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Community Gleanings

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  • 07 Aug 2017 11:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Thank you FCM for developing and continuing to teach ATTUNE: The Practice of Mindful Dialogue workshop.

    Like many, I was introduced to theories and practice of communication skills through academic courses, work related experiences and personal and couples counseling. Having retained bits and pieces of these skills over the years, attending Angie's workshop woke me up to how Buddhist practice can really inform communication skills. Mindfulness, practiced during daily interactions, enhances our communications with all people.

    Although this workshop covered many areas, I would like to share a few that were particularly meaningful to me:

    • Use of mindfulness in dialogue enhances deep listening and speaking. Pausing and being in the present helps us stay non-reactive and brings up feelings of empathy and compassion. The practice of mindfulness nourishes greater calm, clarity and awareness so that everyone involved benefits.
    • Using mindfulness when our old nemesis of “dealing with difficult relationships” crops up is a powerful teaching. Through practice we can learn to recognize that all beings want to be happy and take the time to understand the suffering of the other. Having an open heart for all and not judging or comparing helps our mind stay open and spacious.
    • And finally, when we need to speak to someone about a difficult situation, being mindful and present is particularly important. First, consider if this is the right time and place. When speaking be honest and do so with affection. Be aware and consider if what I have to say is a benefit to all.

    Dialogue permeates our daily lives. Through our Buddhist practice we learn to enhance these skills in a way that becomes a part of who we are and how we behave. This workshop helped me be more awake to that. I am grateful for FCM’s continual teachings on mindfulness and mindful dialogue. We certainly need it during these tumultuous times.

  • 10 Jul 2017 4:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to FCM's Prison Dharma Program Facilitator Chris Gahles for his service and for contributing this article

    A few nights ago I was leisurely leafing through books in the prison library.  I was happy to see they had a copy of “Old Path, White Clouds” one of my long time favorites by Thich Nhat Hanh.  I thought that our small sangha, which would be practicing in a few minutes, might enjoy hearing and conversing about one of the chapters that Thay had so mindfully written.  

    After our meditation and recitation of the Five Mindfulness Trainings I read the chapter titled “Angulimala”.  This story is about the most feared serial killer during the Buddha’s time, Agulimala, which translates as finger-neckless.  Every time Agulimala would murder someone he would take one of their fingers and add it to the mala he wore around his neck.  In the climax of the story Angulimala chases down the Buddha and orders him to, “Stop monk! Stop!”  Even though the Buddha hears the bandit he continued to walk.  It seemed like it took a very long time for the bandit to catch up to the Buddha even though he was running and the Blessed One was walking.  But finally he stepped in front of the Buddha and shouted, “Monk, I told you to stop.  Why did you not stop?”  The Buddha replied, “Angulimala, I stopped a long time ago.  You are the one that continues (down the path of unwholesomeness)”.  

    The Buddha’s gaze was filled with such compassion and wisdom that the remorseful bandit was overcome. Angulimala broke free of his misperception that it was too late to lead a wholesome life.  He asked the Buddha to be accepted into the sangha and was immediately ordained.  He was given the monastic name Ahimsaka, which coincidently was the birth name his father gave him.  It means, “The harmless one”.  Ahimsaka become one of the most respected monks in the sangha due to his self-transformative efforts.

    After the story we talked about its teaching… no matter how messed up we can get, there is always a path to forgiveness, compassion and understanding.  Our small sangha in the prison chapel was energized by this topic.  The discussion was filled with mindful participation.  Someone asked the reflective question, “Why is this story known as the story of Angulimala and not the story of Ahimsaka?  The room was filled with joyfulness and hope which streamed through the barred windows and doors of the chapel.  Darkness cannot exist in the presence of light, just as unwholesome thoughts cannot exist in the presence of wholesome thoughts.  

  • 02 May 2017 5:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to FCM Member Andrew Rock for this Sharing.

    Several members of FCM were among the estimated 200,000 marchers in Washington DC on Saturday, April 29th for the Peoples Climate Mobilization. So were six monastics from Blue Cliff monastery and many others in Thay’s Plum Village traditions, together with hundreds of other Buddhists from various lineages and traditions.

    Fittingly, April 29th set new seasonal heat records for Washington DC: 92 degrees and high humidity. But the marchers remained cheerful, peaceful, exuberant and determined as we gathered on the Mall, marched down Pennsylvania Ave. to surround the White House and then rested on the grass around the Washington Monument.

    Earlier in the morning about 250 Buddhists gathered in a park near the Capitol to practice together before joining the march. Organized by One Earth Sangha, the group included teachers and practitioners from many lineages and traditions. A Tibetan nun, Sister Ani Losang Tendrol, read us a poem about our connectedness with the earth and our responsibility for how we relate with all living beings, written by the Dalai Lama. Then Adam Lobel, a senior acharya (teacher) with Shambhala International, led us in a practice to raise windhorse, the power and energy of the sacred warriors who rise up in times of great need. Next Sister Ocean, from Blue Cliff Monastery, called on all her Plum Village sangha to join her, and together we led the entire group in singing “We are all the leaves of one tree.” We closed the morning program with a metta meditation led by Amy Smith, a teacher in the Washington insight Meditation community.

    From Upper Senate Park, the monastics led us on a silent, mindful, joyful walk to the Capitol end of the Mall, where the faith contingent was gathering to line up for the march. Organized by the multifaith climate action group Greenfaith, there were Catholics from the Franciscan Climate Network, Muslims, Hindus, Episcopalians, Jews, Quakers, Unitarian Universalists and many other faiths, all united by the perception that our crises of climate change, inequality and injustice at root are spiritual and ethical problems, and therefore require spiritual and ethical reformation and leadership.

    Then an hour of sweltering heat and close packed (but high-spirited) crowds, as people gathered and waited for the step-off of the march, sharing signs, banners, music and enthusiasm. Once we started moving, around 12:45 pm, the crowd spread out and our FCM group kept together (Diane Powell, Patrick Bendure and his daughter, Dan Tisch, Patty Meyers, Nancy Natilson and me, and also Sue Brandon and her friend Sandy from Shambhala St. Petersburg and the Florida EcoSattva Group). We held our signs and banners high as we walked down Pennsylvania Avenue. Soon after, we came to the White House, and the march spread out to surround it.

    At 2 pm, we all sat down where we were on the streets around the White House, for a few minutes of silence, and then we began a powerful heartbeat rhythm as we all gently tapped our chests in unison. And then we all stood as one, in our tens of thousands, and we roared, yelled, and cried out, with determination and intensity, to demand a sensible climate policy in cooperation with the rest of the planet.

    April 29th was chosen for the march precisely because it was the 100th day of the climate-denying Trump presidency. The EPA’s environmental programs had already been gutted, scientific research on climate change defunded, dismantled and ignored, permits hastily issued for new oil and gas pipelines and offshore oil wells. A decision is expected from the Administration within days whether to withdraw the US from its commitments under the Paris accord to roll back carbon emissions and accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources. We know Trump and his fossil fuel friends would like to scrap the Paris agreement, but he fears the reaction from the public and the more progressive elements of the business community. Trump himself had fled from Washington for the day, to rally with some 7,000 of his remaining supporters in Harrisburg, PA, and the streets of Washington belonged to the people.

    From the White House it was a short distance to the very welcome green space around the Washington Monument, where we lay in the shade of the big trees, rehydrated our sweaty bodies, and rested. Tired, happy marchers were everywhere, some heading for the Metro system and home – how wonderful to be in a city with an efficient light rail system! – and some staying around for a few more hours of music, speeches and movement building activities around the Washington Monument.

    The organizers intentionally called the April 29th gathering a people’s mobilization, not just a march, because this is not a one day event, it is a movement that must continue to grow in strength, wisdom and impact. It is particularly important that practitioners of mindfulness and the Dharma bring to this mobilization our practices of understanding, compassion, non-attachment and love. As our root teacher Thich Nhat Hanh wrote many years ago: “Mindfulness must be engaged. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise, what's the use of seeing?”

    It was our group’s privilege through the day to carry three of One Earth Sangha’s beautiful banners, emblazoned with the image of the bodhisattva Kuan Yin and the words “Embody Fierce Compassion.” We are happy to report that Fierce Compassion was indeed embodied in our nation’s capital on April 29th and held high for the Peoples Climate Mobilization.

  • 11 Apr 2017 5:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The 2017 FCM Mahasangha Member Gathering was held in Tampa the weekend of March 24th to celebrate and deepen our connection as a sangha body. During the  weekend we explored "American Buddhism," and in particular how our greater "Maha" sangha manifests our Buddhist values in community and in the world. We also celebrated our lineage together through both beautiful formal ceremonies and many casual and joyful moments of connection. We asked a diverse group of members, from "long-timers" to brand new, from early 30s to more "mature",  to share their reflections of what the weekend meant to them. With much gratitude to our members, below, for these sharings.

    Betsy Arizu, Tampa (FCM Board President)

    As we chanted the Evening Chant together on the first night of the Mahasangha I was filled with awe and inspiration, hearing our voices joined so beautifully together as we honored the Buddha. I could feel an energy and power in the Dharma Hall filled with old friends, new friends, local friends, friends from afar, all brothers and sisters acknowledging our capacity and commitment to awaken, individually and collectively. What a joy and honor to experience being part of a sangha, especially a mahasangha.

    I thoroughly enjoyed our weekend discussions on Buddhism in America. I find it fascinating how Buddhism spread from India throughout Asia in such a peaceful and organic way while taking on unique and distinctive flavors and forms in each region and culture it traveled to. And now as Buddhism takes root in America I see how profound and relevant the teachings are to this time and place in history and how it is unfolding in its own rich and unique way in our culture. As we discussed with Fred FCM’s vision, mission, and core values, he told the story of FCM and how it started in his living room in Naples. Later came the purchase of property on Nebraska Avenue and now the next step is to build a retreat center of our own to bring more and affordable retreat opportunities to our sangha. We are so fortunate to be part of the Florida Community of Mindfulness on this path of awakening.

    Other highlights of the Mahasangha were the small group discussions, the mindful work groups, the neighborhood clean up, the delicious meals, and the uplifting and meaningful ceremonies. I thank Fred for his vision and leadership during the Mahasangha and for recognizing how valuable and renewing it is for our community to come together yearly in this fashion.

    Carly Johnston, Tampa (New Member)

    My immediate refection about the Mahasangha Gathering was of special moments where I felt part of a community of loving and kind people. Although I knew very few, I felt the welcoming energy of all of those around me. I watched people from afar at times and rejoiced in their closeness while other times I saw many who wandered through the weekend with an openness of invitation for meeting others. I think what felt most comfortable for me was the genuine positive attitude that I experienced. People were willing to share and express their feelings on various topics that were being discussed and invited others to their circle of conversation. This provided me with good resources and opened up opportunity for questions which encouraged more communication. I felt a warm and caring nature from the group.

    I was most surprised and awed with the professional approach for coordinating the entire weekend…from program to food preparation and delivery in a timely fashion. Watching how fluid everything seemed to flow was quite impressive. Having been a professional meeting planner, I appreciate the time, work and effort of many people coming together to make such an event look flawless and successful. I realized I was part of a group of dedicated and talented people who took pride in their work —- all coming together for the good of the Community. I’m very proud to be part of FCM and look to the future to contribute what I am able.

    And, not to be forgotten…… “thank you” for the generous opportunity to experience a very special weekend.

    Christopher Lee Nguyen (Naples, WakeUp Leader for Southwest Florida)

    Yesterday my friend and coworker died unexpectedly in his sleep. He was around my age, and had been supportive friend in my career training. He helped me get past many obstacles on the job, and my computer is full of notes I received from him. We often get busy in life and never take the time to be together and get to know each other deeply until it is too late.

    The Mahagathering is a great opportunity to insure we don’t have any regrets by being able to practice being together. It’s a chance for us to realize that we are not alone; never were alone; and never will be. That is a wonderful thing. I think Liễu Quán expresses it very beautifully in his gatha from the early 1700s, “The fruit of transcendent wisdom, can be realized by being wonderfully together.”

    Coming together in openness to practice deep sharing and deep listening is a very profound practice. It creates a space where my Buddha-nature can unfold and shine brightly. Being able to meet new people and be inspired by their aspirations and the resounding sound of the sangha echoing out “same, not different” is a precious jewel when you live far away from the center.

    Whether singing together, sitting together, or even picking up trash outside together, it is not a matter of what we are doing but that we are together as a living sangha creating a refuge and open space for all sangha members to be nourished by the collective energy of togetherness and actualize coming together “as a river”.

    I offer gratitude and thanks to all my sangha brothers and sister, near and far away, for everything they do and for helping to create a sangha where I have the opportunity to be nourished by the fruit of transcendent wisdom by being wonderfully together.

    Fran Reilly, Naples (Longtime Mindful Yoga Leader for FCM)

    Dear Tampa Sangha,

    I wanted to write a note of appreciation to all of you for your hospitality, sharing, teachings, feeding us on so many levels and opening our hearts and minds. The Mahasangha weekend was truly a gathering of spiritual friends and cultivated a deeper appreciation of our Sangha community for me and I’m sure for others as well.

    The food was amazing and nourishing; the opportunity to interact and support each other in work groups and small group interactions and the overall attitude of support and community was pervasive and nourishing as well. The planning and thoughtfulness of all of your hard work was evident and your welcoming attitude was heartwarming. I felt greeted as a dear friend and all of the hugs and smiles brought a smile to my own heart.

    The dharma talks were enriching and the ceremony on Saturday evening , with the beautiful cello, chanting, the readings, the fire, all under the stars in the beautiful garden setting was especially inspiring.

    The whole weekend opened my heart and inspired my practice.

    in gratitude,

    Fran Reilly

    Kerri Vantreese (Tampa, New Member)

    For me, the mahasangha weekend was filled with opportunity to take yummy bites to satiate not only the physical, but also the emotional and spiritual appetite... deepening the sense of what community actually IS and how vital its heartbeat is in support of FCM's commitment to flow like a gentle dharma river.

    The joy of exploring relationship in such a wide variety of ways was exceptional... from blissfully fun selfless service, shared meals at FCM, shared home space thanks to our B n B program, as well as multitudes of other fantabulous moments in small group discussions, the vibrant, palpable essence of the collective sangha and the special energy of sharing one-on-one time with old and new friends alike!

    bowing in deep gratitude,

    One Heart!

    Maria Sgambati, Tampa (Our Mahasangha Gathering Noble Coordinator)

    What a joy it was to practice together with the community during the MahaSangha gathering. Although I’ve been an FCM member at a distance for 4 years, I began practicing in the Plum Village tradition about 12 years ago. I was happy to have been asked to be gathering coordinator, since having moved to Tampa in February, it gave me a wonderful opportunity to both support the sangha through self-less service and get to know my dharma brothers and sisters more deeply.

    For me, every moment of the gathering became a moment of practice, in which I asked, what is needed right now? I always tried to return to my breathing, to keep my steps and voice calm and compassionate, to really slow down and take my time to listen and be with what was, even when toilets overflowed! The whole weekend was such a rich experience, but in particular the series of talks on Buddhism gave me a deeper sense of the historical foundation of the practice path. I am grateful to all who made this weekend possible.

  • 29 Mar 2017 11:06 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With much gratitude and metta to Noah Stepp for this heartfelt sharing about his experience in the FCM Family Program and recent transition to the Teen Program

    Almost 4 years ago my mom started going to FCM. At first I wanted nothing to do with the Center. I had never enjoyed any of the other Sunday schools I had attended and didn’t want to go to another one. One weekend a family gathering was led by Diane Powell. I made my first mindfulness jar! When we were driving home I realized it wasn’t as I thought it was going to be. Then the Family Program started. I was one of the first kids to go and I was excited! I made a commitment to myself that day that as long as mom went to the Center I would go to the Family Program. 

    These are just a few of the many things I have learned:

    • How to ring the bell
    • How and why to bow
    • Mindful eating
    • How to notice your emotions
    • Using a mindfulness jar
    • Feeling where feelings are in my body
    • Life of Buddha
    • Lineage of Buddhism and how Fred connects us to it all
    • Thich Nhah Hanh
    • How to use the breathing ball
    • Mindful walking
    • Yoga
    • The Two Promises
    • Given my Dharma name
    • Songs from Plum Village
    • What mindfulness really means to me

    I turned 13 in February and have now moved into the Teen Program. I attended the Mindful Teen Half Day Retreat and one Sunday Teen Program. It has been a great transition for me. I want to thank everyone for guiding me along this path. A special thanks to Betsy, Suzy and Karuna for being my Dharma teachers. You all have taught me a lot and I always felt supported by you. I also want to thank the sangha. You have listened to me “check-in” about what we have done and learned while attending the Family Program. Your supportive listening, kindness and laughter is so appreciated. I would look out at everyone smiling at me and it always made me feel so good!

    Deeply bowing,


    Source of All Goodness

  • 06 Mar 2017 5:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Fred recently led a three-day retreat for the Gainesville Sangha. We are grateful to Sangha member Mark Burlingame for sharing these reflections about the retreat.

    I have attended several retreats where Fred was Dharma Teacher, the first at Chinsegut Hill Retreat Center in Brooksville, Florida in the year 2000. But I hadn’t attended a retreat where Fred was Teacher since the year 2008. So this was a “coming home” for me in a way. Here I was, in this moment, connecting once again with Fred and his skillful continuation of the stream of Dharma transmission of Thich Nhat Hanh. In this moment, surrounded by my beloved Sangha in my beloved town of Gainesville. And in this moment, practicing with my beloved wife who was on her very first meditation retreat.

    At the start of retreat is the flurry of activity upon arrival. Getting oriented to being with others in silence for three days. But then the community is soon flowing like a river. The retreat begins and there is the start of awareness and settling into the activities, sounds, thoughts, and physical sensations of retreat. And then, with gentle encouragement, awareness and settling into the space. Resting and relaxing the awareness into the space between activities, sounds, objects, and even thoughts.

    During these retreats, I am often challenged to look more deeply at my motivations on this path. On retreat in 2002, I had written a note to myself following one of Fred’s Dharma talks; “The door to the cage is open. What is keeping me from stepping out?” So here I am in 2017. Fifteen years later. Once again, I was challenged to stop and really, really look. “Do I believe there is a path to remove suffering? If so, am I willing to take the path?”

    During the retreat, as in life, there were moments of suffering. The suffering of physical discomfort associated with sitting for long periods and the body protesting. And the suffering resulting from being carried away by thoughts. There were also moments of great lightness. Like the moment when looking out a window of the meditation hall and seeing Betsy diligently and mindfully running down the hill to gather in a retreatant who had wandered off and was late for the next session!

    But then at some point, miraculously, there is this heart opening. Pure Love in the Pure Land! The wish for well being for myself and for others comes pouring out. Heart Opening. And I am reminded of Thay’s words from The Great Bell Chant:

    “One single drop of this compassionate water is enough
    To bring back the refreshing spring to our mountains and rivers.

    Dear Sisters and Brothers, on the in breath I am aware you are there. On the out breath I smile. May I remember to share the fruit with all beings.


  • 21 Feb 2017 12:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to Anda Peterson for sharing this lovely poem by Pablo Neruda during a recent FCM mindfulness in nature walk.

    Keeping Quiet
    by Pablo Neruda

    Now we will count to twelve
    and we will all keep still.

    For once on the face of the earth,
    let’s not speak in any language;
    let’s stop for one second,
    and not move our arms so much.

    It would be an exotic moment
    without rush, without engines;
    we would all be together
    in a sudden strangeness.

    Fisherman in the cold sea
    would not harm whales
    and the man gathering salt
    would look at his hurt hands.

    Those who prepare green wars,
    wars with gas, wars with fire,
    victories with no survivors,
    would put on clean clothes
    and walk about with their brothers
    in the shade, doing nothing.

    What I want should not be confused
    with total inactivity.

    Life is what it is about;
    I want no truck with death.

    If we were not so single-minded
    about keeping our lives moving,
    and for once could do nothing,
    perhaps a huge silence
    might interrupt this sadness
    of never understanding ourselves
    and of threatening ourselves with death.
    Perhaps the earth can teach us
    as when everything seems dead
    and later proves to be alive.

    Now I’ll count up to twelve
    and you keep quiet and I will go.

  • 21 Feb 2017 6:43 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to Judy Rosemarin for sharing these reflections after the FCM 2017 Winter Retreat.

    She stood in front of me, face to face. Small, deep in the center of her chest I saw it, as if an archeological dig had discovered it, I saw a small cube and it almost took my breath away.  I knew what it was immediately.

     She had been feeling lonely with many recent losses in her life. I saw her looking at me. I saw all that she was, though she never saw very much of it due to her continual frantic-running-tumbling-forward way of living. Never knew what she was running towards or from, but in that instant as we looked at each other, silently I said and I know she heard me, “You have it all. You are not alone. You don’t have to do this.  I love you.” Then, we wept together, bound together, breathing together. No one reached out, no hands, hugs or anything customary when such deep recognition and reconnection occur. We just came together in a place, on a plane, on a level description-defying. I could see her and she finally saw me, as I had waited a very long time for this moment.

    I could feel her energies and knew that they drove her ( and others, sometimes, to distraction) and most of all she was distracted from herself making it impossible for her to see her heart, her caring, her resilience, her fears, her intelligence, her creativity, her love. Too fast, she ran trying to accomplish everything, but this time, this unbelievable moment, she stood still, quiet in front of me allowing herself to be seen by someone who has always loved her but she had been looking in all the wrong places, wrong faces, spinning here and there. I could never get her to stand still, slow down until now.

    As I looked at her, I saw the little cube in her chest turn into a diamond. I said, wordlessly, “ I was always there and you were always enough.” And for a brief moment,  the words seem to be carried to her on angels’ wings and echo in a canyon, offered in sweet silence while a smile placed itself on both of our faces and a sweet song of caring hummed in our hearts.  We made a new friendship, one that we both were longing for.

    She never thought that people actually liked her just so. She had to do something, produce something make others happy and never stopping until this moment she stopped, was unafraid, not restless or scared as she seemed to recognize me now and it felt like she had come home to me and let me see her, which I had been longing for for decades.

    “Who will love me, who can I share with” she had asked countless times in her life and I think she sensed my response, “I have, I do and am here always.”

  • 02 Jan 2017 10:17 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    FCM Member Nancy Natilson attended a three-day conference on Mindful Leadership in Washington, DC in November 2016.  Her interest stemmed specifically from her current role as Director of FCM’s Mindfulness Institute. Following is Nancy’s summary of her experience at the summit.

    How meaningful to be part of a gathering of 800 people from 27 countries who came together to explore what it means to be a mindful leader and how being a mindful leader can make the world a better place! I stayed an extra day to take the workshop, “Search Inside Yourself” created at Google to bring mindfulness and emotional intelligence to the workplace, to improve collaboration, engagement, well-being, resilience, and effectiveness.

    What makes leadership mindful? One of the co-founders of this third annual event stated, “Mindful leadership is leadership in service to others with compassion and authenticity.” Other definitions included: the ability to connect with others and skillfully initiate and guide change; and interaction (emotional loyalty) instead of transaction (material loyalty).

    Characteristics of mindful leadership included: listening more than speaking; questioning more than answering; creating space for others to speak and act; opening your heart and your mind; and making people feel special and loved. Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said and forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Deep sharing and deep listening are basic values of mindful leadership; how fortunate that we have the opportunity to practice this method of connecting and understanding so often at FCM.

    The presenters ranged from creative entrepreneurs to Ivy League neuroscientists; most had authored one or more books; only a handful stated they were committed Buddhist practitioners. I felt a deep connection with one speaker, Marc Lesser, who used the Dharma to explain the principles/values of mindful leadership. He was one of the co-founders of Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, and had spent many years practicing Buddhism at the San Francisco Zen Center, including managing the kitchen at the Tassajara Center. His experience of introducing mindfulness into the corporate world was very inspiring. Also, the Chief Mindfulness Officer at Aetna Insurance shared with us how he converted a conference room into a mindfulness center at Aetna’s headquarters and supported the creation of a culture of self-awareness and well-being because the CEO practiced yoga and meditation to successfully manage pain after a serious ski accident.

    What would the world be like if people acted selflessly and with compassion and authenticity? if leaders emerged from openheartedness and the aspiration to benefit others? if we were all present and awake? This is possible, and it begins with each of us! Being mindful is the most authentic and effective leadership style to show others how to be peaceful, loving, and happy.

  • 27 Oct 2016 6:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With gratitude to FCM member Judy Rosemarin for sharing her experience from the FCM Fall 2016 Retreat.

    Broken Apart Yet Unafraid

    There I was, on the third day at the FCM Fall Retreat in Tampa, sitting on my cushion, and the question was posed, “What is a thought?”

    Silently, in my snarky style, I said to myself, “brain secretions” and felt cool. But that ended quickly when I was invited,  by Fred,  to look at thought directly. I wasn’t really sure what that meant.  I knew how to watch thoughts go by. Easy. I knew that we feed them and they grow so I try not to do that as often as I can.

    “Find a thought and just look at that thought directly,” Fred said.  Easy. I can do that and I conjured up a hot fiery one that I called “anger” and yes, I “saw” it and could feel it but I quickly learned that I wasn’t looking directly at the thought “anger” but instead,  I was looking at the  things I had imbued into the thought.

    I had put in color ( red)  and I put in body sensations ( chest tight, throat breathing, heart pounding) which felt strongly. So the combination of attributes of red and body sensations were then categorized and labeled “anger.” But I wasn’t yet looking directly at the thought itself. Oh, rest assured, I was sure I had but with Fred’s careful and caring guidance, and not accepting my first response, he suggested I look again at “just the thought” and, shockingly, I saw nothing.

    Now that sounds a bit strange because it sure felt like something before I just “looked.” It felt real and even powerful. But then, when prompted to locate it, to see if I could find its dimensions, shape and size, it was nowhere to be found. And when I discovered that the thought had nothing to it, like air, it evaporated and disappeared, leaving not a trace of feelings other than surprise and delight.

    But it didn’t end there. I was then asked to do the same thing with my name: Judy.  Now before I continue, I need to share with you that I prided myself in intellectually understanding a lot of what we study, I have a decent daily practice and have even “taught” a bit of mindful awareness to others. Also, based on my psychological training, I know about the ego’s fear of annihilation. And all that jazz.  But what I discovered, in this experience, was something way beyond intellect and basically beyond language. However, in an attempt to approximate this seminal experience, I will do my best to share that next step.

    If I had been asked to look at “Judy” under other circumstances, I might have been fearful but based on the deliberate mind training build up of two days, with focused meditation on top of meditation, and with no time to think I wasn’t in the least bit afraid. I was, instead, wildly curious, a bit contrary with an inner hope that this may be interesting yet I head myself saying to myself “Ok, you can’t be making ‘Judy’ disappear!”

    What fun to be wrong! I looked at the name directly, having already been made aware of how to look at thoughts directly and all I saw were letters spelling J U D Y. There was nothing else. No image of a body, or image of feelings in any direction and, well, nothing was there but unhooked letters that spelled out what we call a name, or in some other cases, a label. Worse even -an “identity!” It all broke apart in tiny pieces and disappeared.

    Now, from the outside that might be a bit scary. To have yourself disappear but that was the magic of it. Not only did I not disappear, because there is no stable “I” but the sense of fresh air, possibilities, opportunities and energies almost overcame me.

    There was nothing to be found, so nothing felt lost! I shed some tears in exquisite wonder at the magic of the experience. Not only that, but I found, in that moment, I could not find my “mind” either. Again, no fear, just this indescribable wide open spaciousness which seemed endless. Yet I didn’t feel lost at all. I didn’t feel scared. I didn’t feel worried, other than my urge-tendencies to ask, “Wow! Now what do I do with this?”

    A wise part of me said, “Take it in and see.”

    “But I want to immediately integrate it, apply it, use it.”

    “Maybe what you want to do is keep practicing and deepen your understanding.”

    So, I have done just that since the retreat ended three days ago and what has now come up for me is that if thoughts are empty and they are fleeting as well as numerous 15-20,000 a day, perhaps it might be wise to slow down, really slow down. Then, I can choose my own thoughts, knowing what they truly are, and make them of benefit to myself and to others.  I’ll take that ‘broken apart’ any day over what I used to think was me. Oh, the possibilities!

    Judy Rosemarin


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