Dear Still Water Friends,
One of the qualities that attracted me years ago to Thich Nhat Hanh and his teachings was his lightness and joy. I sensed that it was not a fragile joy based on escapism or denial, but rather an abiding joy based on a very different way of holding suffering than I was familiar with.
At the beginning of the book Being Peace, which is a collection of excerpts from talks Thich Nhat Hanh gave to American practitioners in 1985, he guides us toward that joy:
Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby. To suffer is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They are within us and all around us, everywhere, any time.
Meditation is to be aware of what is going on-in our bodies, in our feelings, in our minds, and in the world. Each day 40,000 children die of hunger. The superpowers now have more than 50,000 nuclear warheads, enough to destroy our planet many times. Yet the sunrise is beautiful, and the rose that bloomed this morning along the wall is a miracle. Life is both dreadful and wonderful. To practice meditation is to be in touch with both aspects. Please do not think we must be solemn in order to meditate. In fact, to meditate well, we have to smile a lot.
For me, sitting meditation and walking meditation are ways to deepen my mindfulness, so that I am more available for the rose. When I sit, I calm my mind and body and place my awareness on the bank of consciousness, watching breaths, sensations, emotions, and thoughts go by. I attune not to the content of what passes by, but to the quality of the contact. When I’m really settled–it happens on its own, not by command–I’m more aware of the life energy in each breath, sensation, emotion, or thought. The accompanying mind-state is one of effusive contentment.
When I’m able to really settle through meditation, I find that I’m more available for the sunrises and the roses, and also for the people in my life and the challenges of the world.
You are invited to join us this Thursday for our meditation period and our program focused on Practice, Lightness, and Joy. We will explore the question: "Concretely, how do I make my practice and my life lighter and more joyful?
A poem about practice and lightness by the Chinese Zen Teacher Xu Yun (Empty Cloud) is below:
Searching for the Dharma
You’ve traveled up ten thousand steps in search of the Dharma.
So many long days in the archives, copying, copying.
The gravity of the Tang and the profundity of the Sung
make heavy baggage.
Here! I’ve picked you a bunch of wildflowers.
Their meaning is the same
but they’re much easier to carry.
~ Xu Yun ~
(From Empty Cloud: The Autobiography of the Chinese Zen Master,
Trans. Charles Luck, ed. by Richard Hunn)