In the higher Buddhist view, appearances rise from emptiness and dissolve again…It is a process like birth, living, and dying…practice letting come and go…we may rest longer and longer in the space of openness…Don’t try to shape the oneness, or see it as one thing or another, or gain anything from it. Just let things be. This is the way to find your center. ~Tulku Thondup, The Healing Power of Mind
of light and shadow
between insight and ignorance
in life and death
from suffering to tranquility
“Before the cloud appeared in the sky she was not nothing. She was the water in the ocean. She was the heat generated by the sun. She was the water vapor rising up to the sky. And when we can no longer see the cloud in the sky, she hasn’t died; she has just transformed into rain or snow. The notion of death is also created by our mind. It is impossible for something to become nothing. The cloud hasn’t died; it is manifesting in its new form as rain, as hail, as snow, as the river, and as the cup of tea in my two hands. So the true nature of the cloud is no-birth and no-death.
“… we can start to see the countless umbilical cords that link us to life all around us. There is an umbilical cord that exists between us and the river. The water we drink every day flows down from mountain springs and streams, right into our kitchen. So the river is also a mother and there is an invisible umbilical cord between us. If we cannot see it yet, it’s because we haven’t looked deeply enough. There is another umbilical cord between us and the clouds, between us and the forests, and another between us and the sun. The sun is like a parent to us. Without our link to the sun we could not live, and neither could anything else. We are nourished and sustained by countless parents. The river, the wild animals, the plants, the soil and all its minerals are our mothers and fathers, and are mothers and fathers to all phenomena on planet Earth. That is why in the sutras it is said that living beings have been our parents through countless lifetimes.
“There are umbilical cords linking us to all that is in the universe and in the entire cosmos. Can you see the link between you and me? If you are not there, I am not here; that is certain. If you do not yet see it, look more deeply and I am sure you will see”
Excerpt: Thich Nhát Hanh, The Other Shore
Although we think the past is gone and the future is not yet here, if we look deeply we see that reality is more than that. The past exists in the guise of the present because the present is made from the past. In this teaching, if we establish ourselves firmly in the present and touch the present moment deeply, we also touch the past and have the power to repair it. That is a wonderful teaching and practice. We don’t have to bear our wound forever. We are all unmindful at times; we have made mistakes in the past. It does not mean that we have to always carry that guilt without transforming it. Touch the present deeply and you touch the past. Take care of the present and you can repair the past. The practice of beginning anew is a practice of the mind. Once you realize what mistake you made in the past, you are determined never to do it again. Then the wound is healed. It is a wonderful practice.
~Thich Nhat Hanh & Melvin McLeod (The Pocket Thich Nhat Hanh)
moss blossoms bloom
in a little crack…
Every moment that we’re alive in this body, in this human manifestation, we’re emitting energy. This energy can be transformed but it can’t die; it remains in the world forever. … A thought is an action because it already has energy and it has the power to affect things. When we produce a thought of compassion, understanding, and love, that thought has the power to heal our body, our mind, and the world. If we produce a thought of hatred, anger, or despair, that thought has an affect not only on ourselves but on the world; it can destroy us and lead to the obstruction of many other lives.
Suppose a nation produces a collective thought of anger and fear and decides to go to war. The whole country is then producing fear and anger. That collective fear and anger can cause much real destruction and suffering. … The thoughts and feelings we send out to into the world have a powerful effect. Every thought we produce, everything we do and say, is an action. These actions continue forever. They can transform, but like the cloud, they will not disappear. We have to recognize the power of our [actions] and make a firm determination to be mindful of our thoughts, speech, and actions in order to heal ourselves and the Earth.
Thich Nhát Hanh, Love Letter to the Earth
The foundation of all mindfulness practice is awareness of the breath. There is no mindfulness without awareness of our in-breath and out-breath. Mindful breathing unites the body and mind and helps us to become aware of what is going on inside us and around us. In our daily life, we often forget that mind and body are connected. Our bodies are here but our minds are not. Sometimes we lose ourselves in a book, a film, the internet or an electronic game, and we’re carried off, far away from our body and the reality of where we are. Then, when we lift our head out of the book or look up from the screen, we may be confronted with feelings of anxiety, guilt, fear, or irritation. We rarely go back to our inner peace, to our inner island of calm and clarity, to be in touch with Mother Earth.
We can get so caught up in our plans, fears, agitations, and dreams that we aren’t living in our bodies anymore and we’re not in touch with our real mother, the Earth, either. We can’t see the miraculous beauty and magnificence that our planet offers to us. We are living more and more in the world of our minds and becoming increasingly alienated from the physical world. Returning to our breathing brings body and mind back together and reminds us of the miracle of the present moment. Our planet is rich here, powerful, generous, and supportive at every moment. Once we recognize these qualities in the Earth, we can take refuge in her in our difficult moments, making it easier for us to embrace our fear and suffering and to transform it.
Awareness of the in-breath and out-breath first of all calms us down. By paying attention to your breathing, without judgment, you bring peace back to your body, and release the pain and tension. …
When our minds and bodies have calmed down, we begin to see more clearly. When we see more clearly, we feel more connected to ourselves and to the Earth and we have more understanding. When there is clarity and understanding, love can bloom because true love is based on understanding.
…Each breath contains nitrogen, oxygen, and water vapor as well as other trace elements, so each breath that we inhale contains the Earth. With each breath, we’re reminded that we are part of this beautiful life-giving planet.
~Thich Nhát Hahn, (Love Letter to the Earth)
This is, because that is. This is not, because that is not. This comes to be, because that comes to be. This ceases to be, because that ceases to be…This is like this, because that is like this.
~Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha
time-lapse of an apple blossom transforming
My mother once described a job interview for a dietary postion within a small community hospital in which she was asked if she could cook. She described how she directed the woman’s gaze to the various pictures of her children that were placed about her living room and invited the woman into her kitchen to show her that she, indeed, as a mother did and could cook.
This question, was experienced by my mother as an example of discrimination…a prejudice of deafness. As I listened to my mother’s story, I understood the question as appropriate to the job. What I interpreted to be discrimination came from the environment in which the interview occurred…not at the hospital, but within the privacy of her own home.
How many job interviews take place within a job applicant’s home?
Being a child of my mother’s and a female, I believed I came to understand discrimination, oppression, and marginalization, both personally and through my mother’s life stories. As a child, she was required by state law to attend a deaf school and initially attended a school that was close enough to the family home to allow for weekends with the family. Yet, because the school was located out of state, she had to enroll in a state school much further away, Consequently, she was then only able to be with family during specific holidays. This is of a time when letters were her only course of connection with her family.
Also, the school she attended had a policy prohibiting communication through the use of sign language as a means to assist the students to fit in with the “hearing world.” I smile today, remembering her pride as she described the opposition to this policy. She and her classmates would gather together in an attic, at night, to teach one another how to speak in sign.
The events of today have invited me to reflect upon my own behaviors — and even my reaction to my mother’s job interview experience — and to see them as being influenced by discrimination, marginalization, and oppression especially in light of my understanding of “microaggression.”
Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. In many cases, these hidden messages may invalidate the group identity or experiential reality of target persons, demean them on a personal or group level, communicate they are lesser human beings, suggest they do not belong with the majority group, threaten and intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment.
…microaggressions are active manifestations and/or a reflection of our worldviews of inclusion/exclusion, superiority/inferiority, normality/abnormality, and desirability/undesirability. Microaggressions reflect the active manifestation of oppressive worldviews that create, foster, and enforce marginalization. Because most of us consciously experience ourselves as good, moral and decent human beings, the realization that we hold a biased worldview is very disturbing; thus we prefer to deny, diminish or avoid looking at ourselves honestly. Yet, research suggests that none of us are immune from inheriting the racial, gender, and sexual orientation biases of our society. We have been socialized into racist, sexist and heterosexist attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Much of this is outside the level of conscious awareness, thus we engage in actions that unintentionally oppress and discriminate against others.
I have come to realize that to there are no benign questions…and that a small section of my indignities towards another arise, in part, from my own denial and ignorance. Awakening to the suffering of others and to the unintentional harm I have caused others brings tears to my eyes as well as leaves me floundering in how to apologize.
It is my hope this sharing of Br Phap Man’s video, “Inclusivity and Justice”, is a small step that brings about a healing awakening that overcomes walls of various shapes, formations, and sizes.
Aryeah Kaplan wrote that when one is in a meditative state, one has obtained the ability to turn off faint after-images that are constantly with us and interfere with seeing objects with total clarity. He noted that when one is able “to turn off the spontaneous self-generated images . . . the beauty of the flower . . . seen in these higher states of awareness is indescribable [and] appears to radiate beauty.
~Aryeah, Kaplan, Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide, p.9
A flower is not a flower. It is made only of non-flower elements–sunshine, clouds, time, space, earth, minerals, gardeners, and so on. A true flower contains the whole universe. If we return any one of these non-flower elements to its source, there will be no flower. That is why we can say, “A rose is not a rose. That is why it is an authentic rose.” We have to remove our concept of rose if we want to touch the real rose.
~Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, p. 129
…when we hold a rose we see that it is composed of multiple elements, some tangible – leaves, stem, thorns, petals, stamens – and others intangible – scent, color, memories. If you were to remove any of these constituent parts, would you find an entity know as “rose”? As we are unable to find the rose in the absence of any one of these parts, we are also unable to find an enduring solid rose in any one of these elements.
~B Catherine Koeford, A Meditative Journey with Saldage, pp152-153