Sometimes it can seem as though being human is a problem that spiritual practice is meant to solve. But Buddhist meditative and related practices actually have a different focus: developing our human faculties to see more clearly the true nature of things, so that we can participate in and respond to how things are in a more generous and helpful way. Our individual awakenings become part of the world’s awakening. This means leaning into life, and to do that we have to recognize what gets in the way. For each of us, this is likely to include certain habitual patterns of thinking and feeling in reaction to what we encounter. Everything is provisional, and everything influences everything else. The implication for our inner lives is that they are seamless with the outer world, and constantly changing with it. We’re not encapsulated consciousnesses bouncing around in a world of other consciousnesses and inert matter, but part of a vibrant, ever-changing field that encompasses everything we can experience, and more. From this perspective, how do we deal with the habitual patterns of heart and mind that inhibit us from having a more realistic understanding of life, and a more intimate engagement with it? Perhaps it becomes less important to tackle the thoughts and feelings directly, to do something about them, than it is to see them in their true proportion. Simply put, how we react is not the most important element of any situation. The basic inquiry is ‘What is this?’ And it’s a way back to what we’re trying to avoid. Habits can be deeply ingrained, but over time it’s possible that even a quite troublesome reaction can assume its proper size and shape as one thing among many, rising and falling with everything else, no longer especially inhibiting or especially fascinating. And we move closer to a life lived in response instead of reaction, closer to participation in the way things actually are…..Joan Sutherland
come find that gentleness we share…..this linking and binding of the chain disrupts the need to harm, the need to know, the need to fix….we are alive within the other, embedded within the soul of light….no vow is strong enough to break the chain….light finds us…..
Thich Nhat Hanh’s expression of the teachings of the Buddha is very relevant to our understanding of the relationship between the natural world and culture. He coined the word ‘interbeing’ as a translation of the Vietnamese phrase tiep and hien. According to this perspective, to be in touch with the inner reality of mind and to understand the reality of the outside world is to discover that they are woven into one fabric. In our everyday lives, inner and outer appear to be separate and distinct. But when looking deeply, we find that there are no separate realities. All apparently distinct phenomena are folded into one deep continuum. This is called nonduality, or the unity of self and other. The Western dualistic perspective regarding mind and nature or self and other suggests that there is a world outside us, and then we have our inner world, a world of feelings, perceptions, and mental formations of various kinds. Many of us think that our mind is separate from the world around us. Deep ecology and Buddhism teach us that if we penetrate with real awareness our own minds then we also can understand that we are not separate from the world around us. Our personal wounds and the World Wound are not separate……Roshi Joan Halifax
I entered the life of the brown forest
And the great life of the ancient peaks,
the patience of stone, I felt the changes
in the veins
In the throat of the mountain….and,
I was the stream
Draining the mountain wood;
and I the stag drinking;
and I was the stars,
Boiling with light, wandering alone,
each one the lord
of his own summit; and I was
Outside the stars, I included them
they were a part of me.
I was mankind also, a moving lichen
On the cheek of the round stone…
they have not made words for it,
to go behind things,
beyond hours and ages.
And be all things in all time,
in their returns and passages,
in the motionless and timeless center,
In the white of the fire…
how can I express the excellence
I have found, that has no color
No honey but ecstasy; neither wrought
nor remembered; no undertone nor silver
That rings in love’s voice.
……Roshi Joan Halifax