Dear Still Water Friends,
On a silent retreat a few months ago, I found myself thinking and worrying quite a bit about my next steps in life and how to manifest my deepest aspirations in this new phase as a lay practitioner after 15 years as a Buddhist nun. Ideas about who I should contact, leads I should follow and actions I should take after the silent retreat popped up often in meditation.
After about a week or so, I had the thought, “All I need to do is be happy and practice peace in each action. Because this way, no matter what I do, I will be happy! Its not about what I do, but how.”
This is something very basic that we have heard often from many teachers, and yet so easy to forget! I was able to release the worry and fixation on how to manage the details of my very unknown future — at least for a time -— and remember that taking care of each moment, THIS moment, is the way to ensure a beautiful and fulfilling future.
As the retreat progressed, I found myself sinking to deeper places of calm and stillness inside, as the various stories and ‘issues I needed to resolve’ circled around enough times in my mind that they wore themselves out. What was left was a real energy and joy to practice mindfulness as much as possible in each moment — an enthusiasm and curiosity about how to nurture my practice and help it deepen and grow constantly. What got me up at 4am and provided the zeal to sit and walk mindfully all day until 10pm was bodhicitta. It became its own internal motor, providing effort and diligence from within, nourished by the sweet food of the joy of mindfulness.
This Thursday evening, after the meditation period, we will explore how we can nurture and sustain our bodhicitta, our deep aspiration to live mindfully and beautifully. How can we keep our practice fresh and engaged, for the well-being and happiness of ourselves and all beings?
Looking froward to being with you,
In the excerpt below, Thich Nhat Hanh encourages us to enjoy every step on our path.
Enjoy Every Step On Your Path
by Thich Nhat Hanh, from Answers from the Heart
Q. My desire for achievement has led to much suffering. No matter what I do, it never feels like it’s enough. How can I make peace with myself?
A. The quality of your action depends on the quality of your being. Suppose you’re eager to offer happiness, to make someone happy. That’s a good thing to do. But if you’re not happy, then you can’t do that. In order to make another person happy, you have to be happy yourself. So there’s a link between doing and being. If you don’t succeed in being, you can’t succeed in doing. If you don’t feel that you’re on the right path, happiness isn’t possible. This is true for everyone; if you don’t know where you’re going, you suffer. It’s very important to realize your path and see your true way.
Happiness means feeling you are on the right path every moment. You don’t need to arrive at the end of the path in order to be happy. The right path refers to the very concrete ways you live your life in every moment. In Buddhism, we speak of the Noble Eightfold Path: Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. It’s possible for us to live the Noble Eightfold Path every moment of our daily lives. That not only makes us happy, it makes people around us happy. If you practice the path, you become very pleasant, very fresh, and very compassionate.
Look at the tree in the front yard. The tree doesn’t seem to be doing anything. It stands there, vigorous, fresh, and beautiful, and everyone profits from it. That’s the miracle of being. If a tree were less than a tree, all of us would be in trouble. But if a tree is just a real tree, then there’s hope and joy. That’s why if you can be yourself, that is already action. Action is based on non-action; action is being.
There are people who do a lot, but who also cause a lot of trouble. The more they try to help, the more trouble they create even if they have the best intentions. They’re not peaceful, they’re not happy. It’s better not to try so hard but just to “be.” Then peace and compassion are possible in every moment. On that foundation, everything you say or do can only be helpful. If you can make someone suffer less, if you can make them smile, you’ll feel rewarded and you’ll receive a lot of happiness. To feel that you’re helpful, that you’re useful to society: that is happiness. When you have a path and you enjoy every step on your path, you are already someone; you don’t need to become someone else.
In Buddhism, we have the practice of apranihita, aimlessness. If you put an aim in front of you, you’ll be running all your life, and happiness will never be possible. Happiness is possible only when you stop running and cherish the present moment and who you are. You don’t need to be someone else; you’re already a wonder of life.