I will start with a confession: I am a news junkie, but one who, despite that, tries to read the news mindfully, though admittedly there is something of a contradiction in this. Thay has on a number of occasions encouraged us to read the news no more than once a week, warning that reading it more often can water such unwholesome mental formations as anger and despair. In my own experience, he is not wrong about the ways in which regularly reading the news can weigh down one’s spirit, fostering not only anger or despair, but also a certain degree of jadedness to the suffering one reads about. But, given that I teach and do research in the fields of sociology and global studies, I actually need to read the news nearly daily to remain properly informed about developments in areas I study and to teach my classes well. But, even given that, I read the news more than I need, sometimes checking my favorites news sites several times a day, as a way of taking a “break” from whatever I am working on. I do so partly out of unhealthy habit energy, but partly also out of a genuine interest in learning more about the lives of others across the world–out of wanting to deepen my understanding and thereby my compassion for the people I read about. Continue reading “Reading the News Mindfully”
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.
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”
Several months ago, four young friends living in three different countries embarked on a journey together to replant a deforested rainforest in the south of Mexico. The “Forest of Interbeing” project includes the purchasing of 9 hectres of land, roughly 900 acres, in Los Tuxtlas region, in the Mexican state of Veracruz. Formerly home to several varieties of trees, shrubs, and endangered wildlife. Now only 20% of this bio-diverse land remains, deforested for the production of meat through cattle grazing. What we have discovered in the process of creating this project is that replanting forests takes a whole community.
Our teacher, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, talks of the Four Nutriments. The Four elements needed for life. These are Edible Food, Sense Impressions, Volition, and Consciousness. Community is also a kind of food. Community brings together many beings across genders, ethnicity, spiritual beliefs, sexual orientations, race, abilities, socio-economic status, and languages, to find where we meet. At the center of these differences is actually a common need for connection, love, and understanding. Continue reading “Replanting A “Forest of Interbeing”: Spiritual Community As Food”
Our Teacher released a final revised version of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings in April 2012 and can be used for both transmissions and recitations. A few edits were made in the last 6-weeks and any previously distributed revision should be discarded and the versions below should be used in their place. They are made available here in English and Vietnamese.
The newly ordained order members have been asked to share their ordination experience, and I am happy to do so. But in reality the experience was much less about me than about those around me. My experience was about the Deer Park staff family with whom I worked during the late summer. It was about my blood family and how they supported me. And it was about having my home sangha, Organic Garden, there with me and with the other brothers and sisters from our sangha who were also ordained.
I did not expect any of these things to be so important next to the joy of receiving the
fourteen directly from Thay. My greatest aspiration is to continue Thay; to embody
whatever small piece of him I can for others. But these parallel experiences taught me
lessons that might support that aspiration, so I am going to share them with you. And I
am also going to tell you a little about a lesson I learned during my year as an aspirant. Continue reading “Learning from Ordination”
This is about this very moment. This wonderful moment. Have you noticed? We are nearing the solstice: the 21st, to be precise. The shortest day of the year, and the longest night.
Typically, it’s a time of clarity and community, introspection and renewal. ‘Tis the season. Time to celebrate the light in darkness. As the Quakers remind us, “Where shalt thou seek the light if thou dost not turn within?” As the year turns, we turn with it. Such fact of life is so elemental, we often need reminding.
Facing this year’s solstice, it’s interesting to note that while so many people are still preparing their festivities, Buddhists around the planet have already observed their winter holy day. Two and a half millennia ago, a human being woke up. What is awakening but opening our eyes? Eyes open, as we were born with our eyes open. So here too light is key: seeing things as they truly are. Just because our eyes are open doesn’t mean we’re awake, truly intimate with our lives, engaged in a genuine life, with all its authentic wonder, living life to the fullest. Continue reading “Happy Bodhi Day”
One of the most common practices in our community is dharma sharing or dharma discussion. This is an opportunity to explore our practice together in a group. There are many models for facilitating dharma sharing and here are some guidelines.