Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I'm excited to announce my next kirtan ๐ŸŽถ at Highland Yoga in Butler, NJ...
You Have Everything You Need
Sunday, July 16th, 4-6pm



Come out for an afternoon of chanting mantra, bathing in the vibration of sacred sound and the shared energy of our amazing community, raising our vibration to realize we have everything we need. The great holding of Mother Earth ๐ŸŒŽ, the great love ๐Ÿ’— of divine spirit ✨, healing elements ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ’งwithin and around us, an abundance of beauty ๐ŸŒนand unending resources, and the wisdom of divine teachings ๐Ÿ“ฟ, all leading to liberation from suffering to realize the miracle of this life๐Ÿฆ‹.

"There are two ways to live your life. One is as though there are no miracles. The other is as though everything is a miracle." ๐ŸŒˆ
- Albert Einstein

Cost: $30 Pre-Registration by July 9/$40 Thereafter

Optional: Bring a dish ๐Ÿฅ—and stay for a pot luck after the kirtan.

The version of this chant below by Steve Gold is so beautiful. We will be chanting this. It is the Mantra of Perfect Wholeness. That is you! That is the universe!




Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My favorite recordings of Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu. Enjoy!

We chant this at the end of class every time I teach.  It is a sentiment, I like to share at the end of class to share the merit of our practice with all beings and any one in special need of prayers or healing energy.  May all beings be filled with peace and joy, love and light!

(It is my dream to have a whole play list of this chant by different artists to use for the entire class.  Share your favorite recordings of this chant with me please and make my dream become a reality : )


Lokah - Hang Drum (earth) - 13 HANDS.mpg





Diamonds in the Sun by Girish
(who will be playing at Highland Yoga in Butler, NJ
April 18th! Go to highlandyoga.com for details)






DONNA DE LORY Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu
Bhakti Fest 2010





Ansar -- Alone (feat. Aisha And The Dum Dum Project)



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Right Mindfulness: The Four Establishments of Mindfulness


Thich Nhat Hanh gives many deep and useful teachings in his chapter on Right Mindfulness in his book The Heart of the Buddha's Teachings: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation.  We looked at the Seven Miracles of Mindfulness in the previous blog post.  This post will focus on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness:  mindfulness of the body in the body, the feelings in the feelings, the mind in the mind, and phenomena in phenomena ("the objects of our mind").

As we contemplated the four establishments of mindfulness we came to understand the importance of beginning with the body, then moving to our feelings, then the mind.  In our culture we can get so caught up in our mind - stories we tell ourselves either coming from or feeding our fear, anxiety, depression, not-good-enough-ness, not-having-enough-ness, not-doing-enough-ness, etc.  It seems so convenient to ignore the body and to see the needs of our body as a nuisance.  However, what would we do without a body, where would we be without a body, who would we be without a body?

Our body is a miracle.  Our heart beats for us everyday sending newly oxygenated blood to our organs.  Our lungs bring that oxygen into the body and release the carbon dioxide.  Our skeletal system, endocrine system, immune system, nervous system, each organ...they all have their functions and work amazingly together!  What do we do to take care of all of them?  Are we thinking about the kinds of food we put into our bodies?  Is it full of chemicals and pesticides or GMO's  that make it convenient to grow, purchase, store, and eat or are we mindful of how our food is grown and processed and packaged?  Do we drink enough water?  Are we drinking beverages or eating foods that contain harmful ingredients like artificial sweeteners, lots of refined sugar, artificial food coloring, artificial flavors?  Are we getting enough rest and sleep?  Are we allowing for the relaxation response in our body so that our immune system can do its job?  Are we helping to boost our immune system and take care of our body with healthy foods, teas, juices, and essential oils among others?  Remember we just try to do the best we can each day each moment.

There is a beautiful practice in the Buddhist tradition of total relaxation.  It is like taking svasana in yoga  but with a guided meditation with time focusing on each body part and system, to allow it to rest, to send it our love and gratitude, and recognize all the blessings of our body and the amazing things our body allows us to experience everyday.  We celebrate and appreciate whatever degree of health is in our body.

We also recognize our body is made up of the elements: earth, air, fire, and water.  Just like every other being or phenomenon is made up of the same.  This takes us back to our contemplation on the chakras with an element associated to each.  We take time to recognize the earth element in us and around us, the same with air, fire, and water.  This takes us into the teachings of impermanence, inter being, and the ultimate dimension, called The Three Dharma Seals, also known as impermanence, non-self, and nirvana.  We'll look more deeply into these teachings again in our next entry on Right Concentration.  You can see the interconnection of the steps on the eightfold path.  We are already touching Right Concentration.

As we see the subtle energies of the elements in the body and how our breath flows through and feeds our body with energy, life force, vibration; we see the seamless progression from body to emotions.  Our emotions are vibration, strong or weak, fast or slow, that create a feeling state in our body.  For example, we may feel joy in our heart, anger in our stomach, fists, or jaw; sadness in our throat or belly, etc.  Some of these experiences may seem universal and perhaps the way you experience them feels quite unique.  I think it helps when we realize we are not alone on this journey.  We may feel so at different times in our lives but when we start reading books, talking to others and understanding more deeply psychology, physiology, and energy (science), we see that there are these universal experiences that connect us all.

The Buddha invites us to identify a feeling we are having as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral and then to name the feeling.

"Our feelings are not separate from us or caused just by something outside of us.  Our feelings are us, and, for that moment, we are those feelings.  We needn't be intoxicated or terrorized by them, nor do we need to reject them.  The practice of not clinging to or rejecting feelings is an important part of mediation.  If we face our feelings with care, affection, and nonviolence, we can transform them into a kind of energy that is healthy and nourishing...Everything that takes place in our body and our mind needs to be looked after equally.  We don't fight.  We say hello to our feeling so we can get to know each other better.  Then, the next time that feeling arises, we will be able to greet it even more calmly."
(pg. 72, The Heart of the Buddha's Teachings, by Thich Nhat Hanh)

Feelings are one of fifty-one kinds of mental formations according to the Buddha.  They are so important they get their very own category coming second only to the body in The Four Establishments of Mindfulness.  As we move onto the third establishment of mindfulness, mindfulness of the mind in the mind, we consider the other fifty mental formations and utilize the practice of naming them and recognizing them as wholesome or unwholesome.  Some are considered to be both depending on the circumstances.  "When our body and mind need rest, sleep is wholesome.  But if we sleep all the time, it can be unwholesome.  If we hurt someone and regret it, that regret is wholesome.  But if our regret leads to a guilt complex that colors whatever we do in the future, that regret can be called unwholesome." (pg. 73)

Here are some examples:

Wholesome mental formations: "faith, humility, self-respect, non-craving, non-anger, non-ignorance, diligence, ease, care, equanimity, and non-violence." (pg. 73)

Unwholesome mental formations (sometimes called afflictions, obscurations, leaks, or setbacks): "greed, hatred, ignorance, pride, doubt, views; anger, malice, hypocrisy malevolence, jealousy, selfishness, deception, guile, immodesty, arrogance, dullness, agitation, lack of faith, indolence, carelessness, forgetfulness, distraction, lack of attention." (pg. 74)

The buddha teaches that all fifty-one mental formations reside in our store consciousness.  We can think of them as seeds.  When the conditions are sufficient, they rise up to our mind consciousness.  If it is a wholesome one, we want to use mindfulness to keep it alive.  If it is an unwholesome one, we want to use our mindfulness to embrace it, transform it and return it to our store consciousness.

"We usually describe mind consciousness and store consciousness as two different things, but store consciousness is just mind consciousness at a deeper level.  If we look carefully at our mental formations, we can see their roots in our store consciousness.  Mindfulness helps us look deeply into the depths of our consciousness.  Every time one of the fifty-one metal formations arises, we acknowledge its presence, look deeply into it, and see its nature of impermanence and inter being.  When we practice this, we are liberated from fear, sorrow, and the fires burning inside us.  When mindfulness embraces our joy, our sadness, and all our other mental formations, sooner or later we will see their deep roots.  With every mindful step and every mindful breath, we see the roots of our mental formation.  Mindfulness shines its light upon them and helps them to transform."  (pg. 75)

"We may think that our agitation is ours alone, but if we look carefully, we'll see that it is our inheritance from our whole society and many generations of our ancestors.  Individual consciousness is made of the collective consciousness, and the collective consciousness is made of individual consciousness.  They cannot be separated.  Looking deeply into our individual consciousness, we touch the collective consciousness."  (pg. 75)

Taking the time to observe the state of our body, feelings, and mind is so important.  We notice our suffering and our joy.  Then we go to the next layer of noticing how we interact with the world.  This is the Fourth Establishment of Mindfulness, phenomena or objects of mind.  How our state of body, feelings, and mind allow us to encounter the world and how the world impacts our body, feelings and mind.  Thay gives us many tools within this establishment of mindfulness to see about this.

He gives us the tool of The Eighteen Elements which include the senses, the sense organs, and the consciousness attached to each:  eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind.  "These Eighteen Elements make the existence of the universe possible.  If we look deeply into the Eighteen Elements and see their substance and their source, we will be able to go beyond ignorance and fears." (pg. 77) We can see how different sights and smells, for example, trigger different parts of our consciousness attached to those senses and sense organs.  And, if it is a liberating or joyful experience, we can stay with it and strengthen this energy in us.  However, if we notice an encounter through a particular sense or sense organ takes us into our suffering, we can try to name it, go to the root causes, embrace it with mindfulness, and try to transform that experience.

He gives us further measuring sticks to use - another Six Realms:  happiness and suffering, joy and anxiety, letting go and ignorance.  We can use these pairings to see where on each continuum we land as we encounter an object, relationship, situation, or moment in our lives.  It may seem like a tedious practice but it need not be.  The more we strengthen the muscle of self-awareness (our witness consciousness), the more naturally it just functions.  Remember there is no judgement if you find yourself in suffering, anxiety, and ignorance.  Come back to the practices of pranayama, metta meditation, and asana; and talk to your sangha (supportive communitity of practice), your friends, classmates, family, therapist, etc.  Recognize the times you need extra support and care then give it to yourself or go get it.

Yet, another Six Realms:  craving and freedom from craving, anger and absence of anger, harming and non-harming (Ahimsa).

And finally, "the Buddha taught the meditation on the Two Realms - the realm of the conditioned and the realm of the unconditioned.  In the conditioned realm, there is birth, death, before, after, inner, outer, small and large.  In the world of the unconditioned, we are no longer subject to birth and death, coming or going, before or after.  The conditioned realm belongs to the historical dimension.  It is the wave.  The unconditioned realm belongs to the ultimate dimension.  It is the water.  These two realms are not separate." (pg. 79-80)  We will look more deeply into the ultimate dimension - nirvana in the next post on Right Concentration.

"To arrive at liberation from narrow views and to obtain fearlessness and great compassion, practice the contemplations on interdependence, impermanence, and compassion." (pg. 80)

"Contemplation on interdependence is a deep looking into all dharmas in order to pierce through to their real nature, in order to see them as part of the great body of reality and in order to see that the great body of reality is indivisible. It cannot be cut into pieces with separate existences of their own." (pg. 80)

"The object of our mind can be a mountain, a rose, the full moon, or the person standing in front of us.  We believe these things exist outside of us as separate entities, but these objects of our perceptions are us.  This includes our feeling.  When we hate someone, we also hate ourself.  The object of our mindfulness is actually the whole cosmos.  Mindfulness is mindfulness of the body, feelings, perceptions, andy of the mental formations, and all of the seeds in our consciousness.  The Four Establishments of Mindfulness contain everything in the cosmos.   everything in the cosmos is the object of our perception, and as such, it does not exist only outside of us but also within us." (pg.80-81)

"If we see the truth of one thing in the cosmos, we see the nature of the cosmos.  Because of our mindfulness, our deep looking, the nature of the cosmos will reel itself.  It is not a matter of imposing our ideas on the nature of the cosmos." (pg. 81)

(Side note:  It has been interesting to encounter these teachings at the same time FOX network is airing a series on television called COSMOS, a return to a series Carl Sagan hosted back in 1980.  It has been an eye opening and mind blowing experience for me.  Check it out on FOX on Sunday nights at 9pm EST or on demand or perhaps in the library sometime when it comes out on DVD.)

So I leave you with the above beautiful and profound words of Thich Nhat Hanh and the below video with a practice song on inter being and the ultimate dimension: No Coming, No Going.  


No Coming, No Going:












Sunday, February 2, 2014

Right Mindfulness


Thich Nhat Hanh has so many beautiful readings and practices on Right Mindfulness.  We began class this month with one of his guided mediations which is also our song for the month:

In, Out
Deep, Slow
Calm, Ease
Smile, Release
Present Moment, Wonderful Moment

He highlights the importance of this step on the noble eightfold path and says, "To cultivate mindfulness in ourselves if to cultivate the Buddha within, to cultivate the Holy Spirit." (pg. 64, The Heart of the Buddha's Teachings)  He talks about the trait of attention as being either appropriate - "when we dwell fully in the present moment," or inappropriate - "when we are attentive to something that takes us away from the here and now."  He goes on to say, "Right mindfulness accepts everything without judging or reacting. It is inclusive and loving.  The practice is to find ways to sustain appropriate attention throughout the day."  Our practice in class this month will be to do just that by listening to Thay's words and exploring the many aspects of the practice of yoga, delighting in the opportunities to be inspired into Right Mindfulness both on and off the mat.

Thay goes on to outline the Seven Miracles of Mindfulness: (pgs. 65-67)

1)  "to be present and be able to touch deeply the blue, sky, the flower, and the smile of our child."

2)  "to make the other present, also (the blue sky, the flower, our child)."

3)  "to nourish the object of your attention."

4)  "to relieve the other's suffering."  He says, "To love means to nourish the other with appropriate attention."

5)  "looking deeply." "Because you are calm and concentrated, you are really there for deep looking.  You shine the light of mindfulness on the object of your attention, and at the same time you shine the light of mindfulness on yourself."

6)  "understanding." "Understanding is the very foundation of love. When you understand someone, you cannot help but love him or her."

7)  "transformation." "When we practice Right Mindfulness, we touch the healing and refreshing elements of life and begin to transform our own suffering and the suffering of the world."



We embrace our entire practice with Right Mindfulness.  We practice it all the time in yoga class.  Beginning class with awareness of our breath and body.  Awareness of how relaxing and softening our body allows space for more breath.  And, conversely how deepening the breath invites the body to soften and open more.  With our eyes closed we can see more deeply within.  We can contemplate our divine light.  The more deeply with breathe, the more we let go of attachments and aversions and relax our body and mind, the more space we open in the body and realize our amazing inner resources.  Our divine light.  Our connection to the divine.  Our wisdom.  Our intuition.

We cultivate the practice of mindfulness of breath and body, mindfulness of our own thoughts and feelings, mindfulness of others, and mindfulness of the beauty of nature in order to bring healing and transformation to our suffering and remember our deeper inner peace, our sacchittananda.  Last month, while practicing Right Diligence, trying to be inspired to stay on the path by tasting the sweetness of the practice through our daily Love Meditation and pranayama.  We chanted to be reminded of our sacchittananada - our truth, wisdom, bliss.  The eternal space deep inside us that is always holding us whether we are celebrating joy or whether we are struggling in our suffering.  We are not alone.  Our connection to to the earth when doing supine poses or centering while sitting on the floor or doing child pose are moments we can feed that remembrance, being mindful of our connection to the earth.  We are always held.  (Just accidentally made a typo and saw how close held is to healed : )  We need to remember that.  We are held by the earth, by divine spirit, by the truth, wisdom, bliss inside ourselves which is a reflection of the divine spirit all around us.

Right Diligence took us into uncovering this presence within, this light, and believing in ourselves that we all have it in us.  Right Mindfulness invites us to always remember.  To see it in ourselves and to see it in the other.  To remember our own light, the light of our loved ones, the light of our friends, the light of the people who serve us at the grocery store or the gas station, and even the light of those who have caused us to suffer.  We can be so thankful that we have a practice and a community to support us in remembering and shining our light.  We realize that those who cause suffering have not encountered the way to transform their suffering and move in the direction of liberation, nor have they felt the holding of earth and spirit nor encountered good spiritual friends to help them see their light.  We are not separate from each other. For, we also cause others to suffer.  Our Right Diligence and Right Mindfulness keeps us paying attention to our bodies, breath, feelings, and thoughts so that we are aware of our own suffering and the root causes and how that manifests sometimes into reacting / acting out and causing others to suffer.  So from the awareness of suffering and the challenges of our lives, we can go deeper into our inner resources, come out of ourselves more to see we are not the only ones suffering this way and ask for help, we can go deeper into our own healing to find an even stronger source of light, to recognize on an even deeper level how we are held and find healing in the holding.





Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Supporting Right Livelihood with Right Diligence: An Invitation to 40 days of practice

Today we spent our last day focusing on Right Livelihood, noticing how our practice of it and the other steps on the Noble Eightfold Path have contained Right Diligence or Right Effort.  I shared an article I found back in 2008 by Tama J. Kieves on The Yoga of Right Livelihood.  Her words were so inspiring, you can find them by clicking the above link which takes you to her full but brief article on Kripalu's site.  I highly recommend taking the time to read it.  Here's a taste:

"Child’s Pose In yoga, I’ve learned that when I exert myself too much, I can always return to Child’s Pose, a resting posture. For me, it feels like the physical act of surrender, a letting go of trying so hard and a remembering to reclaim my guaranteed invincibility as a child of a loving universe. It is not up to me to make something happen. It’s up to me to be honest, earnest, and daring. Resting is the stance that nurtures my genius. Paradoxically, Child’s Pose helps me to remember that as I relax, I summon more strength, conviction, and inspiration to move forward."

"... I’m still discovering the depths of my own talents and expanding my own dreams. Some days, I’m still nervous about the unknown territory before me. Sometimes, I’m tired and about as passionate as mud. But I’m devoted. I will never abandon my inner voice again. I will honor my creativity and my contribution all the days of my life. I’ll reach the edge of my discomfort, and I’ll back off and comfort myself. But I’ll dare it again the next day and the next. I’ll breathe deep and let go as I push forward into extraordinary new possibilities. I’ll keep practicing right livelihood. I hope you will, too."

Being on the precipice of a new year and the beginning of our new focus, Right Diligence, it seems like the perfect time to practice Right Diligence by embarking on a 40 day practice.  Let's support each other in our commitment to start each day with a practice that could include pranayama, meditation, chanting mantra, or asana.  Even if it is just for 5 minutes.  Let's taste the fruit of Right Diligence in giving this gift to ourselves and to each other.

Here is a sample practice, what we did today in class, that you might like to use as your daily practice if you aren't sure what to do.  However, feel free to create your own practice with whatever components would serve you.  I just invite you to try to settle on a consistent routine that you repeat for 40 days to go deep into the practice and notice the effects of your chosen practice.

First, I set up a playlist of songs so that I can use the songs to tell me when to change from one part of the practice to the next.  Each song is just over 3 minutes long.  The heart of this practice is pranayama that we completed in 3 songs - about 10 minutes.  The links take you to the song that you can then link to iTunes to purchase if you like.  I will include some other song selections from a longer practice playlist at the end of this post.

The Wishing Well, Connie Dover, Celtic Voices: Women of Song
Goodbye Montana - Part 2, George Winston, Summer
Storms in Africa - Part 2, Enya, Watermark


The first song we did a four part breath, pranayama practice.  I find this pranayama helps to deepen my breath and it feels cleansing or detoxing to me.  

1) breath in through nose, 
2) breath out through O shaped mouth (I find this brings a bit of an ujjayi (ocean) sound when I do it), 
3) breath in through O shaped mouth (same ocean sound seems to happen), 
4) breath out through nose. 

Repeat for the entire length of the first song.  End with an exhale through the nose.  Then just take a few breaths before the next pranayama practice.


The second song we did alternate nostril breathing (Nadhi Shodhana).  This breath is balancing to your energy body and helps keep your nostrils clear and breath flowing easily.  Even if one of your nostrils is slightly closed, try to stay with this breath to help open the nostrils more.  

1) Bring your left hand into jnana mudra - thumb and index finger touch - and rest left hand (palm up) on your left knee.  
2) Bring your right hand into vishnu mudra - index and middle finger rest on pad of thumb - and bring hand toward your nose. 
3) Close your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through your left nostril.
4) Close the left nostril with your ring and pinky fingers while opening your right and exhale through your right nostril. 
5) Inhale through the open (right) nostril.  
6) Close and exhale through the other (left) nostril.  
7) Inhale through the open (left) nostril.  
8) Close and exhale through the other (right) nostril.
9)  Repeat steps 5, 6, 7 and 8 until the song ends and finish with an exhale through your left nostril.

The third song we did Kapalabhati breathing by drawing navel in and up to pump the breath out of the nose.  The inhalation is passive. Try to start with a slower pace to feel the control of the belly muscles to invite the pumping of the breath.  As you proceed you may find your pace wants to go a bit quicker.  See if you want to go along with the music.  At the end of the song, exhale the breath completely to empty the body.  Keep the breath out and engage the bandhas.  I find the jalandhara and uddiyana bandha engage once I empty of all breath and then with my mouth closed make the action with my diaphragm and throat of taking an in breath but taking in no breath, the belly and throat draw in like a vacuum.  Then I just invite the same vacuum feeling at the pelvic floor to engage the mula bandha.  Keep the breath out and stay empty for as long as you comfortably can.  When you need to, draw in your breath gently and continue to enjoy your breath for a few rounds, noticing the effects of the pranayama practice.  (You might like to just sit in quiet meditation for another 3 minute song here before moving on to the next part.)

Then we put our hands over our hearts and read the Love Meditation for ourselves.  Feeling it for ourselves.  When finished, absorb that for a few breaths.  Then perhaps recite the love mediation for someone else - either someone you love, or someone you know who is struggling, or someone who is causing you to suffer.  Remember, only hurt people hurt people.  When we are liberated from our suffering, we stop contributing to others suffering.

Love Meditation

May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May I be safe and free from injury.
May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.

May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.

May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.


You might choose to close your practice by chanting a mantra.  In class, we chant Om and then Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu.  You could chant that or any other chant to calls to you.  I am happy to help you find one that may serve you.  Depending on how much time you would like to dedicate to your practice, you could also include some asana such as warming up the 6 directions of the spine or maybe some sun salutations or some supine poses like twists and hip openers.  Feel free to add on to your practice if some days you have more time.  Just be sure to stick to your basic (minimum) practice each day - whatever you determine that to be.

I look forward to hearing how it goes.  Post here in comments or on Facebook or let me know when I see you in class.

Wishing you all the best for the new year!  May we all live our Right View, Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood supported by our Right Diligence, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.

A deep bow of gratitude for our sangha, for the dharma, and for the many buddhas who inspire.

***********************************************************************

More songs for practice:

From George Winston's Summer:
Early Morning Range, The Garden, Living Without You.

From Enya's Watermark:
River, Miss Clare Remembers

From Enya's And Winter Came:
And Winter Came... , Stars and Midnight Blue

From Krishna Das' Pilgrim Heart:
Yah Devi

From Ty Burhoe's Chill Invocation:
Spirits



Friday, December 6, 2013

Right Action and The Five Mindfulness Trainings

We continued our exploration of Right Action for the month of November.  As a reminder of where we came from, our Right Action is fed by our Right Speech which is supported by our Right Thinking which is founded by our Right View.  So even though we are focusing on Right Action, we continue to be mindful of the other aspects of the practice because they are all interdependent. Scroll down to see prior posts to get more information on these foundational steps.

In our yoga classes, we began our exploration of Right Action by simply acknowledging how we are already practicing by coming to class, breathing deeply, and caring for our body with our pranayama, asana, and meditation practices.  How we pay attention to our breathing and alignment during the class, how we carefully align our bodies to safely strengthen and stretch our muscles, lubricate joints, and awaken our prana, life force energy, for our ultimate health and peace.  We know we are practicing Right Action when we feel good - body, mind, and spirit.  For example, the sweet vibration that comes from doing the practice, the open feeling in your hips, the suppleness of the spine, the comfort in the shoulders, the open heart and clear mind that are all fruits of our practice.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes in his book, The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching:  "Right Action means Right Action of the body.  It is the practice of touching love and preventing harm, the practice of nonviolence towards ourselves and others.  The basis of Right Action is to do everything in mindfulness."  He invites us to utilize the five mindfulness trainings as inspiration toward Right Action in practicing Reverence for Life, Generosity, Sexual Responsibility, Loving Kind Speech and Deep Listening, and Mindful Consumption.  We spent one week each on the first, second, third, and fifth trainings this month.  We covered the fourth training last month with Right Speech.  I have copied all five mindfulness trainings below.  You might like to work with one a week or one a month or one a day as a light to keep you on the path.

We talked about each of the areas of the mindfulness trainings first in terms of how we apply them more subtly and deeply to ourselves and then carry that out into the world.  Regarding reverence for life, how do we ignite and take care of our own life force (prana) to be inspired to practice?  Regarding generosity, are we generous enough to ourselves to take the time to do the practice?  to take a deep breath?  to name our suffering and find places of refuge to transform it?  Considering sexual responsibility, how do we utilize our body, strength and energies when we do the practice?  For example, how to we manage our energies of craving, desire, anger, irritation when they come on strong?  Do you remember how we can meet this energy with a stronger asana or pranayama practice and calm it down slowly?  Regarding mindful consumption, we can look at the subtler forms of consumption like sleep, water - are we getting enough?  conversations, music - are these choices setting the vibration we want for ourselves?

When you read the mindfulness trainings, keep in mind the previous post about how the trainings are meant to provide a direction, a north star, to guide us.  Notice if you resonate with them or feel resistance to them.  Honor all of it - the work you are already doing on the path and the growth edge that is being shown to you on how you can deepen your practice.  Remember we just take small bites to digest and integrate a little at a time.  These teachings are deep and wide.  Acknowledge where you are already working and perhaps choose one area in which you want to grow.  Start small.  And remember, it is called a practice, not a perfect.  Neither guilt, shame, inadequacy, nor anxiety are meant to be driving forces when engaging with these practices.  If these feelings come up, hold them gently and look deeply into their root causes.  Keep coming back to a place of freedom, liberation, and inspiration to lead you down the path.  And, remember how you can use your breath and pranayama, asana (yoga postures), meditation, mantra, music, and the beauty in nature to take you there.


The First Mindfulness Training:  Reverence for Life

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals.  I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.

The Second Mindfulness Training:  Generosity

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to cultivating loving kindness and learning ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals.  I will practice generosity by sharing my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in real need.  I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others.  I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.

The Third Mindfulness Training:  Sexual Responsibility

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society.  I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment.  To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.

The Fourth Mindfulness Training: Deep Listening and Loving Kind Speech

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of the their suffering.  Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am determined to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope.  I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain and will not criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure  I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord or that can cause the family or the community to break.  I am determined to make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

The Fifth Mindfulness Training:  Mindful Consumption

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming.  I will ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society.  I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations.  I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is tho betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations.  I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society.  I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.

(pg. 66,  Plum Village Chanting and Recitation Book, c2000, compiled by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Monks and Nuns of Plum Village)


Monday, November 4, 2013

Right Action

Moving on down the Noble Eightfold Path, we have already touched upon Right View, Right Thinking, Right Speech, and now we are focusing on Right Action.  We can see how each step on the path has an impact on the next.  Our view feeds our thinking which feeds our speech which feeds our action.  Going back to our work on the chakras, we can see how we are moving down from the crown chakra with the manifesting current, from the subtle energies to more concrete actions.  The influence also moves in the other direction, our actions and speech reinforce our thinking which reinforces our view.  It is our task to observe what we are manifesting as we move down the path or what we are inspiring as we move up the path.  Are we taking refuge in a state of abundance within and around us? or are we feeding the wounded warrior and hungry ghost that shows up in us from time to time?

Last month, we read the Fourth Mindfulness Training and Invoking the Name of Avalokiteshvara to support our practice of Right Speech and deep listening.  Thich Nhat Hanh shares about the remaining four of the Five Mindfulness Trainings in his chapter on Right Action in his book The Heart of the Buddha's Teachings.  We will focus on one each week in the month of November as a support to our practice of Right Action.

This week, we focus on the First Mindfulness Training:  Reverence for Life

"Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I vow to cultivate compassion and learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life."

The Five Mindfulness Trainings are readings to serve as a north star when navigating our lives.  They point us in the right direction.  We use them to check in with our actions, thoughts, words, relationships to continue refining our choices to stay true to ourselves and to our path.  When we wander off the path, with loving kindness and compassion we remind ourselves to come back to the practice.  If we are lucky we have teachers and friends who serve as a gentle reminder and inspiration on the path.  Remember these are the three jewels:  the teacher, the teachings, the supportive community of practice - Buddha, Dharma, Sangha.

Our chant for this month is the Gayatri Mantra (short form).  We use it to inspire us to stay connected to our entire self through the seven chakras as reflected in the elements from Bhur to Bhuvah, earth to heavens, to touch the divine and self-effulgent power of the sun, to raise our thoughts and views that we may choose to act for the highest.

Om Bhur Bhuvaha Swaha, 
Tat Savitur Varenyam.
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi, 

Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat.
 
"May there be peace on mortal, immortal and divine planes
 I meditate upon the most brilliant splendor of the Sun God                     
May he stimulate our intellect (so that we are inspired to take the right action at the right time.)"  

  --- translation from  http://www.mantramom.com/mantra-translations/


We have been chanting to the melody so beautifully sung by Deva Premal of the Gayatri Mantra on her CD The Essence.   There is a recording of it on You Tube.  If the link is not working below, please go to You Tube and search Deva Premal Gayatri Mantra.



Blessings of Peace and Love, Health and Happiness to all!