Side Railings on Mountain Paths

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Dear Still Water Friends,

This Thursday evening, after our meditation period, we willrecite together the Five Mindfulness Trainings and focus our discussionon the attitude of caring and commitment that underlies the Trainings.

Most of us, when we first come to Mindfulness Practice, are taught todevelop our awareness and concentration. We learn to pay attention toon an object, such as our breath, and to keep coming back to it whenour mind wavers. If we practice in this way, slowly, over time,the muscle of mindfulness develops.

When we have greater mindfulness, we can can maintain our concentrationand also expand our awareness to our bodies, feelings, emotions,and other objects of mind. We develop moments of insight when we seeconnections — such as how this attitude fits with that results, or howthis actions leads to this emotion. With awareness, concentration, andinsight, comes choice — we can commit ourselves to certain ways ofthinking, speaking and behaving. Based on our own insight andexperience, we understand that acting in this way, with this intention,is more likely to create less suffering, more likely to nourishpeace and joy, for ourselves and others.

In this context of developing awareness and insight, the mindfulnesstrainings are like side railings on mountain paths — we placethem there in daylight so that at night or in a fog we and othersare not injured.

This Thursday evening, after we have talked some about the purpose ofthe trainings, we will write new trainings just for ourselves.These new trainings can follow the form used by Thich Nhat Hanh: “Awareof thesuffering caused by” <This condition>, I am committed to <Thisaction>.” Or, if we like, we can focus on thepositive: “Aware of the well-being and joy caused by” <Thiscondition>, I am committed to <This action>.

You are invited to be with us this Thursday. The best times to join usare just before the beginning of our 7 p.m meditation, just before webegin walking meditation (around 7:25), and just after our walkingmeditation (around 7:35).

An excerpt from For a Future to be Possible, Thich Nhat Hanh’s commentary on the Five Mindfulness trainings, is below.

A copy of the Five Mindfulness Trainings Recitation Ceremony is available on our website,, under Articles and Resources / Still Water Mindfulness Ceremonies.

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher

From For a Future to be Possible (2007 edition) by Thich Nhat Hanh

In Buddhism, mindfulness trainings, concentration, and insight alwaysgo together. It is impossible to speak of one without the other two.This is called the Threefold Training-sila, the practice of themindfulness trainings; samadhi, the practice of concentration; andprajna, the practice of insight. Mindfulness Trainings, concentration,and insight “inter-are.” Practicing the mindfulness trainings bringsabout concentration, and concentration is needed for insight.Mindfulness is the ground for concentration, concentration allows us tolook deeply, and insight is the fruit of looking deeply. When we aremindful, we can see that by refraining from doing “this,” we prevent”that” from happening. This kind of insight is not imposed on us by anoutside authority. It is the fruit of our own observation. Practicingthe mindfulness trainings, therefore, helps us be more calm andconcentrated and brings more insight and enlightenment, which makes ourpractice of the mindfulness trainings more solid. The three areintertwined; each helps the other two, and all three bring us closer tofinal liberation-the end of “leaking.” They prevent us from fallingback into illusion and suffering. When we are able to step out of thestream of suffering, it is called anasvara, “to stop leaking.” As longas we continue to leak, we are like a vessel with a crack, andinevitably we will fall into suffering, sorrow, and delusion.

The Five Mindfulness Trainings are love itself. To love is tounderstand, protect, and bring well-being to the object of our love.The practice of the trainings accomplishes this. We protect ourselvesand each other and we obtain even deeper peace and joy.

What is the best way to practice the mindfulness trainings? I do notknow. I am still learning, along with you. I appreciate the phrase thatis used in the Five Mindfulness Trainings: to “‘learnways.”We don’t know everything. But we can minimize ourignorance. Confucius said, “‘To know that you don’tknow is the beginning of knowing.” I think this is the way topractice. We should be modest and open so we can learn together. Weneed a Sangha, a community, to support us, and we need to stay in closetouch with our society to practice the mindfulness trainings well. Manyof today’s problems did not exist at the time of the Buddha.Therefore, we have to look deeply together in order to develop theinsights that will help us and our children find better ways to livewholesome, happy, and healthy lives.

Do you care about yourself? Do you care about me? Do you care aboutlife? Do you care about the Earth? The best way to answer thesequestions is to practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings. In that way,you teach with your actions and not just with words. If you reallycare, please practice these mindfulness trainings for your ownprotection and for the protection of other people and species. If we doour best to practice, a future will be possible for us, our children,and our children’s children.