This year I wanted to cultivate more reflection and inspiration in my meditation practice. For the past several months, I’ve been reading a few poems by Wendell Berry each morning (from A Timbered Choir). And though I’ve been married to a poet for a quarter century, it’s not a source of material I often turn toward.
A few mornings ago, these words arrived as I sat with my morning coffee. Looking to capture it here.
Trees and forest. Oh
the many days and nights.
Of cold, of rain, of sunshine.
The birds and squirrels. Hands and
vehicles. Sawmill and finisher.
Restored with love.
To hold me each morning.
With coffee and reflection.
An antique rocking chair.
In the morning darkness.
When the precious pot shatters and all our valuables roll away like marbles on a table, reality as we thought we knew is disrupted and the game of contriving an ideal self is suddenly irrelevant.
~ Pema Khandro Rinpoche
Cultivating a deep and intimate relationship over a period of decades means there will be times of transcendent happiness and also times of suffering and unhappiness. There is this duality in a relationship.
This involves learning to ride the waves of our feelings rather than becoming submerged by them. This requires mindfulness of where we are in the cycle of emotional experience. A skilled surfer is aware of exactly where he is on the wave, whereas an unskilled surfer winds up getting creamed. By their very nature, waves are rising fifty percent of the time and falling the other fifty percent. Instead of fighting the down cycles of our emotional life, we need to learn to keep our seat on the surfboard and have a full, conscious experience going down.
Can you live and practice with the ups and downs of our relationships? My experience is that it’s possible and offers a richness to life that can’t be compared.
This morning I spent time revisiting the Tenth Mindfulness Training of the Order of Interbeing. This training sometimes causes confusion for practitioners who are uncertain how to engage in public action and discourse. The text from the book Interbeing is quite clear.
A spiritual community, however, should take a clear stand against oppression and injustice. This should be done with a clear voice, based on the principles of the Four Noble Truths. The truth concerning the unjust situation should be fully exposed (the First Noble Truth: suffering). The various causes of injustice should be enumerated (the Second Noble Truth: the causes of suffering). The purpose and desire for removing the injustice should be made obvious (the Third Noble Truth: the removal of suffering). The measures for removing the injustice should be proposed (the Fourth Noble Truth: the way to end suffering).
We can do this and transcend partisan politics. I can think of numerous opportunities in today’s social and political environment.
Appreciating a cup of coffee from Burundi and roasted by Blue Bottle – they call the roast Burundi Kayanza Mpanga. What do I know if where my coffee comes? Not much! It is quite amazing that I can sit here on a bright and sunny morning in the Ojai Valley drinking a cup of coffee from across the planet and not even know exactly where Burundi is located.
Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 80% living in poverty and a majority of the children malnourished. I can’t even begin to understand this statement. It’s a tiny country in east Africa with coffee being its main export – though exports aren’t even a large part of their GDP. Agriculture and rural living dominates.
On a windless day the flapping wings of thousands of birds pass between Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria. Fed by the same waters and agile as a feather, the Mpanga also takes flight.
This poetic digression from Blue Bottle also helps me touch the beauty and majesty of this tiny country. Burundi is the source of the Nile and they also have the 2nd largest freshwater lake in the world – Lake Tanganyika. I can see the natural beauty and the people living to take care of their daily needs where they make crafts, drum, play soccer, and drink beer by the side of the road.
The planet is small and yet a life experience in Southern California compared to a life in Burundi could be another planet.
Thank you for my coffee today. I hope it lends some support to the people of Burundi in a fair and supportive manner. Appreciating the apricot and cane sugar flavored of Burundi.
One of the deepest and most difficult teachings of the Buddha is no-self. In fact, we are warned that it can be dangerous if we don’t understand clearly this concept. Furthering my study and reflection on this teaching, I read The Sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Catch a Snake. In this sutra, we can learn to let go of and not cling to or identify with anything. This is Right View. Let’s look at this together and share our collective insight and understanding.
From the teaching of no-self, we can learn to respond with compassion and see false accusations, slander, and reprimands as having an interdependence with all other things. Each of us are products of our family, society, and culture. Seeing this we can have more compassion. To help someone change, we can work to change her family, society, and culture. We don’t need to feel anger or blame.
The same can be said about praise, adoration; and respect. To receive these and not make us proud or arrogant.
In my practice, I am learning how to be in touch with this teaching for myself and also to help transform the consciousness of my society and culture. Just by keeping aware of the teaching of no-self, I can have more compassion for myself and for those who think and believe differently than I do.
Through meditation, conscious breathing, and deep looking I can open my heart to for a deeper understanding. It takes time, silence and presence to move in this direction. And in doing so, I cultivate the heart of love and will not feel anger, hatred, or vengeance.
To help further apply these teachings, we also have the first two Mindfulness Trainings of the Order of Interbeing.
The First Mindfulness Training: Openness
Aware of the suffering created by fanaticism and intolerance, we are determined not to be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. We are committed to seeing the Buddhist teachings as guiding means that help us learn to look deeply and develop our understanding and compassion. They are not doctrines to fight, kill, or die for. We understand that fanaticism in its many forms is the result of perceiving things in a dualistic and discriminative manner. We will train ourselves to look at everything with openness and the insight of interbeing in order to transform dogmatism and violence in ourselves and in the world.
The Second Mindfulness Training: Non- Attachment to Views
Aware of the suffering created by attachment to views and wrong perceptions, we are determined to avoid being narrow minded and bound to present views. We are committed to learning and practicing nonattachment from views and being open to others’ insights and experiences in order to benefit from the collective wisdom. Insight is revealed through the practice of compassionate listening, deep looking, and letting go of notions rather than through the accumulation of intellectual knowledge. We are aware that the knowledge we presently possess is not changeless, absolute truth. Truth is found in life, and we will observe life within and around us in every moment, ready to learn throughout our lives.
How are you understanding, practicing, and experiencing these teachings?