Core Practice

How To Love a Pot Without a Lid

The headline for this week comes from my saving a page on the computer with that title. It is a combination of the title of Thay’s book ‘How to Love’ and an extract I had chosen from it called ‘A Pot Without a Lid’. At first I thought it had turned out just a bit odd but as the ‘pot without a lid’ is a metaphor for the ‘sense of lack’ we experience, and as we are practising being open to meeting even that with understanding, maybe putting the two together isn’t so silly after all.

All of this arose from preparing for our Mindful Morning on Saturday 10th February – and as the closest of our meetings to Valentine’s Day, it seemed a good chance to explore love through Thay’s teaching and practice. The plan was to include calligraphy, Love Meditation and the reading.

1. Calligraphy:

reverence calligraphy

2. Love Meditation:

Meditation – Love, Loving Kindness, Metta

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.

(Bell)

May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I be able to recognise 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.

(Bell)

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.

(Bell)

How to practice the meditation (advice from the PLum Village Chanting and Recitation Book:  To begin, sit still and calm your body and your breathing. Sitting still, you are not too preoccupied with other matters.

Begin practising this love meditation on yourself (‘May I be peaceful…’) because until you are able to love and take care of yourself, you cannot be of much help to to others.

After that, practise on others: (‘May he/she/you/they be peaceful…’)
first on someone you like,
then on someone neutral to you,
then on someone you love,
and finally on someone the mere thought of whom makes you suffer. After practising metta meditation, you may find you can think of them with genuine compassion.

Metta meditation is really a daily practice over an extended period (no doubt a lifetime) but many of us find it makes some difference right from the start.

We can spend a whole 20 minute meditation on practising love solely for ourselves. Alternatively we can move on to include others as a focus during one sit. We may find that a focus on ourselves changes our outlook generally and so already everyone benefits. The thing is to keep doing the practice and notice any difference.

The version above is Thay’s; it is a little longer and more detailed than others you may be familiar with. One or two people commented on Saturday how helpful they found the slow, steady repetition. I don’t know if instructions appear anywhere but I have noted where I added bells; I followed twelve breaths after each sound of the bell as is sometimes recommended for other guided meditations.

3. The Reading

Well, we didn’t quite get to that on Saturday. We took a break for lunch, after which one of our group mentioned he had brought along a Chinese violin because he had been struck by the music in the film ‘Walk With Me’ and we decided to hear his playing of a Chinese song. We, in turn, were struck by the instrument’s haunting tone.

There seems to me no better way of being in the moment than improvising; inspired by the film and our theme for the day we chanted the Avalokiteshvara Chant accompanied by the Chinese violin. So there we were, having nurtured our loving kindness, developing and sending out our compassion to the world through music and chanting created spontaneously. It doesn’t get much better, really.

So finally…

making its appearance on the website…

the aforementioned pot…

From ‘How To Love’ by Thich Nhat Hanh.

 ” Very often we feel like a pot without a lid. We believe that our lid is somewhere in the world and that if we look very hard, we’ll find the right lid to cover our pot. The feeling of emptiness is always there inside of us.

When we contemplate the other person, sometimes we think we see what we feel we lack. We think we need someone else to lean on, to take refuge in, and to diminish our suffering.We want to be the object of another person’s attention and contemplation. We want someone who will look at us and embrace our feeling of emptiness and suffering with his or her energy of mindfulness.

Soon we become addicted to that kind of energy; we think that without that attention, we can’t live. It helps us feel less empty and helps us forget the block of suffering inside.

When we ourselves cannot generate the energy to take care of ourselves, we think we need the energy of someone else. We focus on the need and the lack rather than generating the energy of mindfulness, concentration, and insight that can heal our suffering and help the other person as well.

Which brings us full circle – back to the calligraphy and the Love meditation. Enjoy the practice.

 

 

 

 

 

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Core Practice

walk with me

walk with me

During the week beginning Monday 22nd January, many sangha members in the Leicester area were able to view one of several screenings of ‘Walk With Me’.

We agreed to share our what we noticed and what touched us. Here are our comments:

“’Walk with Me’ is a wonderful insight into the lives of the Plum Village monks and nuns who ‘walk with’ Thay. Seeing them in walking meditation and the scenes of singing/chanting are particularly beautiful moments.” Kerry

“A beautiful insight into Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings and monastic life. Stunning cinematography. Mindfully filmed with many joyful, poignant and touching moments.” Fal

“The stillness of Thay’s teachings reflected throughout the film.” Steve

“The images that stay with me are those of Thay, whether speaking or silent, and admiring the tree preparing for Winter.” Joan

“Really interesting film. I particularly liked the habit of stopping whatever you’re doing when the clock strikes to bring you back to the ‘here and now’. I also loved the explanation given to the little girl who was so upset about the death of her ‘doggie’.” Liz

“I felt most connected when the camera stayed with the experience of the practice -the Avalokiteshvara chant, heads being shaved, the silent walking. The words read from ‘Fragrant Palm Leaves seemed to come from that same deep place.” Edith

Expectations…

I had found a postcard from the time the film makers were still crowdfunding which reads:

“In May 2011 Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastics invited filmmakers to Plum Village, and to follow them on their world Tour. Through close observation and a series of intimate interviews, ‘Walk With Me’ offers a rare insight into monastic life and the depths of their mindful living.

Honest and heart-warming, this film touches on the universal themes of love, loss and death, relevant not just for the monks and nuns, but for all of us”.

And beyond…

Those of us who gathered for the Tuesday afternoon screening, enjoyed a lively post-film discussion. How did that go…?

Well, as seasoned film goers accustomed to taking a critical view of the films we watch, we may or may not have agreed that the intention outlined in the publicity was entirely accurate; it might certainly have influenced my expectations.

A key question emerged: in our sharing, could we all find something that resonated with us, that spoke to our ‘beginner’s mind,’ at the same time noticing that each of us would have made a different film had we been behind the camera and/or in the editing room?

And then…. is that the same as everything else in life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Core Practice

Sangha Reflections and Insight

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Saturday, January 13th: “We accept this food so that we may nurture our brotherhood and sisterhood, build our sangha, and nourish our ideal of serving all living beings”

On Saturday 13th January, we gathered in the Library at the Quaker Meeting House in Leicester to enjoy our shared practice.

After guided, walking and silent meditation, we shared our reflections on the Fifth Mindfulness Training, published on the website last week. These included an awareness that we eat as we do to benefit all beings.

One sangha member told us how, watching the BBC programme ‘Big Cats’ she had turned away from a lion hunting a giraffe but had not minded so much when a caiman was caught and eaten.

Each time we share what we notice in this way, something new opens up; in this case, we reflected on how the mind rapidly makes this kind of distinction, on how all of the practice addresses our preferences and asks us to examine them.

Do we mind less if the animal suffering isn’t ‘cute’ or ‘majestic’ or has scales rather than fur? What if we are encountering the suffering of a person who, we admit, we see as ‘in the wrong’ or just plain ‘different’? Can we see all the suffering, not taking sides?

Someone quoted Thay’s poem, ‘Call Me By My True Names’.

So, though our morning began with eating, sangha reflections led us to examine non-discrimination, non dual mind – Interbeing!

Here is the poem:

Call Me By My True Names

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

By Thich Nhat Hanh.

The link takes you to a recording of Thay reading the poem.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JADWkoUpXbQ

 

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Core Practice

Mindfulness of … Consuming

Rather than New Year Resolutions…

Thich Nhat Hanh offers us Five Mindfulness Trainings as a guide to diminishing suffering – and not just for ourselves. By reflecting on the trainings, and keeping them in mind, we gradually begin to address old habits – what we do day to day when we are unaware and ‘on automatic pilot’.

So, as we begin a new year, full of good intentions, we might benefit from knowing we are all sharing a supportive practice about what and how we consume.

As our culture and growth economy are largely built on encouraging us to be ‘Consumers’, we are very much swimming against the tide by practising this training.

And it is a training; we need to remember to be kind and maintain a sense of lightness and humour!

Constantly bombarded by adverts as we are, we need to be compassionate to ourselves (and others) when we (or they) slip into less mindful ways of consuming, while still reminding ourselves that we CAN, with patience, create a gap between our ‘urge’ to consume and actually going ahead with (over) eating, (impulse) buying, and generally consuming for distraction or comfort.

Mindful consumption leads to nourishment and healing.

On Saturday  January 13th , as we settle into our sitting and walking meditation, we hope to be at our most mindful by the time we serve ourselves lunch. This is a benefit of shared, formal practice.

In the coming week, we might want to consider how the Fifth Training breaks down into a series of six parts, encouraging expanding awareness, commitment, looking deeply and contemplation – perhaps a more effective way of sustaining resolutions for the new year than imposing ‘SHOULD’ and ‘MUST NOT’ on ourselves – it doesn’t usually work for very long.

If the whole training is just too much at once (and it is for life not just New Year) we can  make a start somewhere and experiment.

Enjoy your practice!

The above is adapted from ‘The Mindfulness Toolkit’ by Thich Nhat Hanh. Published by Parallax Press.

The Fifth Mindfulness Training: Nourishment and Healing

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 practising mindful eating, drinking, and consuming.

I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition*, and consciousness.

I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programmes, films, magazines, books, and conversations.

I will practise coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing, and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear or craving pull me out of the present moment.

I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety or other suffering by losing myself in consumption.

I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy and well-being in my body and consciousness and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society, and the Earth.

* volition = our aspiration, our deepest desire – a powerful source of energy. If this is to help save our planet, it is good nourishing food. If it is to have more money, fame, power, sensual pleasure, this is toxic food leading to taking what should go to others.

Links:

www.ethicalconsumer.org

www.coiuk.org  – offers all Five Mindfulness Trainings and, in the bookstore, ‘The Mindfulness Survival Kit’

https://zenhabits.net/what-is-mindful-eating/

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Core Practice

Sharing Our Practice: Remember!

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.” Sharon Salzberg

I hope you will be joining us to share mindfulness practice on the second Saturday of the month (as listed on our ‘events’ page). During each of these Mindful Mornings, we will be supporting each other to remain in the present at every opportunity.

Each time we meet, we will be able to add to our resources – practical ‘reminders’ that Thich Nhat Hanh has made available to bring us back to the present moment.

Though each session is ‘stand alone’ and can be enjoyed as a ‘drop in’, over time we will gather a range of reminders to be mindful and we will start to notice a real difference in our daily lives. These practices will be posted on the website.

This website can also be enjoyed independently of face to face practice with the sangha. Whether or not you join us on Saturdays, you may start to enjoy visiting the website weekly as a way of further supporting your own efforts at home. You know you will be in the company of others in Leicester who value the peace and joy we access when we DO remember to practice mindfulness!

On Saturday, 9th December, we looked at Gathas – short verses which we recite to ourselves. They invite us to stop, focus, enjoy our breathing and be fully present for our chosen object or activity, uniting body and mind. The beauty of these verses is that they can apply to everything we do. I hope they prove a useful reminder for the start of a new year.

You may like to choose one from the short selection below and use it every day for a week. Enjoy your practice in 2018!

Gathas

Waking Up

Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.

Walking Meditation

The mind can go in a thousand directions.
But on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.
With each step, a gentle wind blows.
With each step, a flower blooms.

Drinking Tea

This cup of tea in my two hands –
Mindfulness is held uprightly
My mind and body dwell
in the very here and now.

 

The Gathas are taken from “Present Moment, Wonderful Moment” – Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living,  by Thich Nhat Hanh.

 

 

 

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