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)