Walking Sangha possibilities for practice
This is primarily an HTML version of "Practicing at Deer Park Monastery," which is on the DPM website as a .doc and a .pdf. This also contains "Beginning Anew" from the DPM website.
If this sounds as good to you as it does to me, let's get together and do this.
Questions I have:
- The First Mindfulness Training: "I am determined not to kill." There's some nuance I'm not yet understanding. It contrasts with an essay by Bill Mollison I value.
- "no sexual practice": I may understand the importance of no sexual conduct to the buddhist path. We could have sex-free days.
Regarding gathas, "Breathing in I calm my body / breathing out I smile," immediately improved my life. It led to less-verbal practices (e.g., S.N. Goenka, Serene Reflection Meditation, how the buddha lived). Here is a gatha for lap swimming: "Pushing off the wall, I am free."
While walking, one might: attach steps to breath; remain a constant distance behind the person in front of you; practice in a way that does not disturb others.
That last possibility brings to mind: "If you offer your beloved something she does not need, that is not maitri" (tnh), as well as, "If you are skillful, you can avoid making yourself suffer, and making the other person suffer" (tnh).
- Practicing at Deer Park Monastery
- Breathing Consciously
- Stopping for the Wonderful Sounds
- Walking Meditation
- Practicing the Gathas
- Eating Meditation
- Sitting Meditation
- Practicing as a Sangha
- Observing Noble Silence
- Listening to Dharma Talks
- The Foundation of Our Being Together
- The Five Mindfulness Trainings: (Aware of the suffering caused by . . . , I . . .)
- The First Mindfulness Training: " the destruction of life
- The Second Mindfulness Training: " exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression
- The Third Mindfulness Training: " sexual misconduct
- The Fourth Mindfulness Training: " unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others
- The Fifth Mindfulness Training: " unmindful consumption
- Beginning Anew
“I have arrived.
I am home”
These two lines are the essence of the practice of the Plum Village tradition taught by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. It is the practice of dwelling happily in the present moment. We are no longer grasping at the future, regretting the past or being swept by our feelings of despair and anger. We have arrived at our true home, our true self, no longer seeking to be something else.
To breathe in consciously is to know that the air is entering our body, and to breathe out consciously is to know that our body is exchanging air. Thus, we are in contact with the air and with our body and, because our mind is being attentive to all this, we are in contact with our mind, too; just as it is. We only need one conscious breath to be back in contact with our inner self and with the wonders that surround us. Breathing consciously with mere attention can be very nourishing and healing. (Recommended book: Breathe! You are Alive; Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing)
The sound of the temple bells, the telephone and the clock chimes are all wonderful sounds to help us to practice. When we hear them, we can stop what we are doing and, at the same time, we can stop talking and even stop thinking. We just stop and become aware of the present moment by following our breathing. Enjoying three in-breaths and three out-breaths is the best way to listen to these wonderful sounds.
Whenever we are not standing, sitting or lying down, we are moving. We can learn to move and to walk with awareness. We do not need to rush. We have arrived with each step in the present moment; we can step in the Pure Land or in the Kingdom of God. When we are walking from one side of the room to the other or from one building to another, we can be aware of the contact of our feet with the earth and of our in and out breath. As we breathe in we can say "in," as we breathe out we can say "out" silently. We are aware that we are alive with each step, not carried away by our thoughts and emotions. We can train to practice walking meditation all day long. It is a wonderful practice which we can do anywhere and at any time; therefore, it has the capacity to transform our everyday life. (Recommended book: The Long Road Turns to Joy)
One way to help us dwell in the present moment is to practice reciting gathas or mindfulness verses. When we recite the gathas silently to ourself, our mind comes back to the present moment and our thoughts are guided by the deep wisdom of our ancestors. Our actions of body and mind are poetically filled with understanding and love. There are many gathas for different aspects of the practice. We can begin by memorizing one or two and learn more over time. (Recommended book: Present Moment, Wonderful Moment)
Hearing a Bell:
Listen, listen (in breath) This wonderful sound (out breath) Brings me back (in breath) to my true self. (out breath)
Joining Palms, Meeting Others:
A lotus for you (in breath) A Buddha to be. (out breath)
I have arrived, I am home (in breath, out breath) In the here, in the now (in breath, out breath) I am solid, I am free (in breath, out breath) In the ultimate, I dwell. (in breath, out breath)
We are very fortunate to have food to eat and we are even more fortunate to have the opportunity to eat with a community of fellow practitioners. Eating in mindfulness can benefit our spiritual life and physical health. We allow our body and mind to be at ease while we eat. We do not rush to finish, but enjoy every morsel with awareness. We become aware of the rain, the sun and the green earth as we chew slowly. We are aware of what we are chewing and do not let our mind be occupied by meaningless thinking. We chew every mouthful at least thirty times so the saliva has a chance to aid the digestive process. Our full awareness during the meal is a way of showing gratitude for the nourishment and for the countless supporting conditions that have come to sustain us. We can look at each other from time to time with compassion and smile. We take time to enjoy our meal as a community, as a family. We wait for the whole community to be served before the bell is invited three times to start eating. The first 20 minutes we eat in silence. After a double sound of the bell we may converse or serve more food.
The time of sitting meditation is not to achieve anything. Please do not try so hard. There must be enjoyment right in the very time of sitting. We are not sitting for some future happiness or enlightenment. Just sit to sit. Do not rush the ripening of your mind. We follow our conscious breathing and become aware of our body and mind, returning back to our breathing when we find our thinking has strayed. If your sitting position seems uncomfortable or incorrect, please ask for advice. If you experience discomfort in your sitting position, you can change it mindfully and quietly. After a short period of sitting meditation, there may be a session of walking meditation. You will be guided at that time on this practice. (Recommended book: The Blooming of a Lotus)
We have come to practice together as a community. We do not encourage isolated practices or solo retreats. We are part of a body--the Sangha body, the community. Our practice is that of inter-being. Our joy and our sorrow contribute to the collective joy and sorrow of the community. Our transformation and realization on the path can nourish us all. The community can also be of great support if our heart is open. Our insight and development must be realized in the community. There is no individual, separated happiness.
A period of deep silence is observed starting from the end of the evening sitting meditation until after breakfast the next morning. This is very healing. We allow the silence, the calmness and the energy of the Sangha to penetrate our being. We return to our tents or dormitory slowly, aware of every step. We breathe deeply and enjoy the stillness. We refrain from talking unnecessarily. This is a very deep practice that can bring us a lot of nourishment. We may like to go to bed right away. Lying on our back, we can practice Deep Relaxation. In the morning, we move mindfully and silently, taking time to breathe, to use the bathroom and then to proceed immediately to the meditation hall. When we see someone along the path, we can join our palms and bow, allowing him or her to enjoy the morning the way we do. The best time for talking is during a Dharma discussion, where the sharing is conducted with much respect and trust. We learn to speak and listen deeply. The rest of the day we really do not need to talk very much.
The expounded teachings can be like a Dharma rain watering the seeds of our store consciousness. If our conscious mind is trying too hard to remember, to compare and to understand something, it becomes like the hardened earth; thus the Dharma rain can not reach the depths of our mind easily. So let go and enjoy the rain. If we relax and enjoy listening during the talk, our concentration will arise naturally. We will be alert and attentive. Please arrive on time for the talks. Enjoy your breathing before the talk begins and during the talk. Out of respect for the teachings and the teacher, you are asked to sit on a cushion or in a chair at the back during the teachings and not to lie down. (Recommended Books: The Miracle of Mindfulness; Peace is Every Step; Being Peace; The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching; Old Path White Cloud; My Master’s Robe, Transformation at the Base)
Everyone who comes to practice is requested to observe the Five Mindfulness Trainings that are the very foundation of our being together here as a Sangha. They are the guidelines that help us move in the direction of goodness and beauty. No smoking, no drinking and no sexual practice are allowed on the grounds of the monastery. Please respect the community’s effort in this observance.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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 community to break. I am determined to make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
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, any other intoxicants or ingest foods and 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 to 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.
Mindfulness is the heart of Buddhist meditation. To practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings is to practice mindfulness in each moment of our daily life, not just during sitting meditation hours. The practice helps one to protect oneself, one’s family and society. The practice of the Five Mindfulness Trainings ensures a safe and happy present, and a safe and happy future.
The practice of Buddhist meditation is impossible without the practice of the Five Mindfulness Trainings. We urge everyone who has confidence in the practice of Buddhist meditation to receive, study and practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings with the support of a local Sangha, a community of practice.
The practice of the trainings is also the practice of the Three Refuges, because it is a concrete expression of one’s appreciation and trust in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. That is why the trainings always go together with the Three Refuges. The equivalent of the Five Mindfulness Trainings and the Three Refuges can also be found in great spiritual traditions of the world. No matter what one’s spiritual tradition, the practice of the Trainings and the Three Refuges helps one to be rooted more deeply in one’s own tradition.
If you are interested in receiving the Five Mindfulness Trainings, please contact the monastery. (Recommended book: For a Future to Be Possible)
in the great hidden mountain
To begin anew is to look deeply and honestly at ourselves, our past actions, speech and thoughts and to create a fresh beginning within ourselves and in our relationships with others. At the practice center we practice Beginning Anew as a community every two weeks and individually as often as we like.
We practice Beginning Anew to clear our mind and keep our practice fresh. When a difficulty arises in our relationships with fellow practitioners and one of us feels resentment or hurt, we know it is time to Begin Anew. The following is a description of the four-part process of Beginning Anew as used in a formal setting. One person speaks at a time and is not interrupted during his or her turn. The other practitioners practice deep listening and following their breath.
1) Flower watering - This is a chance to share our appreciation for the other person. We may mention specific instances that the other person said or did something that we had admired. This is an opportunity to shine light on the other’s strengths and contributions to the sangha and to encourage the growth of his or her positive qualities.
2) Sharing regrets - We may mention any unskillfulness in our actions, speech or thoughts that we have not yet had an opportunity to apologize for.
3) Expressing a hurt - We may share how we felt hurt by an interaction with another practitioner, due to his or her actions, speech or thoughts. (To express a hurt we should first water the other person’s flower by sharing two positive qualities that we have trully observed in him or her. Expressing a hurt is often performed one on one with another practitioner rather than in the group setting. You may ask for a third party that you both trust and respect to be present, if desired.)
4) Sharing a long-term difficulty & asking for support - At times we each have difficulties and pain arise from our past that surface in the present. When we share an issue that we are dealing with we can let the people around us understand us better and offer the support that we really need.
The practice of Beginning Anew helps us develop our kind speech and compassionate listening. Beginning Anew is a practice of recognition and appreciation of the positive elements within our Sangha. For instance, we may notice that our roommate is generous in sharing her insights, and another friend is caring towards plants. Recognizing others’ positive traits allows us to see our own good qualities as well.
Along with these good traits, we each have areas of weakness, such as talking out of our anger or being caught in our misperceptions. When we practice “flower watering” we support the development of good qualities in each other and at the same time we help to weaken the difficulties in the other person. As in a garden, when we “water the flowers” of loving kindness and compassion in each other, we also take energy away from the weeds of anger, jealousy and misperception.
We can practice Beginning Anew everyday by expressing our appreciation for our fellow practitioners and apologizing right away when we do or say something that hurts them. We can politely let others know when we have been hurt as well. The health and happiness of the whole community depends on the harmony, peace and joy that exists between every member in the sangha.