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Community Gleanings

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  • 16 Apr 2018 5:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to Jacqulyn Schuett for this sharing


    Sharp sounds of the han emanating from the meditation hall’s back porch invited everyone to gather around the site of the Great Cloud Refuge, FCM’s soon-to-be-built residential home. The patch of dirt that was once the caretaker’s cottage was surrounded by colorful prayer flags and on the east side stood an altar with four clear bowls of water. Participants heard the han quicken to a flurry of piercing sounds and come to an abrupt stop. Then came the more familiar sound of the large temple bell as the ceremonial procession emerged from the meditation hall.

    Incense led the way for our teacher, four monastic guests and five FCM members who followed, carrying beautiful consecration vessels. Members of the procession offered incense on behalf of the entire community as the vessels were placed on the outside altar. A prayer of gratitude acknowledged the people of the past who have used the land and expressed the aspiration to bring benefit to the ones in the future who will inhabit the grounds – that they, and the beauty of the Refuge may contribute to the harmony of the neighborhood and the world. The community joined Fred in reciting The Three Refuges – the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Using the bowls of water that had been offered on the altar and long-stemmed red roses, blessings were bestowed on the site by Brother Radiant, Brother Dharma Emptiness, Sister Flower Adornment and Sister True Practice.

    While the community chanted the Heart Sutra, the monastics accompanied Angie, Betsy, Fred, Sam, Rich and Alex as the four blue treasure vessels were placed in the ground at the four corners of the future Refuge and the fifth one, larger and adorned with butterflies, was lowered into the ground at the center of the site. Inspired by the words of Patrul Rinpoche, Fred offered a most beautiful dedication prayer affirming the heartfelt intention for transformation and liberation to be realized through this Refuge and the continuing efforts of the Florida Community of Mindfulness. Then aspirations written by members of the community filled the air as they were read simultaneously from the four corners. The words ‘may we be well’ concluded the ceremony with everyone joining Tim Hamm for the Metta Song.

    April 8 marked the auspicious occasion of the Great Cloud Refuge Consecration Ceremony. Our community had the good fortune to host the Board of the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation at just the time when a ceremony was planned. The lay and monastic board members provided a tangible connection to the greater Plum Village Community. The connection to the Tibetan stream of Dharma was heard as Fred read his adaptation of Patrul Rinpoche’s dedication prayer. A few people noted another, perhaps, auspicious sign when the colorful and gilded ceramic incense bowl cracked as Fred read the prayer.

    Countless hours, gifts and acts of generosity led up to this beautiful ceremony. In the days preceding the ceremony many precious articles were left at the Center to be placed in the consecration vessels – small Buddhas, tiny prayer flags, precious gems and semiprecious stones. People made tiny scrolls of miniature copies of sutras and Buddha images. The aspirations shared by sangha members were sweetly calligraphed so that they would be exquisitely articulated within the vessels. On Saturday the meditation hall was cleaned and prepared. The grounds were groomed and the flags were hung. The precious objects and little scrolls were delicately placed in treasure vessels with reverence and deep aspiration.

    Early Sunday the outdoor altar and its adornments were completed as the tech team positioned the sound equipment. At the same time, the vessels were beautifully sealed with copper by skilled mindful hands and brought to the altar in the meditation hall so members of the community could meditate in their presence – offering their energy and intentions for what Great Cloud will become.

    During his Dharma talk just before the ceremony, Brother Radiant referred to the beloved community. All who shared in and contributed to this experience know the preciousness of ‘the beloved community.’ Deep gratitude to the Three Jewels and to our dear teacher.


  • 31 Mar 2018 4:02 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to Chris Witrak for this sharing


    The Deconstructing World of Self retreat in January was my first FCM retreat, and the experience was life-changing. I had already taken the first Deconstructing the Myth of Self intensive in the fall, and Fred’s Dharma talks during the retreat on how the self tries to claim everything really accentuated how pervasive the self can be in our lives. Seeing it this way also made it clear that day-to-day living would be much easier and less stressful if I let go of attaching to the self and not get entangled in emotionality and likes and dislikes. Thanks to the teachings and the retreat, I now have a clearer understanding of what it means to practice letting go of the self, which has brought much peace and emotional healing to my life.


    Throughout the retreat, we had question-and-answer periods with Fred. These sessions provided me with some of the most important insights from the retreat. It became clear that many of us – myself included – had built up in our minds that the self was this big enemy that needed to be subdued. Fred clarified that the self is essentially just a small voice chirping in your head, which made the idea of putting down the self seem much less difficult. Another individual also asked if he should totally let go of self and everything that it claims, and Fred affirmed to just let it all go. I realized that part of the practice with non-self was simply being willing to just put the self down without overthinking. I also felt instant relief because I let go of goals and ideas that I believed I needed to be happy but just caused stress and weren’t necessary in any sense.


    During one question-and-answer period, Fred provided a very brief thought exercise to show how the self has no real, permanent substance, and this brought about a light-bulb moment. We were discussing the self and its need for approval, and he asked who or what is it that cares if you walk into a room and no one notices you. He pointed out that the body doesn’t care; it’s just the self in the mind that cares. I then realized that I, me, mine is no more real than the idea of a unicorn, and like letting go of the idea of a unicorn, I can just let go of the idea of self. For thoughts such as “I like or want x, y, or z,” I had only been letting go of the x, y, or z part but not really letting go of the first half of the thought. I was trying to push away the I, me, mine, causing unnecessary drama and making things worse instead of just putting it down and coming back to the present moment.   


    Fred also discussed what it meant to take refuge in the Three Jewels, which I had only heard mentioned briefly before at various times. The idea of taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and trusting them as guides for life initially brought up feelings of resistance since I had negative feelings toward the religion of my upbringing. By the end of Fred’s discussion on the topic, however, I had no concerns about taking refuge. Fred pointed out that taking refuge is not some dogmatic adherence to a belief system and that we’re always taking refuge in something anyway as a guide for living our lives – which is usually the self. He also pointed out that it makes sense to take refuge in a path and teachings formulated by someone who has already found a way out of suffering rather than in the self that has caused the messes in the first place.  I thought to myself, “Well, when you put it that way…” I didn’t see any need to try and reinvent the wheel either. I experienced the value of taking refuge in the Sangha in a deep way during the retreat as well. In addition to the questions asked by other brothers and sisters, also hearing about their experiences made my struggles seem less unique and less daunting. I’ve heard before that the more personal something is the more universal it is, and this proved to be true, helping me feel more connected with others.  


    Since the retreat ended, practicing with letting go of the self when it arises has not only made day-to-day living easier, but it has also made it easier to figure out where emotional healing work needs to be done. Anytime I continually get caught on I, me, mine and in grasping and aversion in a certain area, I look more deeply at this part of my life to try and find why I can’t let go of identifying with the self in this instance. Fred and others have helped me look at these issues and show me where or why I’m getting caught, and I’ve already let go of several unhelpful assumptions and beliefs that I had not really been conscious of before. Sometimes doing this investigating and letting go stirs up strong emotions, but knowing that the emotions and the I, me, mine that gets attached to them aren’t “me” or anything permanent has made it much easier to do the work of healing emotional wounds and letting them go.  


    Thank you to Fred and everyone who organized and attended the retreat for a wonderful experience and the opportunity to deepen my practice.


    Bowing,


    Chris


  • 19 Mar 2018 4:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to Brandy Kidd for this sharing


    For many years and for various reasons, I did not go on retreats. There were times when my children were younger and I didn't feel at ease being away from them; there were times (and still are) when it wasn't in my budget or when work demands made it (seemingly) impossible. When I can't go, I watch the YouTube videos that are recorded for those of us unable to attend the retreat in person. I appreciate it that this opportunity is always provided and I've been enriched by what I've learned from those videos.


    That being said, I also say this: if at all possible, attend the retreat in person!


    Perhaps you think I'm saying this because it's such a luxury to go on retreat. Often when friends and family members hear that I'm going on retreat, they seem to envision plush robes and steam rooms with new age music piped in from the great beyond. I hear a lot of "oh, how I would LOVE to get away from it all!"


    On the other end of the spectrum are those who look upon me with an expression that ranges from squinty-eyed dismay to wide-eyed, eyebrows-raised panic: "Four days without looking at your phone or computer?? What if someone needs you?? What if something happens??" or "Four days without talking! I could never do that! I'd go crazy!"


    But the real reason I say "Go!" is this: the process of being on retreat works hand-in-hand with what one learns on retreat. It's true that the talks are deeply meaningful. But for me, it's the potent alchemy that takes place when I have the privilege of learning dharma in a setting that simultaneously requires me to practice it right then and there - in a setting that requires me to let go and trust (or make myself miserable otherwise).


    Because on retreat, there is nothing to control. It's a bit akin to sailing a rudder-less boat. A gong clangs when to wake up, when to head to the Meditation Hall or the Dining Hall, to yoga or outside walking meditation. The schedule is posted. The thermostat is set. The menu is chosen; the food, prepared and the mess: it's cleaned up when I'm done. The retreatant can simply go with the flow. And this is amazing - except when Self decides it's not.


    And here is when it gets juicy. Because Self can use any opportunity to have a problem with anything! Self opines that the rooms are too hot or too cold; that the food is too bland or too spicy; one's fellow retreatants far superior or inferior (and all of the above can vacillate from one minute to the next). But because it's quieter and more free of distractions outside of the mind: it is crystal clear just what sort of misery-making the Self is up to, 24/7/365. Whether I'm on retreat or at home doing the dishes, Self (Ego) is doing its "thing" of evaluating, comparing, judging - generally disabling my capacity to be truly alive and aware of whatever the present moment is offering. It's just that on retreat: I am blessed with the clarity to watch it, recognize it and with practice, begin to transform it.


  • 12 Mar 2018 3:19 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to Marilyn Warlick for this sharing


    If you had a serious accident or illness, would your family know what medical interventions you wanted? Would they be able to ensure that your wishes are met?


    Recently FCM members gathered for a class on Advance Care Planning to address these questions and other topics that relate to our personal values and wishes for end of life care. The class was sponsored by Empath Choices for Care and led by social worker and hospice counselor, Arwyn Elden. While not a subject that normally rouses a lot of enthusiasm, it was well attended by our community in-person and on livestream and a number of our members wrote to us to let us know how valuable the class had been for them.


    In the class Arwyn shared numerous examples of unexpected deaths from accidents and surprising diagnoses. Through these stories we were helped to realize that the time and means of our death is uncertain. We were reminded with kindness for ourselves and our families of the importance of filling out an Advance Care Planning Document (also called a Living Will) and establishing a Health Care Surrogate.  These tools and lots of conversations (deep sharing and listening) will help prepare ourselves and loved ones for our death in regards to medical care and decisions that might need to be made if we are unable to speak for ourselves.

    Four important points were presented in the class: 1- this is a process which includes assessing your values to determine our wishes at the end of life, 2- the importance of initiating the essential conversations with loved ones about quality of life and goals of care in regard to medical decision-making, 3- educating ourselves on and selecting a health-care surrogate, and 4- completing and utilizing a living will.


    As a community of Buddhist practitioners we want to continue to increase our awareness of impermanence and the inevitability of death. We know how valuable it is to use available tools such as those presented in this class and to have intimate and informed conversations with each other and with our loved ones about the realities of our deaths and health care decisions that may need to be made. You will find valuable resources on the Empath Health website  at  https://empathhealth.org/the-gift-of-advance-care-planning/ and of course that are lots of other resources online and in our local communities.


  • 05 Mar 2018 6:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to Marsy Mechling for this sharing


    The morning of February 4th welcomed a wonderful series of Transmissions in Tampa: Transmission of the Two Promises, the Three Refuges, the Five Mindfulness Trainings, the Bodhisattva Vow, and the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. I live in Charlotte, NC, and although I participate in FCM retreats, intensives, and a telephone Sangha, I had never actually been to a Sunday Sangha service in person. It was well worth the effort to travel to Tampa and to join the sangha in person to participate in these profound Transmissions. 


    To see the five children make the Two Promises was so very lovely. I felt such happiness for them – happiness that they have the opportunity to study the Dharma at such a young age and that they are making the promise to develop understanding and compassion. Although I have recited the Three Refuges and the Five Mindfulness Trainings many times, it was important to “officially” proclaim that I will take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha and to pledge publicly to adhere to the Five Mindfulness Trainings. Also, by receiving the Transmissions, to receive a Dharma name and to formally become part of a long line of Buddhist practitioners who have kept this path well-tended and alive for 2,600 years is very meaningful. To me, the study and practice of Buddhism is active and alive. It is not just listening to teachings or reading a book. It is looking deeply at the teachings, reflecting on and sincerely considering the teachings, and enacting the teachings in my everyday life, allowing the teachings to saturate my body, speech, and mind. Receiving the Transmission is a formal way of incorporating the Dharma into my life.


    For me, the day offered another opportunity: to take the Bodhisattva Vow.  Having studied Shantideva’s The Way of the Bodhisattva for the last year, taking the vow to follow that Way felt natural. How can I do anything other than to do my best to follow the directions set out so clearly by Shantideva so that I might live with compassion and wisdom for the benefit of all beings? Of course, not every day of my life unfolds as beautifully as the ceremony, and I have much, much wisdom still to gain, but I will continue to study, look deeply, and utilize the Transmissions and vows as directions along the way.


    To watch as Fred transmitted the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings to the Order of Interbeing aspirants was quite profound also. I again experienced a sense of joy as I listened to the five individuals making the vows to follow the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. I felt gratitude for these fellow beings who are declaring to proceed forward in life with the fourteen trainings as the ground from which they will conduct the actions of body, speech, and mind. Great commitment was expressed by all who participated that day. I was very inspired as I listened. To participate alongside so many others receiving the wisdom and guidance of these promises, transmissions, and vows both grounded me and lifted me up with joy, gratitude, and hopefulness for the future. It was so very good to feel the support and positive energy of the community as people offered congratulations and other expressions of joy to one another.

     

    And now as long as space endures,

    As long as there are beings to be found,

    May I continue likewise to remain

    To drive away the sorrows of the world.  

    ~ The Way of the Bodhisattva, chapter 10, verse 55


  • 05 Mar 2018 6:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If you had a serious accident or illness, would your family know what medical interventions you wanted? Would they be able to ensure that your wishes are met?


    Recently FCM members gathered for a class on Advance Care Planning to address these questions and other topics that relate to our personal values and wishes for end of life care. The class was sponsored by Empath Choices for Care and led by social worker and hospice counselor Arwyn Elden.  While not a subject that normally rouses a lot of enthusiasm, it was well attended by our community in-person and on livestream and a number of our members wrote to us to let us know how valuable the class had been for them.


    In the class Arwyn shared numerous examples of unexpected deaths from accidents and surprising diagnoses. Through these stories we were helped to realize that the time and means of our death is uncertain. We were reminded with kindness for ourselves and our families of the importance of filling out an Advance Care Planning Document (also called a Living Will) and establishing a Health Care Surrogate.  These tools and lots of conversations (deep sharing and listening) will help prepare ourselves and loved ones for our death in regards to medical care and decisions that might need to be made if we are unable to speak for ourselves.

    Four important points were presented in the class: 1) this is a process which includes assessing your values to determine our wishes at the end of life, 2) the importance of initiating the essential conversations with loved ones about quality of life and goals of care in regard to medical decision-making, 3) educating ourselves on and selecting a health-care surrogate, and 4) completing and utilizing a living will.


    As a community of Buddhist practitioners we want to continue to increase our awareness of impermanence and the inevitability of death. We know how valuable it is to use available tools such as those presented in this class and to have intimate and informed conversations with each other and with our loved ones about the realities of our deaths and health care decisions that may need to be made. You will find valuable resources on the Empath Health website  at  https://empathhealth.org/the-gift-of-advance-care-planning/ and of course that are lots of other resources online and in our local communities.



  • 24 Feb 2018 3:28 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to Diane Powell for this sharing.


    Last weekend the Dharma was brought alive by Venerable Dr. Pannavati during a non-residential retreat she lead at our Tampa Practice Center. Venerable Pannavati is a Buddhist monk and teacher based in North Carolina who travels throughout the United States and internationally to preach the Dharma. “Preach” is an apt word both because she is a former Christian minister and also because her animated, expressive presentation was imbued with a quiet but absolute conviction and passion for the truths of the Dharma.

    Like our teacher, Fred, Venerable Pannavati has studied and practiced in multiple Buddhist traditions, and her teachings drew upon her broad and deep knowledge of the Dharma as well as her own experiences of transformation and realization. In one moment she would share a story from ancient Zen or Tibetan teachings to demonstrate a point. Then in the next moment she could break into a burst of hearty laughter-- preceding a story she was telling on herself, an example illustrating how she had to learn a truth of Dharma the hard way: an open sharing of her own personal history and past struggles, all for our benefit.

    The topic Sister Pannavati chose for the retreat was a familiar one to many of us--Non-Self, which was the focus of the FCM January Retreat and is also the theme of our current Dharma Path Intensive.  The teachings she brought to us on this topic could have come straight from the Intensive: that the self is a core source of our suffering, that we need to know the self before we can be free of it, and that understanding the true nature of the self is the way to our liberation.  Her presentation was a wonderful combination of wisdom teachings—that we must understand deeply the illusive nature of self, and the concrete and practical-- that only through mindfulness can we begin to know the self and the reminder that the self can endlessly justify its afflictive reactions.

    The retreat topic and teachings were familiar, but the form in which they were presented was completely unique and fresh. The Dharma flowing through Ven Pannavati was joyful, authentic and radiated both love of the Dharma and love for all of us who were there absorbing her presence and teachings.


  • 18 Feb 2018 8:47 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    MONASTICS STRESS BUILDING COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS

    AT EARTH HOLDERS RETREAT


    With gratitude to FCM member Carol Green for this sharing


    When we look into our own bodily formation, we see Mother Earth inside us, and so the whole universe is inside us, too. Once we have this insight of interbeing, it is possible to have real communication, real communion, with the Earth. This is the highest possible form of prayer.

    To express our reverence for the Earth is not to deify her or believe she is any more sacred than ourselves. It is to love her, to take care of her and to take refuge in her. When we suffer, the Earth embraces us, accepts us, and restores our energy, making us strong and stable again. The relief that we seek is right under our feet and all around us. Much of our suffering can be healed if we realize this. If we understand our deep connection and relationship with the Earth, we will have enough love, strength, and awakening to look after ourselves and the Earth so that we both can thrive.     – Love Letter to Mother Earth (Thich Naht Hanh)

    A mindful approach in building a strong, loving collective consciousness is the best path to resilience and to effective action in addressing catastrophic climate change, Buddhist monastics at this past fall’s Earth Holders “In the Arms of Mother Earth” retreat in Abiquiu, NM told about 200 participants.



    Ten monks and nuns from several monasteries in the Plum Village tradition on their 2017 Awakening Together Monastic Tour spent four days at the Ghost Ranch Conference Center teaching Thich Naht Hanh’s approach to deepening love of Mother Earth and working together to strengthen collective consciousness of ecological vulnerability. The monastics sang, walked, played and radiated love and understanding as they offered guidance to attendees from across the country, most of whom expressed deep suffering because of concern about climate change and the U.S. political response to its threats.


    Practitioners were urged to first return to basics to deal with their emotional suffering and unconscious ways of living -- to stabilize themselves by returning to fundamental dharma teachings and by practicing mindfulness, then to turn inward and examine their own consumerism -- before trying to reform or challenge others.

    Looking inside leads to wise engagement, reduces the likelihood of becoming overwhelmed and reminds us to re-examine depth of our personal commitment, said Sister The Nghiem (True Vow), abbess of White Crane Hamlet at Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, NY. As we do so, we can then step forward to encounter suffering with awareness, right intention and right action and use suffering as a magnifying glass to see what the suffering holds: Ignorance, craving, hatred and fear. As we see clearly and with equanimity and non-judgmentally, clarity arises as to what has to be done. This leads to openness, no fighting, just understanding.


    She told participants that as we look at ourselves, we realize that we can leave a smaller imprint on the Earth by consuming less, sharing our resources and de-cluttering. This is Grounded Radicalism, she said.


    The Five Mindfulness Trainings are instructive as guides. The “elephant in the room is how we consume.”  There is a need for a radical shift, especially among Americans, she said.  She urged us to question whether we need five TV sets, three cars and an overflowing closet. She said consumer boycotts have targeted some large corporations, showing that reduced demand for certain goods can lead to reduced output by manufacturers. Individual action, which becomes collective action, does count, she said. It is grass roots and has an immediate way of effecting change. 

    What are we consuming and how much? she asked. There is a wisdom in simplifying, de-cluttering and sharing our resources, and we should not be afraid to be radical in this way, she said.

    “Simplify your living,” she said.  “Enough is enough.” If you are too cluttered in material things, your mind is also cluttered, and you are stressed, and you can’t focus on your mind or body.  You can see more clearly what’s important if you de-clutter.  She suggested moderation, but not abstinence.

    Sister Man Ngheim (Sister Brightness), of Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, CA, stressed that individual mental formations contribute to collective consciousness.  She said if we adopt separateness, right vs. wrong, good vs. bad, in our views, we create war collectively.  When we create dualism, it builds to a collective level.  Teach the dharma through how you live, she urged.  Together we can do a lot.  That’s how all great change happens -- when the individual contributes to the collective.

    Brother Phap Luu (Brother Dharma Stream) of Dharma Cloud Monastery in Plum Village, described how he became so committed to environmentalism that he wrote a proposal to mandate that all practice centers fill out a form each year to evaluate their ecological practices. He nervously presented his plan to Thay and “got the hammer.” Thay asked: “What are you going to do with that? Have you learned to live together?  If not, what is the point?”

    And so, he learned from Thay, a master community builder, an important lesson – that imposing a restriction on a group causes suffering, while leading by example so that others commit of their own free will builds a strong and lasting following and community.

    He asked: In what ways can we honor our deep love and commitment to the planet that gives us life and amazes us and also have peace and harmony in the family? Do you know how to live together in harmony? It is the key to happiness and to our survival. Building a brother/sisterhood in a solid way is very important to take care of our pain, he said.

    He said Thay was in despair about what happened to his village in Vietnam.  As he watched it being destroyed during the Vietnam War, he turned to his monks and said, I have to work with American soldiers.  To do so, he had to manage his emotions. Thay discovered that walking meditation helped him deal with his pain. He walked slowly and mindfully, counting his steps with in and out breaths, and it led to a deep transformation and to his life-long love for Mother Earth.

    We are looking deeply at catastrophic climate change, Brother Stream said.  He invited attendees to look deeply at interbeing and to cultivate compassion for people, plants, animals and minerals.

    He said the mark of true practitioners is to cultivate joy wherever they are.  If you see a piece of trash being thrown on Mother Earth, you can transform the resulting anger into compassion. The act generates anger from seeds in the unconscious, but mindfulness teaches you to pause and transform the anger into compassion and understanding: “Yes, I was unskillful once and threw trash on the road.”  Before you allow it to overwhelm your consciousness, you move it aside while it is still an acorn, before it becomes full-blown anger. Compassion is soft, but strong. It allows you to approach the person who threw the trash and build a relationship with him, opening the door to change.

    Can we have compassion when the Environmental Protection Agency is being dismantled?  Can we look at President Trump through the eyes of practice?  We have to be careful not to fall into despair (and give up), he said.

    He said Trump is a manifestation of the collective consciousness as it stood in 2016, and we don’t yet have enough understanding with our brothers and sisters to have built a stronger collective consciousness (than the one that elected Trump).  We have to go into places where there is poverty, opioid addiction and other problems and help suffering people transform their minds, not seek to transform only their political platforms, he said.  As their minds transform, Americans have the possibility to wake up and see the beauty and healing power of nature, and we can help them do that, he said.

    Brother Phap Ho (Brother Dharma Protector) of Deer Park Monastery, a native of Stockholm, Sweden, urged using time, presence and the support of sangha to create collective consciousness. Our presence is the greatest gift we can give someone, he said.  How do we cultivate the capacity to be there for someone?  Where are we spending our time and energy?  Is it coming from our intention or from our habit energy?  What do we prioritize?

    When we are challenged, isn’t that the time to go to sangha?  We can recharge, put our burdens down.  If you are hesitating, that means you should not think about it.  Just go.

    Are we avoiding what needs to be done?  Are we talking to people?  Why or why not? What is most important?  Do we heal friction?  How do we reach people and heal?  Become calm and see what is really going on, he urged.

    How can we avoid confusion and despair in a world of too much news?  Watching the news brings emotions.  We’re taking it in without giving ourselves enough time to digest it.  Take the news in small bites, then spend the time to go inside yourself before you take in any more, he suggested. Deep looking is an art.  It’s different from figuring something out. Deep looking requires becoming calm, stopping and relaxing body and mind.

    Being born in this time gives us the responsibility to care for more people.  What we have is not mine; it belongs to everyone.  When we look into the idea of Self, we should think, What about other people? Humans have awareness and abstract thinking, plus they can collaborate.  How do we use our ability to collaborate in a responsible, loving way? 

    How can I organize my life and practice so I can grow so I can benefit many others?

    True virtues are understanding and love (Love is possible when you understand someone) and cutting off afflictions (which make us busy and use up our energy).

    We don’t come from nowhere.  We were a fetus.  We have parents.  We need oxygen, water, plants, animals.  Our ancestors continue in us.  We have some say over our actions that affect plants, animals and the Earth. He read from the Three Touchings of the Earth: 

    • Touching the Earth, I connect with ancestors and descendants of both my spiritual and my blood families.
    • Touching the Earth, I connect with all people and all species that are alive at this moment in this world with me.
    • Touching the Earth, I let go of my idea that I am this body and my life span is limited. 

    I am one with all.  I am present everywhere on this planet, in the past and in the future.

    How do we fall in love with Mother Earth and stay in love?  Hiking and other outdoor activities are not enough.  We need a space where we feel safe.  The Earth Holders group is trying to bring insight, understanding and love into the existing climate movement, not trying to create a separate movement.

               

    He suggested joining EcoSattva training with One Earth Sangha (whose training started recently; contact Andrew Rock in Tampa to enroll), Buddhist Climate Action Network, Buddhist Global Network, Arise for Social Justice or Wake Up! He urged listeners to use their experience to lift up others, including the next generation.  Bodhisattvas don’t discriminate between givers and receivers, he said.

    ________________


    Recommended reading:  Two books by Thich Naht Hanh: The World We Have and Love Letter to Mother Earth.

    EARTH HOLDER SANGHA NEW BEGINNINGS

    Begin with gratitude for the earth.  Without the Earth there would be nothing.

    Exercises:

    1. Discuss your points of gratitude for the Earth.
    2. Discuss your beneficial regrets, without judgment or self-blame.  What acts have you done that you would do differently in the future?
    3. Make amends and re-commit.

    The six commitments of the Earth Holder Sangha:

    Study, observe and practice the 5 or 14 Mindfulness Trainings.
    1. Move in the direction of more simple and compassionate living by signing onto the Earth Peace Treaty and committing to transform three unwholesome habits.
    2. Eat a plant-based diet at least one day per week.
    3. Participate in at least one Earth Holder “Global Call to Action” per year.
    4. Introduce at least one “Earth Holder Guideline” to my individual or local sangha practice.
    5. Attend semi-annual Earth Holder conference calls and participate in sangha decision-making.


  • 12 Feb 2018 5:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to FCM member Jaima Shore, Source of True Tranformation, for sharing her journey

    Last week I took part in the transmission ceremony; Little did I know that over 5 years ago my journey towards this day began. When Angie asked me to share my experience I began reflecting and couldn’t help but reflect on what led up to the day as well as the actual day. A bit over 5 years ago I was pregnant with my first child; my childbirth instructor asked us to find some soothing music or a guided meditation to begin using to help us become more in touch with our bodies and the changes that were occurring. I stumbled onto the Great Bell Chant. I remember vividly the first time I heard it (I had no idea who Thich Nhat Hanh was), the tears fell down my face like a waterfall and a sense of safety and calmness penetrated my heart. When Thay said, “Following the sound of the bell my breath brings me back to the safe island of mindfulness,” it was my first taste of refuge.

    Fast Forward 3 years and I found myself in the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class with Angie and Stephanie seeking more of what I found in that short meditation. And again, I found a bit more of that refuge. I then started attending sangha regularly and it felt like home. It felt like a place I could find the true home inside myself, another place of refuge. When the opportunity to take part in the transmission ceremony arose, I felt a tug, a pull, a wisdom speaking to me from inside myself to do it. For me it was a chance to publicly express what inwardly I had been discovering. I’ve always been someone who loved the ceremony, the ritual, and the tradition of special moments like this, as it helps clarify my intention and helps with a sort of accountability that this is indeed my path.

    During the class and live stream meetings leading up to the ceremony, I found myself being most struck by that idea of refuge again. It was a word that I thought I knew, but I didn’t. For me The Buddha, The Dharma, and The Sangha are the first place in my life where I have discovered true refuge. The actual ceremony was so beautiful and moving for me. I was incredibly serious and devoted to my aspiration and took in each moment, from the opening sutra verse, to doing prostrations with my fellow Dharma sisters and brothers, to receiving my Dharma name, to bowing to the community who has welcomed me with open arms. I am enormously thankful for the opportunity to take refuge, to be part of a community, to have a teacher, and a place inside myself where this is possible. It is with great humility and appreciation that I share that Fred gave me the name Source of True Transformation. For the first time in my life I know that this true transformation is possible in the Three Jewels.


  • 30 Jan 2018 2:57 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to FCM member Bill Mac Millen for this sharing.


    I first became a student of the dharma in 2013 after attending a six-week class, held at the Center and taught by Fred, titled “The Basics of Buddhism.”  Up until that time I had no background in Buddhism, mindfulness, or meditation.  Although my exterior life was unfolding quite well by appearances - work, family, friendships, comfortable living conditions – it felt as though something important was missing, which led me to this class.  At the time I didn’t know what that missing “thing” was, but I’ve come to realize that it was a dis-connection with my fellow beings, a sense of separateness.


    I came to the class as a skeptic; prepared to dismiss the teachings and the teacher as, at best, well-meaning but out of touch with “reality,” or worse, another version of “self help” lacking in real substance and/or with ulterior motives to “convert” me to a dogmatic way of thinking.  However, by the end of the second class I was convinced there was something significant to be found in the teachings and Fred appeared to be not only wise and knowledgeable, but more importantly for me, authentic in his belief that the dharma was true and beneficial to all.


    I began attending Sunday Sangha at the conclusion of the classes and have not missed one Sunday since unless I was out of town or sick, such has been its effect on me.  Coming from a Roman Catholic background, I entered the practice with an aversion to dogma and the clear thought that I would never say I believed any teaching unless I personally found it to be true, and I would never say I understood a teaching when I did not.  While I don’t claim to have understood all dharma, I have never found it to be dissonant with my experience, and have always found it to be beneficial in leading to happiness and peace.


    During these past 4+ years of exposure to the teachings, the teacher, and the community, I’ve become a significantly more present and aware person.  In a very practical fashion I’ve learned, and continue to learn, of the conditioned nature of my views and how my false sense of self leads to a myriad of suffering and feelings of dis-ease in my life.  This has led to a much calmer and present mind-state and the coincident generation of healthy and beneficial behaviors, leading to much happier relationships and life.


    I continue to feel that the teachings remind me of what I’ve always known, but had forgotten, and that it is essential that I am continually reminded to remember; otherwise I forget.  The constant support from being with people who believe there is a way to be in the world that is not based on hatred, greed, and anger, but on loving kindness, generosity, and patience has re-established my connection to life.


    With gratitude,

    Bill Mac Millen


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