June 2020 Special Newsletter

Kindly share with all Sanghas in support of bringing peace, compassion, and understanding in these difficult times. 

Dear Beloved Community,
Meeting suffering where it is – a path to freedom.

Centering the lives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in our practices  meets the suffering where it is and offers a path to freedom.  ARISE full-heartedly supports the “Five Mindfulness Trainings, New Paradigm for Racial Justice and the Global Pandemic,” an offering by Marisela Gomez and Valerie Brown. ARISE encourages all Plum Village practitioners to read and practice these Five Mindfulness Trainings.  We invite you and your Sanghas to read, study, and practice them along with “How to Fight Without Hating: Lessons in Power and Love.”

Contemplations on the Five Mindfulness Trainings,
A New Paradigm For Racial Justice and the Global Pandemic

Marisela Gomez and Valerie Brown

Let us open to a new and deeper way of understanding the Five Mindfulness Trainings, guiding principles for mindful and ethical living, which call us toward individual and collective awakening, compassion, and peace.  We are aware that we are interconnected.  What happens in Wuhan, China affects people in New York City. What happens to the Black body affects all bodies. We are called forward.

The global pandemic is a gateway to suffering worldwide, disproportionately impacting Black people, indigenous, and people of color, who face poverty, sickness, displacement, and death.  They, we are not alone. Our lives and livelihood are interconnected. We are called forward.

We cannot exist independent of low wage workers, health care workers, un-housed people, single mothers, undocumented people, the unemployed and underemployed.  If one such person lives on the knife edge of racial, ethnic, social, structural, and systemic oppression and discrimination we are all affected. We are called forward.

The practitioner dwells in the now, recognizing equanimity and instability, discrimination and non-discrimination, ill-being and well-being, practicing right view and engaged through compassionate action.  Aware of the cycle of racial, ethnic, and social inequities and discrimination, we courageously turn to practice wholeheartedly. We are called forward.

Lighting a stick of incense, listening to the sutras, sitting upright and solid, palms joined, the practitioner looks within and in concentration the path and fruit of skillful action is revealed.  We are called forward.

Speak aloud these words with the sangha voice, a true river of understanding:

The First Mindfulness Training:  Acknowledging Beauty as Reverence for Life

Aware of the suffering caused by oppression and  generational harm based on racial,  cultural, social, and ethnic  inferiority and superiority and its resultant structures of injustices and harm, I acknowledge the beauty and violence inherent in life. I vow to resist being complicit in systems and structures that continue to perpetuate violence and hatred instead of reverence of life for marginalized groups. I recognize that  each person contributes to my individual and our collective awakening, and the co-creation of a world that celebrates  and affirms differences and similarities. All living beings can teach me something,  when I remember to pause, breathe, listen deeply  with a calm and open mind and heart, and ask myself: ‘is there more’ or  ‘ what else is here with me’’?’ I  honor  and respect  all life guided  by Right View and Right Energy. 

The Second Mindfulness Training: Belonging and Connecting as True Happiness

Aware of the suffering caused by ignorance and aversion of my own and other’s racial, ethnic, cultural, and social history, its legacy and how this affects me whether I am aware of it or not, I am committed to connecting to these histories. I know that turning toward these histories with an open heart is my journey of awakening to true belonging. I will take the time to learn the history of the racial and ethnic group with which I identify as well as for other socially constructed racial and ethnic groups. Aware that there is no genetic or biological difference between different racial and ethnic groups, and that these identities were constructed by one group to establish dominance over others, I will turn toward racial and other forms of othering with an open heart and compassionate action. I know that this history has led to fragmentation inside and outside body and mind and brought much suffering to all beings. I vow to transform this suffering through the practice of connecting with an open heart. I will notice when emotions of belonging and othering arise and I will ask myself ‘why’? Whatever feelings, perceptions, or mental formations arise, I will embrace and when needed engage with love in action. I am committed to practicing Right Resolve, Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood so I can help relieve this legacy of racial and social suffering.  I will practice looking deeply to see that true happiness is not possible without true connecting leading to belonging and understanding.

The Third Mindfulness Training: Cherishment as True Love

Aware of the suffering caused by discrimination and oppression, I vow to understand its roots within my consciousness and my body and the collective body of the sangha and larger society.  I vow to recognize the ways in which I have benefitted or not-benefitted explicitly or implicitly from systems and structures that foster discrimination and injustice.  I am aware of the legacy of violence, especially unlawful police violence, perpetrated against Black people, indigenous people, people of color, differently abled people, people of various gender identities and expressions and sexual orientation, and others who are marginalized. I acknowledge the lived experience of all people to deepen my capacity for understanding and for greater compassionate action.  I am aware that narrowly constructed, prevalent interpretations of intimate relationships constrain how we cherish each other in our expression of love, leaving many further isolated and alienated. I am committed to looking tenderly at my suffering, knowing that I am not separate from others and that the seeds of suffering contain the seeds of joy.  I am not afraid of bold love that fosters justice and belonging and tender love that seeks peace and connection.  I cherish myself and my suffering without discrimination.  I cherish this body and mind as an act of healing for myself and for others.  I cherish this breath.  I cherish this moment.  I cherish the liberation of all beings guided by the wisdom and solidity of the sangha. This is my path of true love.  

The Fourth Mindfulness Training: Vulnerability as Loving Speech and Deep Listening

Aware that vulnerability is the essence of our true nature, our humanness, I vow to risk listening and speaking non-judgmentally with understanding and compassion to alleviate suffering and support peace in myself and others.  I vow to live with empathy, compassion, and awareness and to listen for understanding rather than disagreement. When I’ve hurt others through my unskillful action or speech, I vow to practice making a good apology that acknowledges what I have done and offers sincere regret, knowing that this supports the other person and me. I am committed to speaking that aligns with my highest aspiration and encourages honesty and truthfulness.  I am committed to generous and courageous listening that bridges differences and supports understanding of others who may be different from me.  I am committed to taking meaningful steps to become a true instrument of peace and to help others to be the same. When I am not able to understand the experiences of others, I vow to come back to my breath and my body, and to offer myself gentle patience while learning to support myself in developing greater awareness and skill.  I vow to practice awareness of my beliefs, perceptions, and feelings, aversions, and desires and to take refuge in mindful breathing and in the sangha to support greater stability, peace, and understanding.  Through my practices of vulnerability, patience, forgiveness, and deeply listening, I know that my speech will be guided by love and understanding. Practicing in this way supports Right Speech and Right Action and guides me to Right Insight.

The Fifth Mindfulness Training: Welcoming as True Nourishing and Healing

Aware of the suffering caused by the consumption of an inadequate history of racial and ethnic forms of social segregation, I am committed to healing myself and the world by welcoming, and practicing with this awareness. I will notice how my thoughts, perceptions, feelings, words, and actions may have been influenced by this inaccurate history. I will look deeply to understand how both physical and mental health, for myself, my family, and my society have been influenced by embracing and denying this racial, social, and ethnic history of inferiority and superiority and its legacy of inequities and injustices. I will cultivate joy to support me toward individual and collective wholeness. I will practice mindfulness of the Four Kinds of Nutriments to become aware of how edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness are all influenced by this history. Practicing with Right Energy and Right Resolve, my Right Action of consumption will include awareness of certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations and how they continue to foster wrong perceptions of racial, ethnic, and social injustices. My understanding of interbeing supports my conscious consumption that sustains a healthy understanding of differences, one that does not oppress or discriminate. This Right Insight will preserve peace, joy, and bring healing in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth. To assure that my descendants do not live in a racially, ethnically, and socially unjust world, I commit to diligently practicing with true welcoming on this path to nourish and heal myself, the sangha, and society.

The Five Mindfulness Trainings keeps us centered in life’s storms and joys and reminds us that life is a precious gift. The Trainings are a path to liberation and transformation.  Practicing these Trainings supports us toward racial and ethnic reconciliation and social change and heals deep suffering. The Five Mindfulness Trainings  helps us cross this shore of suffering and brings us to the side of true awakening and love.

We are called forward.

How to Fight Without Hating: Lessons in Power and Love

by Valerie Brown

“Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love.”  – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Get in trouble: good trouble, necessary trouble.”  – Congressman John Lewis

As Black and Brown people, we are in the fight of our lives.  Our lives are constricted by systems and structures that foster discrimination, hatred, and injustice.  The legacy of violence, especially unlawful police violence, perpetrated against Black people, Asian people, indigenous people, people of color, differently abled people, people of various gender identities and expressions and sexual orientation, and others who are marginalized, is our constant reality. This is compounded by the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Asian, Latinx, immigrant, and low-income communities, which are among the hardest hit, grossly under-resourced, and devastatingly vulnerable.

Our hearts and our supports are broken open by grief, fear, and anger.  How do we fight injustice and not hate?  How do we fight injustice and support ourselves?  How do we deepen our resolve for a more just and equitable world in an unjust and inequitable world?

Recently, I attended a gathering of more than 600 Black and Brown people hosted by Liberate, an app designed to support mindfulness and mediation for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and BAME Black Asian and Ethnic Minorities).  https://liberatemeditation.com The speaker was Ruth King, an important figure in mindfulness community especially among BIPOC. She guided us through a powerful meditation, calling us to invite the power of our ancestors and descendents to guide, protect, and support us, and to engage our innate inner resources and resilience toward a strong and calm heart.

During the hour-long deeply healing and moving Zoom video conference session, an important question emerged from the chat: 

How do you fight injustice without hating?

Initially, I was intellectually intrigued by the question, which then settled in my own heart.

How do you fight injustice without hating?

In the Plum Village tradition of mindfulness meditation founded by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, hate is likened to seed that lies dormant in the consciousness of the mind, along with many other kinds of seed-like emotions, including despair, shame, indifference, openheartedness, warmth, delight, and many more. These seed-like emotions become ‘activated’ by thoughts, words, and actions of life’s daily events. For example, someone cuts you off in traffic; the seed of anger gets activated.  You have an uplifting conversation with a friend; the seed of gratitude is touched. We live our daily life this way. 

In Plum Village mindfulness practice, we learn to notice and become aware when these seed-like emotions are touched within us, to notice what the emotion feels like in the body, and to bring awareness to the feelings and bodily sensations, taking care of these emotions by calming and soothing the body and mind.

Taking care of the emotion of hate is an ongoing, daily, and moment to moment practice, especially now at this time when Black and Brown people are under attack from unlawful police violence, explicit and implict bias, and disparate treatment of Blacks during the COVID-19 health crisis.  As a Black woman, my daily practice is to notice the sensation of hate, which often feels like a flush of fire in my face that spreads across my chest to a dull pain in my heart.  I recognize that this sensation ripples outward in my body, in my words, and in my action. With this recognition and insight, I begin not only gain agency over my feelings, my words, and action, I recognize how I can support myself.

So, what is skillful action is required at a time of hate, fear, and violence?

Congressman John Lewis has said, “Get in trouble: good trouble, necessary trouble.”  These are times that call on us to get into ‘good trouble’, which eradicates unlawful police violence and oppression, which dismantles social conditions of health disparities among the most marginalized people, which challenges deeply discriminatory educational systems.   These ‘good troubles’ include taking to the streets in peaceful protests, exercising our right to vote, and bringing communities or color and others together to heal and to act.

As an individual and as a society, we have been given specific instruction from countless people who sacrificed their lives through the Civil Rights Era and other social movements in how to take compassionate action in the face of violence, anger, and fear.  We are instructed to meet police violence with non-violence.  We are instructed to meet racist structures and systems with diligence and with inner resilience born out of compassionate action.  We are instructed to meet hatred with an open heart and to cultivate heartfulness because love, compassion, kindness, and peace are bigger than a heart constricted by hate, discrimination and violence.

This is the skillful action toward radical change, now. This is an act of power rooted in love.

3 thoughts on “June 2020 Special Newsletter”

  1. Dear Arise Sangha,

    Your words are a balm to my soul. As always, I feel so grateful to be part of Thich Nhat Hanh’s community. Please, keep inspiring me to take Right Action with Right Love.

  2. Many thx. for this, for all the work, diligence and compassion
    that you bring, bringing the light of clarity to a clouded area.
    I will bring forward to our Sangha.
    Love Always Heals,

    With a deep bow,

    m x

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