Enjoy Your Practice
Practising All Day Long
To breathe in consciously is to know that the air is entering your body and to breathe out consciously is to know that your body is exchanging air. Thus you are in contact with the air and with your body, and because your mind is being attentive to all this you are in contact with your mind too; just as it is. It only needs one conscious breath to be back in contact with yourself and all around you and three conscious breaths to maintain the contact.
The bell, the telephone and the clock chimes are all wonderful sounds to help you practise. When you hear them, you can stop what you are doing and at the same time you can stop talking and even stop thinking. You just come home to the present moment. Enjoying three in-breaths and three out-breaths is the best way to listen to these wonderful sounds. You can smile; your practise is not so solemn.
Whenever you are not standing, sitting or lying down, you are going. But where are you going? You have already arrived. With every step you can arrive in the present moment, you can step into the pure-land or in the kingdom of God. When you are walking from one side of the room to the other or from one building to another, be aware of the contact of your feet with the earth and be aware of the contact of the air as it enters your body. It may help you to discover how many steps you can make comfortably for an in-breath and how many for an out-breath. As you breathe in you can say "in", as you breathe out you can say "out". Then you are practising walking meditation all day long. It is a practice, which is constantly possible and therefore has the power to transform our everyday life. Someone who walks mindfully is a bell of mindfulness for anyone who sees him or her.
One way to help us dwell in the present moment is to practise reciting gathas or mindfulness verses. When we practise with gathas, the gathas and the rest of our life become one and we live our entire lives in awareness. There are many gathas, you begin with one or two and learn more over time.
Hearing a Bell
This wonderful sound
Brings me back to my true self.
Joining Palms, Meeting Others
A lotus for you
A Buddha to be.
I have arrived, I am home
In the here, in the now
I am solid, I am free
In the ultimate, I dwell.
Eating in Mindfulness
We are very fortunate to have food to eat and we are even more fortunate to have the opportunity to eat with a community of practice as a part of our practice. To eat in mindfulness is of great spiritual benefit and of great benefit to our physical health. The rain, the sun and the green earth are in every mouthful of your food. Chew it well and eat with all your being; be aware of what you are chewing and do not let your mind be occupied by anything else. Take time to enjoy your meal and your community. Chew every mouthful at least thirty times so the saliva has a chance to aid the digestive process. Your constant attention and awareness is a way of showing gratitude for the food and gratitude for your brothers and sisters who are eating with you and supporting your practise of mindfulness. You can look at each other from time to time with compassion and smile. We shall wait for the whole community to be served before the bell is invited three times to start eating. The first 20 minutes we eat in silence. After a double sound of the bell we may talk, stand up or take more foods.
Sitting meditation is not to achieve but to be you and to smile. If your sitting position seems uncomfortable or incorrect please ask for advice. Do not be afraid to change your position mindfully and quietly while you are meditating if you notice that the discomfort of your position interrupts your meditation. After a short period of sitting meditation, there will be walking in the meditation hall. Every breath in should be accompanied by a step of your left foot and every breath out should be accompanied by a step with your right foot. When you return to your cushion and stand behind it, continue to enjoy your breathing, so that the sitting, standing and walking are all one act of mindfulness.
The Sangha Body
You are not in isolation. You are part of a limb of a body, the Sangha body, the community. Your joy and your sorrow are my joy and sorrow. Your transformation and your realisation of the practice are the transformation and the realisation of the other parts of the Sangha body. You are practising mindfulness for me and I am practising mindfulness for you. Even if you can not see me, I am still practising for you.
The best time for talking is during a dharma discussion. A Dharma discussion is a very deep practice and is always conducted in mindfulness. During such a discussion the talking should always have an air of great dignity, which is the result of our listening deeply. The rest of the time we do not need to talk very much.
The Silence that Heals
A period of deep silence is observed starting from the end of the evening sitting meditation until after breakfast the next morning. This is very healing. We allow the silence and the calmness to penetrate our flesh and bones. We allow the energy of the Sangha and its mindfulness to penetrate our body and mind. We go back to our tents or dormitory slowly, aware of every step. We breathe deeply and enjoy the stillness and the freshness. Let us not talk to the person walking by our side. She or he needs our support, too. We can stay alone outside with the trees and the stars for about ten minutes, then go inside to use the bathroom, to change and go to bed right away. Lying on our back, we can practice Deep Relaxation until sleep comes. In the morning, we move mindfully and silently, taking time to breathe, to go to the bathroom and then proceeding right away to the meditation hall. We do not have to wait for anyone. When we see someone along the path, we just join our palms and bow, allowing him or her to enjoy the morning the way we do.
The teachings can be a Dharma rain watering the seeds of your subconscious mind. If your conscious mind is trying too hard to remember, to compare and to achieve something, it becomes like the hardened earth. The Dharma rain will not be able to reach the depths of your soul. So let go and enjoy the rain. If you want to hear, your
concentration will arise naturally. You will be alert and attentive. Please arrive on time for the talks, enjoy your breathing before the talk begins and during the talk. Out of respect for the teachings and the teacher, you are asked to sit in a chair or on a cushion during the teachings and not to lie down.
Please remember that the five precepts are the very foundation of our being together here as a Sangha. Every week we recite the five precepts together to help strengthen that foundation. No smoking, no drinking and no sexual practice constitute part of the five precepts to be observed in a practice centre.
The Five Mindfulness Training
Reverence For Life: Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.
True Happiness: Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering; that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion; and that running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair. I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy. I am committed to practicing Right Livelihood so that I can help reduce the suffering of living beings on Earth and reverse the process of global warming.
True Love: Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.
Loving Speech and Deep Listening: Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.
Nourishment and Healing: Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.