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Category Archives: Interbeing

bell-outdoors

“May the sound of this bell reach suffering ones in the whole cosmos, sending healing, comfort and peace.”  These words from my meditation teacher, Anh Huong Nguyen (www.mpcf.com) last Saturday morning, brought tears of joy and relief to my soul.

I had just traveled half way around the world from a wonderful visit to family living in Malaysia.  I had suffered the night before from lack of sleep and justified anger directed at me from a loved one.  I ate cereal in the car on the ride to this beautiful annual ceremony to transmit the Five Mindfulness Trainings to a member of WMC and many others from MCPF, Stillwater and other sanghas on the east coast.  I had been filled with remorse for my mindless actions that had hurt and angered someone I love dearly.  My body was still adjusting to crossing 12 time zones and being greeted by bitter 16 degree weather.  My spirit needed the silence, the beautiful church with huge windows revealing gently falling snow, a fox trotting by in the woods, the warmth of dozens of beloved sisters and brothers surrounding me.  I took a deep breath, relaxed and let myself cry.

I often find in meditation that the first person who needs the healing sound of the bell is me.  My suffering is so small compared to that of families dying daily in Aleppo, women raped and beaten in many countries, children starved and abused, all people suffering from war, poverty, oppression and fear of their political leaders.

Yet this body is the one I feel most closely, can breathe in most easily, can feed, rest, comfort and nourish.  I hope it is true – as Thich Nhat Hanh and his niece Anh Huong teach me – that in taking care of myself, I am taking care of the whole cosmos.  All suffering beings are present in me and me in them.  We “inter-are.”  I am the child in Aleppo.  I am the woman in Nigeria bearing a child of rape.  I am the coal miner in West Virginia worried about feeding his children.  I am determined to take care of all of me, all of the suffering in the world in my breathing, in the sound of this bell going out to the whole cosmos.

Thay with candle

Many friends have been disturbed by the recent political election.  Thich Nhat Hanh gives me some perspective to see more clearly, to calm mind and feelings, to act with love and compassion.  He suggests that “Every time you have a presidential election, you think in terms of Democrats and Republicans, and you take a side.  You suffer or you are happy because one party wins or loses.  But, if we look more deeply we see that the two parties are made of each other and have a lot of things in common.  The success of one party is made of the lack of success of the other party.” (Mindfulness Bell, Autumn 2016)

He is telling us that we are all part of one whole, that we “inter-are.” Our thinking in opposites (right/left, bad/good, wrong/right) is not the whole picture of reality and brings us much suffering.  My suffering came in the form of disbelief, shock, fear and anger, a desire to change the great suffering that will come of this decision.  However, I cannot live in fear and anger for more than a few moments without increasing the suffering in myself and my world.  I remembered Thay’s teaching on Inter-being, that we are not separate from one another, my friends simply identified as “left, right, good” and the president-elect as “right, wrong and bad.”  We inter-are and all had something to do with the conditions that brought about the results of this election.

On a practical level I need to stay calm, to reach out to my neighbors, friends and strangers who are suffering.  I can assure them that I will continue to practice, to come back to the present moment where we are still alive, capable of compassion and love for one another.  I am sticking close to my spiritual communities, listening as deeply as possible, trying to respond with courage to do the things I can see and do, one day at a time.

J at GC GC colors GC with trees

Wow!  The Grand Canyon is a great place to touch the Energy of the Universe!  So powerful in majestic beauty, and in geological, historical, social energy.  I was able to absorb the beauty of these colors, breathe the air, look as far as the eye can see on our Women’s Retreat in Sedona, Arizona.  Fourteen women gathered for a week absorbing the energy of the vortexes, meditating, practicing Qi Gong and yoga, resting and sharing deeply from our hearts about blocks we want to transform to receive energy into our bodies, minds and lives.  Then nine of us were able to travel to the Grand Canyon for our final day in Arizona.

Thank you, Ruth and other sisters on this journey.  Thank you, Mother Earth, for these magnificent mountains, rocks, and fire at your core.  Thank you, Father Sun for blessing us with life every day, whether we see you or not.  Thank you, amazing Universe, for holding us, connecting us in your Energy and Love.

Daddy - best without border

Thomas Lyle Malone (9-9-09 to 4-8-86)                         Photo by Joann

 

Today would have been my father’s 106th birthday had he not died a terrible death 30 years ago.  His smile and kind eyes still reach me in this photo from one of the last years of his life.  I know he loved me to the best of his ability.  Today I still feel his love sustaining me in my healthy body, my love for reading and study, my ability to work hard and laugh at myself, my search for the divine in people, stars and sunrises.  He continues in me, my brothers, his five remaining grandchildren, five great grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.  Most of us have life because of him.  Thank you, Daddy!  Thank you, Mother.

For many years I was angry at him, wished he would change, wished he had never taken a drink of alcohol, wished he could take care of himself and not suffer so much.  Slowly, as I realized my own powerlessness, as I began to meditate on his suffering, my heart opened, softened.  I forgave myself and him for many harms done to one another.  Today, I relish walking with him in meditation, holding his hand, comforting him, letting him know how happy and free my life is.  If I can breathe, walk, eat, laugh, play, live and love, he can continue to breathe, walk, eat, laugh, play, live and love in me and all his descendants.  My happiness is his happiness.  My freedom is his freedom.  My life continues his life.

 

 

 

 

 

Butterfly Museum with my granddaughter-life, so beautiful, so fleeting it seems

Butterfly Museum with my granddaughter-life, so beautiful, so fleeting it seems.

My son, daughter in law and granddaughter are in the air for a two day trip half way around the world.  We might not see them again for a year, a very long time in a grandmother’s life.  I miss them terribly already, yet the joy of their two week visit is evidenced throughout our home.  Photos from two birthday parties, a christening yesterday in Baltimore of Pat’s grand niece and numerous adventures in museums and waterfront cafes with wonderful friends and family.  I shared with some friends at a meeting on Friday (another joyous celebration) that I’ve found joy nestled within the greatest sorrows.  In fact, joy and sorrow have become not separate, different entities in my life, but the same experience viewed with different attitude, viewpoint, perspective.

During one of his powerful talks, Thich Nhat Hanh (www.plumvillage.org) showed us a piece of paper and said, one side is joy and the other our suffering.  They are not different, separate entities or experiences.  They are the same.  Without our suffering, our challenges in life, how could we find the depth of acceptance, compassion and love that infuses our joy and happiness?  Without a deep inner happiness based on the oneness we have with others, with the whole Universe, how could we endure our suffering?

I might find some tears and longing in my heart today, a bit of fear for their safety and well-being, a desire to cling to them, hold them here close to us.  But it has always worked best with my son to “let him go,” allow him all the freedom to explore, work, learn and be the dedicated person he is in his work to alleviate poverty in Asia and other parts of the world.  I ask that my heart continue to grow with the love he inspires in me, to keep encompassing all people I meet, to treat them with the same respect and love I have for him, his beautiful wife and precious daughter.

I sing “Please Call me by my True Names”:

“My joy’s like spring so warm, it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.

My pain’s like a river of tears, so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once.

So I can hear that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up

and the door of my heart will be left open.

The door of compassion.”

 

 

 

 

Spring '15

Hannah Grace

Redbuds and cherry blossoms bursting open…daffodils, pansies and buttercups covering the ground. Babies arriving everywhere – four in our meditation community and this precious first great niece in my husband’s family, now two weeks old celebrating her first Easter holiday.

Would we appreciate this glorious new life if we hadn’t experienced such a long, cold, snowy, icy winter? The transformation of death into life is constant, ever present in all of nature. But do we notice a “non-toothache”? An absence of arthritis aches if we’ve never felt the pain? Not to glorify suffering or seek it out. I’ve spent enough of my life doing that. Life will present plenty of challenge, illness, loss of loved ones, death. All these experiences are part of life, intertwined so intricately with success, health, connection and new life that we cannot separate the suffering from the joy. They “inter-are.”

We have a choice every day to nourish suffering or joy in our bodies, minds, feelings and lives. Today I choose to smell the new flowers, soak my senses in the colors and freshness of budding trees and the soft touch of baby skin. I choose to rejoice in the hope for peace, at least a reduction in the fear of nuclear disaster with Iran. I hold the suffering people of Yemen, Kenya, Syria in my heart as I breathe in the fresh air, sending them hope, peace, love. As we “inter-are” with all of nature, we are fed, watered, nourished by new life…and breathing out, send the energy of mindfulness to all who suffer, our brothers and sisters everywhere on earth.

Fitzsimmons(1)                                                                                                                My mother as a teenager

Patrick’s poem for my special day:

“BIRTH”

Slipping
ouT to
new woRld
Unknowing
Connecting
pasT
fUture
now tRuly
alivE and free

(Picture the capital letters as lined up under one another…this program would not hold the poem properly as written).

 

My morning message from Thich Nhat Hanh from Your True Home – “No Provenance.” He says,“All things have no provenance. They have not come from anywhere, because they are free from the ideas of being and non-being. They do not have to be born. They cannot be grasped by our notions, or discriminated by our mental categories. They have come from nowhere: they will go nowhere. There is no author or creator.
That is the true nature of reality. We can only touch and experience things when we are free from the concepts of birth and death, creator and created. All things have no provenance; therefore they have no birth. Because they have no birth, extinction cannot be found either. That is the way things are.”

I laughed when I read this message from my teacher on my birthday! My mother might disagree that I came from “nowhere” and that there was no “birth.” In the historical dimension, it was a very important day for her to see her first child born on her birthday. She would have been 106 if she had lived this long. Of course, there are historical events we mark and people who are individually very important to us. Our own birth and death seem to have particular significance to us.
But Thay’s teaching pushes my mind beyond these concepts to the other levels of reality in which I understand that all beginnings, including my own, are connected to a long line of beings, phenomena, ancestors. I will continue, as will everyone, into many future centuries, in many forms. It is comforting today to hear that I have no “provenance,” that I existed before my “birth” and will continue after my “death.” So, we Buddhists say, “Happy Continuation” to mark our “birth days.”

Thank you to all my family members and friends, to my sweet husband for his poem, to my brothers, mother, father and centuries of ancestors – and to all who are or ever have been or ever will be connected to me. We are one, all part of this amazing stream of LIFE!

 

 

Buddhas at Malihom

 

“We are aware that all generations of our ancestors and all future generations are present in us.” The joy, peace, freedom and harmony of our ancestors, our children and their children is ours, NOW. It works both ways – suffering passes from generation to generation, but so does the peace of one affect the peace of previous and future generations. This is the teaching on Inter-being of the Buddha, as transmitted to us in this generation by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dali Lama and other great teachers.

Scientists are now verifying what spiritual teachers have said for thousands of years. We have wondered how children who did not actually experience the Holocaust, genocide in Cambodia, war and poverty in Iraq and Gaza have suffered so much from their parents’ suffering. In an article I read yesterday, anthropologists have studied PTSD in children of Cambodians in Lowell, Mass, children who did not directly experience the Khmer Rouge but whose bodies, minds and spirits bear the marks of their parents’ torture. (See http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120144/trauma-genetic-scientists-say-parents-are-passing-ptsd-kids).

I have also personally experienced healing in my own body, mind and spirit from deep, generations-old suffering passed on to me from my ancestors and forward to children and grandchildren. Without the great suffering, how could we see this multi-generational healing? The suffering is necessary, Thay says, to develop the love and compassion, the motivation to practice deep listening and mindful speech now, knowing that it will help our mothers and fathers who didn’t have the tools of recovery and meditation that we now have. Their mothers and fathers and our beloved children and grandchildren benefit immediately also. Sometimes this healing is visible, tangible; sometimes it works at the level of DNA and gentle transformations in the synapses of our brains.

I still have the deep hope, shared by Martin Luther King, Gandhi, the Buddha, Thay and many others, that we can achieve peace in the world by bringing true peace to our own hearts and those of our families and loved ones. Peace is possible….NOW! The deep teaching about living in the present moment is that in this moment is EVERYTHING, all the past and future, all the joy and suffering interconnected.  We are so fortunate to know and practice this reality.

January’s moon revisits us tonight, April 17, 2011

We celebrate each full moon with a vow renewal ceremony we learned in Plum Village on a retreat. After a beautiful Touching the Earth ceremony with our sangha, the Washington Mindfulness Community, and two sitting meditation sessions, we came home and realized that we could end the day with our Full Moon Ceremony. Tonight’s full moon is very bright in a mostly clear sky with occasional clouds that lend even more mystery.

The ceremony is very simple and takes only a few minutes. We light a candle at the kitchen window with a view of the moon, sound the bell we were given by my son’s father as a wedding gift and recite the Five Awarenesses:

1. We are aware that all generations of our ancestors and all future generations are present in us.
2. We are aware of the expectations that our ancestors, our children, and their children have of us.
3. We are aware that our joy, peace, freedom and harmony are the joy, peace, freedom and harmony of our ancestors, our children and their children.
4. We are aware that understanding is the very foundation of love.
5. We are aware that blaming and arguing never help us and only create a wider gap between us, that only understanding, trust and love can help us change and grow.

The moon slides behind a cloud, but we are aware it is here, that we are here, interconnected.

Full Moon 1:4:15

Reposted 1-4-15

 

Clouds on the Andaman

 

Breathing in, I am aware of clouds in the sky; Breathing out, I am the clouds.

Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body;  Breathing out, I smile at my body.

Breathing in, I am aware of Thay resting and healing; Breathing out, I am grateful for him.

Breathing in, I know I am alive, Breathing out, I am home.

 

Our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh is leading us in a very special Winter Retreat (the customary three month period of intense practice for monks in their home monastery during the monsoon time).  Since November 1, he has been hospitalized in Bordeaux, so he is resting, staying in one place, attended by good doctors and the monks and nuns of Plum Village, receiving prayers and healing energy from around the world, connecting us all.  He is giving us a great example to follow, since breathing is his main activity.  He reminds us every day to breathe with awareness, to come back to the present moment, to allow our minds and our bodies to be together at that moment.  To be home wherever we are, whatever others are doing or saying.  To be home in our hearts, resting our minds, smiling.  His teachings help us transform our suffering into joy and freedom.

When you think of Thay, please take a moment to stop, take three breaths and smile.

For updated information on his progress, see http://www.plumvillage.org.