We are All Mothers

Excerpt from “Living Buddha, Living Christ”  by Thich Nhat Hanh

The Buddha said that his Dharma body is more important than his physical body. He meant that we have to practice the Dharma in order to make nirvana available here and now. The living Dharma is not a library of scriptures or tapes of inspiring lectures. The living Dharma is mindfulness, manifested in the Buddha’s daily life and in your daily life, also.  When I see you walking mindfully, I touch the peace, joy, and deep presence of your being. When you take good care of your brothers and sisters, I recognize the living Dharma in you.

If you are mindful, the Dharmakaya is easy to touch.

The Buddha described the seed of mindfulness that is in each of us as the “womb of the Buddha” (tathagatagarbha). We are all mothers of the Buddha because we are all pregnant with the potential for awakening. If we know how to take care of our baby Buddha by practicing mindfulness in our daily lives, one day the Enlightened One will reveal himself or herself to us.

Buddhists regard the Buddha as a teacher and a brother, not as a god. We are all Dharma brothers and sisters of the Buddha. We also say that Prajñaparamita (Perfection of Wisdom) is the mother of all Buddhas.

Historically, in Protestant-ism, the feminine side of God has been minimized and God the Father has been emphasized, but in Catholicism, there is a great deal of devotion to Mary, the Mother of God. In fact, “father” and “mother” are two aspects of the same reality. Father is more expressive of the side of wisdom or understanding, and mother the side of love or compassion.

In Buddhism, understanding (prajña) is essential to love (maitri). Without understanding there cannot be true love, and without love there cannot be true understanding.

 

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Happiness is Freedom

Excerpt from “Loosening the Knots of Anger” by Thich Nhat Hanh

To be happy, to me, is to suffer less. If we were not capable of transforming the pain within ourselves, happiness would not be possible.

Many people look for happiness outside themselves, but true happiness must come from inside of us. Our culture tells us that happiness comes from having a lot of money, a lot of power and a high position in society. But if you observe carefully, you will see that many rich and famous people are not happy. Many of them commit suicide.

The Buddha and the monks and nuns of his time did not own anything except their three robes and one bowl. But they were very happy, because they had something extremely precious: freedom.

According to the Buddha’s teachings, the most basic condition for happiness is freedom. Here we do not mean political freedom, but freedom from the mental formations of anger, despair, jealousy and delusion. These mental formations are described by the Buddha as poisons. As long as these poisons are still in our heart, happiness can not be possible.

In order to be free from anger, we have to practice, whether we are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish. We cannot ask the Buddha, Jesus, God or Mohammed to take anger out of our hearts for us. There are concrete instructions on how to transform the craving, anger and confusion within us. If we follow these instructions and learn to take good care of our suffering, we can help others do the same.

Mindfulness does not fight anger or despair. Mindfulness is there in order to recognize. To be mindful of something is to recognize that something is there in the present moment. Mindfulness is the capacity of being aware of what is going on in the present moment. “Breathing in, I know that anger has manifested in me; breathing out, I smile towards my anger.” This is not an act of suppression or of fighting. It is an act of recognizing. Once we recognize our anger, we embrace it with a lot of awareness, a lot of tenderness.

When it is cold in your room, you turn on the heater, and the heater begins to send out waves of hot air. The cold air doesn’t have to leave the room for the room to become warm. The cold air is embraced by the hot air and becomes warm—there’s no fighting at all between them.

We practice taking care of our anger in the same way. Mindfulness recognizes anger, is aware of its presence, accepts and allows it to be there. Mindfulness is like a big brother who does not suppress his younger brother’s suffering. He simply says, “Dear brother, I’m here for you.” You take your younger brother in your arms and you comfort him. This is exactly our practice.

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The Five Awarenesses

Excerpt from “Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm” by Thich Nhat Hanh

Students of the Buddha are aware that life is one and that happiness is not an individual matter. By living and practicing awareness, we bring peace and joy to our lives and the lives of those related to us.

The First Awareness

We are aware that all generations of our ancestors and all future generations are present within us.

The Second Awareness

We are aware of the expectations that our ancestors, our children, and their children have of us.

The Third Awareness

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.

The Fourth Awareness

We are aware that understanding is the very foundation of love.

The Fifth Awareness

We are aware that blaming and arguing can never help us and only create a wider gap between us; that only understanding, trust, and love can help us change and grow.

 

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Get Up, Stand up

Excerpt from “Buddha Mind, Buddha Body” by Thich Nhat Hanh

About 150,000 years ago, humans began to stand up on their feet and their hands were liberated.  Once they liberated their hands, their brain began to grow very quickly.  Buddha nature is inherent in early man, even though the Buddha appeared on Earth on 2,600 years ago.  We learned from him that other Buddhas have appeared before him, like Buddha Dipankara and Buddha Kashyapa.

There is a race of human beings who are capable of generating the energy of mindfulness all day.  And we belong to that race, “conscious homo sapiens.”  We all belong the the family of the Buddha, because we are able to generate the energy of mindfulness that inhabits us twenty-four hours a day.  Buddhas are those creatures who live mindfully twenty-four hours a day.

In the beginning, we become part-time Buddhas, and as we continue to practice we become full-time Buddhas.  We learn not to discriminate because we understand that everyone has the seed of Buddha nature.  That is why we are free from racial discrimination.  And our practice is to help the Buddha nature manifest in as many people as possible, because collective awakening is the only thing that can bring us out of this present difficult situation.

After enlightenment the Buddha already knew that he had to share the practice with may others.  Buddha means “the awakened one,” the conscious one.  During the forty-five years of his ministry, the Buddha always tried to help other people to wake up, to be mindful.  He always taught that the path of mindfulness, concentration, and insight is the path of liberation, the path of happiness.

 

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Consciousness is like a House

Excerpt from “Touching Peace” by Thich Nhat Hanh

According to Buddhist psychology, our consciousness is divided into two parts, like a house with two floors.  On the ground floor is the living room, and we call this “mind consciousness.” Below the ground level, there is a basement, and we call this “store Consciousness.”  In store consciousness, everything we have ever done, experienced, or perceived is stored in the form of a seed, or a film.  Our basement is an archive of every imaginable kind of film store on a video cassette.  Upstairs in the living room, we sit in a chair and watch thee films as they are brought up from the basement.

Certain movies, such as Anger, Fear, or Despair, seem to have the ability to come up from the basement all by themselves.  They open the door to the living room and pop themselves into our video cassette recorder whether we choose them or not.  When that happens, we feel stuck, and we have no choice but to watch them.  Fortunately, each film has a limited length, and when it is over, it returns to the basement.  But each time it is viewed by us, it establishes a better position on the archive shelf, and we know it will return soon.  Sometimes a stimulus from outside, like someone saying something that hurts our feelings, triggers the showing of a film on our TV screen.  We spend so much of our time watching these films, and many of them are destroying us.  Learning how to stop them is important for our well-being.

Traditional texts describe consciousness as a field, a plot of land where every kind of seed can be planted – seeds of suffering, happiness, joy, and sorrow, fear, anger, and hope.  Store consciousness is also described as a store house filled with all our seeds.  When a seed manifests in our mind consciousness, it always returns to the storehouse stronger.  The quality of our life depends on the quality of the seeds in our store consciousness.

For us to be happy, we need to water the seed of mindfulness that is in us.  Mindfulness is the seed of enlightenment, awareness, understanding, care, compassion, liberation, transformation, and healing.  If we practice mindfulness, we get in touch with the refreshing and joyful aspects of life in us and around us, the things we are not able to touch when we live in forgetfulness.  Mindfulness makes things like our eyes, our heart, our non-toothache, the beautiful moon, and the trees deeper and more beautiful.  If we touch these wonderful things with mindfulness, they will reveal their full splendor.  When we touch our pain with mindfulness, we will begin to transform it.

Our consciousness is the totality of our seeds, the totality of our films.  If the good seeds are strong, we will have more happiness.  Meditation helps the seed of mindfulness grow and develop as the light within us.  If we practice mindful living, we will know hows to water the seeds of joy and transform the seeds of sorrow and suffering so that understanding, compassion, and loving kindness will flower in us.

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Inner Smile :)

Excerpt from post “Smile Into Your Organs” by Carole Fogarty

Smile into your organs and dissolve negative emotions:

In case you don’t know Chinese medicine believes there is a connection between your organs and emotions.    By simply giving your organs mindful attention and filling them with more healthy energy such as smiling and breathing (more oxygen and blood flow), you are in effect shifting emotional garbage trapped in your organs.  I can honestly say it does work.

Following is a simple explanation as to the emotions linked to your main organs.

1: Smile into your liver and dissolve anger:

Smiling into your liver can not only help dissolve anger and resentment but greatly assist with the decision making process.  Allow yourself to forgive, accept and feel kindness.

2: Smile into your kidneys and dissolve fear:

Feel safe, secure and protected in life again.  Breathe a smile into your kidneys, feel them soften on the inhalation and release fear and stress on the exhalation.

3:  Smile into your lungs and dissolve sadness or depression:

Fill your lungs on the inhale and totally empty them on the exhale.   Allow fresh new air to fill your lungs as you inhale the smiling energy.  Feel them relax and release any feelings of sadness and depression.

4:  Smile into your stomach and dissolve anxiety:

The stomach can often be a place where we hold lots of worry.  Smiling into your stomach can greatly help bring you into the present moment releasing worry and anxiety about the past and future.  Continue breathing the smiling energy into your stomach until it feels totally relaxed.  A relaxed stomach means improved digestion and a calmer you.

5: Smile into your heart and dissolve hate and impatience:

Smiling into your heart can help shift cruelty, hurt, hate and impatience.  Feel your heart fill with joy, kindness and compassion with each breath cycle.

6:  Smile into any body part:

Of course you can enjoy a quick 5 minute smiling break by breathing into any part of your body that is overworked, fatigued or stressed. Smile into your eyes if they are tired.  Smile into your jaw if you are clenching your teeth.  Smile into your shoulders if they are hunched and tight.  Smile into your feet if they are tired.  A smile encourages you to soften, release and improve energy flow.

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Rest in Center

From “Just One Thing” by Rick Hanson

Why?

Gravity and entropy are powerful processes in the natural world. Gravity draws things together, toward a center, while entropy scatters them into disorder. In much the same way, in our own lives, some things bring us to center, while others disturb and disperse us.

In terms of centering, be aware of your whole body as you take a long slow breath, or think of something you’re glad about. You’ll probably feel more at home in yourself, more drawn into your own core rather than feeling like Garfield the cartoon cat, spreadeagled up against a pane of glass.

In terms of feeling scattered, notice what it’s like to do multi-tasking, the mind drawn in several directions at once. Or what it’s like to open your email in-box and see twenty or more new ones calling to you. Walking down the street or through a mall, see how your attention moves out to various objects of desire: this attractive person, that shiny car, this pretty sweater, that cool new cell phone, and so on: for a few seconds at a time if not longer, you’re dispersed out and away from your calm, clear, autonomous center. And if you have any tendencies toward over-eating, -drinking, -sexing, -shopping, -etc., this dispersal gets more extreme.

Centered or scattered: it’s not a subtle distinction that’s just for yoga camp. When we feel grounded in a sense of center, we’re more resilient; it’s also harder to intimidate us with fear or manipulate us with greed. On the other hand, when we feel scattered, that’s stressful and thus bad for well-being and health. Plus it makes us more distracted and impulsive, and more prone to conflicts with others, and to compulsive or addictive behaviors.

When I’ve felt scattered, it wasn’t the end of the world. But it wasn’t good for me, or for others.

It feels a lot better to rest in center.

How?

Most of the inputs into your brain come from inside your own body, from your heart and lungs and other organs. Ancient structures in your brainstem and subcortex, such as the hypothalamus, begin the process of turning these signals into the fundamental feeling of what it’s like to be alive. Then more recently evolved regions of your brain – the insulas (or “insulae”) inside each of the temporal lobes on the sides of your head – refine these signals further into the embodied feeling of coherent, continuous be-ing. This primal sense of being a body is at the core of the stream of consciousness, and unless you are in extreme pain, tuning into it is immediately centering.

So follow the internal sensations of a single breath – the movements of the diaphragm just under your ribcage, the expansion and contraction of the chest, the coolness of inhaling compared to exhaling – and notice how this feels. Try this for ten breaths, counting them softly in your mind if you like. You could also be particularly aware of breathing in the area of your heart, or in the center of gravity of the body a few inches below your navel.

See if you can get a sense of your body as a whole, along with an attitude of acceptance, not judging. Doing this will tend to activate neural networks on the sides of your brain that support the sense of being peacefully present in the moment; it will also reduce activation in the “default network” running down the middle and top of your brain that fosters mind wandering and taking life too personally.

Fear tends to scatter the mind into frantic fleeing, fighting, or freezing, so as you tune into your body, register that you are basically alright right now . . . now and now and now . . .

Also tune into your good intentions, the goodness altogether at the core of you. Know your own benevolence, your compassion and kindness. This knowing is very centering.

Be aware of desires darting out into the world, reaching for this, pushing away that. Feel what it’s like to rest more in balance, present with life but not disturbed by compulsive desires. Open to a healthy disenchantment about the actual results of chasing this or going to war with that.

In upsetting situations or relationships, you could find refuge – a kind of center – in the answers to these questions: What’s really true? What matters most? What’s out of my hands? What are the most important things to do, and to be?

Even when we are anxious, sad, irritated, feeling inadequate, or depressed, there is a deeper place that is undisturbed. Awareness keeps working, the peaceful space in which experiences come and go. Deep down there is an inviolate wisdom, a “still, small voice” at the heart of you. To borrow a metaphor from The Lord of the Rings, no matter how thick and dark the clouds, stars are always still shining, filling empty space with light.

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