Silver Spring, Maryland, Community Online on Thursday Evening
August 13, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Open to all Online on Friday Evening
August 14, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Dear Still Water Friends,
This Thursday and Friday evening, after our meditation period, we will recite together the Five Mindfulness Trainings and focus our program on the Third Training, True Love:
Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society.
Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy. I will cultivate loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness which are the four basic elements of true love for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.
Meditating on this training, I asked myself, “What is the larger context?” Then I remembered that sometimes Thay teaches about health in terms of traditional Chinese medicine. In Teachings on Love he writes:
In Asia, we say there are three sources of energy — sexual, breath, and spirit (jing, qi, and shen). Jing, sexual energy, is the first. When you have more sexual energy than you need, there is an imbalance in your body and in your being, and you need to reestablish the balance. According to Taoism and Buddhism, there are practices to help you do this, including meditation and martial arts.
Similarly, the training on “True Love” in the Fourteen Mindfulness trainings includes:
We are determined to look deeply into the Four Nutriments and learn ways to preserve and channel our vital energies (sexual, breath, spirit) for the realization of our bodhisattva ideal.
In traditional Chinese medicine and Qi Gong, the Three Treasures – Jing, Qi, and Shen – are considered to be the three manifestations of the essential energy or essence underlying human life.
They are also indicative of a path of practice that leads to health, longevity, and wisdom. Jing (the body’s essence) can be cultivating through healthy living and exercise, which also nourishes our Qi, (refining essence into breath). Qi, when it is strengthened and purified, can nourish our Shen, (refining breath into spirit). And when Shen is trained and developed, our mind is enlivened and we can more easily enter into higher meditation states (refining spirit and reverting to Emptiness.)
While the original mindfulness training of the Buddha focused on sexual misconduct, Thay has placed sexual relations in the context of a holistic way of life that fulfills our highest potential. From this perspective the Third Mindfulness Training is about much more than sexual relationships. It encompasses all the ways we maintain and nourish our bodies in daily life. Our capacity to be with others in fulfilling and mutually supportive relationships is conditioned by how we live and what we consume.
This vision of holistic health and relationships is very different from how I was raised. I was rarely taught that there was a connection between caring for my body, forming loving relationships, and feeling fulfilled as a person.
You are invited to join us on Thursday and Friday evening. In our Dharma sharing we will explore together the ways our mindfulness practice has helped us see more clearly the interbeingness of body, sex, true love, and spiritual growth.
A related excerpt from Thay’s commentary on the Third Mindfulness Training is below.
This past Friday evening Sr. Peace joined our open-to-all Still Water gathering. The evening blossomed into a heartful community sharing on uncomfortable spaces and racial healing. It was recorded with the permission of the participants and is available on our new Still Water YouTube Channel.
Wishing you peace and joy,
Love is a Process of Discovery.
by Thich Nhat Hanh from The Mindfulness Survival Guide
Love is a process of discovery. The Third Mindfulness Training reminds us that when we seek empty pleasure through sexual activity, we destroy happiness and we destroy love. Ill-considered sexual relations without true love make people feel they have lost something very precious in their lives. A boy or girl who is sexually abused suffers terribly, and the suffering can stay with them for the whole of their lives. Our body has certain sacred areas, which no one has the right to touch without our explicit permission, given as an adult. The wholeness of our body is linked to the wholeness of our soul. Someone who doesn’t respect your body cannot respect your mind. Your body isn’t a toy for someone to play with. When we guard our body, we do this also for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all our ancestors and descendants.
Everyone has sexual energy. Sexual energy in itself is not unwholesome. When sexual energy leads to activity that causes suffering, it is unwholesome. The Third Mindfulness Training reminds us to commit to learn ways of taking care of the sexual energy in ourselves. Of course the Buddha had sexual energy too. He became enlightened at thirty-five, a young age when sexual energy is still strong. But with his practice of mindfulness and concentration he could transform and focus this energy in other ways. He knew how to direct his energy into helping others and the world.
Eating in moderation, refraining from drinking alcohol, and ensuring that we do physical activity each day are things we can do to help ourselves take care of our sexual energy.