Dear Still Water Friends,
Over the years of attending our sangha and listening to our dharma discussions, I have continued to be particularly struck, amazed in fact, by the profound effect loved ones and ancestors have on us as individuals. I have personally been touched, inspired and educated about myself and others by the depth of candor and emotional release expressed by our sangha brothers and sisters about the state of their lives in relation to this effect.
For me, it seems in many ways to be the core of so much of our suffering and joy. Again and again our discussion, no matter the subject, invariably comes back to a personal level based on our relationships with those we love and have loved and/or have had challenging relationships with. It so defines who we are – it is inescapable.
The practice helps us to manage our suffering. The practice helps us to manage relationship with those we love, our past, our family and our ancestors. Illness, physical pain, death. Difficult relationships with fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, sons, daughters, partners, and others close to us permeate our lives and are brought up week after week in our sessions. Repeatedly through our practice we find peace in the nourishment of following the breath, the most fundamental building block of Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings. The stories and narratives we hear are rooted in the suffering of our existence. Navigating them is rooted in our practice. It can be the basis of our transformation. Thich Nhat Hanh says in his book Anger:
When a farmer uses a kind of fertilizer that does not have any effect, he has to change the fertilizer. The same is true of us. If, after several months, the practice we are doing has not brought about any transformation and healing, we have to reconsider the situation. We change our approach and learn more in order to find the right practice that can transform our life and the lives of the people we love. All of us can do the same if we receive and learn the right teaching and the right practice. If you very seriously, if you make the practice a matter of life and death…you can change everything.
Tell him, ‘Communication between us is the most important thing to me. Our relationship is the most precious thing, nothing is more important.’ Make it clear and ask for support. … There are many ways to communicate, and the best is to show that you no longer feel any anger or condemnation. You show that you understand and accept the other person. You communicate this not only by words but also by our way of being – with your eyes full of compassion and your actions full of tenderness. The fact that you are fresh and pleasant to be around already changes a lot. No one can resist coming close to you. You become a tree with a cool shade, a stream of cool water. Both people and animals will want to come near you because your presence is refreshing and enjoyable. When you begin with yourself, you will be able to restore communication…
This Thursday, after our meditation period, our discussion will focus on the nature of our relationships with our loved ones, past and present. How do they affect our practice? How does our practice help us heal, accept and love both those who are closest to us and those who challenge our love the most?
Nirvana is Now or Never: A Day of Practice. Sunday, April 1, at Blueberry Gardens in Ashton, Maryland.
Deepening Our Practice: Mindfulness Practice and Prayer. A four-session workshop, April 4 to May 16, in Takoma Park, MD.
Touching Life Deeply: A Day of Practice. Sunday, May 26, at Blueberry Gardens in Ashton, Maryland.
Settling into Silence: Still Water Practice Retreat. Friday, May 4- Sunday, May 6, at Charter Hall in Perryville, MD.
Lotuses, Food, and Mindful Friends. Sunday, July 15, 2012, at the the National Park Service’s Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens.