Practicing Inclusiveness and Non-discrimination

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Dear Still Water Friends,
Dear Sangha,
Dear Thay,

This week we will focus our attention on The Third Mindfulness Training, True Love:

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without mutual consent, true love, and a deep, long-term commitment. I resolve to find spiritual support for the integrity of my relationship from family members, friends, and sangha with whom there is support and trust. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are interrelated, I am committed to learn appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and to cultivate the four basic elements of true love – loving kindness, compassion, joy, and inclusiveness – for the greater happiness of myself and others. Recognizing the diversity of human experience, I am committed not to discriminate against any form of gender identity or sexual orientation. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.

We are called in this training to practice inclusiveness and non-discrimination. This updated training encourages us to see the wide spectrum of diversity among people and to hold all people as equal. As I take a step back to understand this training, I hear an invitation to walk through life with an open heart, practicing true love. I can offer respect and lovingkindness to others even when their beliefs and actions are different from mine.

This training, however, does challenge me. Despite my efforts to consistently offer respect to all people, regardless of skin color, gender identity, social or economic standing, or geographic location, old habits of discrimination pop up in my thoughts and speech and surprise me. During the past year I have been spending a lot of time in East Texas and other southern states. I have noticed myself feeling different or even superior to some of the people I meet there. Since I see myself as a loving and accepting person, I am shocked and saddened to see this side of myself. It has been a big opportunity to practice! I have been working on noticing and transforming these habits. It is my desire to practice inclusiveness and move through life with an open heart.

I am very thankful that Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) has shared ways to work with my habit energy. In his book, Buddha Mind, Buddha Body, Thay writes,

With mindfulness we stop being the victim of habit energy. It’s not that we fight the habit energy within us, rather, we become aware of it and embrace it gently. With the practice of mindful breathing, we become aware that habit energy is arising. We can say to ourselves, “Oh my dear habit energy, you are a long-time friend of mine. I know you too well. I will take good care of you.” With that kind of mindfulness, you retain your freedom. You are no longer a victim of your habit energy. You know how to make use of many conditions in order to make your mindfulness stronger. A community that practices mindfulness, the sound of the bell, and the practice of walking meditation are all supportive elements.

Here are some other things that help me practice inclusiveness and develop new habits:

  • acute awareness of my body and my thoughts
  • coming back to myself, back to my breath, and opening my heart
  • curiosity and courage to be open to learning about and talking with people who are not “like” me
  • offering warmth, compassion, and deep listening in all situations
  • being compassionate with myself when I “make a mistake,” when I am unskillful in my speech or awkward in a new situation

Thay reminds us of the benefits of this practice in his book, How to Fight. He writes, “The practice of inclusiveness is based on the practice of understanding, compassion, and love. … Increasing our understanding and compassion makes our heart grow greater.”

I look forward to our meditation, our recitation of the Five Mindfulness Trainings on Thursday, and to our Dharma sharing time. I invite you to consider these questions for our Dharma sharing:

  • What helps you to practice understanding, compassion, and love?
  • What are your challenges in practicing inclusiveness?
  • Are you aware of when old habits or new insights manifest around this practice?

It is always an honor and a joy to practice with you.

May we increase our understanding and compassion. May our hearts and our love continue to grow.

Linda Jackson

An excerpt from Buddha Mind, Buddha Body: Walking Toward Enlightenment by Thich Nhat Hanh 

 The Buddha proposed that we practice right thinking, thinking that goes in the direction of nondiscrimination, compassion, and understanding. We know that we are capable of producing such a thought, a thought of compassion, a thought of nondiscrimination. Every time we produce such a thought, it will have a good effect on our body and on the world. A good thought has the effect of healing your body, your mind, and the world. That is action. If you produce a thought of anger, hate, and despair that is not good for your health or the health of the world. Attention plays a very important role. Depending on the kind of environment you live in and what you pay attention to, you have a greater or lesser chance of producing good thoughts and going in the direction of right thinking… It is very clear that a thought of compassion, a thought of brotherhood, understanding, and love, has the power of healing: healing your body, healing your mind, and healing the world. Free will is possible, because you know that you can produce such a thought, with the help of the Buddha, with the help of your brother, your sister in the community, with the help of the Dharma that you have learned…What you say also bears your signature and is your karma. Your speech may express understanding, love, and forgiveness. As soon as you use right speech, it has a healing effect. Right speech has the power of healing and transforming and can be used at any moment. You have the seed of compassion, understanding, and forgiveness in you. Allow them to manifest.