With gratitude to FCM member Carol Green for this article
The environmental community has gone after big issues, like scientists’ reports about melting permafrost in the Arctic and rising seas, but has not brought them down to the personal level, said Heather Lyn Mann, Buddhist spiritual ecologist who spoke recently to the Florida Community of Mindfulness and other groups in the Tampa Bay area.
This big-picture reality is frightening and creates fear and division, she said. There is another, more mindful, way to look it. Yes, it is reality, but there is hope, and there are things individuals can do by taking a mindful, dharma-based approach.
Mann, of Charleston, SC, is a co-founder of Earth Holders, an organization in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village tradition that sponsors retreats with Plum Village monastics during their annual U.S. tours, publishes quarterly newsletters and offers information and dharma-related insights into lessening harmful climate change. Their website, www.earthholders.org, also is a resource for plant-based nutrition. Mann’s visit was sponsored by the Buddhist Climate Action Network, led by FCM’s Andrew Rock.
Five million people live in 2.5 million homes less than four feet above sea level in the U.S., she said. Sea level is expected to rise two to seven feet in this century. “Notice what happens in your body when I say that,” she said. “Do you feel angry? Sad? Notice what comes up for you. Sometimes we push away, disagree with each other. This is multiplied across the world. This is what the early stage of climate discovery looks like.
“I use tonglen. I breathe in that strong emotion, and I breathe out compassion. I encourage you to stay with reality and look at the causes and conditions that brought us to this point. Deep looking requires changes. We have the delusion of separate self in our society, a separation between self and others and separation between self and the Earth. It is a dangerous dualistic form of species arrogance that we can commodify resources and exploit other people for our own benefit. We think we can tolerate harm to the climate because America will be ok and other countries won’t. But America won’t be ok. Our objectifying is grounded in other-making.
“What is our relationship to the planet? I hear environmentalists say our species is horrible, or sometimes they say we are superior. That doesn’t fit for me. Also, we are not equal to nature; we have to have an ‘other’ to be equal to it. We ARE nature. We are dependently co-arising. The inside and outside dissolves. We can embrace our reality and oneness. Carl Sagan said, ‘We are the Universe contemplating itself’.
“In Earth Holders, we approach happiness as the cure for the climate crisis, and one of the ways we can be happy is to fall in love with Mother Earth all over again.
“Falling in love with Mother Earth is equal to heaven on earth. It’s sacred all the time. When you are one with the Earth, you can see it has qualities of endurance and stability and accepts everyone without discrimination. We do not worship it; that would be to create an ‘other,’ but we can be one with it, which puts us in deep communion. Love means ‘to be one with’.”
With Gratitude to FCM Member Carol Green for this Article
Sailing the Atlantic in major gales and life-threatening disasters offered lessons in reflecting about the terror of the unknown future of climate change, said Heather Lyn Mann, spiritual ecologist and co-founder of the Thich Nhat Hanh tradition’s Earth Holders Sangha, in a recent series of presentations to the Florida Community of Mindfulness (FCM) and other groups in the Tampa Bay area.
You don’t really know you have been sailing (or confronting the desperate fear of climate change) until you have been deeply frightened, but if you can stay safely in the moment, you may be able to make a significant difference, she said. Balancing facing reality with maintaining hope, she led discussions with FCM, students and faculty at the New College in Sarasota and the Shambhala Sangha in St. Petersburg. Her talks were sponsored by the Buddhist Climate Action Network, headed by FCM’s Andrew Rock.
Earth Holders is an organization in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village tradition that sponsors retreats with Plum Village monastics during their annual U.S. tours, publishes quarterly newsletters and offers information and dharma-related insights into lessening harmful climate change. Their website, www.earthholders.org, is a resource for plant-based nutrition.
Mann and her husband, Dave, had been dreaming of sailing for years, and when they finally had saved enough, she looked deeply at her fatigue from her work in developing conservation land trusts and knew it was time. They embarked on a journey that ultimately took them six years on the Wild Hair, a sailboat, around the “Great Atlantic Teacher,” learning lessons in mindfulness and the power of the planet that served her well as she wrote a memoir, Ocean of Insight: A Sailor’s Voyage from Despair to Hope, and now leads a spiritual ecology movement in Charleston, SC.
They made basic sailor mistakes on their voyage, yet reflected on those mistakes to extract larger teachings. Just as they survived despite their sailors’ errors, in spite of mistakes in over-consumption and thoughtless choices in using the Earth, we can still have a positive impact, she said.
“There is passive hope, where you sit and wish that things were different,” she said. “And there is active hope, where you are always listening to reality, being clear about the world you want, and, when you have the opportunity, act without weighing whether you will be successful or not.”
She described an incident in which her husband drifted away from their marooned sailboat in a dinghy without a motor or supplies, possibly never to be seen again. All she could do was issue mayday calls on their radio and wait. He survived. “In some ways, I was powerless, I had no influence, but I still had dominion over my own actions. I mobilized support. Evolution gave me awareness, volition and choice originating from within. These are superpowers.
“Even the tiniest deed sparked into action can spark a revolution,” she said. “We can just do the simple thing in front of us to do. Thich Nhat Hanh had already figured that out and he took refuge in the earth. It’s a giant Dharma door.
“The way we treat the planet and the way we exploit people happens because we forget we are interconnected,” she said.
Organizations are now attempting to translate science into an understanding that laypersons can act on. Earth Holders and its website www.earthholders.org was born with the blessing of the Plum Village monastics and now is about to expand to a larger community including other movements, such as climate justice organizations, she said. This communications and resource hub holds monthly online meetings, issues a quarterly newsletter and has a practice manual that covers many topics, including how to write “love letters” to government officials and giving tips on plant-based eating.
Mann began an organization called Higher Ground in Charleston to re-frame discussions about changing lives and policies of that city as coastal flooding encroaches. Her work frames the issue as not just an environmental/ecological crisis, but a spiritual crisis, as well, asking, How can we live lives of meaning during this challenge?
To speak to people with opposing views, Mann recommended finding ways to find common ground: talk about air pollution, flooding in shared communities, how we all care about the country we inherited, concerns about our kids’ futures, rather than “climate change.” She recommended reading the works of Katharine Hayhoe, a conservative Christian scientist who writes and speaks about why evangelicals should care about climate change.
Mann recommended that those concerned about climate change do the “inner work,” first getting clear that mindfulness is their foundation. She cautioned that we have to do “twice as much inner grounding” as outside work to maintain the equanimity required for the long haul. Then, if we decide to take action, we can tackle the matters that we can directly impact, rather than becoming frozen and despondent about the big picture. She recommended forming small groups using the book Low Carbon Diet: A 30-Day Program to Lose 5,000 Pounds, by David Gerson, published by the Empowerment Institute. It provides simple, everyday steps that individuals may take to reduce their carbon footprints, such as drive more slowly, don’t use clothes dryers, and take shorter showers.
We have to bring a “don’t know” mind to our ecological practice, constantly asking, “Am I sure?” Mann said, drawing a parallel to a judgment error that she and her husband made as their sailing venture drew to a close in the Bahamas, where they almost lost their lives. “We have to let go what we think we know. You can get swept into your predictions of what you think is going to happen in the future. Insight and meditation sometimes lets us absorb what is beyond our perceptions. The future is yet to be written. Scientific studies are weather reports, and many things can open up.
A Yale University study distills it:
1. Climate change is real.
2. It’s bad.
3. It’s us.
4. 97 percent of scientists agree.
5. There’s hope.
1. Climate change is real.
2. It’s bad.
3. It’s us.
4. 97 percent of scientists agree.
5. There’s hope.
“In the next 25 years, things will be seesaw: wet and dry, hot and cold, fewer storms but more intense, flooding will occur in coastal states. Our brothers and sisters in island nations, most of Africa, polar regions, the deltas of Africa will be on the front lines. Pope Francis says we have a debt to the poor, not to wallow in guilt but to create a world with more fairness going forward. How can we breathe in the sensations of discomfort and breathe out compassion and the possibility that we can build a completely different route going forward? What simple actions can we manifest today as a life mantra, as a mindfulness practice?
“Turn to your beginner’s mind and look at reality. We must stop ourselves from leaping forward. Stay in the present moment. Notice what’s right. Let go of notions about politics -- no judgment, no blame -- empowering yourself.
“Our response to the climate challenge should not be rushed. This is the time to stop and consider how to influence things within our reach. They don’t have to be big and grand, just within our reach.”
With gratitude to Mitch Schaefer for this sharing
As I walked along the Hillsboro River on the first evening of the Spring Retreat, I reflected upon my aspirations for the next three days. I decided they were: 1) to deepen my understanding of the four nutriments and develop a greater moment to moment awareness of what I am consuming; 2) to leave the retreat with clarity on where I am going to reduce consumption of the things that are harmful and contribute to my suffering, and where to increase those which are more wholesome; 3) to strengthen my meditation practice by increasing my ability to (more effortlessly) focus on my breath, and by becoming a more objective observer of my thoughts; and 4) to feel gratitude for the journey I have traveled since becoming an FCM member last year- for my deepening spiritual practice, my new Sangha friendships, and for the peace I am experiencing from a regular meditation practice.
The retreat gave me everything I hoped for, and more. Here are just a few of the many moments which I found valuable:
The opportunity to journal throughout the retreat was a very meaningful approach for capturing insights during the dharma talks and jotting down reflections on my patterns of consumption. I left the retreat with strong commitments of where I intended to make changes in each of the four nutriments - specifically, where I was going to reduce consumption and what I was going to replace it with.
There were several visualization exercises that were very powerful for me. One took place in the Meta Garden, where I had the opportunity to offer "meta flowers" to myself and other people in my life. The imagery and emotions associated with this exercise were filled with warmth, spaciousness and compassion. The other exercise was a visualization sitting by the river-bank, watching various boats (i.e., thoughts) float by - each with their own stories and adventures. Following this exercise, I was able to "observe" the boats go by without getting pulled onto them from the shore. Weeks after the retreat new images and metaphors continue to arise in my mind, creating a feeling of spaciousness and light-hearted moments.
The opportunity to learn from senior students who have been studying with Fred for so many years was truly a gift. Their understanding of the dharma runs very deep, yet at the same time, they shared their daily struggles on the path with honesty, humility and humor. This made the teachings feel so real and accessible, while demonstrating the self-compassion we each need to offer to ourselves on our spiritual journeys.
And then, we had the good fortune to have our venerable Zen Master (aka, Fred) lead the Dharma teachings each evening and take our understanding to new depths. We talked about the body as a vehicle to transport us through our journey in this life, and how we wish to care for it. We explored the cumulative affects consuming a constant barrage of input through our senses has on our emotional well-being. Fred challenged each of us to examine if we were truly willing to let go of our never-ending pursuit of pleasure - and commit to the possibility of simply enjoying a pleasurable experience, without attachment.
And, we discussed the importance of choosing which of the seeds that have been planted in our storehouse consciousness over the years we want to focus on watering, with the understanding that..."what we take in conditions our mind, which ultimately conditions what we take in."
As our weekend came to a close, perhaps the most practical insight we discussed was that despite our high aspirations, transformation will not occur if we do not have a clear understanding of our "employer-employee" relationship with our 'guard at the gate'. We were challenged to assess what type of employer we are, and how to ensure our guard stands mindfully by our side, alert yet with compassion, ready to help us make the right choices. And that we should not be too generous with his or her vacation time.
Though the three days passed quickly, I left the retreat with a feeling equanimity and a renewed sense of volition to make better choices. I also departed with deep gratitude to Angie, Betsy, Diane, Fred, and my fellow retreatants for the experience we shared together. And to think that the majority of our time together was spent in "noble silence".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Florida Community of Mindfulness, Tampa Center
6501 N. Nebraska Avenue
Tampa, FL 33604
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