Wisdom of Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh For Today

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The great Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh suffered a serious stroke in November of 2014. We join practitioners around the world in sending our prayers and good wishes for his full recovery. Thich Nhat Hanh’s life is inspiring, his benefit great, and his teaching, like the dharma itself, profound and practical.We all want to be happy and there are many books and teachers in the world that try to help people be happier. Yet we all continue to suffer.Therefore, we may think that we’re “doing it wrong.” Somehow we are “failing at happiness.” That isn’t true. Being able to enjoy happiness doesn’t require that we have zero suffering. In fact, the art of happiness is also the art of suffering well. When we learn to acknowledge, embrace, and understand our suffering, we suffer much less. Not only that, but we’re also able to go further and transform our suffering into understanding, compassion, and joy for ourselves and for others.

One of the most difficult things for us to accept is that there is no realm where there’s only happiness and there’s no suffering. This doesn’t mean that we should despair. Suffering can be transformed. As soon as we open our mouth to say “suffering,” we know that the opposite of suffering is already there as well. Where there is suffering, there is happiness. According to the creation story in the biblical book of Genesis, God said, “Let there be light.” I like to imagine that light replied, saying, “God, I have to wait for my twin brother, darkness, to be with me. I can’t be there without the darkness.” God asked, “Why do you need to wait? Darkness is there.” Light answered, “In that case, then I am also already there.”

If we focus exclusively on pursuing happiness, we may regard suffering as something to be ignored or resisted. We think of it as something that gets in the way of happiness. But the art of happiness is also the art of knowing how to suffer well. If we know how to use our suffering, we can transform it and suffer much less. Knowing how to suffer well is essential to realizing true happiness.

 Healing Medicine

The main affliction of our modern civilization is that we don’t know how to handle the suffering inside us and we try to cover it up with all kinds of consumption. Retailers peddle a plethora of devices to help us cover up the suffering inside.

But unless and until we’re able to face our suffering, we can’t be present and available to life, and happiness will continue to elude us.

There are many people who have enormous suffering, and don’t know how to handle it. For many people, it starts at a very young age. So why don’t schools teach our young people the way to manage suffering? If a student is very unhappy, he can’t concentrate and he can’t learn. The suffering of each of us affects others. The more we learn about the art of suffering well, the less suffering there will be in the world.

Mindfulness is the best way to be with our suffering without being overwhelmed by it. Mindfulness is the capacity to dwell in the present moment, to know what’s happening in the here and now. For example, when we’re lifting our two arms, we’re conscious of the fact that we’re lifting our arms. Our mind is with our lifting of our arms, and we don’t think about the past or the future, because lifting our arms is what’s happening in the present moment.

To be mindful means to be aware. It’s the energy that knows what is happening in the present moment. Lifting our arms and knowing that we’re lifting our arms—that’s mindfulness, mindfulness of our action. When we breathe in and we know we’re breathing in, that’s mindfulness. When we make a step and we know that the steps are taking place, we are mindful of the steps. Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. It’s the energy that helps us be aware of what is happening right now and right here—in our body, in our feelings, in our perceptions, and around us.

With mindfulness, you can recognize the presence of the suffering in you and in the world. And it’s with that same energy that you tenderly embrace the suffering. By being aware of your in-breath and out-breath you generate the energy of mindfulness, so you can continue to cradle the suffering. Practitioners of mindfulness can help and support each other in recognizing, embracing, and transforming suffering. With mindfulness we are no longer afraid of pain. We can even go further and make good use of suffering to generate the energy of understanding and compassion that heals us and we can help others to heal and be happy as well.

 Generating Mindfulness

The way we start producing the medicine of mindfulness is by stopping and taking a conscious breath, giving our complete attention to our in-breath and our out-breath. When we stop and take a breath in this way, we unite body and mind and come back home to ourselves. We feel our bodies more fully. We are truly alive only when the mind is with the body. The great news is that oneness of body and mind can be realized just by one in-breath. Maybe we have not been kind enough to our body for some time. Recog-nizing the tension, the pain, the stress in our body, we can bathe it in our mindful awareness, and that is the beginning of healing.

If we take care of the suffering inside us, we have more clarity, energy, and strength to help address the suffering of our loved ones, as well as the suffering in our community and the world. If, however, we are preoccupied with the fear and despair in us, we can’t help remove the suffering of others. There is an art to suffering well. If we know how to take care of our suffering, we not only suffer much, much less, we also create more happiness around us and in the world.

Why the Buddha Kept Meditating

When I was a young monk, I wondered why the Buddha kept practicing mindfulness and meditation even after he had already become a buddha. Now I find the answer is plain enough to see. Happiness is impermanent, like everything else. In order for happiness to be extended and renewed, you have to learn how to feed your happiness. Nothing can survive without food, including happiness; your happiness can die if you don’t know how to nourish it. If you cut a flower but you don’t put it in some water, the flower will wilt in a few hours.Even if happiness is already manifesting, we have to continue to nourish it. This is sometimes called conditioning, and it’s very important. We can condition our bodies and minds to happiness with the five practices of letting go, inviting positive seeds, mindfulness, concentration, and insight.

  1. LETTING GO

The first method of creating joy and happiness is to cast off, to leave behind. There is a kind of joy that comes from letting go. Many of us are bound to so many things. We believe these things are necessary for our survival, our security, and our happiness. But many of these things—or more precisely, our beliefs about their utter necessity—are really obstacles for our joy and happiness.

Sometimes you think that having a certain career, diploma, salary, house, or partner is crucial for your happiness. You think you can’t go on without it. Even when you have achieved that situation, or are with that person, you continue to suffer. At the same time, you’re still afraid that if you let go of that prize you’ve attained, it will be even worse; you will be even more miserable without the object you are clinging to. You can’t live with it, and you can’t live without it.

If you come to look deeply into your fearful attachment, you will realize that it is in fact the very obstacle to your joy and happiness. You have the capacity to let it go. Letting go takes a lot of courage sometimes. But once you let go, happiness comes very quickly. You won’t have to go around searching for it.

Imagine you’re a city dweller taking a weekend trip out to the countryside. If you live in a big metropolis, there’s a lot of noise, dust, pollution, and odors, but also a lot of opportunities and excitement. One day, a friend coaxes you into getting away for a couple of days. At first you may say, “I can’t. I have too much work. I might miss an important call.”

But finally he convinces you to leave, and an hour or two later, you find yourself in the countryside. You see open space. You see the sky, and you feel the breeze on your cheeks. Happiness is born from the fact that you could leave the city behind. If you hadn’t left, how could you experience that kind of joy? You needed to let go.

  1. INVITING POSITIVE SEEDS

We each have many kinds of “seeds” lying deep in our consciousness. Those we water are the ones that sprout, come up into our awareness, and manifest outwardly.

So in our own consciousness there is hell, and there is also paradise. We are capable of being compassionate, understanding, and joyful. If we pay attention only to the negative things in us, especially the suffering of past hurts, we are wallowing in our sorrows and not getting any positive nourishment. We can practice appropriate attention, watering the wholesome qualities in us by touching the positive things that are always available inside and around us. That is good food for our mind.

One way of taking care of our suffering is to invite a seed of the opposite nature to come up. As nothing exists without its opposite, if you have a seed of arrogance, you have also a seed of compassion. Every one of us has a seed of compassion. If you practice mindfulness of compassion every day, the seed of compassion in you will become strong. You need only concentrate on it and it will come up as a powerful zone of energy.

Naturally, when compassion comes up, arrogance goes down. You don’t have to fight it or push it down. We can selectively water the good seeds and refrain from watering the negative seeds. This doesn’t mean we ignore our suffering; it just means that we allow the positive seeds that are naturally there to get attention and nourishment.

  1. MINDFULNESS-BASED JOY

Mindfulness helps us not only to get in touch with suffering, so that we can embrace and transform it, but also to touch the wonders of life, including our own body. Then breathing in becomes a delight, and breathing out can also be a delight. You truly come to enjoy your breathing.

A few years ago, I had a virus in my lungs that made them bleed. I was spitting up blood. With lungs like that, it was difficult to breathe, and it was difficult to be happy while breathing. After treatment, my lungs healed and my breathing became much better. Now when I breathe, all I need to do is to remember the time when my lungs were infected with this virus. Then every breath I take becomes really delicious, really good.

When we practice mindful breathing or mindful walking, we bring our mind home to our body and we are established in the here and the now. We feel so lucky; we have so many conditions of happiness that are already available. Joy and happiness come right away. So mindfulness is a source of joy. Mindfulness is a source of happiness.

Mindfulness is an energy you can generate all day long through your practice. You can wash your dishes in mindfulness. You can cook your dinner in mindfulness. You can mop the floor in mindfulness. And with mindfulness you can touch the many conditions of happiness and joy that are already available. You are a real artist. You know how to create joy and happiness any time you want. This is the joy and the happiness born from mindfulness.

  1. CONCENTRATION

Concentration is born from mindfulness. Concentration has the power to break through, to burn away the afflictions that make you suffer and to allow joy and happiness to come in.

To stay in the present moment takes concentration. Worries and anxiety about the future are always there, ready to take us away. We can see them, acknowledge them, and use our concentration to return to the present moment.

When we have concentration, we have a lot of energy. We don’t get carried away by visions of past suffering or fears about the future. We dwell stably in the present moment so we can get in touch with the wonders of life, and generate joy and happiness.

Concentration is always concentration on something. If you focus on your breathing in a relaxed way, you are already cultivating an inner strength. When you come back to feel your breath, concentrate on your breathing with all your heart and mind. Concentration is not hard labor. You don’t have to strain yourself or make a huge effort. Happiness arises lightly and easily.

  1. INSIGHT

With mindfulness, we recognize the tension in our body, and we want very much to release it, but sometimes we can’t. What we need is some insight.

Insight is seeing what is there. It is the clarity that can liberate us from afflictions such as jealousy or anger, and allow true happiness to come. Every one of us has insight, though we don’t always make use of it to increase our happiness.

We may know, for example, that something (a craving, or a grudge) is an obstacle for our happiness, that it brings us anxiety and fear. We know this thing is not worth the sleep we’re losing over it. But still we go on spending our time and energy obsessing about it. We’re like a fish who has been caught once before and knows there’s a hook inside the bait; if the fish makes use of that insight, he won’t bite, because he knows he’ll get caught by the hook.

Often, we just bite onto our craving or grudge, and let the hook take us. We get caught and attached to these situations that are not worthy of our concern. If mindfulness and concentration are there, then insight will be there and we can make use of it to swim away, free.

In springtime when there is a lot of pollen in the air, some of us have a hard time breathing due to allergies. Even when we aren’t trying to run five miles and we just want to sit or lie down, we can’t breathe very well. So in wintertime, when there’s no pollen, instead of complaining about the cold, we can remember how in April or May we couldn’t go out at all. Now our lungs are clear, we can take a brisk walk outside and we can breathe very well. We consciously call up our experience of the past to help ourselves treasure the good things we are having right now.

In the past we probably did suffer from one thing or another. It may even have felt like a kind of hell. If we remember that suffering, not letting ourselves get carried away by it, we can use it to remind ourselves, “How lucky I am right now. I’m not in that situation. I can be happy”—that is insight; and in that moment, our joy, and our happiness can grow very quickly.

The essence of our practice can be described as transforming suffering into happiness. It’s not a complicated practice, but it requires us to cultivate mindfulness, concentration, and insight.

It requires first of all that we come home to ourselves, that we make peace with our suffering, treating it tenderly, and looking deeply at the roots of our pain. It requires that we let go of useless, unnecessary sufferings and take a closer look at our idea of happiness.

Finally, it requires that we nourish happiness daily, with acknowledgment, understanding, and compassion for ourselves and for those around us. We offer these practices to ourselves, to our loved ones, and to the larger community. This is the art of suffering and the art of happiness. With each breath, we ease suffering and generate joy. With each step, the flower of insight blooms.

From No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering, by Thich Nhat Hanh. © 2014 by United Buddhist Church. Published with the permission of Parallax Press. www.parallax.org.img_0080

Charter for Compassion: TIME TO GO TO WORK–10 Ways to Cope as People Alone or Together

CHARTER FOR COMPASSION:  TIME TO GO TO WORK!
© Americanspirit | Dreamstime.com

This is a time to work towards reducing our political shock and numbness and to re-enter the world with determined compassionate action. I’m not saying this just for people in the U.S. dealing with an uncertain political future, but for other countries in the world that are faced with a immigrant crisis, stagnant economic growth, and dissatisfaction with governance. We have been hearing from Charter for Compassion members from Europe, particularly people in Belgium, France and the Netherlands who will soon be facing difficult elections. Our strategic partner YES magazine has offered some sobering and challenging steps to help us cope with what just happened in the the U.S. and action advice on how we need to consider acting to protect the rights of all. These thoughts may be seem to be written for Americans, but they are not, they are for the global community. The first is written by Fran Korten, the second on protecting threatened people, by Arun Gupta. We are grateful for the work that the people at Yes magazine are doing to protect our world.

Please join us for another Charter for Compassion call on December 8. Details are below. We are working with our Charter Education Institute team to bring expansion of our offerings in 2017, as series of conversations, interactive sessions and speaker series. We know our newsletters can get lengthy and that is because we have so much to share. In the last two weeks, we have received a large number of partners and city initiatives that have registered and we will be acknowledging these in the next weeks. As usual, we welcome your comments and ideas, volunteer assistance and your financial support. Donate here. Remember that the Charter for Compassion is primarily a grassroots volunteer organization that exists because of your generous support at all levels.

With kind regards,

Marilyn

Marilyn Turkovich, Director
Charter for Compassion International

 

10 Ways to Cope

Ground yourself: Breathe deeply. Go to a favorite spot in nature and really be there. Meditate. Find a favorite poem, reading, religious passage that has helped you before and read it quietly.
Allow the grief: Don’t suppress your feelings of fear, dread, anger, grief. Just allow them. But don’t wallow there; move on when you’re ready. And allow other feelings to arise, too—they may surprise you.
Be with friends; This is a time for community. Share your feelings, your insights, your fears—and, especially, your hopes. Hug a lot.
Take a media break Keep up with the news, but turn off the endless rehashing of painful stuff that you already know.
Take care of the children: Yours, neighbors’, grandchildren. They will sense your fear, and the very young won’t understand it. Reassure them that they are safe.
Reach out to anyone threatened: There are people who are especially afraid: immigrants, Muslims, Blacks, Latinos. Speak up and show solidarity.
Don’t dismiss the Trump voters: Remember that many of his supporters voted from a place of anger and despair about many of the same things for which you feel anger and despair: all the wealth going to the already wealthy, corporations getting all the breaks while everyone else feels stiffed, political power wielded by the very rich.
Think local: I’ll bet on Tuesday night there was something (maybe many things) on your local ballot to celebrate. Embrace them. And find the many ways in addition to electoral politics to make change in your community, your town, your state.
Take care of yourself: Yes, eat some comfort food—but then take those walks, do those yoga stretches. The whole world needs your energy, your health, your vision. There is much to be done.
Take the long view: Martin Luther King’s words can hold us: “The long arc of history bends toward justice.”

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How Cities Can Protect People

We should start organizing to make cities powerful bastions of noncooperation, resistance, and protection. Activists and organizations can start demanding in every city that city councils and mayors issue resolutions and statements saying:

Our city will not assist or cooperate with any raids or detentions or deportations of any immigrants. This includes assistance of local law enforcement or providing data to the federal government.
Our city will not cooperate or assist with registration and surveillance programs of Muslims, or any attempts to make our friends, neighbors, and loved ones the enemy.
Our city is a safe zone for all immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ people, women, and anyone fearing persecution from the Trump regime.
Our cities reject any effort to criminalize or attack Black Lives Matter or other organizing for social justice, as Trump has suggested he might do.
This is a time to move to create compassionate communities in our world. We’ve been hearing from many of our members who are thinking seriously about starting an initiative in their city, town or village. Let us step forward to bind up what appears to be a very sorry world with our heart, hands and mind. Register your community and we will be in touch to help you take the first steps.

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Compassionate Practices in Trying Circumstances

Join us for a special free Charter for Compassion video conference call on Thursday, December 8, 2016 from 9:00 – 10:30 AM PST. Register here.

Many of us around the globe feel that we are at an uncomfortable and paralyzing turning point. This video call is being offered to people who want to move through the day, the world, and these changes, with compassion and in peace.

In this call, you will have an opportunity to explore some simple writing- and nature-based practices that can support us in these trying times. What is a “practice”? How can writing or the natural world help us? What do grief, compassion, and peaceful action have in common? We will address these questions through guided activities you can use as ongoing tools for 1.) coping with grief, 2.) fostering compassion for yourself and others, and 3.) behaving more kindly, peaceably, and compassionately even in the face of challenges. At the end of the call, you will have an opportunity to ask questions about the practices or process we’ve covered. You will leave the call with tangible tools you can use any time grief, non-compassionate thoughts, or aggressive action feel like the only possible reactions to what is happening around us. We ask you to bring to the call ample writing paper and pens for this experiential, hands-on offering. You will receive the most from the call if you are able to join using your computer’s video; visual images will be part of the presentation. However, we welcome you even if you are not able to join with a video connection.

The facilitator of the call, Jennifer J. Wilhoit, owns and operates TEALarbor stories – a partner of the Charter for Compassion. She is a published author, spiritual ecologist, editor, writing mentor, hospice/bereavement volunteer, life and nature guide, and peacemaker who uses these practices daily in her professional work with clients – as well as in her personal life.  Learn more at //CharterforCompassion.org

 

TRAUMA AND CHILDREN: “THE BODY IS THE SHORE ON THE OCEAN OF BEING.” (Sufi Wisdom)

img_0075Viewing the United States Election through the

Lens OF T.R.A.U.M.A…..

Trauma is one lens we Grown-ups can see through to help us and our Children understand what we as individuals and a country are going through during these difficult times in the United States and the World.  Trauma is experienced in the bodies of human beings, so we all suffer when we experience in the depths of our bodies the violence, hateful words, and apparently sanctioned sexual preditor actions coming from a major figure in a political process and his supporters.  We must become aware what has happened to us.  I will begin today with a series of reflections regarding how we can begin to heal the Trauma we are experienceing from our children.  I begin with some very helpful beginning resources I have found through my years of being involved with the lives of children:

RESOURCES that can help with Understanding

BOOK:  WAKING the TIGER:  Healing Trauma–The innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences by Peter A. Levine, Ph.D and Ann Frederick.

This Book introduces Traumas and explains how symptons begin, develop and why they are so compelling and persistent.  It lays a foundation of understanding the dispels the tangled web of myths about trauma and replaces them with a simple, description of the basic physiological processes that produce it.

In the First Section THE BODY AS HEALER offers a view of trauma and the process that heals it as a natural phenomena and addresses the innate wisdom to heal it.  Exercises to help us see the trauma in ourselves as caregivers of children and in the children we care for are available at the end of this section.

In the Second Section SYMPTONS OF TRAUMA are discussed and presented in more depth and the realities of our and our children’s experience is affirmed.

Section Three discusses Transformation and Re-negotiation as an available process by which we can transform our traumas, whether they be personal or societal.

Section Four is titled, FIRST AID FOR TRAUMA, and includes practical information to help prevent trauma after a accident and discusses in some depth CHILDHOOD TRAUMA.

This book is a good reminder about how our bodies hold the trauma and has great suggestions on what to do to help ourselves begin to heal them rather than numb them with prescription drugs, alcohol or other drugs legal or not legal.  This is the time to remain awake in kindness.

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Prodical Child

CAPACITOR:  Healing Empowerment for vulnerable Children and Adults

//Capacitar.org

More Coming tomorrow 11.18.16

America! Remember the Children on Election Day

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America the Beautiful

Words by Katharine Lee Bates,
Melody by Samuel Ward


O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for halcyon skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the enameled plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!

O beautiful for pilgrims feet,
Whose stem impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through
wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!

O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife
When once and twice,
for man’s avail
Men lavished precious life!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!

WORDS MATTER–Our Thoughts are like Arrows

image001MA28013680-0001 (2)IN THE NAVAJO TRIBE

THERE IS A SAYING THAT GOES LIKE THIS:

THOUGHTS ARE LIKE ARROWS:

ONCE RELEASED. THEY STRIKE THEIR MARK.

GUARD THEM WELL OR ONE DAY YOU MAY

BE YOUR OWN VICTIM.

(From the little book of big thoughts,

“The SOUL would have NO RAINBOW

If the EYES had NO TEARS…and Other Native American Proverbs)