Tag Archives: Buddhism

Through The Eyes of a Terrified Boy

My grand-nephew James was recently celebrating his birthday, yet he felt awful and very sad about being nine, wishing he could stay five years old forever. When asked why, he replied that if he could stay five then the Earth would not explode. His lips quivered and the tears welled up in his large brown eyes. He said, “I don’t want to grow up and live in a world that is burning.” In the silence that stretched between us I could not say that my generation will fix things. He was much too intelligent for such placebos. So I spoke to him about the mindfulness community I created and the deliberate steps taken for planetary care. We simplify, make do with less, share and adapt. Our intent is to create environmental leaders and that includes him. “Why not become a leader for your generation?” I asked him. He thought about that intensely and asked what else did the community do?

            I pointed out that we encourage Voluntary Simplicity and Community Ethics as a way of life. We start with the Earth. Our big organic garden produces an abundance of vegetables, apples and flowers that are shared with neighbors and community members. It is a solace for me to spend time with the Earth, observing bumblebees and butterflies while gardening with assistance from neighborhood children. At the back of the garden is a beautiful fountain that murmurs ‘midst the flowers, which are picked and sent to the elderly folk living on our crescent. A solar panel on the roof fuels the hot water system. Everything else is as eco-friendly as we can make it for our fifty year old bungalow with a meditation hall in the basement. Our focus is on mindfulness in schools, city environment and teens at risk. I admitted to James that I am blown away by the results, for at the local level there were great women who helped make things happen.

“You mean girl power?” asked James incredulously.

“Exactly that,” I replied and told him that I have written elsewhere that the present millennium  is the century of the daughters, not so much as a gender separate thing, but as attributes of a holistic, nurturing presence of mind.

The idea is to foster a strong cadre of people in Ottawa to make a difference for the betterment of society and the Earth Mother. Women are in the forefront of this endeavor. They are the heart that holds the living waters and that heart is the dynamic epicentre that leads to effective action. James was taking it all in. He knew instinctively that major changes were needed. I intimated that when enough of us change, then we will be in charge. I told him about a speech I gave about violent and pathological consumption. His sharp mind held on to every word as I pointed out that festive occasions like Christmas provide opportunities for the best and the worst within us to come out and play. Yet kindness is quickly overshadowed by selfishness and consumer madness. We need to re-assess, as it is time to move on from being self-absorbed and distracted.

“How?” he asked again, as he really wanted to know. So I gave him a list.

Locate in something bigger than oneself; a humanitarian cause, respecting the earth, making our thinking better, being kinder and more generous. How about examining our habits about gift giving and learn to give gifts that make a difference?  I pointed out to James that I no longer buy Christmas gifts, instead present gift certificates that provide items like education for a girl in Afghanistan, micro-loans for female led families, rebuild forests in Haiti, literacy packages and mosquito nets where needed, support for Habitat for Humanity and so on.

One boy on the crescent where I live has received such gifts from me for several years. For his most recent birthday he asked all his friends not to give presents, but to bring a donation for the Ottawa Humane Society that looks after hurt animals. All of his friends brought donations, a splendid sum of one hundred and eighty dollars. They all went together to the Humane Society and happily handed their bag of cash to the surprised staff. This resonated with James.

“James, the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and others at this time of global crises is Sharing and Caring. It involves stepping onto what the Buddhists call the Bodhisattva Path.” I explained that a Bodhisattva was a person who stayed in the global mess and did their best to awaken the minds and hearts of people. I firmly stated that it is time for the Bodhisattva-within-us to enter the 21st century as the example for action. It takes training, practice, smartness and creative vision.

“You mean like Jedi training?” he enquired. I nodded with a smile. I referred briefly to my years of training in ashrams and monasteries in India and France. I confided that the real kicker for me was the time spent alone in the Canadian wilderness. I promised to talk to him about this at some future time.

Then he asked, “So what is the big deal about violent consumption?” I replied that it totally dominates our planet, mind and body. “How do we change this mad destruction of the planet?” James exclaimed. I wondered how best to explain matters to him, yet trusted his intelligence.

I said, “We must come to a stop, locate ourselves in stillness and make different choices by examining our minds, consumption patterns and then see how we actually participate in creating these terrible disasters.”

“Just how?” was his one line mantra.

“You can start by making friends with your breath,” I said. James looked up at me quizzically. “You just bring your focus to your in-breath, then on your out-breath. Really concentrate and do this ten times. This kind of focus peels away anxiety, frustration and anger so that you become calm and clear. Try it with me and notice the difference for yourself.”

He did so, nodded and grinned with agreement. I told James that we do know how to reduce our ecological footprint. We also know that taking care of the earth and the oceans takes care of ourselves. We must begin it now for the future is shaped by the actions we take at this moment. I looked at James and indicated that was plenty for him to digest, but he yelled, “No, I want to hear more.”

I could not turn away from his eagerness. I mentioned that if rampant consumption remains our deepest desire we will have a degraded planet that will certainly blow up. His fears were correct. Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, Mother’s Day and so on are targeted by the captains of industry for optimal retail returns, and pathological consumerism is fuelled to the max. At Christmas we are far removed from remembering the significance of this spiritual celebration. Endless economic growth, the mantra of modern civilization, provides a promise of expectations being met without any awareness of consequences for our own health or the health of the planet.  If we do not simplify, make do with less and change, then the vicious downward spiral to a burning world would definitely occur.

“Is this your Buddhism?” James then asked.

I smiled, “The Buddha was very smart. He taught that the world is always burning, but burning with the fires of greed, anger and foolishness. His advice was simple; drop such dangers as soon as possible. What the Buddha taught was that it was the unskillful speech, selfish feelings, negative mental formations, wrong perceptions and badass consciousness that burned the world.

James laughed, “Did the Buddha really use the term badass?”

I grinned and said that was my embellishment.

“Is climate change our basic problem then?” he asked.

I paused for a moment before replying. “The basic issue is whether we can adapt to climate change. You know about the 2015 Paris Accord on Climate Change as we have discussed it before.” James nodded. “It was an exceptional step by the international community, dedicating their intent to prevent global temperatures from rising a further 1.5 degrees. What was missing from all the deliberations and press releases was a candid recognition of the “Cascade Effect,” a notion from ecological science. Tipping points in sea level rise and temperature connect to tipping points in air pollution, which connect to tipping points in polar ice melt, boreal forest wildfires and triggers further tipping points that create deforestation, desertification and so on in a relentless cascade that cannot be stopped. The reality in front of us is not the reversal of Climate Change. The question is about learning how to adapt to the consequences of Climate Change.”

I emphasized to James that the disasters all over the world reinforce each potency to explode. Whether it is wildfires, floods, landslides, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tsunamis, millions of aquatic creatures dead on beaches, it goes on relentlessly. The media and news reporters cast science to the wind when they report the drama and hype of terrible things happening world-wide but rarely tell the truth that, “Here is another manifestation of Climate Change.” News programs are often showbiz and full of fake news, so the general public are not educated by the media about the terrible realities happening on our planet.

I continued speaking on a personal note, “So James, the challenge for me is to be in society, but as a still island of mindfulness. Take small steps at first, then larger ones. We just need to make essential changes in energy use, diet, language, media and outreach. Voluntary Simplicity is a good starting place. It means making deliberate choices about how we spend time and money rather than living on the automatic pilot of busyness. Enjoy being simple and living modestly by shifting our perceptions just a little bit.  Just look deeply into what we do with time, money, clutter and our choices, and change.  The world will follow.”

I assured James that we are equal to the task and chose not to hold back anything from him. He is an unusually bright boy and asked questions and demanded clarification. Yet I knew he had grasped what I had said. He came up to me as I was leaving and whispered in my ear that my chat with him was his best birthday present ever.

 

Some Recent Dharma at Pine Gate

First Saturday Mindfulness Gathering February 7, 2015

“The Better Way to Live Alone.”  Your homework is to study this interpretation by Osho, and do a reality check on your streams of habitual thought.

“There is a teaching on “The Better Way to Live Alone” which defines “living alone” to be the experience of having one’s mind free of thoughts about the past and future, but is instead focused on the “present moment.”  But I can live physically alone but not be alone at all. If my mind is full of memories of the past and thoughts of the future, I can live physically alone but not be alone at all. If my mind is full of memories of the past and thoughts of the future, I can live physically alone while dialoguing with the deceased, reliving a past conversation or some painful (or joyful) incident or experience. Or I can be mentally rehearsing or imagining some future conversation, some future event.

All of which is the antithesis of “living alone” if I am lost in these thoughts. On the other hand If I am aware and watchful of these thoughts, realizing I am having these thoughts in the present moment, then I am truly “living alone” – even if I am living with 100 other beings. And this leads me to my own “deepest core” of who I am. If I know this, I have the capacity to love.”

–        Osho

Pine Gate Meditation Hall

 

This Moment Heals All Moments, Thursday Jan 29 & Thursday Feb 5, 2015

Crises of History require a similar response – be mature, present, steady and above all – do the necessary internal work. Develop “impermanence” and “signlessness.” The Buddha provides instruments, practices and teachings to get there. As do the Wisdom of the Elders. We cannot tame the mouth until we have tamed the mind. We cannot adapt to Climate Change until we change our mindset. Put into reality the Art of Deep Listening and find the way to be present with our consumption. Are we even aware of the toxins pouring through our senses OR are we trapped by self-absorption and distraction? Need to Let Go Big Time – organic gardening in the mind. Listen to the Ocean – Universal Consciousness.

 

Putting Foundation Teachings into Action, Thursday, January 22, 2015 .

The last two weeks provided a review of Buddhist foundation teachings. What do we do with them now? Come out on Thursday February 22 to see how the foundation teachings have been placed in education, medical care, social services. And ask why not in government, business, police, community. This evening is about turning the Dharma Wheel of Action.  Mindfulness and Concentration provide the insights for Right View, which then guides Thinking, Speaking and Action. The why and how of making the Noble Eightfold path alive in everyday life.

Thay Bowing (2)

Pine Gate Volume 14, Issue 1: Winter 2015

…….is a blockbuster, in a new format created by Br. Yves. It is in blog form on Word Press to encourage feedback and interaction. Each article is a blog from Article 1: Sacred Moments through to Article 16: About Pine Gate. A different navigation process but well worth the while.  A deep bow of gratitude to Yves and all the contributors.

Go to: http://pinegate.wordpress.com/pine-gate-newsletter-volume-14-issue-1-winter-2015/

2014 New Year’s Eve – Wednesday, December 31, 2014

You are invited to the most meaningful New Year’s Eve party in town. On New Year’s Eve there is a special tradition at Pine Gate.  We welcome the new year of 2015 with a recitation of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. This is a complete map of ethics to navigate the difficult times we are in. The trainings are a guiding light to pierce through the darkness that threatens humanity and the planet. How do we choose to behave towards one another when things begin to collapse? Will we be steady and generous or think only of ourselves?  Pine Gate’s response is –  ” Enter The Bodhisattva. ”  There is homework – write down all you wish to move on from and what do you wish to move to. Then whoosh it into the fire with community support to make it so!

Date:  Wednesday December 31, 2013

Time: 9.00pm – midnight

Place: Pine Gate Meditation Hall

Purpose: Ethical Dance for 2015

Program: Gather at 9.00pm, Recitation Ceremony 9.30pm, 11.00pm snacks and whooshing homework into the fire, mid-night Auld Lang Syne with fake champagne.

Righteous Anger, November 8, 2014 at Fish Lake Sangha, Orlando

Righteous Anger: Gaza and Israel. All such conflicts require the active and intentional cultivation of Zen Mind. Chop Wood, Carry Water motif to navigate the pitfalls of hatred, distraction, violence, past wounds. We deal with the fundamental pollution – in the human mind. Making the world better requires that we make our minds better. The task is to make our thinking better – stop running around so we are seen to be doing good. Navigate more skillfully. The Four Brahmaviharas meditation a good tool. All children’s songs an effective antidote. Chop Wood, Carry Water – stillness and clarity.

A recent protest in Antigonish, N.S. supporting Gaza produced yelling hate, violence and anger. There was a woman standing apart with a list in one hand and purple chalk in her other hand. She was carefully and quietly writing down on the edge of the sidewalk of Main Street, Antigonish, N.S. the names and ages of every child killed in the Gaza bombardment.  Question: Which protest do you think had the most impact?

Collapse and the Bodhisattva, November 1, 2014 at Fish lake Sangha, Orlando

Breakdown of Industrial Growth Society. Staring into the abyss. No limits, no maturity. Newton, CT massacre and gun control, pre-adult males with mental illness – the Carry Movement and “ammosexuality.” Immaturity – NOT defense of 2nd amendment rights.

STOP; RE-ASSESS; ENTER THE BODHISATTVA – NOW. Interbeing, non-discrimination. No Time To Lose. Shantideva’s unwavering encouragement from the 8th century. Buddha Mind. “Ego” is very disappointed with Awakening – so let us all disappoint the ego.  Heed the Hopi Prophecy of 2008.

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Zen Practice at Pine Gate, October 23, 2014

Zen Practice has a very practical nature – Chop Wood, Carry Water – and being aware of precisely doing it. The cultural origins from China and Japan do not necessarily travel well to western countries, so I have adapted the form somewhat and kept the essence. Total silence for three rounds of – sitting meditation, walking meditation, stretching meditation. We listen to the bell calling us back to our true selves for guidance, listen to our breathing and through the disciplne of this practice we settle into a deep calm and harmony with everything around and within is.  The deep silence during three rounds of sitting meditation, walking meditation, then stretching meditation. The silence deepens as we settle gently into the quality of our mind. Nowhere to Go, Nothing to Do. The simplicity and elegance of silence. The cadence of sitting with breathing in and out, the flow of walking with breath – in and out, the joy of stretching with breath in and out. Then repeat the entire cadence three times. Planting seeds.

The Dharma and the Sangha October 16, 2014

The Dharma And The Sangha begins with the conditions leading to the Buddha’s first dharma talk and the intention to offer the dharma through appropriate vessels that are skilfull instruments to guide understanding – with a clear emphasis that the Raft is not the Shore.  The talk ends with a story about levels of deep listening inspired by an adventure Ian and his son experienced in the drug underworld of Glasgow, Scotland.  In between, a tapestry unfolds of skilfully creating sanghas as the masterpiece of your life in the manner of the Buddha, so that we may touch the original artist of the masterpiece through sangha building.  The emphasis is on creating sangha cornerstones and the concrete example of Pine Gate Sangha and Friends for Peace in Ottawa is a reference point for activism based on sangha cornerstones.

On Being Splendid

When a friend asks – “How are you?” – we tend to automatically reach for a standard descriptor such as “Fine”; “Not Too bad” or “Could Be Worse.” Our automatic pilot rarely delivers uplifting, generous responses. Something obstructs us from replying “I am splendid” or “I am feeling absolutely marvellous.” If we should make such an extraordinary response, we would not really believe it. A serious problem exists that requires investigation. Let me begin by breaking “Fine” down into an acronym:
F – Freaked out
I – Insecure
N – Neurotic
E – Elsewhere.
It is possible to choose other somewhat depressing terms, though I choose the Buddha’s Four Clay Pots metaphor as a starting point for this investigation.

The Buddha categorized his listeners into four different kinds of clay vessels. The first clay pot has holes at the bottom, so whatever is poured into it goes right through the bottom into the ground. No matter what wise skilful teaching or practice is offered to clay pot person number one, absolutely nothing is retained. The second clay pot is one that has many cracks in it. If water is poured in, it all eventually seeps out. The teachings may be retained for a short while, yet sooner or later they are completely forgotten. The third clay pot is one that is completely full. Water cannot be poured into it because it is already full to the brim. A person with characteristics of this vessel is so full of views, self-righteousness and wrong perceptions that they cannot be taught anything about the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Then there is the fourth clay pot – an empty vessel without holes or cracks, empty of views and attitudes. We may recognize that at different times we occupy one or another of the first three pots and thus strive to move to pot number four. How can we do this?

Buddha Picture

To be completely empty of a separate self, as the fourth clay pot, is what our mindfulness practice leads to. On the way there we are bound to have views and attitudes, but may be significantly empty enough to take in the teachings and practices that can move us along the path of awakening. Step by step we let go of clinging and attachment to views and re-build our minds so that equanimity and peacefulness arise. We discover that the art of Being Present is what all of the Buddha’s teachings, practices and trainings lead to. From this vast tool kit of transformation we then use intelligent awareness to work with strong emotions and let go of all clinging and their damaging consequences. The trio of Mindfulness, Concentration and Insight become our best friend, as we step into freedom from brainwashing. I touch base with the Shambhala Warrior training to address the matter of “Being Splendid.”

What does it take before we can relax into our inherent goodness and be authentically “Splendid”? In the teachings brought to the west by Chogyam Trungpa there is a strong emphasis on Shambhala warrior training. The fifth and final level is the sense of splendidness. It is preceded by four interconnected levels:

1. Being free of deception by recognizing afflictive emotions and discerning habit energies.
2. Truly entering the freedom of being present in each moment.
3. Embracing the vision of sacredness of ourselves and the world.
4. Bringing mind and body together because we are grounded and in harmony with the world around us. (Sakyong Mipham, 2011, Shambhala Sun, November 2011)

In the fifth level, building on these prior steps, we attain confidence in our inherent goodness and simply radiate the energy of splendidness. This visceral sense of unyielding trust in our inherent goodness, of being splendid, enables us to become spiritual hubs and beacons of an extraordinary nature. All the great spiritual masters had this sense and shared it without deception or ego. This power of transformation comes from a place of steady well-being, strength and confidence in our ability to be brilliant and to shine in the face of any adversity. Linji refers to this phenomenon as being rooted in our own sovereignty as Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us in his excellent account of Master Linji in Nothing to Do, Nowhere To Go – Parallax, 2007. Sakyong Mipham rounds out the sense of being splendid through his emphasis on being present in everything we do, choosing to no longer hide behind habitual patterns and old memory tapes. A lack of splendidness simply attracts sorry-ass individuals to ourselves and they become complicit with our hiding patterns. It makes better sense to have the lucidity to train ourselves to be splendid rather than close down and hide.

Cymbals at vesak

Ottawa Buddhists Bring Harmony to Vesak Day

The roaring beat of Sri Lankan temple drums opened the day with a bang. They were followed in procession by the monastic Sangha walking mindfully, led by Dharmacharya Ian to their places next to the podium. The two beautiful MC’s, Liz and Queenie, from Pine Gate and the Vietnam Temple, guided the overflowing audience through a day of utter astonishment. From the monastic chanting all the way through to the finale – the day unfolded in a majestic way. Ottawa City Hall was decorated with beautiful artwork, food tables and booths for Asian embassies and other community groups for this first-time joint celebration of Vesak Day. It was a stunning day.

City Hall Vesak 2014

Pine Gate Mindfulness Community and Asian Buddhist communities in Ottawa – from Cambodia, Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand – created this Vesak Celebration. The 2014 Vesak Festival received guidance from three spiritual advisors – Master Bon Dat, Bhante Rath Sam and Dharmacharya Ian Prattis. They each came from different Buddhist traditions in Ottawa and three different countries – Vietnam, Cambodia, Canada. They established a common cause to spread the seeds of Buddha Mind across Ottawa by creating an atmosphere of generosity, humility and kindness. Organization meetings were held during the winter months in the various temples in the city and at Pine Gate.

Our MC’s announced the Vesak and Asian Heritage nature of the event before introducing messages from the Governor-General, Prime Minister of Canada, Premier of Ontario and the Mayor of Ottawa. This was wonderful support for multi-culturalism and interbeing from all levels of government in Canada. They fully endorsed this Vesak Day initiative, which was new to Ottawa and indeed new to Canada. Donations taken in on Vesak Day ($900) supported the education of young boys and girls in Cambodian orphanages. Education was seen as a vital antidote to the trafficking of children in that country. The Thai ambassador, Pisan Manawapat, gave a speech about the importance of Buddhism in his country and in Canada. Dharmacharya Ian gave the inspirational speech on Cyberbullying and Buddhist practice. The program continued with cultural performances from the Thai Dance Troupe, the Vietnamese hat dance performed by four delightful girls, and the graceful Happy Dance from Chinese seniors. Then it was time for a vigorous Lion Dance from the Vietnamese Youth Group to close the day. Folk remained to take food, visit and mingle. Connections were made, bridges were crossed and organizers, volunteers and the audience packed in to City Hall went home very happy. Confidence that Buddha mind was working well.

Vesak Day 2 - Cambodian Children chanting

Background about Vesak and the Buddha.
Buddhism is a religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, who lived and taught in India ca. 2,600 years ago. 550 million people in the world identify Buddhism as their religion or way of life.
Vesākha Day is the day Buddhists remember the birth, the enlightenment, and the passing away of the Buddha. The United Nations marks Vesākha Day as an official holiday, worldwide. As Buddhism spread from India, it was adapted to many cultures, and consequently Vesākha Day is celebrated in many different ways in various countries, such as China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Burma, Tibet, Bhutan, Thailand, and Nepal, the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama.
Some will visit their local temple before dawn, to raise the official Buddhist flag, which represents a rainbow. Some may bring simple offerings of flowers, candles and incense, which serve as a reminder that just as the beautiful flowers will wither, and the candles burn out, so too is life subject to impermanence. In some countries, birds and animals are released in a symbolic act of liberation. Vesākha Day is therefore a time when we reach out across the various Buddhist traditions to celebrate, and to non-Buddhists to enjoy dialogue and harmony.
And that is exactly what took place in Ottawa City Hall on May 4, 2014!

Vesak Day City Hall May 4 1

Dharma Detective Investigates Great Difficulties

TOOLS: Center in Mindfulness
: Taking Refuge: Deep Looking/ Deep Listening
: Skills to Garden in the Mind
STAGE ONE: Locate Difficulty in Time & Space
: Sangha Eyes: Deep Looking/Deep Listening
STAGE TWO: Remember Feelings
: Use of Teachings & Practice
STAGE THREE: Deep Looking into Blaming and Complicity
: Understanding, Impermanence and Transformation
STAGE FOUR: Deep Reflection
: Learning Curve

Start by recognizing the mind-state that causes suffering, be prepared to stop and skilfully look deeply into suffering by placing it within a practice of mindfulness. Just these initial steps can prevent us from being hooked and taken down by strong emotions and wrong perceptions. The tools are not those of intellectual self-analysis where we rationalize our suffering away. To recognize the significant elements of our suffering we need mindfulness, concentration and insight. Above all else we need to locate in heart consciousness – that still place of calm that is available by first of all stopping and then centering in mindfulness. This is so your mind-state is calm and grounded for the investigation.

Your time of great difficulty – locate it. What happened, where and when? What was the time frame? What do you think caused it – was it something in you or were the causal elements also around you? Do your best to establish the nature of the different factors that caused you to suffer at this difficult time in your life. Know also that your perceptions and recollections of the situation may well be skewed, so it is wise to take refuge in sangha eyes, to find out from dharma brothers and sisters just how you were at that time in terms of your actions and reactions. In this first step of being a dharma detective there is the importance of being grounded, of deep looking and of relying on sangha eyes to remember clearly.
Christmas Dharma Talk

Stage Two takes the process deeper. You have recognized your suffering but do you remember how you felt at that time? Did you become overwhelmed by it all or did you apply the practices and teachings in any way? Were there dharma friends available to help you or did you not seek help because you had lost faith? We need courage with this part of the inquiry, for it leads to the very difficult next stage of looking deeply into how we tend to take refuge in blaming instead of taking refuge in the Three Gems. We have to be a “Hercule Poirot,” truly a dharma detective, for now in Stage Three we list in our notebook how we blamed – the other, the situation, the Buddha, Jesus – even God! How did you lash out during your suffering? How did you try to harm and discriminate against the one you hate and any one else who got in the way? Did you shut them out or run away? Did you seek complicity with someone to help share your hate?

We all love our dramas, so much so that we tend to seek out someone to agree with our suffering – but there is no support in that, as only deeper suffering ensues. Were you lucky enough to find true support, someone steady to direct you to a greater understanding of the particular hell you are investigating? Did you come to an understanding that blaming, punishment, shutting off, running away, seeking complicity – none of these are motivated by understanding and compassion? Did you begin to realize that suffering is impermanent and that understanding and compassion illuminates impermanence, that this is the way out? If you have these realizations then progress is surely being made.

The Fourth Stage is a process of deep reflection on what would you do now, if faced with a similar situation. From the investigation of your time of great difficulty can you identify a learning curve that will enable you to not repeat the same mistakes? You may see for yourself the value of taking refuge in sangha eyes to guide your perceptions; of taking refuge in the practices, mindfulness trainings and sutras for guidance in order to apply the energy of mindfulness to the energy of suffering. This exercise is a wonderful one that all of us can do. The practice of mindfulness comes alive as a highly strategic set of tools and skills to produce transformation of the suffering caused by difficult and painful circumstances. Life is full of crises, curve balls and disasters. But even so, we do not have to be overwhelmed, hooked and crushed by them. Mindfulness practice helps us. Understanding and compassion hone our skills so that we become excellent gardeners of the mind.

The importance of taking refuge is to make fully alive the reality that we inter-are. We are never alone once we realize that Interbeing is a basic law of nature and of the Universe. Our scale of difficult circumstance runs through a vast range. The suffering and pain can be from a divorce, a son addicted to drugs, loss of a job, the death of a loved one, childhood abuse or brutal discrimination. The suffering can also be there from the situation in the Middle East between Palestinians and Israelis. The dharma detective operates well in all domains – personal, national, international – providing an instrument to focus our mindfulness, concentration and insight to whatever difficulty we suffer from.

Ian is the resident Zen teacher at Pine Gate Mindfulness Community in the west end of Ottawa, Canada. Teachings and dharma study are offered on Thursdays 7.00pm – 9.00pm.
Pine Gate Meditation Hall

Swooshing at New Year’s Eve

“Swooshing” anyone?

At Pine Gate on Tuesday, December 31, 2013, 9pm – midnight

“Swooshing” is a technical term for Renewing Buddhism.  For New Year’s Eve at Pine Gate there is homework.  Write down on a piece of paper all that you wish to leave behind and where you want to move to.  This can be personal, global, or both – just as you choose.  After the recitation ceremony on Tuesday December 31 we go upstairs for snacks and fellowship. The fire will be lit and then you place your homework in the fire and “swoosh” – it burns and goes up the chimney taking your intentions out to the universe.  You can read it out if you wish or just “swoosh.” Fake champagne is served at mid-night!

“Swooshing” means letting go, releasing stuff, establishing good intentions.

With community support for all of the previous.

Remember it is a matter of – LET GO OR BE DRAGGED!

You are invited to the most meaningful New Year’s Eve party in Ottawa. On New Year’s Eve there is a special tradition at Pine Gate.  We welcome the new year of 2014 with a recitation of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. (See below) This is a complete map of ethics to navigate the difficult times we are in. The trainings are a guiding light to pierce through the darkness that threatens humanity and the planet. How do we choose to behave towards one another when things begin to collapse? Will we be steady and generous or think only of ourselves?  Pine Gate’s response is: ” Enter The Bodhisattva. ”  There is homework – write down all you wish to move on from and what you wish to move to. Then swoosh it into the fire with community support to make it so!

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Date: Tuesday December 31, 2013.

Time: 9.00pm – midnight.

Place: Pine Gate Meditation Hall.

Purpose: Ethical Dance for 2014.

Program: Recitation Ceremony 9.30pm.

11.00pm: snacks and swooshing homework into the fire.

Mid-night: Auld Lang Syne and fake champagne.

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HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

The Buddha practiced Socially Engaged Buddhism giving dharma talks to people in society.  His first dharma talk emphasized the Four Noble Truths, the Middle Way and the Engaged Nature of mindfulness practice.  He formulated the Five Wonderful Precepts for lay practitioners, which evolved into the Five Mindfulness Trainings.

In the 4th Century AD in India, the Brahma-Net Sutra (Sanskrit: Brahmajala Sutra) was recorded.  It was known as the “Moral Code of the Bodhisattvas.”  It was translated by the Indian monk, Kumarajiva, into Chinese during the 4th century AD and contained 3 groups of precepts:

  1. Do not what is evil (Do not create suffering)
  2. Do what is good (Do wholesome actions)
  3. Do good for others (Help all sentient beings, be of benefit to all sentient beings)

Contained within the Brahma-Net Sutra are the10 major precepts of wholesomeness and 48 minor precepts.  This was practiced in China, Vietnam, Japan and Korea as an early expression of Socially Engaged Buddhism

In 14th century Vietnam, the Bamboo Forest Master (formerly King Than Nhan Tong from 1258 – 1308), went from village to village teaching the Five Mindfulness Trainings and the 10 Wholesome Precepts derived from 4th century India, strongly influenced by the Brahma-Net sutra and the Buddha’s initial dharma talk. In the 20th century, Socially Engaged Buddhism was renewed in Vietnam and extended to the West.  Thich Nhat Hanh ordained the first 6 members of the Order of Interbeing in February, 1966.  The 14 Mindfulness Trainings of the Order of Interbeing contain the 5 Mindfulness Trainings, the Noble Eightfold Path and are a renewal of the earlier Bodhisattva Precepts.  Thich Nhat Hanh brought them up to date to be in tune with our times, in step with modern historical, socio-economic and cultural developments yet resting on the foundation provided by the Buddha and 4th century expressions of socially engaged Buddhism.  They are Thich Nhat Hanh’s gift and guidance to mindfulness practitioners.

The Author

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Ian Prattis – A poet and scholar, peace and environmental activist – was born on October 16, 1942, in Great Britain. Ian grew up in Corby, a tough steel town populated by Scots in the heartland of England’s countryside.  Ian was an outstanding athlete and scholar at school, graduating with distinctions in all subjects and was dux of the high school – top graduating student. He did not stay to collect graduating honors, as at seventeen years old he travelled to Sarawak, Borneo, with Voluntary Service Overseas (1960–1962) – Britain’s Peace Corps.  He loved the immersion in the myriad cultures of Sarawak and was greatly amused by the British colonial mentality, which he did not share.  He was adopted by the Kayan tribe as one of their own in Northern Sarawak and part of the initiation was the right to have an extensive tattoo on his left forearm, commemorating his journeys.  Ian politely declined this honor, stating that it was not his custom.  As a teen, he had a clear idea of who he was, though that clarity was frequently challenged and occasionally lost later in life.

Returning to Great Britain after Sarawak was an uneasy transition.  He did, however, manage to stumble through an undergraduate degree in anthropology at University College London (1962–1965), before continuing with graduate studies at BalliolCollege, Oxford (1965–1967).  At Oxford, academics took a back seat to the judo dojo, rugby field, bridge table and the founding of irreverent societies at Balliol.  Yet by the time he pursued doctoral studies at the University of British   Columbia (1967–1970), his brain switched on.  He renewed his passion for other cultures, placing his research on North West Coast cultures within a mathematical, experimental domain that the discipline of anthropology was not ready for.  Being at the edge of new endeavours was natural to him, and continues to be so.

He was a Professor of Anthropology and Religion at Carleton University in Ottawa from 1970 to 2007.  Over the past thirty years an interest in native land claims has led to ongoing fieldwork in Indian and Inuit communities, with an emphasis on training aboriginal leaders to conduct their own research process.  He has worked with diverse groups all over the world and has a passion for doing anthropology.  The intent was always to renew the freshness of the anthropological endeavor and make the discipline relevant to the individuals and cultures it touches.  His highly acclaimed television course on “Culture and Symbols” drew on his novel perspectives.  His millennium project for the year 2000 created another twelve part television course on “Ecology and Culture.”  In their final assignment, students select an ecological issue, then write a thousand word letter to a head of government, or CEO of a polluting industry and state specifically what they want the recipient of the letter to do.  Students send these letters and begin to translate their awareness about ecosystems and globalization into action. The up and coming rock band – SLYDE – has a keyboardist who was a student in the class. SLYDE released a CD in 2011 titled Feed The Machine, inspired by the course text: The Essential Spiral.

Ian studied Tibetan Buddhism with Lama Tarchin in the early 1980’s, Christian meditation with the Benedictines, and was trained by Native American medicine people and shamans in their healing practices.  He also studied the Vedic tradition of Siddha Samadhi Yoga, and taught this tradition of mediation in India (1996–1997).  He was ordained as a guru – the first Westerner to receive this privilege.  He later received the Lamp Transmission from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and is an ordained Dharmacharya (teacher) in that tradition, giving dharma talks and retreats in Canada, India, Europe, the USA and South America.  At the outbreak of the Iraq war he founded Friends for Peace Canada www.friendsforpeace.ca – a coalition of groups that work for peace, planetary care and social justice.  He is also the editor of an online Buddhist Journal and the resident Zen teacher of a meditation community, Pine Gate Sangha. www.ianprattis.com/pinegate.htm  He writes poetry and had an edited collection published in 1985 – Reflections: The Anthropological Muse. The meditation teacher is not separate from the professor or the global citizen.

He has six children and fourteen grandchildren from his first marriage. Later in life, as a respite, he lived in a hermitage in Kingsmere, Quebec, in the middle of Gatineau Park Forest when his pet wolf was alive. His interests include cross-country skiing, hiking, canoeing and caring for the world of nature.  He also enjoys Qi-Gong, gardening, playing baseball and swimming with dolphins.  Ian now lives with his present wife Carolyn in the west end of Ottawa where the Pine Gate Meditation Hall is located in the lower level of their home. Since retiring from the university in 2007 he has authored four books on dharma, two on the environment, a novel and this legend/autobiographical memoir and enjoys the freedom to create at his own pace. He has yet to discern the ordinary meaning of retirement!

Author Profile: www.ianprattis.com/profile.htm

The Territory of Suffering

Territory of Suffering    

Extract from Portals and Passages Book 2 – $2.99 on Amazon Kindle

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007EECFUI#_

 Portals and Passages BK 2 FC4

I turn to my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh (Reconciliation: 2010: 64) to open this essay on Healing the Inner Child.

“Dealing with suffering is like handling a poisonous snake. We have to learn about the snake, and we ourselves have to grow stronger and more stable in order to handle it without hurting ourselves. At the end of this process, we will be ready to confront the snake. If we never confront it, one day it will surprise us and we will die of a snake bite. The pain we carry in the deep levels of our consciousness is similar. When it grows big and confronts us, there’s nothing we can do if we haven’t practiced becoming strong and stable in mindfulness. We should only invite our suffering up when we’re ready. Then, when it comes we can handle it. To transform our suffering, we don’t struggle with it or try to get rid of it. We simply bathe it in the light of our mindfulness.”

 

First we have to develop and nurture our mindfulness, which means waking up to the reality of our suffering that we would rather avoid. There are clear warning signals if we choose to pay attention. We get caught in our dramas and find ourselves telling and retelling our stories to whomever will listen. We also court our suffering and keep it alive. We often engage in a competitive aspect – my suffering is bigger than yours. The courtship of suffering can be an ugly romance for we enter into a co-dependent relationship, which has to be called by its true name – Addiction. Physiologically and emotionally we become so tightly tied into our suffering that we cannot be without it even though it is destroying our well being. We grasp at brief insights that “Yes – this is suffering” – but deal only with surface appearances. Yet the surface exposure has a long history of gathering momentum and energy until it actually surfaces. The small snake has become a monster. The addiction to suffering is now embedded in our mental state. We respond to any glimpse of suffering with such destructive emotion that we reinforce the causes and conditions that created the suffering in the first place. And so we continue shooting ourselves in the foot, torpedoing our lives – over and over again.

Our suffering is caused by abuse – emotional, physical and sexual – and it becomes an organizing template in our mind. We then create an abusive relationship with that template’s qualities – addiction; fear; co-dependency. To stop the cycle of harm we need an OMG moment.  The insight that: OH MY GOD THIS IS WHAT I HAVE BEEN DOING ALL MY LIFE. HOW DO I STOP IT? That insight has to arrive in the mind before we can apply ourselves to developing mindfulness as an antidote to the abusive relationship established with our suffering. It is an awesome realization to penetrate the darkness and realize that the abuse you have suffered has created an abusive relationship with yourself. Mindfulness practice can bring the abusive relationship to a halt. This is the required OMG moment that propels you to get to work. To go backwards from the surface and investigate the causes and conditions that placed you in such suffering. And so we learn the practices, tools and concentrations that support this journey of understanding suffering and taking care of it. We break the cycle through re-training and mindfulness practice. We equip ourselves for a journey to be well that requires our determination to practice mindfulness daily and ensure that we take refuge in wise support.

The Wounded Inner Child

Emotional, physical and sexual abuse during childhood creates a lost, frightened and frozen child within us.  If we are unable to reach this lost and wounded child then we may never heal ourselves.  We prefer not to remember the sufferings of childhood, so we bury them and hide.  We run away from seeing deeply into the causes of our suffering.  Whenever the memories arise, however fleetingly, we think we cannot handle them and deflect them into the deepest realms of our unconsciousness mind. This results in the wounded child not being seen for a long time simply because we are terrified of further suffering. Yet we have to find a way to reach the hurt child and make her safe. This means we have to get past the fear and address the suffering, realizing that it is suffering which provides the way through to awakening.

Although we may now be adult, there is also a little boy in us, a little girl in us, who is so afraid and suffers deeply, no matter what kind of happy pretend face we present to life.  This suffering child within our adult frame colors everything we do, generating our fears, insecurities and self loathing, wounding us in our relationships and life.  That wounded child is you, is me, and we must extend a different energy to him so that the energy of childhood suffering can be understood, defused and transformed. Mindfulness is the way through to the inner child. We have to embrace him, embrace her exactlty where they are caught by the past – in fear and with anger at being neglected for so long. Moreover we have to be very skilful.

This means touching the seeds of childhood suffering from an adult state of being mindful and aware, knowing that we must make it safe for that child to come out from hiding behind the closed doors of suffering and pain.  It is we as adults who must no longer run away.  We must have the courage and awareness to bring healing to our hurt inner child and thereby produce a transformation for ourselves.  The steps we take are not only to heal ourselves, we somehow connect to all wounded children – those in our ancestors and descendants and elsewhere in the world.  For once we cultivate the seeds of mindful healing in ourselves, the energy of these seeds continues on into all that we interconnect with. A quantum leap from our cellular memories to everyone else’s throughout time and space. With awareness we take our inner child into our daily life, on picnics, walks, sitting at the dining room table and doing the dishes together. Patiently realizing that we are on a splendid adventure to bring the cycle of suffering to a close, for it may have persisted over generations. Thus we are healing and transforming generations of ingrained patterns transmitted from our ancestors and continued through us to our descendants. Such patterns build up like corrosive rust through time and amplify the fears and suffering of the wounded inner child

Thich Nhat Hanh addressed the issue of child abuse in a Question and Answer session held in the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village, France on the 17th October 1998.  Very gently he spoke about the ignorance and pain of the abuser as well as that of the abused, and stated clearly that understanding was the basis of recovery.  Not blaming or feeling guilt and shame, but seeing deeply and understanding.  First of all to understand that the person abusing must have lived under ignorant and deprived conditions without support, guidance or a wise teacher.  So much so that the power of ignorance was stronger than the person, and thus they were driven to do wrong things.  If the person abused can begin to understand just a little bit of that, then their anger, shame and outrage can transform into a droplet of compassion and through mindfulness practice their suffering can diminish. When forgiveness and understanding are there, suffering decreases.  The second step he suggested was to recommend that the person abused practice mindfulness, to transform herself into a Bodhisattva and engender the compassion to help and be of service to all children who need protection.  By merit of understanding the experience and recovery from abuse, such a person can practice and use their talents to promote measures to protect children.  This helps to eradicate the ignorance that generates abuse.

There are many techniques and methodologies of therapy that address issues of the inner wounded child.  The first one I am going to describe is simple and anyone can do it.  It is a first step and I recommend that it be practiced under the guidance of a therapist, shaman or spiritual teacher.  You are going to start a diary or log book for you and the inner child to write to one another.  The adult you will write using the hand that you normally write with.  You begin by saying “hello” to Little John, to Little Allison.  Then go on to say how sorry you are for having been away and neglectful; that you are grown up now and strong, and that you are going to do everything to make it safe for Little John, for Little Allison.  They will be safe, loved and cherished.  Write in your own words along these lines.

Then with your other hand, the one you do not write with, allow the inner child to express herself.  Do not edit.  Just write down whatever comes out.  It may well be angry, blaming and abusive words that come out, and it is your job not to be shocked or defensive but to provide constant re-assurance, love and guidance.  You bring to this communication with the wounded inner child all the qualities of love, compassion and wisdom you can muster.  These are the seeds of mindfulness you consciously bring to support the wounded child inside you.  The energy of these seeds works on the energy of the traumatized inner child to reduce his pain and suffering.  Talk to him through writing in this way – with total love and acute mindfulness. Then read your diary entries out loud – placing yourself in your adult shoes and then in your inner child’s shoes. This simple act of reading out loud is a way for both of you to be heard. On a daily basis register with how deeply your understanding and love is getting through to the wounded child, for she is listening carefully to every word and knows that you are now listening to her. You draw closer – the adult and the inner child – as you bring awareness, love and healing to the suffering and pain of the child.

Details of trauma may be revealed that you did not know about, which is why you need the help and guidance of a trusted therapist, shaman or spiritual teacher.  This is to support you being a wise and loving parent to your wounded child.  And with time you will notice shifts and changes in patterns of expression as the child becomes trusting and starts to grow, eventually merging fully with you as an adult.  (You also learn to write very well with your other hand!)  In your letters tell your inner child about yourself and your life, take him on outings, treats and give to that child all the care, attention and love you feel you did not receive when you were a little boy, a little girl.  The suffering will diminish and you will experience such a transformation, for you discover that your relationships with co-workers, friends and family start to change, and your fears of the past and anxieties about the future do not have the same driving force.  When you notice things like this tell your inner child: “Thank you for being with me.  That makes me so happy.”   The experience of being with the inner child in the healing journey is a stimulus for this kind of happiness.  There are times you may cry, or feel total joy and also suffer despair, which is why guidance and support is necessary on this beginning journey of reclaiming yourself.  You need that wise spiritual friend and teacher to keep you steady and mindful.  I know, for I went through it.  I am happy to say that it worked for me, as I experienced the painfully slow establishment of trust, then the exhilarating joy of safety and integration, until finally my inner child was the adult me, integrated with a freshness and vitality that I continually treasure.  Ultimately there is only one pair of shoes!

To support this journey there are other practices and meditations that are valuable for the steady process of healing. We have brought mindfulness, concentration and insight to our inner child and constantly enveloped him in the refreshing energy of transformation. We have worked diligently to nurture seeds of happiness, joy and safety in the consciousness of the inner child – the same seeds that are also in us, our ancestors and descendants. When despair and fear arise from the child we have the presence of mind to listen deeply and surround the fear with the stronger energy field of mindfulness. This is a deep and beautiful process because we are no longer running away or hiding from afflictions that have rendered us dysfunctional. Thich Nhat Hanh in his book Reconciliation tells us: “The capacity to be aware – that is, to be a human being who is mindful – is what will save us” (2010: 114).

Buddhist teachings contain a multitude of tools, concentrations and practices that can nurture this process. Such as The Five Remembrances, Five Year Old Child Meditation, Sutra on Mindful Breathing, Deep Relaxation, Touching The Earth and Removing The Object to mention only a few. In Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh’s practice center in France, he has provided a much loved practice gatha for the meditation community, which begins with “I have arrived, I am home.”  This is used in walking and other meditations as an instrument to concentrate on breath and be present.  In this way the fears and traumas of the past and anxieties about the future do not crowd in and overwhelm the mind.  The gatha with walking meditation, connected to in-breath and out-breath, provides an essential tool to take care of the many mental formations that flood our waking consciousness with fear, pain and suffering.  With daily diligent practice we can examine these same mental formations but from a place centered in mindfulness.  This simple gatha has become the dharma seal of PlumVillage.

I: Inner Child Has Arrived Meditation

The Vietnamese origin of the gatha provides a penetrating tool to touch our inner child who suffers from trauma and abuse experienced in childhood.  It does not translate as:  “I have arrived, I am home.”  It translates as: “Your child has arrived, your child is home.”  This is so beautiful to say to yourself as you breathe in and out whenever you do walking meditation, for each step welcomes your wounded child to be well and to come home to you.  When you walk to your car or your office, by a river or in a park, you can be more specific and recite to yourself:

In-breath          “My inner child has arrived”

Out-breath       “My inner child is home.”

This is good practice, for with intelligence you use your conscious breath and concentration to heal, simply by welcoming your wounded inner child home through the practice of being present.  We are capable of arriving in every moment of practice, whether it is sitting meditation, walking meditation, having a mindful meal, taking a shower or doing laundry.  Being present in each moment is a way of practice that welcomes home the injured, frightened inner child harmed by abuse.

In order to heal it is necessary to cultivate the internal energy of mindfulness before stopping and looking deeply into what caused the fears and traumas of abuse.  The practice of arriving in each moment nurtures that strength.  From the space of clarity provided by locating yourself in the present moment, not only is your inner child welcomed home, there is also the lucidity of mindfulness practice to deal with the ghosts of the past and at the same time put the ghosts of future anxiety to rest.

In-Breath:        My inner child has arrived

  Out Breath:       My inner child is home

II:  Love Meditation for the Inner Child

Another tool is to adapt the Four Brahmaviharas meditation to focus on the injured inner child and is based on the Buddha’s teachings on Love.  Prepare for meditation by sitting comfortably with the spine erect.  Bring your concentration and focus to breath on the In-breath and breath on the Out-breath.  After ten or twenty breaths, whenever you feel calm and stable, begin by bringing each of the components – Love, Compassion, Joy, Equanimity – into yourself, the adult you.  The next sequence now provides a focus and concentration to water the seeds of Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity within your inner child.

In-breath                      I bring Love

Out-breath                   to my inner child.

You can say a loving name for your inner child if you wish.  Say silently “Dear Mary” or “Darling Joseph.”  Feel the energy of love fill you from top to toe and register with the energy for several breaths.  Then continue in the same way with:

In-breath                      I bring Compassion

Out-breath                   to my inner child

In-breath                      I bring Joy

Out-breath                   to my inner child

In-breath                      I bring Equanimity

Out-breath                   to my inner child

Then conclude the meditation by once more bringing Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity to the adult you.  This meditation nurtures the wounded inner child wonderfully and at the same time nurtures the adult you.  The Buddha’s teachings on Love provide the foundation for this Love meditation to the wounded inner child.  The concentration on these four qualities is an incredibly powerful instrument for healing.  I do not have the words to adequately describe the impact but Thich Nhat Hanh does:

The Buddha says if we gather together all the virtuous actions we have realized in this world, they are not equal to practicing love meditations………If we collect together all the light from the stars, it will not be as bright as the light of the moon.  In the same way, practicing love meditation is greater than all other virtuous actions combined.

 

There are many other methods of meditation and practice that could be documented here.  I felt it appropriate to indicate some of the ones I used to good effect in my process of healing.  These were practices that accompanied the shamanic healing conducted in an Altered State of Consciousness (See Healing Journeys in Portals and Passages – forthcoming).  One factor that was very important is that I was determined to heal once understanding dawned in my consciousness.  From that awareness I took specific steps and relied on wise teachers, medicine women and steady friends to help me along the path of healing and transformation.  I must emphasize that this is not a journey that can be taken alone, so do ensure that you have support from your sangha and good guidance from a therapist, shaman or spiritual teacher.

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Deep Silence

Deep Silence

In the Silence

I heard my own voice

The sound was deafening.                                                      Teresa Hernandez

DCF 1.0

My journey through meditation has often been clumsy and ineffective until I stumbled across where I had to go.  It was into Silence.  Deep Silence and stillness amidst the chaos and noise of the world I lived in.  I could truly look deeply into the dark areas that held hostage my mental formations of an unwholesome nature.  Over the past decades I have built more and more silence into everyday life.  On a daily basis I stop, look deeply and dialogue with the feminine seeds in my consciousness – a practice received from my Native American medicine teachers. I listen deeply in the silence to the communications from the wholesome attributes of feminine wisdom within me to address issues and questions.  There were some tangible benefits.

 

High School Murders and the Post 9/11 World

After the murders at Columbine High School in Colorado I put this practice of silence to good use.  Firstly, to prevent myself from being overwhelmed and secondly, to provide guidance and solace.  The spectre of children shooting children in high schools shocked me very deeply.  I was offended by the carnage and angry at society for creating the conditions for children to end up murdering other children.  I also had meditation students who had settled in Colorado and they phoned me in a panic.  I knew I could be of little help, for I was not in the appropriate space to give counsel to anyone.  I had to find a bedrock of understanding and compassion before I could communicate anything worthwhile.  After several days of silence and meditation I wrote an essay in one piece titled “Yes, It Can Happen Here.”  It provided understanding and guidelines about what to do.  It was directed to parents, teachers and children and was sent far and wide across North America and later to Germany and Scandinavia.  Steps of mindfulness in terms of specific meditation practices to deal with grief, anger and hatred were provided in addition to a clear understanding of what had brought events to this particular state.  I felt it was a necessary priority to provide protective measures for our children.

 

I now speak of my meditation practice after 9/11.  When I learned about the extent of the horror, I went into a deep silence and practiced deep looking to generate calm and clarity, to try and understand.  It was not easy, as there was so much disbelief, shock and outrage within me which only silence could take care of.  It took a great deal of walking meditation, being aware of the feelings that arose and using conscious breath to acknowledge and take care of the strong feelings.  I slowed down with meditation and came to a stop, looked deeply and touched the well of understanding that would have been inaccessible if I did not diligently meditate at this time of crisis.  I wanted to understand, to grasp the roots of suffering, so that anything I might say or do could act to alleviate such suffering – my own and everyone else’s.  From that place my 2002 book was written – The Essential Spiral: Ecology and Consciousness After 9/11.  It was born from the benefits of silence so that I could provide insights for the wider community.  I do see clearly and this is thanks to the many years of silence, mindfulness practice and meditation in times of crisis, as well as in times of peace and happiness.  My response to 9/11 was guided from silence by the actively cultivated energy of compassion.  I do not pretend that this was easy.  It was not, but it was the only thing I could do to generate lucidity.

The Essential Spiral: Ecology and Consciousness After 9/11 – $2.99

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006ZBQ0W0

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Newton, CT

I want to talk to you about children who are no longer here. They are dead. Twenty children gunned down at an elementary school in Newton, CT. Children killed as collateral damage in Gaza, Israel, Syria, Congo, Afghanistan and in world-wide violence. We are all grieving parents to the world. The question we all face is – What Now?

In the face of grief we must feel it deeply, be hurt by it, taking time to feel the pain of the tragedy. Then come through, determined to make a difference. STOP IN SILENCE: REASSESS: ENTER THE BODHISATTVA. Stopping requires calling in the support of wise friends, counselors and Sangha so we can begin to see clearly and give ourselves the chance to find ourselves. Stillness and silence is needed, not social media distraction – for we now have to look for a new direction and leadership. To reassess the 21st century, we must look deeply at the factors involved in the Newton, CT massacre. We will see a complex, intertwined tapestry with the easy availability of guns and drugs, compounded by societal tolerance of violence through the worst that cyberspace and Hollywood have to offer. Plus the very serious common denominator shared by the killers stretching back to the Columbine massacre. This is the factor of mental illness in pre-adult white males who are caught in an identity trap that they escape from through violence and murder. This is their five minutes of fame that enables them to be remembered. They occupy a toxic landscape of “not love”, “not connected.” And this is what requires the attention of our mindfulness.  How do we begin?

 

In Silence.

What If Nobody Shows Up?

What If Nobody Shows Up………?                         

 Ian and Lady at Pine Gate

It happens.  That unanticipated moment when you – the facilitator – are there, and nobody shows up.  I remember with a mixture of anxiety and humor the first time this happened.  One fall evening I had cleaned the Pine Gate Meditation Hall, set the cushions in a neat semi-circle in front of the simple alter, meditated beforehand, and made sure the notes for the Dharma talk were ready.  And nobody showed up.  At first I thought friends were just a little late, but thirty minutes past the hour convinced me that nobody was coming.  I was disappointed and remained so, until two beautiful beings caught my attention.  My dog, Nikki, and my cat, Lady, were sitting patiently close by me in the meditation hall, waiting for my attention.  They were fully present, only I was not.  When I did notice them, I smiled.  Only then could I look deeply at my thoughts.  What in fact was disappointed?

 

My ego, expectations, habit energies, and mental formations – these were all certainly disappointed.  Yet the moment I smiled to my loving animals, the disappointment began to fade away.  I was left with the insight that of the many elements necessary for a sangha facilitator, on this night it was Equanimity with a capital “E” that I needed most to nurture.  After inviting the bell for Nikki, Lady, myself and absent friends, I meditated on the Four Brahmaviharas – Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity – the Buddha’s teachings on Love – with a particular emphasis on the Fourth one – Equanimity.

 

The following evening, the doorbell rang at 7.00pm and two friends from the sangha came in, followed by another three, then five minutes later by another four.  I welcomed them with surprise at seeing them.  They were puzzled by this welcome, then told me that this was our sangha evening.  I had prepared for them the day before in error!  We all laughed until the tears rolled down our cheeks when I told them the story.  Our meditation and gathering that night became known as the Night Of Warm Smiles And Quiet Chuckles, as once again Nikki and Lady joined us.  Not surprisingly, after meditation, our discussion was about Equanimity.  Of how we can so easily get caught in our projections and mental formations when Equanimity is absent.  Also we shared at length our experiences of its interconnection with Love, Compassion and Joy – the remaining trio of the Four Brahmaviharas.  To make this come alive we all knew that our practice had to become more skillful, drawing on one another’s support. The second track of the Pine Gate Meditations CD is about the Four Brahmiviharas, based on the Buddha’s teachings on Love. The gentle offerings on this hour long CD nurture the heart so that love and understanding are nourished.  The Buddha’s teachings on love were first given to a Hindu Brahmin, who asked the Buddha to tell him how he could be with Brahma, the universal God.  The Buddha replied with a practice devoted to cultivating Love, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity in each moment, and he expounded with great clarity on the nature of these four components, all of which are interconnected.  They are also known as the Four Immeasurable Minds, as the potential expansion of each one is infinite, each one can embrace the entire world and universe.

 

There are many things I could write about Pine Gate sangha practice – our hikes in the forest, finding a quiet place for a Dharma talk, then on to a waterfall for a silent and mindful lunch.  Of the generosity of sangha members as they take their practice out in an engaged manner.  The sangha practices in the true spirit of engaged Budhism with the introduction of mindfulness practice into city schools, and the formation of Citizen’s Coalitions to protect the city environment from inappropriate development, and peace celebration days to bring about an end to war.  The other groups in these Coalitions are quite happy to find a meditation group at their core, and I do believe we assist them with our steadiness There is so much more – yet for me the Evening Of Warm Smiles And Quiet Chuckles after the Day When Nobody Showed Up, provides a benchmark for the qualities actively cultivated as a basis for sangha practice.  Whenever I talk about the Buddha’s Teachings on Love, usually at our Christmas gatherings, the sangha revisits this benchmark.