Practicing True Love

Practicing True Love

Discussion date: Thu, Dec 02, 2021 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Thursday Evening “Silver Spring Community” Online Program
December 2, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm

Friday Evening “Open-to-All” Online Program
December 3, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm

Dear Still Water Friends,

This Thursday and Friday evenings we will explore together 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 true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends.

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 one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others.

Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.

In the original trainings offered by the Buddha to lay practitioners, this training was much shorter: “I undertake the rule of training to abstain from sexual misconduct.” Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh), in his expansion of this training, widened its scope. As I understand this training, the first and third sentences ask us to consider the wide consequences of both our sexual behavior and our non-sexual actions, or inactions.

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. …

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.

How can we practice this? We can, for example, financially or through other means, support public and private programs that work to reduce sexual abuse, trafficking, and exploitation. And, in various ways, we can work to protect the “safety and integrity” of individuals who are attacked because their identities or sexual expressions are not in conformity with the heterosexual standard.

The second sentence in the trainings echos and expands the Buddha’s emphasis on sexual misconduct:

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 true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends.

In the mindfulness tradition, cravings are seen as similar to addictions. They are difficult-to-resist impulses that lead to short term gratification, but longer term harm to ourselves and others. We are asked to transform our sexual cravings/addiction. This “ask” is somewhat similar to the First Mindfulness Trainings asking us “not to kill, not to let others kill” in that it is like moving toward the North Star: Although we may not be able to do it totally, we can move in that direction.

The forth and fifth sentences reframe the training: it is not just about sex, it is also about cultivating true love.

Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.

Body and mind are different manifestations of the same source, like water and ice. If we reduce (or increase) toxicity in one, the other is inevitably affected. As Thay explains in The Mindfulness Survival Guide, regardless of how we “take care” of our sexual energies, doing it within a larger spiritual framework will benefit us, others, and the whole world:

Everyone has sexual energy. Sexual energy in itself is not unwholesome. When sexual energy leads to activity that causes suffering, it is unwholesome. The Third Mindfulness Training reminds us to commit to learn ways of taking care of the sexual energy in ourselves. Of course the Buddha had sexual energy too. He became enlightened at thirty-five, a young age when sexual energy is still strong. But with his practice of mindfulness and concentration he could transform and focus this energy in other ways. He knew how to direct his energy into helping others and the world.

Eating in moderation, refraining from drinking alcohol, and ensuring that we do physical activity each day are things we can do to help ourselves take care of our sexual energy.

This Thursday and Friday evenings, after our meditation period, we will share our experiences, reflections, and questions relating to the Third Mindfulness Training, True Love.

You are invited to join us.

Many blessings,

Mitchell Ratner

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Dec 02, 2021


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