Walking mindfully, walking peacefully

Walking Mindfully, Walking Happily

It’s March 2017, SXSW week in Austin. A week bustling with thousands of participants trying to get to their coffee, their meetups, their conferences, screenings, and social gatherings in time.

It’s also the week of the premiere of “Walk With Me“, a documentary about monastic life in the mindful communities founded by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Seven monastics flew in from France and Deer Park, California to support the movie. In the middle of the chaos of the Austin Convention Center, they led an hour of mindful walking. An action to nurture a sense of peace, presence and love to the event.

I joined once. I was excited to walk with the monastics in a setting so different from our usual private Sunday Sangha.

When I returned a second time, it was because I was so moved by the first experience.

I feel so touched to see random people ask if they can join our walk. I see them invite friends to walk with them, happy to talk about what mindfulness means to them. I feel delighted to see dozens of new smiling faces carefully take a step, then another, focusing on their breath, feeling their feet touch the Earth. We walk as a river, balancing our individual footsteps with the pace of the community.

“Happiness is here and now

I have dropped my worries

Nowhere to go, nothing to do

No longer in a hurry.

 

Happiness is here and now

I have dropped my worries

Somewhere to go, something to do

But I don’t need to hurry.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

I am moved by how inspiring we can be when we offer our suggestions with Santa Claus energy: “Hohoho, wouldn’t life be more wonderful if you joined me for mindful walking?”

​​If we share what is important to us with an openness to hear a ‘no, I believe we are more likely to get a ‘yes’. Without the force of demand energy, our childlike excitement to share what we imagine is helpful to others becomes contagious.

What can you offer with Santa Claus energy? Which gift can you contribute to the buffet of life-enriching choices?

Let me know. I’m curious to read your special offering.

Reverence for life and the death penalty

“Because all manifestation has both an individual an collective aspect, it would not be correct to say that a young man in prison bears the whole responsibility for his crime. He is the product of his family, his schooling, and society. If we look deeply, we may find that when he was younger, his parents often fought and caused each other and their child to suffer. Perhaps he was abused. Lacking love, lacking education, he tried to forget himself in drugs. With drugs, his ability to make good choices diminished even further. Committing a crime was the result.

Looking deeply, we see that the conditions for this young man’s actions did not arise only from his own mind and experiences. All of us bear some responsibility for creating the conditions that led him into the cycle of crime and addiction. If we only condemn or punish him, it will not help. People use drugs because they are in pain and want to run away from life. Putting someone who is suffering like this in prison is not the way to solve the problem. There has to be love and understanding, some means to bringing him back to life, offering him joy, clarity, and purpose.“ Thich Nhat Hanh, Understanding Our Mind.

Image courtesy to pbs.orgWednesday evening, September 10, 6 pm CST, Texas State killed Willie Trottie. Because he killed his ex-girlfriend Barbara Canada and her brother Titus.

I joined my Sangha to sit as a silent witness at the steps of the State Capitol in honor of our first mindfulness training: Reverence for Life. “Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivate 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.”

I thought of offering myself as a replacement of the convict to take an active stand against executions as a strategy for safety. I thought about it a long time. Then I realized that I would be terrified, panicked, and anguished in the certain prospect of death. I am too attached to life, and too averted to pain and suffering. Instead of peace, trust, love, openness, and understanding of impermanence and interbeing, I would offer fear and terror. I am pretty sure that would not help.

I think the only thing that helps is practicing compassion, understanding, love, and mindfulness in our thoughts, speech, and actions. For ourselves, for our beloved ones, for our not so loved ones, and for our society. So that we would help create a society where everyone receives so much support, acceptance, belonging, understanding, and compassion, that no one needs to kill to get their needs met.

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You want help to practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.

Are you sure?

My Dharma teacher from our Plum Blossom Sangha invites everyone to sit or walk in a healing and appreciation meditation for our beloved teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. He has been seriously sick for three weeks and only started eating some yoghurt two days ago.

Image courtesy to www.mindfulnessretreats.org.ukTears spring in my eyes as I realize we might lose him. I feel sadness, fear, and grief about the anticipated loss. I decide to meditate outside on the deck, where the bougainvillea blooms abundantly. That will help me celebrate Thich Nhat Hanh’s contribution to the world, and understand and accept the impermanence of life.

As soon as I sit, it starts to rain, while the sun continues to shine exorbitantly. Cloud, rains, and sunshine at the same time. Just like I experience joy, sadness, and appreciation at the same time.

The Buddha taught his students one important question: “Are you sure? Are you absolutely sure?”

I remembered that question when I felt angry and frustrated a few days ago. I went for a walk and told myself “I feel angry and frustrated”. Then it dawned on me, was I sure?

Magic happened.

Sure, I still felt anger and frustration, I still had all these enemy images racing through my mind. I still felt adrenaline pumping through my hands.

And, I felt something else. A sadness about the conflict and disconnect. A joy about all the positive things in our relationship. An openness to and compassion for my partner.

Are you sure?

I feel sadness and fear with the thought of Thich Nhat Hanh dying. And I feel trust that his energy, presence, and teachings are always available to me. And gratitude and relief that I found him and my Sangha to support me on my path of mindfulness. And a solidity within myself that nothing is lost, nothing gained, that there is just a constant change in the manifestation of life.

Are you sure?

You might like to ask yourself that question once in a while.

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You want help to connect more deeply to the fullness of your experience? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.

Dear Thay

Image courtesy to Wikimedia“Dear Venerable Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Dear Beloved Teacher Thay,…”

Even thinking about writing a letter to Thay to ask him to accept me as an aspirant member in the Order of Interbeing brings tears to my eyes. I feel so moved to approach him directly.

My hero, my role model, my anchor point in times of trouble, my light at the end of the tunnel, my hope and encouragement.

In this moment of despair and my inability to open my heart to my suffering, I feel so deeply moved to know that support is available, that I have a path through this moment of grief, sadness and pain.

Just sitting here and thinking about my letter to Thay, asking him directly for help on my path of mindfulness and compassion, telling him how much I want to be able to hold all suffering, all pain -my own, as well as those of others- touch the seeds of hope and trust. I enjoy feeling the gentle touch of my tears rolling down my cheeks.

None of my troubles have been resolved yet, I still feel my loneliness and grief, and I feel relieved to be in touch with these feelings. This rawness, this tenderness, is such a better place to be in, than this constricted wall around me.

“Dear Thay, I write to you with so much reverence, so much appreciation, and so much respect for your teachings in this world. My life has changed profoundly ever since I attended your retreat in 2008, and I started reading your books. My understanding and skillfulness has deepened so much since I started to practice with my beloved Plum Blossom Sangha. I know that this path helps me to transform my suffering and sorrow into love, joy, and harmony. I trust that this transformation will benefit all beings, my family, my friends, my society. I love you.”

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You want help to find your source of support and encouragement? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.

Isn’t it wonderful to have a community?

CommunityA community that supports you in your practice, and encourages and inspires you to continue your efforts? A community that shares the same values and aspirations? Whether it is your AA, my weightlifting, our Sangha, their church, his soccer club, any community that celebrates your successes and your failures is wonderful.

Thich Nhat Hanh once said that the next Buddha is not gonna be an individual, it’s gonna be a Sangha. A community that awakens to enlightenment and helps relieve suffering.

The essence of community is a sense of belonging

For me belonging means that, however I show up, I am seen and accepted for who I am. I find that in my Sangha. Whether I come in grumpy, irritated, peaceful, happy, sad, lonely or scared, I always receive the same kind of love and welcome. It is even irrelevant who is there. It is the Sangha as a body, that bids me welcome. This welcoming is not limited to me, everyone who shows up is greeted with the same level of warmth. Whether you have ADHD, mental health challenges, alcoholic issues, struggles in your marriage, failing grades at school, whether you are black, brown or white, young or old: everyone is embraced with the same kind of excitement, just because they show up to practice together.

Strong communities support autonomy

There is more to strong communities. Yesterday I wrote about differentiation. The ability to balance your needs for togetherness and autonomy.

I claim that our Sangha is differentiated.

This morning I talked with Nhu-Mai about my intention to become an aspirant member of the Order of Interbeing. She encouraged me to use my time as an aspirant member to check in with myself whether being a member of the Order of Interbeing really resonates with me. Whether that is my heart’s desire, and honors the flow of my life. She told me that there is no shame, no punishment, no exclusion if I realize during my period as an aspirant member I don’t want to be ordained. My clarity will be celebrated. Whether the clarity is that I don’t want to commit, or do want to commit, I will belong and accepted.

I feel touched and impressed.

I am part of a community where my need for togetherness is nurtured, and my need for autonomy.

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Contact me if you want to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help you with your practice 512-589-0482

Generating energy

IMG_3074Life isn’t a business to be managed, it is a mystery to be lived

I breathe in

I indulge in the beauty of my view. It is like a big movie screen of nature. Trees, rocks, the hill. A blue sky, full with birds. I haven’t seen this many birds in a long time.

I breathe out

I feel so grateful. That I have this opportunity to sit and watch the trees, the sun, the birds. That I have fingers that can write. That I have friends who support and encourage me. Who see the beauty of my essential Elly-ness. “Humble and excited”, that’s what my friend saw in me as I talked about the small, successful steps I’m taking in expanding my business.

I breathe in

A bird catches a butterfly. The butterfly flies off. The bird catches up with him. It takes him a full minute to succeed eating him.

I breathe out

Such a spaciousness. Such a joy to be alive. No where to go, nothing to do. Just sitting here, and enjoying life, my breath, this moment.

I breathe in

I have finally decided to ask my Sangha if they will accept me as an aspirant member in the Order of Interbeing. I have been contemplating this choice ever since I first saw Thich Nhat Hanh. I have always postponed it. I don’t have enough time, it is too big a commitment, I am not mindful enough.

I breathe out

All of those thoughts might be true, my Sangha might not even accept my application. That is fine with me. It is not about the result, it is about the excitement of making a choice. Of freeing the energy stuck in thinking about a choice, and taking a step.

I breathe in

It might not be the right path. I might get stuck. The path might not lead anywhere. But it still is a path, and I am moving. I am creating an opportunity to learn, and get feedback for the consciousness and choices I make.

I breathe out

My dad told me to get into action. To get away from my desk, designing my business. To call anyone who might have an interest working with me. He is a wise man. It helped so much. To take a step and learn from it.

I breathe in

I am ready to climb a tree. For the fun of it. Life isn’t a business to be managed, it’s a mystery to be lived (Osho, Zen Tarot).

I breathe out

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Playing mindfulness

She sits quietly, reverently. Almost solemnly. She picks up the mallet to invite the bell to ring. As she gently strikes the bell, I giggle. Out of the blue. I am tickled by the thought that we are playing mindfulness. Our playground is the Sangha, and sitting meditation is the game. We take our game seriously. When kids play hide and seek, they try to be super quiet, so that no one can find them. If they are discovered, they run as fast as they can back to base, before the seeker can tap them. And then they play again. And again. And again. There is no winning and losing, there is just playing.

We adults play mindfulness. We bow when we enter the room. We bow when we sit down, we bow when we get up. We bow when we serve tea. We bow when we drink tea. We bow to our teachers. We bow before we go home. We bow to our thoughts and label them “thinking”. We bow to our attention as we go back to our breath. We sit on a cushion and bow to everything that arises. To our entanglement in our thoughts, our presence, our breath. We bow in gratitude, and start over again when we’re lost. There is no winning and losing, there is just playing.

We once did a variation on this game. We were offered pen and paper and invited to write down our thoughts as they arose. I scribbled non-stop. “How much money do I have left?” “What is 38°F in Celsius?” “What should I write in my next blog?” Habitual thoughts, important thoughts, irrelevant thoughts.

My neighbor didn’t write down anything. I got anxious. Scribbling “I’m not mindful enough.” I got envious. Scribbling “My neighbor has a calm mind, and mine is stuffed with thoughts.” I got confused. Scribbling “Which game are we playing? Being mindful of whatever is present, or wining the competition of having the emptiest mind?” I giggle. There is something funny when games turn into competition. The fun is lost, there is just striving for winning. Scribbling “I rather have fun playing mindfulness, than be the best of my Sangha.”

Day 4 Rejection Therapy

Day 4 of my Rejection Day: Today I felt a deep pang of pain in my stomach as I was talking with a friend. I realized how scared I was of rejection, and how I didn’t dare to speak up. Then I asked “Are you sure?” “Are you sure you’re scared?” “Are you sure you might be rejected?”

And I realized: No, I am not. There is some softness besides the pain, some openness to this other human being, some interest in his experience. And I am not so much scared, as just having a woozy feeling in my lower belly. Those are not the same. There is more to me than the fear, more to me than my habitual ways of thinking, more to me than my limitations. There is always this rich fullness of my physical sensations, emotions, thoughts, needs and values, this wholeness of “me”.

Thank you brother Chan Huy, teacher of my Plum Blossom Sangha for asking this question. http://www.mindfulcoachingclinic.com/