- Active Concentration
- Selective Concentration
Monday, June 25, 2012
Thich Nhat Hanh explains that Nourishing Effort is effort that is initiated with interest and joy. "If your practice does not bring you joy, you are not practicing correctly." Practices that cause pain to your physical body are also not Nourishing Effort. The person who diligently and intently meditates but is focused on the action itself instead of its purpose is not on the path towards enlightenment. She is just sitting quietly on a rock.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
However, he is very clear about understanding the challenges that we can face in balancing our spiritual path and the economic realities of our lives. He says that in times when jobs are scarce, we can be forced to take or stay in jobs that contribute to suffering. But we must strive to move towards work that is truly nourishing and supportive of our beliefs. He gives several examples and I will share two that I feel are particularly helpful.
Note: The fourth of the trainings is relevant to the section on Nourishing Speech.
"Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am determined to speack truthfully, with words that inspire self-conf idence, joy, and hope. I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain and will not criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I am determined to make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conf licts, however small."
This is the fourth Mindfulness Training, written by Thich Nhat Hahn, and reflects rather succinctly the basis for Nourishing Speech (Right Speech). The rest of the Mindfulness Trainings are listed in the section on Nourishing Action.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
According to TNH, thinking comes in two parts. The first part, vitarka, is the initial thought. This is followed by the vichara, or developing thought. So the vitarka may be, "I have a job interview tomorrow," and then the vichara would be all the thoughts about what you will wear, what you plan to say, how prepared you are, and so on. I find this distinction helpful, as it may lead to being able to recognize in meditation that even when I can't control the vitarka, I can gain some control and reign in the subsequent vichara.
TNH also talks about recognizing the seeds within us and knowing which ones to water. We need to be aware of how we respond to others, to see and understand our patterns of attraction and judgment in relationships. If you see someone who reminds you of your beloved mother, you react with love. If you see someone who reminds you of the father you have painful memories of, you react with hesitation, fear, and perhaps even hostility. To recognize the seeds of recognition inside of us gives us the correct vision to discern which seeds to water and which to work through, to investigate the cause of our suffering, and to find the path towards healing. This too is Nourishing Understanding.
Friday, June 22, 2012
Let's start off with a little science lesson. June 20th was the longest day of the year, the summer solstice. Here in Northern California, on this day the sun rose at 5:48am and set at 8:35pm, for an impressive 15 hrs 47 mins of sunlight. This is compared to the shortest day of the year, which will be this coming December 21st, when there will only be 10 hrs 33 mins of sunlight here in the Bay Area. This difference in the amount of light we get as the days either move towards or away from the summer solstice is all a result of the tilted axes on which our planet revolves.
Monday, June 11, 2012
I've been thinking a lot about mindfulness. This subject comes up a lot in the Dharma talks in "Going Home", though I imagine that mindfulness will be a prevalent subject throughout my Buddhist reading. Based on the way Thich Nhat Hanh explains it, I understand mindfulness to be about bringing your full attention and awareness to a specific thing, often to the presence of something in the actual moment. It's about being able to focus on the details of the present moment and to stay with these thoughts instead of sliding into memories from the past or projections of the future.
Monday, June 4, 2012
I am spending my summer reading books on Buddhism and Islam in hopes that I can gain a general introduction to these two religious traditions. The books on Buddhism include three by the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, a famous Vietnamese Buddhist monk who practices Zen Buddhism. He is a talented and prolific writer who is well known for speaking clearly about Buddhism to a western audience and finding ways to show the ties between Buddhism and Christianity. I am reading "The Heart of the Buddha's Teachings", "Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers" and "Living Buddha, Living Christ".
Friday, June 1, 2012
This might not seem like a big deal to you, but after living in New York for the first time last year, the idea of being cold enough to put on extra clothes in June is almost ludicrous. Not twelve months ago I remember being hotter than I have ever been, surviving the humidity of a New York summer living pressed up against my air conditioning unit. This fat girl from California was simply not built for humidity and New York City let me know it.