gratitude

Gratitude for Our Enemies

By Christopher Reed During retreats, we practice "Touching the Earth," bowing deeply and honoring parents, friends, the religious traditions we were born into, teachers, and the land itself. We also honor our enemies and adversaries.

Someone wrote to me after attending a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh because she was finding it hard to practice "Touching the Earth" in honor of the developers she was actively engaged in opposing. She found it difficult to feel any loving kindness toward the people who are destroying the community and the local environment in the part of Canada where she lives. She said that by looking deeply she could easily find forgiveness for people who may have hurt her, but to do the same for these developers was impossible.

At first I thought she was being too idealistic, trying to be perfect. Did she think she could eliminate her anger and despair altogether and that by doing so, love could emerge? Is it by opening to the pain of our anger and fear and seeing them as the outcome of a mutual process that loving kindness and compassion emerge?

Trying to eliminate grief and anger in ourselves can create the greatest violence, cutting us off from important feedback in very real situations. The anger itself is a starting point. If we imagine that to be loving we always have to be nice, we create a shadow within ourselves that eats away at our energy. Then, when we resist others, we do so only with fear and anger.

To love someone does not mean to accept and condone everything he or she does. To act out of love, you do not need to first eliminate your anger. To wait for your anger to disappear might be to wait forever. It would be better to act, honoring your anger, aware that you are not merely reacting from it.

In the last prostration of the "Touching the Earth" ceremony, we bow to reconcile with those who have made us suffer. We can say something like this: "To the enemies and adversaries who oppose us, we bow in gratitude and touch the Earth.

"You, who by deception deliberately engage in the destruction of the environment for your own profit and show me how much I value what is honest, what is generous, what has been clearly thought through, what is expressive of love for this planet home, for our fellow beings, human and other, I bow to you in gratitude and touch the Earth.

"You bring forth in me the passion and love I feel for this land, this soil, the passion I feel for strong community, sustainability, integrity. Because of the strength with which I resist your actions, I have seen how strong my love and passion really are. I bow to you in gratitude and touch the Earth.

"Because the pain I feel when I allow myself to witness the pain of the world is no less than your pain, you, who perpetuate destruction, who wreck this Earth, who have cut yourselves off from the generations of the future, I bow to you in gratitude and touch the Earth.

"Because the pain of greed, alienation and fear are no less than the pain of sorrow and mourning for what is lost, I bow to you in gratitude and I touch the Earth.

"For the power of my anger, transforming into love for what I see and hear, the bright energy of my passion, my love of all that lives, I bow in gratitude and touch the Earth.

"Because we all want to be happy, to feel ourselves intact and part of a single whole, for that shared longing, I bow to you in gratitude and touch the Earth.

"Because you challenge me by your actions, demanding that I release my attachment to the view that my perspective is the correct one, I bow to you in gratitude and touch the Earth.

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"For you who teach me that the mind is a limitless source, a miracle capable of manifesting as love, greed, fear, capable of clarity or delusion, blind to the consequence of action or open to the boundless coherence of all that I do and experience in life. For you who show me what I myself am capable of when I let my life be governed by fear and greed, great awesome teachers, I bow to you in gratitude and touch the Earth.

"In awe at the mind's capacity for delusion and alienation that calls me so insistently to understanding and joy, I bow in gratitude and touch the Earth.

"With the understanding that all this will pass and with all the love in my heart, I bow in gratitude and touch the Earth."

Christopher Reed, True Jewel, is the cofounder of Ordinary Dharma and Manzanita Village, a retreat center in Southern California.

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Letters to The Mindfulness Bell

What a delight it is to see The Mindfulness Bell in the mail! This journal is truly a bell, as the articles in it bring me back to my practice and my true self. I am new to formal Buddhism, but everything I read and hear seems to resonate with my own ideas, and waters fascinating seeds. I so enjoy knowing that there is a community here which sees life and our role within it similarly to the way I do. I am grateful to all who share the experience of their practice-especially those willing to relive painful memories-so as to remind me to come home and continue my practice. It often takes me quite a while to read The Bell, as many bits inspire a period of meditation. I look forward to the next issue, but keep savoring the old ones as well.

Cherry Zimmer
Duluth, Georgia

I am currently using the Sutra on Full Awareness of Breathing (Anapanasati Sutra) as a guide for sitting meditation practice, with the help of Thay's book, Breathe! You Are Alive and also the book, Breath by Breath: The Liberating Power of Insight Meditation. My intention is to practice each of the sixteen exercises in a systematic way. If there are others also practicing this way, and interested in sharing the practice, please contact me.

David Flint, True Good Nature
311 W. 97 St., 6E
NY, NY 10025
Flint@MSN.com

Thank you for explicitly addressing the topics of racism and diversity in mindfulness practice in the April 1998 issue of The Mindfulness Bell. It was wonderful to read articles on "Unlearning Racism," "Diversity and Unity," and "Coming Out, Returning Home." Articles like these will not only broaden the base of Buddhism in America, they will deepen the practice of people who are already striving to cultivate mindfulness.

Scott PIous by email

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A Collection of Gathas

Gathas are verses used to focus attention on the present moment during various tasks in daily life. —Ed.

Gatha before Going to Sleep
I vow to bring awareness into my sleep tonight to dispel all fears to see emptiness in all desires to find my way with mindfulness to know what is reality what is an illusion

Listening to Bird Songs
The birds sing Dharma songs: All things are here All loved ones are here We only need to be present To celebrate this union and happiness

Gratitude
This morning when I wake up the raindrops follow my footsteps each raindrop deepens my gratitude for you.

Sister True Adornment with NonDiscrimination

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San Diego Retreat

By Patricia Webb

If I had to use one word to describe our September retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh, it would be gratitude. All of the events opened my heart—the Dharma talks by Thay, the daily sitting meditations, the early morning walks on the University of California at San Diego campus (a powerful experience of many souls gracefully and silently moving into dawn), an evening of Deep Relaxation and Touching the Earth, the healing wonder of silent meals, and receiving the Five Mindfulness Trainings.

I was surprised every day at how the gratitude I experienced grew. It opened like a flower, and I was filled with the fragrance of it-my marriage, my family of origin, my children, my grandson were present with me each time I became still. My love for them and appreciation for my life just as it is, was almost too much to bear. I had not allowed myself to feel this joy for many years.

My husband and I buried his only daughter a few months before the retreat, in the Winter of 2000. The retreat allowed us to more deeply accept her passing by touching our gratitude for her beautiful and completed life.

I arrived at the retreat in a great deal of physical pain from an old injury to my back-pain so intense that I wondered if I would be able to sit to meditate at all. But fortunately, miraculously, the discipline of sitting properly in order to breathe began to correct the problem. In the weeks and months since the retreat, my back has almost completely healed and I am pain free. Another thing to be grateful for!

The following poem is given as a tribute to the global Sangha whose energy is with us here every day in Oklahoma City, showing me how to live mindfully, gratefully, and more healthfully than I ever dreamed possible.

In the silence, I notice my own heartbeat. Thank you, heart, for serving me so well All these years. In the silence, I notice my own breath. Thank you, lungs, for your good service.

In the silence, I notice the small things Tiny rocks beneath my feet, Insects that land on my arm. I am aware of how much goes unnoticed In my busy day.

The sun makes my paper neon bright, Bright as my life is When I can breathe my thanks And beat my heart thanks And know that though I am a small thing In this vast universe, I am not insignificant.

And my noticing is not insignificant. For its strange and silent power Makes me thankful.

Patricia Webb, Silent Service of the Heart, is a poet and Artist-in-Residence in Oklahoma. For the past ten years, she has worked in schools and hospitals to bring silence and journaling techniques for releasing inner wisdom. She and husband David McClesky, Auspicious Guide of the Heart, sponsor The Silence Foundation, an organization dedicated to bringing mindfulness practice to schools and hospitals.

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Poem: Ascutney Retreat 2000

The mountaintop with her autumn
trees, A silent ski lift, 2250 feet to the top.
Laborious steps to the summit then down.
The warm sun, green grass, wild flowers.
A monk slowly eating alone at a picnic table.
Small children playing with a ball.
My eyes with glasses to see them all.

A mindful silent meal,
Dharma talk, sitting meditation,
Practitioners slowly walking to and fro.
Not clinging to the past,
Not pursuing the future.
It's wonderful to be alive.

Bill Menza

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Coming Home to Plum Village

Letter from the editor, Barbara Casey I hope you are refreshed and inspired by this special issue of The Mindfulness Bell, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the founding of Plum Village in France and of the Plum Village style of mindfulness practice throughout the world. In these pages, you will be introduced to a few of the thousands of people who have given themselves to this way of living and have been transformed in the process. Through the guidance and inspiration of our teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, and of the Noble Sangha of monks, nuns, and laypeople, we are growing a strong and safe family which can comfort us in times of despair and challenge us to become our most fearless, compassionate selves for the sake of our families, our communities, and all living beings.

I came to mindfulness practice Plum Village style in 1997 at a weekend retreat in southern Oregon, where I lived. With a sigh of relief, I opened to the deep knowing that I had found my spiritual home. From there I experienced the Plum Village Sangha in retreats in California, Vermont, and Washington as well as in my home town. In 1999 I was fortunate to travel with 180 Sangha members to China, where I became acquainted with our spiritual ancestors, feeling their dedicated support and encouragement. In 2000 I first set foot on the grounds of Plum Village in France, and once again had the palpable experience of coming home. Being in the Plum Village community brings out the best in me. I have found both a welcoming openness to express my unique way of being and the encouragement to release any attachment to the way I think I need to be. I have found the safety and freedom to listen to my own inner voice and to let loving-kindness guide my actions. I have found inspiration and friendship from both monastic and lay brothers and sisters.

Making plans to visit Plum Village this June for The Hand of the Buddha retreat, I notice my feelings of happiness and comfort at the thought of walking through the woods, standing in line for breakfast, and breathing deeply the cool night air. I can already see the smiles on the faces of my brothers and sisters as we come together once again.

My deepest gratitude to my Noble Teacher and to my spiritual family throughout space and time. May we manifest Plum Village in our hearts with each breath of freedom, with each peaceful step. A Lotus To You, Barbara Casey

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The Paramitas

as the Path to True Love

By Joanne Friday

mb66-TheParamitas1I was recently invited by the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation to share my experience of our practice here in the Mindfulness Bell. I feel that the Dharma is the greatest gift I have ever been given, so it is always a joy to share it.

During Winter Retreat, I have been practicing the paramitas with a group of Order of Interbeing members and aspirants. The paramitas are the qualities that we need to cultivate in order to go from the shore of suffering to the shore of freedom. In The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, Thay tells us that the Buddha said, “Don’t just hope for the other shore to come to you. If you want to cross over to the other shore, the shore of safety, well-being, non-fear, and non-anger, you have to swim or row across. You have to make an effort.” So I decided to to follow directions and make the effort.

Once again, I find myself in awe and deeply moved by the transformative power of the way in which Thich Nhat Hanh has transmitted the Dharma to us. I have always known the paramitas as a path to freedom, and now I have also experienced them as a beautiful path to unconditional, true love.

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In the paramita on diligence, we are invited to be mindful of our minds, to nurture all of the wholesome seeds that arise in our consciousness and replace the unwholesome ones. If there is a person with whom we have difficulties, our habits often lead us to become angry, judge, or criticize and blame that person. When we berate, belittle, and blame the other person, we nourish their most unwholesome seeds, the ones that upset us in the first place. Instead, we are invited to look deeply in order to understand that person’s suffering, and to see how we can water all of the wholesome seeds in them so they will suffer less and their highest and best selves will manifest. This practice of taking responsibility for co-creating my relationships, and taking good care of those with whom I am inter-being, has been revolutionary for me. When I practice this with people toward whom I once hardened my heart, it breaks my heart wide open and I am in love.

The paramita on patience or inclusiveness is a deep teaching on love. Thay tells us that when we practice inclusiveness, we accept a difficult person exactly as he is, without any expectation that he will ever change. This can create enough spaciousness for him to change if he chooses. We can use this practice with ourselves, as we are frequently our most difficult person. When we can accept ourselves, without stories about who we should be or regrets about what we have not done, we are suddenly free to simply experience life in the moment and respond to life as it is and as we are. This makes it easier for us to do the same for others. The energy of acceptance is deeply felt. If in the past I held on to a judgment or opinion about another person, it was felt and she was defensive.

When I can truly accept someone, wholeheartedly, just as she is, it is also felt. There is no need for defensiveness to arise, and real intimacy is possible. What a wonderful gift!

The first of the paramitas is generosity. Thay invites us to look deeply at all we have to offer. I have been moved to consider all that he has offered. He has suffered tremendously and practiced to transform that suffering and become the embodiment of true love. He is living proof that the practice works. He has devoted more than seventy years of his life to understanding the ways we can cut through the illusions and misperceptions that keep us trapped. He has looked deeply into the Buddha’s teachings and has distilled them into precious gems that are totally accessible and usable, and offered them to anyone who wants to be free. All of these ways to untie our knots, to take down the barriers we have built in our hearts, are gifts to us from Thay.

I always say that I feel there should be a seventh paramita of gratitude. Gratitude immediately takes me from the shore of suffering to the shore of freedom. I feel deep gratitude to have received such wonderful gifts that have allowed me to experience true love in this lifetime. It has also been a joy to see the transformation and healing that has taken place in so many others who have followed Thay’s teachings. The Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation came into being because some of Thay’s students felt that same gratitude. They wanted to use their gifts to create conditions to ensure that Thay’s teachings could continue and help countless future generations. I hope that our gratitude will motivate all of us to become a part of this effort in every way we can. There is no better way to thank someone who has given us the keys to happiness and freedom than to pass them on.

Joanne Friday, Chan Lac Thi (True Joy of Giving), is a Dharma teacher in the Order of Interbeing. In 2003, she received authority to teach from Thich Nhat Hanh, her teacher for twenty years. Joanne leads meditation retreats for Sanghas and groups throughout the US. She lives in Rhode Island, where she is the guiding teacher for the six Sanghas that comprise the Rhode Island Community of Mindfulness.

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Thanksgiving

By Cathy Nason

I wonder if he’ll see me after coming all this way. How could I have allowed two whole years to pass without even a card, a phone call?

This home seems better than the last. The women at the reception desk are warm and attractive. They call his social worker, Keith, to walk me to Andy’s ward. Keith is black and strong with an incredible warmth and cheerfulness. I am immediately grateful that he is in Andy’s life.

The Dementia Ward

He unlocks the first set of doors and a woman stands hopeless in her pee-drenched pants. He cheerfully yells at her to get to the bathroom and take care of herself. Slowly she moves toward the bathroom. He explains to me that this is the dementia ward.

After the second set of locked doors we are in Andy’s ward. The familiar sense of madness: one girl screaming obscenities, one man singing like Johnny Cash, a Middle Eastern-looking man bent into some contorted position on the floor.

Keith directs me to the desk where I am to sign in. They flip to Andy’s page and I see he has had no visitors, except for his conservator back in August, a person I have never met. My heart aches. Why do I stay so busy? Why is the rest of the family so busy? Possibly it is too painful for us—and that is why we keep so busy. I am so sorry, Andy.

Keith takes me to Andy’s room, which he shares with three men. One of them is pretending to be dead. The nurse and Keith stand over him trying to get him to respond. I walk by this chaos to Andy who is standing and smiling. Keith asks Andy if he knows who I am. Cheerfully he says, “Yes, it’s my sister Cathy.”

His hair is long and greasy, he is missing some teeth, he has a pot belly; but he looks really good to me. I give him a three-breath hug and he allows it. It feels so good to hold him, I can feel our mom’s sweet essence in him. He is very quiet.

Andy opens my present to him, a pen and one of Thay’s writing journals. He puts them in his drawer. He has absolutely nothing, except his radio. I tell him he is luckier than the rest of us with all our trappings of possessions, and he smiles. Then we just sit. I tell him a little bit about what the family is doing but he seems more interested in just now. I ask Keith if he will take our picture. Andy likes it when I hold him.

I am amazed that this time he is so happy to see me. Then in that instant he says, “You have to go now, it’s time for my cigarette break.” I am happy that at least this time he has seen me, after coming all this way.

A Walk in Heaven

He walks me to the door and then he does something that he has never done before. He takes my hand and smiles, and then adjusts it to his for a perfect fit. And he starts walking slowly around the circumference of the ward. I am doing walking meditation with my Bro, and it feels as if Thich Nhat Hanh, my mother, my father, brothers, sisters, all our ancestors are with us in this moment. I am experiencing heaven on earth, a smile on my face from ear to ear, walking slowly and mindfully with my brother, hand in hand. We get to his door after this lap around heaven, and I am expecting for the gift to be over. He passes his room for a second lap of walking and smiling, then a third. Finally he says, “Okay now, I really got to have my cigarette break.” I ask if I can join him and he says no.

Keith comes to lead me out of the ward. I feel peaceful and grateful for Andy’s gift to me—to walk amongst the chaos with such ease and grace.

One of the patients is grabbing at Keith and insisting on his attention. He firmly sets his boundaries and walks on with me. I tell him he is very good at what he does. He says, “After twenty years I am getting better!” Then he laughs and says, “That lady still pushes my buttons.”

I am grateful for Keith and the people who work with the mentally ill. I say goodbye to the receptionist with a feeling it is all perfect, just the way it is.

Cathy Nason, True Silent Path, lives in Truckee, California, where she practices interior design incorportating spirit, feng shui, and green design.

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A Gift Economy

By Zachiah Laurann Murray mb55-AGift1

Throw away holiness and wisdom and people will be a hundred times happier. Throw away morality and justice and people will do the right thing. Throw away industry and profit and there won’t be any thieves.

If these three aren’t enough, just stay at the center of the circle and allow all things to take their course.

--Tao Te Ching, A New English Version, Chapter 19 (translated by Stephen Mitchell)

“Each week we give all of our profits to Barbac, the owner of the Wise Cicada Health Food Store. When he has taken care of his financial obligations, he returns to us what he feels the cafe can offer,” says Susan Gribble, co-creator and visionary of the new Wise Cicada Cafe, located in New Market, New Zealand. “Then on gifting night,” she continues, “we place the money Barbac has offered us into the center of the circle on the floor, where we have come together, and each person takes according to his or her need.” She pauses. “It takes real trust.”

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On February 28, 2010, I had the honor and privilege of washing dishes on the cafe’s opening day, just before embarking on a silent walkabout in the bush of New Zealand. The cafe is the manifestation of a vision shared by Donna Murray, Susan Gribble, and Endel Araujo. Their vision is to create a cafe based on a new paradigm, one dedicated to living—actually embodying—a new way of being in the flow of commerce in today’s marketplace.

In a gift economy, no prices are placed upon the items being offered. One is asked to go beyond what physically appears on one’s plate or in one’s cup. One is asked to look deeply and mindfully into one’s entire experience—the love and hearts of those in service, the nourishment one receives, the beautiful atmosphere of the cafe, and all the beings, plants, and minerals, including the clouds, the rain, the soil, and the sun, that have contributed to making the food. Looking with the eyes of mindfulness, one is called to deeply acknowledge one’s complete interbeing with all of life. And from this inspired place of truth, one is asked to offer an authentic expression of one’s heart and understanding in gratitude for the gifts received.

This expression of gifting and gratitude shows faith in the truth of our oneness. The exchange is an embodiment of the wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings on interbeing. While the visionaries and co-creators of the cafe are not Buddhists, they have great insight into our need to see beyond the illusion of our separateness. Not only do they recognize our interbeing, but they have also dedicated their livelihood to this knowing. Their cafe gracefully reflects the beauty of our oneness with all of life and directly invites each of us to see with our Buddha eyes, to live from our Buddha hearts, and to fully express and realize our Buddha nature while actively engaged in our daily lives.

Through their being and presence, the co-creators of the cafe stand as a clear mirror of faith and trust, offering us the opportunity to acknowledge Thay’s teaching of interbeing through our own action; this action deeply waters the seed of truth in each of us. The mirror of truth stands before us; it is ours to look closely and not only know, but embody, its wisdom.

During a month-long silent walkabout in the bush of the Waitakere Ranges, I stayed down the hill from my friends’ retreat center and cafe. Each morning, very early, I went up the hill to the center. Sometimes when I arrived, they were preparing food for the cafe. I entered into their flow, silently joining them, and then slipped back into the bush and disappeared like a visiting bird. The love of this silent communion with my friends hummed its song within my heart as I spent time in solitude with nature.

My final day upon the sacred land—for certain, my second home—returned me to the familiar and welcoming arms and hearts of my friends at the Wise Cicada Cafe. Having ingested only protein shakes while in the bush to keep things simple and not attract animals, I was extremely grateful that my last nourishment in New Zealand would be the soul food offered by my friends. When I arrived on the morning of March 25, Endel served me as I carefully selected the beautiful foods that would fill my plate and my soul, foods prepared “with great love,” as Donna was often heard to say. I asked if I could partake of my meal before paying for it, that I might drink deeply of its offering. With a warm and easy smile, Endel granted me the opportunity to explore the fullness of my senses before making my financial offering.

I relished the food’s rich flavors and looked for all the life and energy within it. I realized I was embodying the sky, the clouds, the rain, the sun and its warmth. I was grateful to the hearts and hands of the beings, animals, plants, and minerals that had offered their life energy to this meal, and I let this truth resonate deeply within me. Enfolded, too, in this experience, were the love and hearts of my beloved friends. I wrapped their love in my heart cloth, and I will carry them with me wherever I go.

I realized no money could ever really recompense my friends for the gift I had received. I resolved to express its merit and truth through my life and through the extension of my own generosity and love. In each moment, as I observe the world, I stretch to see beyond my physical senses and to trust my inner vision and knowing—to see the sky, the clouds, and the sun in everything I meet—and from this awareness engage with the true presence around and in me.

Donna, Susan, and Endel have thrown away industry and profit, and in so doing have made room for the human heart in commerce. They have planted the seed of a different way of being within our economy, one that deeply acknowledges the one life we all inter-are. We are all nourished by their effort and their living message as they manifest this beautiful gift economy in New Zealand. May they and all beings prosper in the soil of this new vision.

For more information about the Wise Cicada Health Food Store and Cafe, visit www.wisecicada.co.nz.

mb55-AGift3Zachiah Laurann Murray, Pure Truth of the Heart, is a Registered Landscape Architect. The Heart Sangha of Santa Cruz, CA, is home for her practice.

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Traveling in Thailand

The retreat is over, traveling again. At a guest house in Nong Khai I start to talk about my travels with this guy from Georgia

When he finds out why I’m here and between gulps of beer he almost shouts, “so what’s it like to be Buddhist?”

No chance to answer before more beer arrives at the table and the conversation changes to women young Thai women

These older foreign men are on a quest one laments the loss of his young girlfriend one says to another "did you find a woman yet?”

I can’t hear his angry answer

The Georgia man, with sadness in his voice, recounts his three weeks in a Cambodian jail arrested for begging at a tourist beach The conversation gets louder: women, sex, lack of money, where to go next beer flows, cigarettes flare

I slip away to a quiet spot by the river away from that table of angry men reclaiming my island of mindfulness I smile

Stopping, no more talking

Through the bamboo leaning over the water I see a brilliant blue sky and with great clarity I see that our practice is where we are with what is, with understanding

This is it and I am one with these men Their suffering is my suffering

And with immense gratitude for the practice I walk slowly along the trail my compassion flowing like the massive Mekong a few feet away

— David Percival, True Wonderful Roots Albuquerque, New Mexico

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