Thursday Evening Online Program
September 8, 2022
7:00 to 8:45 pm Eastern time
Dear Still Water Friends,
The Second Mindfulness Training, True Happiness, touches extremely personal issues that have plagued me for years. It has to do with the passage of time and my place in the world.
The training is truly multi-layered and explores what happiness is and what it is not. My focus this week is on what it is not — running after wealth and fame and the suffering and despair concomitant to that pursuit.
I am and have been an actor and more recently have become a playwright. My goal is and has always been to pursue those passions for the pure love of the crafts. There also has always been a crust of desire for fame and to a lesser extent for wealth. These desires are at the core of much of the suffering I have placed upon myself for decades, thinking of myself as a failure, especially for not having reached a degree of fame. The writing of the plays, the hours of acting onstage seem unfulfilled because I am not on Broadway and not able to get my plays produced, etc., etc. – even at this late stage of my life. My regrets of the past include my not going to NYU after being accepted to its graduate school in acting and not following through after being a member and training at the world famous Negro Ensemble Company.
Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) writes in No Mud, No Lotus:
The first method of creating joy and happiness is to cast off, to leave behind. There is a kind of joy that comes from letting go. Many of us are bound to so many things. We believe these things are necessary for our survival, our security, and our happiness. But many of these things – or more precisely, our beliefs about their utter necessity – are really obstacles for our joy and happiness.
This teaching is a lodestar to happy living, guiding us to live joyfully in the present moment — that the simple acts of writing one word at a time or being onstage in the bubble of light are enough to experience happiness. We write with joy, we perform with joy in the moment, free of the need to achieve fame or wealth.
This Thursday evening, after our meditation, we will recite the Five Mindfulness Trainings and focus our sharing on True Happiness. You are invited to explore with us the interplay of our everyday happiness and joys with our our regrets of the past and fears for the future.
A related excerpt by Thich Nhat Hanh on letting go is below.
An excerpt from Answers from the Heart by Thich Nhat Hanh
Question: I have a lot of trouble letting go of things: relationships, jobs, feelings, and so on. How can I reduce these attachments?
Answer by Thich Nhat Hanh: To “let go” means to let go of something. That something may be an object of our mind, something we’ve created, like an idea, feeling, desire, or belief. Getting stuck on that idea could bring a lot of unhappiness and anxiety.
We’d like to let it go, but how? It’s not enough just to want to let it go, we have to recognize it first as being something real. We have to look deeply into its nature and where it has come from, because ideas are born from feelings, emotions, and past experiences, from things we’ve seen and heard. With the energy of mindfulness and concentration, we can look deeply and discover the roots of the idea, the feeling, the emotion, the desire. Mindfulness and concentration bring about insight, and insight can help us release the object in our mind.
Say you have a notion of happiness, an idea about what will make you happy. That idea has its roots in you and your environment. The idea tells you what conditions you need in order to be happy. You’ve entertained the idea for ten or twenty years, and now you realize that your idea of happiness is making you suffer. There may be an element of delusion, anger, or craving in it. On the other hand, you know that you have other kinds of experiences: moments of joy, release, or true love. You recognize these as moments of real happiness. When you have had a moment of real happiness, it becomes easier to release the objects of your craving, because you are developing the insight that these objects will not make you happy.
Many people have the desire to let go, but they’re not able to do so because they don’t yet have enough insight; they haven’t seen other alternatives, other doorways to peace and happiness. Fear is an element that prevents us from letting go. We’re fearful that if we let go we’ll have nothing else to cling to. Letting go is a practice; it’s an art. One day, when you’re strong enough and determined enough, you’ll let go of the afflictions that make you suffer.