Letters to The Mindfulness Bell

There isn't anything that touches my soul more deeply than your newsletter, especially Thich Nhat Hanh's Dharma talk. I cherish it, I carry it with me to many places, I reread it when I need to be reminded of the Way. I have read many important messages, good articles and books, but none have touched me more than Thay's words. They have literally transformed me, although I keep working on all of the precepts. Thank you for being there and taking the effort to transmit his teachings, which are so in touch with human weaknesses.Lorraine Keller de Schietekat Mexico City, Mexico

I am a hospice nurse and carry a pager whenever I am away from home. Usually when I am paged I don't get upset, but yesterday morning I was on my way to work, my pager went off and, much to my chagrin, my reaction was "!*@*!" I realized that, to the person who paged me, it was necessary and not done to annoy me. I drove back up the mountain road to my home, phoned in, took care of the  problem, and went on to work.

Issue 17 of The Mindfulness Bell was waiting for me when I got home that night. The next morning I read the tributes to Jim Fauss. I first heard of Jim when I read of his death in the last issue. I, too, was struck by his smile. I read Maxine Hong Kingston's words, "He has an immortal smile, which he taught to the people who rode his bus. A passenger pulled the bell cord, and Jim took a joyful breath and smiled." Those words rang a bell in my mind and I immediately thought of my reaction to my pager. I decided that my pager would become my "pager of mindfulness." Each time it goes off I am reminded to breathe joyfully and smile. Thanks to Jim and to Maxine for sharing her story of him. I am reminded by this how interconnected we are, how we truly are a part of one another. Even though I never met Jim Fauss, I have been profoundly influenced by him and will continue to be each time my pager goes off. Tina Moon Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Thank you for the recent issue of The Mindfulness Bell. I especially appreciated the many articles on Jim Fauss. Although I did not know him when he was alive, I now feel that I do know him and I am enriched for the experience. Bob Repoley Charlotte, North Carolina

I was particularly pleased that you printed Fred Eppsteiner's letter in the last issue, as I felt that he raised substantial questions regarding Sangha building in a genuinely kind way. I was also interested in the article in a previous issue of The Mindfulness Bell which raised the issue of finding ways to invite African Americans into the Order of Interbeing.

These invitations to dialogue will, I feel, serve The Mindfulness Bell very well in its long-term commitment to growth and to reaching a wider reading public. Mushim Ikeda-Nash Oakland, California

I agree with Fred Eppsteiner's letter that longer articles, where issues could be discussed in greater depth, would make The Mindfulness Bell more interesting to a wider range of readers . In addition, I would like to see more articles on the history of Vietnamese Buddhism. This is our "ancestral tradition," but it is virtually unknown in the West. Western Buddhism must find its own forms and expressions, but a greater knowledge of those who went before us would certainly be useful.

Fred also commented, "I sometimes wonder if anybody in the Sangha is having traditional spiritual experiences in meditation, awakenings ... which have been the experience and hard-won fruits of Buddhists for thousands of years." I think people in our Sangha do have such experiences, but they are not much talked about. This may be a good thing. In the Rinzai Zen tradition where I practiced before, one pursued such experiences relentlessly, putting a lot of pressure on people and sacrificing interest in ethics and daily life practice. This strongly goal-oriented attitude made it very hard to enjoy the present moment. Probably too much of the focus in Western Zen has been on experience, satori, sudden awakenings, etc., and we have tended to neglect the gradual practice of transforming mental knots. Thay's teachings address all kinds of suffering-psychological, interpersonal, social, ecological- as well as the great spiritual questions.

We don't need to create barriers between psychotherapy and meditation, but must remember that meditation has a dimension of silence and going beyond personal issues that we may rarely find in psychotherapy. Iffew people write about this aspect, it may be out of modesty-not wanting to claim "great insights"-but it may also be for lack of language! I suspect that many modern people have become alienated from the language of Christianity (and possibly Judaism), and experience it as too filled with dualistic connotations. And we don't always know the language of Buddhism well enough to express spiritual insights. The old Chinese Zen masters were great artists when it came to giving new and fresh words to the practice and insights of Buddhism. It's silly to copy them, but their challenge is valid: how can we express our deepest, most transforming experiences? Svein Myreng Oslo, Norway

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