In preparations for our Earth Protection Weekend at Deer Park in April we were reflecting and sharing how to frame our practice for the time together. In my mind it became clear to which extent I take refuge in the teachings of the Four Right Efforts (one of the Noble Eight Fold Paths) and Five Powers (also faculties). In the sharing we posted last here on the blog, you heard me share about the treasure map. Now you have a chance to see it!
For our personal transformation and our collective awakening it is essential to become aware of what we are nurturing in our mind. There are countless seeds/potentialities/experiences in our consciousness, which has both individual and collective aspects. Our practice is based in gardening, cultivation and the insight that what we nurture will grow. The Buddha taught that everything needs food/nourishment to live. So to recognize and nurture our happiness, peace, sense of belonging, gratitude and other wholesome seeds every day support our transformation. Like any gardener knows we also tend the garden by taking out the weeds. The weeds/our unwholesome mental formations (the seed has manifested in our mind consciousness) is our sadness, fear, stress, anger and so on. We are making peace with these qualities within us, but we do not let them take over our mind and life. We allow them to settle back into the soil of our consciousness (store consciousness). Mindfulness of breathing and walking is essential for me to put this into practice, to have a stable anchor in the process of allowing the weeds to settle.
The path of Right Effort also invites us to recognize clearly what are the qualities/energies in us that cause us to suffer, our unwholesome habit energies. I mentioned in the sharing that a great fear in me is the fear of pain and suffering. That pain also includes the suffering of being left out, of being excluded, of being ostracized. When we can touch the present moment deeply, whether in nature, with a loved one or in any other situation we feel deeply connected, we feel that we belong. These experiences help us catch a glimpse of interbeing, of our nature of connectedness. This is who we are, what we are, no wonder there is fear of being removed and out of contact with our nature. Our Teacher has taught us for decades that there is not way to peace, peace is the way. So in our practice of healing ourselves, our society and the Earth, healing and the insights of belonging and interbeing has to provide our path. We have already ventured into the arena of the Five Powers.
The Five Powers are preceded by the Five Faculties, which are like power plants, all renewable, enabling us to generate confidence, diligence, mindfulness, concentration and insight. These develop into spiritual powers. In the sharing I also touched on especially confidence and diligence (another name for right effort). Naturally our mindfulness and concentration develops and deepens as we commit ourselves to come back to the present moment. We do not allow our wandering mind be in charge of our life anymore. We come back to ourselves and learn to care for the garden of our mind. The energy of mindfulness already has concentration and insight in it and the process of practice is very natural. The energy of mindfulness helps us be in contact with what is going on in us and around us in the present moment. It also has healing and friendly components, mindfulness does not have enemies nor hold judgment.
The area I am most interested in is to more clearly understand how transformation and change take place. In my own life there came a time when eating meat and drinking alcohol, just wasn’t an option any more. There was no feeling of loosing anything and no strong determination was needed. Due to cultivation there just wasn’t any space for this in my life. I had seen and experienced the suffering it caused, so letting go was a blessing. In the same way we can see that a flock of deer or sterlings all of a sudden decide to head off for the water hole or to change direction. This is preceded by several indications of intention from many members in the group. The shift happen naturally and seemingly suddenly, but is a continuation, it does not come from nowhere. This helps me to deepen my insight of how people and life transform, which in turn help me solidify my confidence in the basic daily practice and be diligent in participating in and serving my community. I don’t have to look around, worrying about the suffering and destruction in the world, fearing what will happen, speculating how to make a big impact, I just come back to my in breathe and my out breath, there is a path for us to enjoy walking on. We need to be aware of the suffering caused by human activity, so that our compassion can be touched. From the springing up of compassion we have the courage to look deeply to see how we can commit ourselves to act in our lives, our families, our society and beyond. We do not live as a separate individual anymore, we are part of the web of life. With this experience our actions of thinking, speaking and acting can have more love and care infused in them. When we have a path to walk on we do not have to be afraid anymore. Let’s continue walking together in joy, peace and togetherness.