On a National Resolution of Atonement

The following letter was written by Robb Kushner, an Order of Interbeing Aspirant. Robb has given permission to post and share this very instructive and thoughtful statement.

~ Kenley


Letter to Sen. Cory Booker – On a National Resolution of Atonement
Jersey City, NJ 07302

14 August 2017

The Honorable Cory Booker
359 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Booker:

The tragic events in Charlottesville this past week have caused me to revisit a powerful idea: a National Resolution of Atonement – and I want to share this with you in the hopes that you may want to bring it up in Congress.

It is time for our country to officially atone for the twin atrocities of centuries of unconscionable subjugation of Native Americans – including stealing their lands – along with the tragic enslavement with ensuing subjugation of African Americans.

The Germans have atoned for their perpetration of The Holocaust. We as a nation desperately need to face up to these tragic elements of our past.

In atoning for these twin atrocities that have been an integral part of our history, we can send a message to the world and to all future generations that we are indeed fully dedicated to the immortal declaration that “all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

We are truly a nation of immigrants, and this has always been our key strength and point of uniqueness. We need to celebrate the diversity across our land that makes us such a blessed country.

In addition, by adopting this kind of national atonement, we will send a clear and unequivocal message that racism and bigotry will never be tolerated – in any manner – in our national dialogue, including public displays and assemblies.

I trust that you will give this idea the kind of serious consideration it deserves. And I hope to hear your thoughts in response.

With deep gratitude for your dedicated service to our state and country,
Robb Kushner

With copies to:
Sen. Bob Menendez
Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Sen. Kamala Harris
Sen. Al Franken
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Sen. Chuck Schumer
Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Sen. Tammy Duckworth
Sen. Lisa Murkowski
Sen. Susan Collins
Sen. Claire McCaskill
Sen. Chris Van Hollen


In addition to the letter, the following practice statement from ARISE  (Awakening through Race, Intersectionality, and Social Equity) is very relevant to this topic.

GATHA FOR HEALING RACIAL, SYSTEMIC, AND SOCIAL INEQUITY: Aware of the suffering caused by racial, systemic, and social inequities, we commit ourselves, individually and as a community, to understanding the roots of these inequities, and to transforming this suffering into compassion, understanding and love in action. As a global community of practitioners, we are aware of the disproportionate racial violence and oppression committed by institutions and by individuals, whether consciously or unconsciously, against African Americans and people of color across the United States and beyond. We know that by looking deeply as individuals and as a community, we can engage the collective wisdom and energy of the Sangha to be our foundation for Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Mindfulness, and Right Insight. These are the practices leading to nondiscrimination, non-harming, and non-self which heal ourselves and the world.

Practicing Compassionate Political Speech Through Deep Looking

Because of its emotionally charged nature, it is difficult to engage in political speech in a mindful, compassionate way. I often ask myself, How do I remain compassionate when criticizing others? Can we criticize others without disparaging or demonizing them, especially when we speak of them perpetuating injustices and other forms of harm to others? On a number of occasions, in sangha and on retreats and days of mindfulness, I have talked with other practitioners about these difficulties. On the one hand, some have told me that they deal with these challenges by simply not speaking of such contentious topics at all. While this may be appropriate for some people at some points in their practice, if none of us speak to these issues–to say nothing of working actively around them–changes for the better will not occur. On the other hand, I have talked to some practitioners who I felt were seeking for a Buddhist rationalization for speech that is not just angry but laced with ill-will by, for instance, making a distinction between anger and outrage, with the former to be avoided but the latter to be embraced as a mindful, positive reaction. Continue reading “Practicing Compassionate Political Speech Through Deep Looking”

The Time To Act Is Now !

In The World We Have (2008), Thay spoke to us with some urgency about the Bells of Mindfulness – the floods, droughts, sea level rise – that have been happening all over the planet,  trying to wake us up from our sleep-walking. His language about the danger to civilization from our rapidly changing climate, due to human-activity, was unvarnished and  direct, and yet he instructed us that “we don’t have to sink into despair about global warming, we can act.” The next year, 2009, The Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change: The Time To Act Is Now, was written. For certain, the clock measuring our society’s response had started much earlier, and even then we were already late as a global community in acting to protect the future.

Now, nine years later, even as a new White House Administration in the US wobbles over President Obama’s 2015 commitment to the Paris Climate Accord, we ask ourselves, “What can we do?  How do we act? How do we as OI Members respond within the framework of our 14 Mindfulness Trainings?” The short answer may best be, “we act in a way that is true to our own hearts,”  that is, a way that fits who we are and what we can contribute. Some of us will work to bring a Mindful Presence to the Climate Mobilizations, some will create and mail “Love Letters” as Thay taught us, and others will re-energize their own person commitments via our Earth Peace Treaty. Some of us will do all of this.

Most importantly, as ordained members of the Order of Interbeing, we can reflect deeply on Interbeing itself, on how we are all related regardless of race, nationality, location, gender identity, or even species. Looking deeply we see that we may need to get outside our comfort zones, and remember that our practice is not just for ourselves, but for all. As Thay has said, “We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness. We are imprisoned in our small selves, thinking only of having some comfortable conditions for this small self, while we destroy our large self. If we want to change the situation, we must begin by being our true selves. To be our true selves means we have to be the forest, the river, the ozone layer.” May it be so.

For Tomorrow’s Children of All Species,

George Hoguet/True Precious Smile.   earthholder.org

A Letter of Support

In light of hearing from so many who are struggling amid these times of political changes, I felt called to offer this letter, of which I hope will offer some support and benefit.

Dear friends along the path,

I know you suffer, and I am here for you.

I see that your anger and fear are rooted in a fierce compassion for others and out of a strong desire to do what you feel and know is right. As a mindfulness practitioner, the question is not whether or not to be angry, it’s about how we utilize our anger to influence our thoughts, speech, and actions. Is our anger motivating us to become more informed and involved with an open heart and sense of connection and compassion, or with an un-grounded, frantic sense of heaviness and despair? What seeds are we sowing in our wake?

Do you feel as though anger is not only an appropriate response but a necessary one, in order to affect change? I remember feeling this way when I was in my early 20’s. It took me a long while to reconcile my mindfulness practice with my deep-rooted feelings of anger, related to those I felt were responsible for both large and small acts of environmental degradation. Without anger, I queried, wouldn’t I then become complacent and ineffectual? Wasn’t anger a crucial motivator? As my foundation of mindfulness was being built and strengthened, I came to understand that the answer, to both questions, was: no.

There resides a middle path to follow. One that allows us to become involved with matters of injustice, human rights, and environmental advocacy work (just to name a few) while also choosing not to carry around and spread the heavy burden of anger everywhere we go. May our anger and upset start us on the path of active engagement with the world around us, and may we then learn how to transform that anger into mindfulness, concentration, and insight, so that our speech and actions will cause as little harm as possible as we move forward.

Anger isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, if we’re not careful and attentive, it can easily overtake and overwhelm our lives, causing us to become embittered, cynical, miserable, difficult to be around, and mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. If we allow our seeds of anger to be nurtured, we will create a very hostile and unpleasant atmosphere within and around us.

Feel your anger, dear friends, experience it as it arises, without judgement or suppression – I would not suggest otherwise. But don’t stop there. Investigate it. Become inquisitive. Understand your internal landscape, so that your actions that carry forth will be well informed. Do not allow your anger to go unchecked. Do not allow your seeds of love, ease, equanimity, inclusiveness, and interconnection to go un-watered. The well-being of our family, community, country, society, and the world depends on our ability to embody and practice the tools that mindfulness affords us, especially in the midst of change, challenge, struggle, adversity, and fear.

With Love and Support,

Nicole Dunn
True Wonderful Flower
Be Here Now Sangha
Missoula, Montana

The Creative Tension Between Fostering Dialogue and Social Justice

I teach sociology and global studies at the college level, which means that thorny social issues regularly come up in my classroom. As part of observing the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings in the classroom, I try both to foster dialogue between students of different worldviews, encouraging them to understand and respect each other, and also to create a classroom that cultivates social justice, particularly in giving those who belong to oppressed and normally silenced groups room to speak. But in mindfully observing the dynamics of the classroom, I have realized that there is a tension between these two goals, making it difficult at times to achieve both. If, in the name of open dialogue, we give too much room to speak to those who normally dominate the public conversation on social issues, they can silence those who are oppressed and marginalized. Sometimes I have found it necessary to intervene in classroom conversations in a way that cuts off a certain line of argument in order to create a space for where students from oppressed groups feel safe expressing themselves. The trick is doing so in a way that doesn’t permanently shut down students with worldviews reflecting the dominant belief systems and the experiences of the dominant social groups. Continue reading “The Creative Tension Between Fostering Dialogue and Social Justice”

Who? Me? Change the World?

And so a question:

Am I a human manifestation who is conscious

or,

consciousness manifested as a human?

Me thinks the later.

From a single consciousness we humans spring,
and all are one.

With this awakening
I see that the suffering of one is the suffering of many
and that the joy of another is also my joy.

This insight suggests
a slight twist to the Golden Rule may be in order:
“As I treat others, I also treat myself.”

As I practice loving kindness, compassion and joy
the same will be manifest in others
and be returned to me many times over.

Our practice changes our consciousness
AND the consciousness of our world.
Maybe changing the world really isn’t so complicated.

Who? Me? Change the World?

Me thinks so……

I am Kabe Woods, True Field of Orchids (Chân Lan Điền) , the Co-Founder and Facilitator of the Mindfulness Practice Center of Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

Serving The Ill And Dying

I began working as a healthcare chaplain in 2005, the same year I was ordained in the Order of Interbeing.  For those unfamiliar with the role, healthcare chaplains help patients cope with their changing lives using the patient’s own language of meaning, whether that language is religious, scientific, philosophical or based upon their life experiences.  This requires the chaplain to listen with compassion and respond appropriately, without proselytizing the chaplain’s own beliefs.  My chaplaincy and OI practices have grown and supported each other over the years and I’d like to share some insights into how they work together to help me serve the ill and dying. 

Precepts

Thay’s poetic and deep rendering of the 14 Mindfulness Trainings have been a constant source of inspiration, support, and correction for my chaplaincy practice.  I’ve recited the precepts every other week since becoming an aspirant, and with each recitation the precepts reveal something new, guiding me back when I’ve strayed or reminding me that, contrary to self-judgements, I’m doing ok. 

While all the precepts have at one point or another enlivened my chaplaincy, I’d like to mention a few that come up again and again.  Continue reading “Serving The Ill And Dying”

Bumper Sticker Practice

Earlier this year I came up with a new mindfulness practice: bumper stickers! OK, let me explain. I like finding new and inventive ways to cultivate daily mindfulness. Being mindful means being mindful of something. And that something can be anything! Anything that allows us the opportunity to practice getting in touch and connecting with the present moment can be considered a practice of mindfulness. And it’s fun to find new ways in which to practice.

So in January, this idea of bumper sticker mindfulness came to me. For each month in 2016 I would practice noticing bumper stickers. In order to put a little extra weight on this new mindfulness practice, to help encourage me to do it, I would also write down the bumper stickers that caught my eye as being especially odd, funny or interesting. I then also resolved to write a blog post about it further into the year. And since I’ve recorded so many already I thought I’d stretch this bumper sticker practice into two blog posts, one now and one at the end of the year. As an FYI, my bumper sticker rules included only writing down bumper stickers I saw in action, meaning displayed on cars – so bumper stickers I saw for sale in a store didn’t count. I have a nice little notebook and an easily accessible pen in my car that I scribbled down all of the ones I saw, that I deemed worth noting. Here they are, in order of date seen:

Continue reading “Bumper Sticker Practice”

Orlando and Beyond

Dear sangha, 
We are connecting with you at this time in order to encourage and support ways of practicing that can lead to personal and collective healing and transformation related to what is going on in the world. We wish to find ways we can be of support to each other as a community in responding to current events, to create loving connection rather than more trauma and fomenting fear.

The T​ransformation and Healing Committee of the Dharma Teacher Care Taking Council of North America would appreciate your sharing with the community your and your Sanghas response to recent events in Orlando. In particular, which teachings and practices are you using right now or did you use recently in your sangha in light of this event? For example we have heard that one sangha read from ​Thay’s book Calming the Fearful Mind – a Zen Repsonse to Terrorism.  Another sangha read out the names of the people who died at Orlando, sounding the bell after each name. Another sangha lit fifty candles. 

The ​Transformation and Healing Committee is charged with exploring and supporting engaged practice in the dharma teacher and OI communities. Orlando is a painful recent episode of violence. There have been many before, and given the conditions in the world now, there will be more. We can be more intentional about preparing ourselves to engage these kinds of situations by becoming more practiced in our Sanghas in processing current events, sharing the resources we use, learning skillful means from each other, and being a more active resource for the larger community. This message is going to Dharma Teachers Sangha and Order of Interbeing list with a request to forward to regional lists of Sanghas. We will also post on the OI website. 

With deep gratitude and joy in our practice together for collective awakening,

Signed.

John Bell
Richard Brady
Lyn Fine
Jack Lawlor
Kenley Neufeld
Leslie Rawls
Jo-ann Rosen

Order Members Call to Ban Fracking in California

Feb 7, 2015
Dear Governor Brown,

We write to you today to support you to support a ban on fracking–hydraulic fracturing –in California, and to support you in your commitment to address climate change, as you stated in your inaugural: we need to take “significant amounts of carbon out of our economy.” As a Fourfold Community (monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen) in the Plum Village Tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, we practice mindfulness to nurture understanding and love. Our tradition’s teachings are ecologically founded – we are not here on our own, we interare with everyone and everything. It is from this awareness that we write to you today.

The deep and devastating impact of hydraulic fracking on humans, many species, and the water of our planet is now known. It is also known that with strong political will it is possible to move a fossil fuel economy towards an economy increasingly based on renewable energy. We have seen in New York State that with a combination of strong political will and clear awareness of the devastatingly destructive nature of hydraulic fracturing, it is possible to ban fracking. We can do this in California as well.

Today, we join with our sisters and brothers at San Francisco Zen Center in supporting you to sign a bill banning fracking. Help turn us away from the age of fossil fuels with its immeasurable and lasting damage to the biosphere. Help California continue to take the lead, as it has in the past, with its extraordinary implementation of energy-efficiency standards during your first term as governor, with Assemblywoman Fran Pavley’s emissions legislation in 2002 that set nationwide standards under the Obama administration, and with the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

We know that our actions today help create what kind of future we will have. As Thich Nhat Hanh has said, “We have to live in such a way that a future will be possible for our children and our grandchildren, and our own life has to be our message.” At Deer Park, our practice center near San Diego, CA, we have taken a vow to do our best not to deplete the energy of the land and her resources, but rather to contribute to the regeneration of this beautiful land. Our solar energy system covers 90% of our usage of electricity.

To take a next step to stop contributing to devastating climate change, and to protect the beautiful land of California, we support you in signing a bill to ban fracking in California. Such a ban will reduce the carbon going into the biosphere, thus reducing contribution to climate change from this source, and it will help protect the land, water, peoples, animals and plants of California, now and in the future. We support you to support this ban. Thank you.

For the well-being of all life now and to come. The following names are all Order of Interbeing members located in California.

Kenley Neufeld, Chân Niệm Hỷ
Marc Jantzi
Gael Belden, True Wonderful Eyes
John Salerno-White, True Peace on Earth
Brother Phap Ho, True Protector of the Dharma
Juliet Hwang, True Emerald Ocean
Quyen Haduong, Chan Huyen
Leigh Ann Lipscomb, True Mountain of Goodness
Meredith Klein, True Summer Garden
Jo-ann Rosen, True River of Understanding
Beverly Alexander, True Holy Insight
Jerome Freedman, True Precious Light
Terry Barber, True Moon Heart
Ngoc-Tan Phan, Chan Mat Giai
Karen Hilsberg, True Boundless Graciousness
Phil Stein, True Precious Eyes
Margo Doxakis-Stein, True Garden of Understanding
Jacqueline Kim, True Beautiful Garden
John Freese, True Dharma Awakening
Lananh Nguyen
Jim Scott-Behrends, True Recollection of Compassion
Lyn Fine, True Goodness
Laura Alderdice, True Spiritual Communion
David Ostwald, True path of Equnimity
Terry Helbick, True Original Land
Susan Murphy, True Good Birth
David Nelson, Truly Holding Equanimity
Bryan Ferry, True Recollection of Awakening
Blanca Arias, True Ocean of Purity
Zachiah Murray, True Lotus Ocean
Nathaniel Vose, True Land of Compassion
Brandy Sacks, True Spiritual Contemplation
Andrew Deckert, True Wonderful Direction
Karen Hostetler, True Mountain of Deep Vows
Lynda Louise, True garden of togetherness
Meena Srinivasan, True Seal of Peace
Louise Dunlap, True Silent Teaching
Gary De Foe, True Buddha Garden
Sophy Wong, Chan Hanh Nguyen
Harriet Wrye, True Precious Smile
Laura Hunter, True Ocean of Teachings
Alice Christine Dawkins, True Wonderful Mind
Hac Nguyen, Chan Mat Trieu
Susan C Terris, True Fragrant Ocean
Natascha Bruckner, True Ocean of Jewels
Polly Chu, True Garden of Realizations
Elizabeth Nguyen, Chan Tri Tinh
Alexa Singer-Telles, True Silent Action
Tam Le, Chân Lưu Phong – True Flowing Tradition
Nu-Ha Phan, Chan Dinh Qua
Lennis Lyon, True Silent Forest
Sharon Moy, True Mountain of Clarity
Debra Rodgers, True Chrysanthemum Garden
Birgitte Moyer-Vinding, True Path of Light
Maria Nicora, True Garden of Goodness
Joshua Kaufman, True Shining Ocean
Miriam Goldberg, True Recollection of Happiness
Keith Mesecher
Mary Gorman, True Ever Lasting Ocean
Peter Kuhn, True Ocean of Joy
Robert Speer, True Silent Light
Denise Bergez, True Silent Shining
Marge Wurgel, True Crane Garden