Silver Spring, Maryland, Community Online on Thursday Evening
October 7, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Open to all Online on Friday Evening
October 8, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Dear Still Water Friends,
Freedom of Thought
Aware of the suffering brought about when we impose our views on others, we are determined not to force others, even our children, by any means whatsoever — such as authority, threat, money, propaganda, or indoctrination — to adopt our views. We are committed to respecting the right of others to be different, to choose what to believe and how to decide. We will, however, learn to help others let go of and transform fanaticism and narrowness through loving speech and compassionate dialogue.
— The Third of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Fourteen Mindfulness Training
As I have been traveling quite a bit for the last few months, the phrase “Stay in your lane” has been coming to mind a lot. Typically, I think of this phrase being used to remind people to mind their own business. We recently purchased a motor home so we can get out in nature more readily and comfortably and visit with family and friends. Changing lanes when driving this big rig can be more challenging than in our smaller car. Being attentive to the mirrors, turn signals and amount of space available is paramount to successful lane changes. Being in the right lane to make the next exit is also important. Because the motor home is wider than a car, staying between those lines on the highway becomes a challenge. If I’m not in my own lane a disaster can occur. I found parallels in my interactions with those we visited.
The current political climate and ongoing pandemic offered me an opportunity to be aware of ideas and opinions different than mine held by close friends and family members. I was visiting with a dear friend in Libby, Montana, whom I have known since middle school. My friend and I never talk politics, we never have. I guess we are too busy sharing about our families, health issues, and what our old classmates are up to. However, I got into a heated discussion with her husband about politics. He is a hard-working logger and is usually a pretty mellow, jovial guy. I realized in my conversation with him that he has reasons based on his experiences concerning economic growth in a depressed area for having the opinions he has. I do too. I also realized I was not going to change his mind and he wasn’t going to change mine. I tried to listen deeply to where he was coming from and stay in my own lane of love and peaceful responses. I’m happy to report we are still friends.
Also, many of the loved ones I visited have different responses to Covid precautions and vaccines than I. Do I allow this to become an issue that divides us and prevents us from enjoying each other’s company? I pondered and sat with this question and I realized that all I am able to do is lovingly share my experience. I had to stay in my own lane and let go of trying to convince others to do what I saw as the right thing. For example, I was exposed to a vaccinated friend who tested positive for Covid, and was waiting to be tested in a few days. Still, I agreed to meet up with my son for dinner but told him I would be wearing a mask to go into the restaurant to order and that we would need to eat outside. He chose not to wear a mask, but agreed to sitting outside and we had a nice visit. I did test positive for Covid and quarantined for the next 10 days. Happily, I had a mild case and felt better after the first three days. My son, who had exposure through me, did not follow the recommendations set forth by health care experts and I realized I could not make him. Because I stayed in my lane and followed guidelines, my son and I did not spend as much time together as we would have liked, but we still are on good terms.
On the road and in everyday life, it is important to stay in your lane.
This Thursday and Friday evenings, after our meditation, we will explore our experiences of staying, or not staying, in our lane. Our Dharma sharing will begin with these questions.
- When do you find it difficult to stay in your lane?
- What happens when you don’t?
- How do you make corrections?
- How does your mindfulness practice support you?
I look forward to being back with you all on a more regular basis and appreciate all you bring to my practice.
An excerpt from Thich Nhat Hanh about Avalokiteshvara and compassionate listening is below.
from Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through The Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh
In Buddhism, we speak of bodhisattvas, wise and compassionate beings who stay on Earth to alleviate the suffering of others. The bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, also called Quan Yin, has a great capacity for listening with compassion and true presence. Quan Yin is the bodhisattva who can listen and understand the sounds of the world, the cries of suffering.
You have to practice breathing mindfully in and out so that compassion always stays with you. You listen without giving advice or passing judgment. You can say to yourself about the other person, “I am listening to him just because I want to relieve his suffering.” This is called compassionate listening. You have to listen in such a way that compassion remains with you the whole time you are listening. That is the art. If halfway through listening, irritation or anger comes up, then you cannot listen deeply anymore. You have to practice in such a way that every time the energy of irritation and anger comes up, you can breathe in and out mindfully and continue to hold compassion within you. No matter what the other person says, even if there is a lot of injustice in his way of seeing things, even if he condemns or blames you, you continue to sit very quietly, breathing in and out.
If you are not in good shape, if you don’t feel that you can go on listening in this way, let the other person know. Ask your friend, “Dear one, can we continue in a few days? I need to renew myself. I need to practice so that I can listen to you in the best way I can.” Practice more walking meditation, more mindful breathing, and more sitting meditation to restore your capacity for compassionate listening.
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