Friday, November 8, 2013

Sitting with Thich Nhat Hanh (2013)

Yogi David Ibrahim (, CC Liu, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly, time with Thay, Oct. 20, 2013
Thich Nhat Hanh (R) with peace activist and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when Christians and Buddhists worked together for peace, justice, and an end to racism.
Bell rings. "Breathing in, I feel tension; breathing out, I release."

​People are so busy today we do not live anymore. We suffer. But compassion (karuna, active efforts to help others out of friendliness, kindness, love) heals. It can even heal chronic inflammation in the body. 
Caretakers must listen to the suffering of many people. If they do not know how to nourish themselves -- to nurture, heal, create joy, and happiness for themselves and those around them -- then there is no source of nourishment to continue. One tires from being touched by other people's suffering, never regenerating their own. We need to produce the energy of compassion, which is an energy like light. We are like plants being energized, like suns brightening worlds. Every breath and every mindful step helps us produce it.
​ We all need moments of joy and contented happiness or we will not have enough material to feel compassion. And without nourishing, how can we heal? We may need to learn how to produce that energy daily or risk running out. Compassion is a life force. It is goodness. But we need to learn how to generate it daily to take care of ourselves and by extension others.

We run out of it because we are tired and draining without replenishing. Everyone experience suffering (dukkha, discontent, disappointment, lack of fulfillment, woe), anger, and despair. But most of us do not have time to take care of the pain. Do we have time for the pain? Apparently. We do not have time for self-care, which means we must have time for the pain. We feel it unpleasant to "waste" time caring for ourselves. What are we afraid of?
We are afraid of are own pain, that we will be overwhelmed by it. So we run from it, even in thought. We cannot block the pain, so we block the very thought of it. We will not "indulge" in self-care! If we eat, it might not be out of hunger but to stuff or stifle our pain, to cover it up. We have an inner loneliness. 

Reading magazines, gossiping, fascination with celebrity -- this is our entire civilization. We run and run from themselves. They (we) have no time to heal themselves or others. We must run. If we never learn or take the time to heal ourselves, how are we really helping others? Martyrdom, resentment, robotic behavior?
"How can I run?" That becomes the real question. What can I immerse myself in? Parenting? Gadgets? Volunteering? Drinking? TV? TV, the ultimate time dump.

American kids use electronics more than eight hours a day. Parents in the US are "busy," always busy, too busy to care about themselves or others. Home and work are falling apart, but workaholism is also a popular distraction. We are overworked, and nearly everyone is undercompensated. Where can we find refuge? Videogames? Weed? Weightwatchers?

We are not immune to toxic conversations -- news of neighbors and faraway strangers, news filled with despair. We take in and take in these toxins. Even an hour is too much, but it's not nearly enough. We fill our brains with toxins until they're overflowing. Suffering grows in us.

How do we handle it? In other words, how do we heal ourselves?

There is no one close to ask, as two people who suffer can hardly communicate. In anger, we block communication. "I can hardly bear to look at you; how am I to speak?!" So what time is there for family, for "us," for anything but me? But I will not even take time for that most precious person, the one I know best, the one I wake up with every single

But, but, but...
There is a popular belief that happiness is impossible without enough money or social recognition. So in our desire for happiness, we run after objects of our craving. We chase them, hunt them down, and claim we'll do anything to get them. Happiness is not possible. Who has time? We're too busy running, but this time chasing as we run.

We harm body and mind. When is there time to heal, to nurture? Maybe in the hospital, maybe when the body finally says, "No!" Dr. Gabor Mate warned about this well in advance, but what time did we have to listen?

We think money cures insecurity and fear. We live in fear of fear. We are even afraid of the problem itself, which soon becomes stress, the great debilitator and exterminator of happiness.

If only we could learn compassion to make energy! That would protect us far better than money!

The Buddha had a benefactor who was very generous and conscientious. He gave, he supported others (even the poorest, a practice after which he was given the name Anathapindika), he provided for strangers in need and friends. But he went bankrupt. His friends, and he had many, helped him rebuild his fortune. The Buddha helped teach business leaders. Why? We can be happy and successful here and now -- with compassion. We can learn to go home, here and now, learn happiness right here and right now, learn to live happily in the present moment. (There never is any other moment after all. As Thich Nhat Hanh's special watch says where we expect to find numbers to tell us the time, "Right Now").
​ How to balance life and work? If we work until we are sick, we may end up using all our earning to make ourselves well again. We could have done it ourselves, but we like writing checks to Big Pharma and big medical institutions. We must. We do it enough.

Buddhism asks us how we walk from the parking lot to work, which may be say 300 feet (100 meters). We cannot take the car into the office or we surely would: we would drive up to desks or machinery and reach out of the window like we were reaching for extra fries and a sugar-loaded soda.

Do we walk quickly or take our time, living now, mindful of every step? We think and think, and our minds race when we could be focusing on our in breath and out breath, which are only ever happening right now. Come into the present moment. "Be here now" rather than later. Arrive in the here and now. The past is past and gone. The future is future and not here. All nourishment is in the now, the present moment, this moment. It does not pass. It is always now; look at the watch.

Why not live as if this were life rather than a dress rehearsal for life? What if this were life? Can you imagine how silly we would feel to have been putting it off as if life would be lived later, and later, and later, always in the future?

Our appointment with life is the here. It's right now.
Touch the wonder of life. What wonder? Walk like a buddha, with the bearing of a healer, with every step. We train ourselves to walk. Who else could train us? Others only advise. Only we can break the habit of running.

Only we can keep the present moment in mind without leaving it behind. Maybe our parents could? Maybe our bosses? Maybe our underlings? Maybe our spouse? Maybe our god, gods, angels, and idols?

Who will train us in the Dharma (the path to liberation)? A book, a teacher, a good friend (kalyana mitta) might advise, but we would have to walk the way. Walk. Don't run.

Walk. Every mindful step is healing. Every mindful step is nourishing...

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