We Are More Than Our Conditioning

We Are More Than Our Conditioning

Discussion date: Thu, Jul 01, 2010 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

In the Buddhist tradition, our lives are thought of as a series of mind moments occurring one after the other in rapid succession. Each mind moment has two aspects: our dispositions and our intentions. Our dispositions, formed by our experiences, influences, and history, condition how we experience each moment. Our intentions are how we respond: the thoughts, words, and actions that are born or nourished in each moment. Our karma is the energy we create in each moment with our actions (or non-actions) and that energy becomes part of the dispositions that condition the succeeding mind moments.

When I learned this teaching, I felt heartened. Our dispositions condition our experience and response, but they don’t determine it. There is a possibility for change, growth, and freedom. It is possible to rise above our conditioning. It is possible to recognize and embrace our dispositions, and then respond in a new way, a way that creates less suffering for ourselves and others. Thich Nhat Hanh calls it “liberation by insight.”

This week after our meditation period we will practice the guided meditation known as the Five Touchings of the Earth. The first three touchings direct our attention to some of the critical experiences that have formed us. They begin:

  • In gratitude, I bow to all generations of ancestors in my blood family.
  • In gratitude, I bow to all generations of ancestors in my spiritual family.
  • In gratitude, I bow to this land and all of the ancestors who made it available.

The final two touchings suggest ways of responding that help our hearts to grow. They begin:

  • In gratitude and compassion, I transmit my energy to those I love.
  • In understanding and compassion, I reconcile myself with all those who have made me suffer.

At the conclusion of the Touchings, we will share together about the parts of the practice that moved us or challenged us.

If you can not be with us, you are invited to practice the Five Trainings on your own or with friends. The Still Water version of the Five Touchings is available on our web site.

In the poem below, Portia Nelson writes about her experience of transformation by insight.

You are also invited to join The Still Water community on Sunday, July 11, for Touching Life Deeply, a Day of Practice at Blueberry Gardens

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher

The best times to join our Thursday evening gatherings are just before the beginning of our 7 p.m. meditation, just before we begin walking meditation (around 7:40), and just after our walking meditation (around 7:50).

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
Chapter 1
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
Chapter 2
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
Chapter 3
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
Chapter 4
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
Chapter 5
I walk down another street.

~ Portia Nelson ~
(from There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk)


in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Jul 01, 2010


This week
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Silver Spring Morning Meditation

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Tue, April 16

Takoma Park Morning Meditation

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Wed, April 17

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Fri, April 19

Silver Spring Morning Meditation

Sat, April 20