Dear Still Water Friends,
This Thursday evening, after our meditation period, we will recite together the Five Mindfulness Trainings and focus on Dharma sharing on the first training, Reverence for Life:
Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals.
I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.
As I began exploring what is for me alive for me in the training, I realized that I had never fully appreciated the title, Reverence for Life, that Thich Nhat Hanh gave to this training in 2009. (Before 2009, the trainings did not have titles. In the recitation we simply said “The First Training.”)
As with many words, “reverence” has lost much of its punch. In other contexts, I think of it as a somber respect. However, as the title of the first trainings, what came to mind was the deep root of the word: ‘to stand in awe of.” (From the Latin reverentia.)
For me, reverence for life is to be dumbstruck with the beauty and wonder of the Sequoias, or of a tiny mite. It is to hold a new infant and grasp in an instant the surging of life that is in us and around us, always. It is to have intimations of the mystery that is beyond words and concepts.
William Blake expressed it this way ( in “Auguries of Innocence”):
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
For Thich Nhat Hanh, wonder and awe are the essence of mindfulness practice:
Do not lose yourself in the past. Do not lose yourself in the future. Do not get caught in your anger, worries, or fears. Come back to the present moment, and touch life deeply. This is mindfulness. … The blue sky is wonderful, but the beautiful face of a child is also wonderful. What is essential is to be alive and present to all the wonders of life that are available. (From The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching)
This attitude of reverence is for me the energetic heart of the first trainings. When our hearts can be touched by a photo of the wasted body of a war refugee, and, when we can also marvel at the beauty of a flowering amaryllis, the rest of the training falls into place. Of course we want every thing and every one to bloom and prosper, to live their lives to the fullest. Of course, we wish to let go of “anger, fear, greed, and intolerance.” We know these mind-states cannot nourish life. Of course we want to learn ways “to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals.”
This Thursday evening, after our meditation period, we will recite together the Five Mindfulness Trainings and focus our Dharma sharing on the First Training. We will begin with the question: In what ways have our mindfulness practice (or other practices) allowed us to more deeply experience awe and wonder?
You are invited to join us.
On Saturday, January 6, 2018, the Washington DC area mindfulness communities will join together to transmit to their practitioners the Five Mindfulness Trainings. If you are associated with the Still Water MPC and would like to receive the Five Mindfulness Trainings in January, or would like to discuss the possibility of receiving the trainings, please email us at info@StillWaterMPC.org.
You are also invited to join us at the annual Still Water New Year’s Day Brunch on January 1st in Silver Spring, Maryland.
A related quote by Thich Nhat Hanh from The Miracle of Mindfulness is below.
This Thursday is also the Winter Solstice. Wherever we are, it is a good day to notice and celebrate the wonders of life.
The Almond Tree
By Thich Nhat Hanh, From The Miracle of Mindfulness
When reality is experienced in its nature of ultimate perfection, an almond tree that may be in your front yard reveals its nature in perfect wholeness. The almond tree is itself truth, reality, your own self. Of all the people who have passed by your yard, how many have really seen the almond tree? The heart of an artist may be more sensitive; hopefully he or she will be able to see the tree in a deeper way than many others. Because of a more open heart, a certain communion already exists between the artist and the tree. What counts is your own heart. If your heart is not clouded by false views, you will be able to enter into a natural communion with the tree. The almond tree will be ready to reveal itself to you in complete wholeness. To see the almond tree is to see the way. One Zen Master, when asked to explain the wonder of reality, pointed to a cypress tree and said, ” Look at the cypress tree over there.”