consumption? During our program, we will explore and share the root causes and conditions that lead us into unmindful behavior, and also, those that lead us into being mindful in our consumption. The Fifth Mindfulness Training, and an interview excerpt on mindful consumption by Thich Nhat Hanh, are below.

The best times to join our Thursday evening gatherings are just before the beginning of our 7 p.m. meditation, just before we begin walking meditation, around 7:25, and just after our walking meditation, around 7:35.

You are invited to be with us.

This Thursday evening we are also collecting clean and usable clothing, shoes, and household goods for the clients of Shepherd’s Table, a Silver Spring non-profit that provides assistance to individuals and families in need. What you no longer need may be of great value to someone else. Receipts are provided.

Next Thursday, March 19th, we will begin a series of special presentations focused on Thich Nhat Hanh’s recent book, The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology. For the next five months on each third Thursday (and also at the Columbia gathering on the Sunday that follows the third Thursday), Still Water practitioners with expertise in ecology and the enviroment will summarize chapters and direct our attention to issues and questions which especially concern them. Scott Shang leads off next week with Chapter One and Two: "The Bells of Mindfulness" and "A Global Ethic." We encourage every who can to read the chapters ahead of time. Copies are available on our book table as well as at booksellers.

Warm Wishes,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher

The Fifth Mindfulness Training

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society, by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming.

I am committed to ingesting only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.


Thich Nhat Hanh on Mindful Consumption,
From an Interview with Bob Abernethy of the Religion and Ethics Newsletter

Q: Is it possible for you to sum up the essence of the true values of Buddhism?
A: Buddhism teaches us not to try to run away from suffering. You have to confront suffering. You have to look deeply into the nature of suffering in order to recognize its cause, the making of the suffering. Suffering is the First Noble Truth, and the making of the suffering — namely, the roots of suffering — is the Second Noble Truth. Once you understand the roots of suffering, the Fourth Noble Truth — the path leading to the transformation of suffering — is revealed. And if you go on that path — namely, the path of right thinking, right speech, and right action — then you can transform your suffering.

If you practice in a community, you help the community to transform suffering. And if you practice as a nation, you help the whole nation to transform suffering.

The Buddha spoke about suffering in terms of food. Nothing can survive without food, even your love. If you don’t feed your love properly, your love will die. Your suffering is there because you have been feeding it. If violence, hate, despair, and fear are there, it is because you have been feeding them by your unmindful consumption. Therefore, if you know how to recognize the source of the nutrients of your suffering, and if you know how to cut off that source of nutrition, then the suffering will have to vanish.

This is a very important teaching for our time, because the amount of violence and craving in us and in our children comes from our practice of unmindful consumption — watching television, reading magazines, having poisonous conversation. We bring a lot of poisons and toxins into our body and into our consciousness. If you don’t stop producing these toxic items, and if we don’t know how to protect ourselves by mindful consumption of these items, there’s no way out.

Q: For everybody and particularly for Americans you would recommend what? Less consumption? Less television?
A: Not less, but right consumption. There are very wonderful television programs that can water the seed of understanding, compassion, joy, and happiness in us. We don’t have to consume them less, but we have to refrain from consuming the kind of television programs that can mean to our body and mind a lot of craving, a lot of violence, and despair. It’s not a problem of less or more, but right or wrong — right consumption, mindful consumption.