Watering the Good Seeds

ferns close up

A family of ferns. Photo by Celia

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou

“Every child is born in the garden of humanity as a flower.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

The Four Mantras of True Love

“Darling. I am here for you.”

 “Darling. I know you are there for

 “Darling. I know you are suffering. I am here for you.”

 “ me.”Darling. I am suffering. Please help me.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh, From the Dharma talk, True love and the Four Noble Truths, October 14, 2013

Dear Friends,

How are you doing in all this? I am wondering if you have found a rhythm and some routine in our new normal. It appears that our quarantine will be with us for longer than some of us expected. There are more uncertainty and more fear in the world. This adds to our allostatic load, the amount of stress our bodies are exposed to. Increased stress in our environment, leads to greater burden on the basic physiology of the body to perform homeostasis. As a result, we have less physical and emotional energy and less resilience and capacity. If we are confined with our families, it can be tense. We long for our own space and for that partner to go…somewhere…anywhere, but here. The kitchen is too small. The food is boring and still, we are eating. There is nothing to do and yet, we are exhausted. We are vigilant and afraid, and the enemy is invisible and the people we love could be unwitting agents of illness and death. All we want to do is have some comfort, ease, and return to what was normal. This is a confusing and tough time when we are called in to manifest the highest qualities in ourselves—like gratitude.

Last weekend, I had the privilege of being with a virtual sangha of young folks. There were two sisters ages 2 and 8 on the video teleconference who lived in Manhattan. Their mom was immune-compromised, a single parent, who told us they had not been outside of their apartment in six weeks—and yet—the kid played, sang, breathed with the bell, and were kids.

During the call, we had a session of flower watering. Winton Hill, flowers Flower watering is a practice where we acknowledge the gifts of another person and let them know we see them; we appreciate their goodness and it makes a difference in our life. I watched the 8-year-old smile and light up as her mom described the beautiful qualities she saw in her daughter, her patience with her sister, the ways she was helpful, and dependable at home. The older sister watered the flowers of the little sister and they hugged. The mom watered the flowers of her little daughter saying she brought joy and laughter into their lives and kept them very busy. She hugged her kids and I could sense how delighted they felt to be seen for their goodness, for someone to appreciate their true intentions. This acknowledgment nourished these positive qualities in the family. It really was like rain, an essential nutriment for beautiful flowers to grow. 

ferns against granite

This simple practice can do wonders, create connection, and let those who feel left out know they are seen and their contributions are meaningful. When we take the time to verbally appreciate the qualities in our children, friends, and others which make our lives more wonderful, we are contributing to shaping their future. This appreciation adds to their confidence and creates the trust to continue to act with kindness. When we are seen for our good qualities, we feel free to be our authentic selves; we can relax, and others feel relaxed around us.

In America, the dominant culture stresses blame and judgment which can fuel disconnection and isolation. We are quick to criticize, find fault and see injustices; we don’t always take the time to say how we feel when we encounter goodness in others. Right now, gratitude is more important than ever. No one is certain about what the future holds. At this moment, while we are present on the Earth, what do we really want to tell people? What would we regret leaving unsaid? Telling someone you value them is a gift that costs nothing except our willingness to connect. This week, please consider all the people who make a difference in your life and in your day and let them know you are thankful for their kindness, for their humor, for their patience. Let them know how their being here impacts you and how they contribute to the world. When we can see our goodness through the eyes of another, we feel loved. Knowing we are loved is a legacy of priceless worth.

May we all trust our light,

Celia

Dont ignore suffering

Making Meaning of our Lives

Rainbow

Today’s Rainbow. Photo by Celia

“At the beginning you may believe that the four Bodhisattvas are outside of us. If you practice steadily, you will see that you are also that Bodhisattva because you also have all of those qualities.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

“Even fear itself is frightened by the bodhisattva’s fearlessness.” ~Chogyam Trungpa

“A bodhisattva is someone who has compassion within himself or herself and who is able to make another person smile or help someone suffer less. Every one of us is capable of this.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

“Few of us are satisfied with retreating from the world and just working on ourselves. We want our training to manifest and to be of benefit. The bodhisattva-warrior, therefore, makes a vow to wake up not just for himself but for the welfare of all beings.” ~Pema Chodron

Dear Friends,

Sitting in my kitchen, I am wondering what is true for you? The responses to our shared situation are so varied and shift from moment to moment. I’ve talked to people who are feeling slight disruptions of life and those who are grieving the loss of connection and physical interaction, and those who feel like they are losing ground and fighting despair. I’ve seen in myself that what is meaningful in my life is created in community. Worldwide, we are seeing the loss of jobs and how much we value being engaged and useful. The lack of employment impacts our ability to care for ourselves and our families and is causing real anxiety and concern about our ability to survive. We may feel lost and rudderless as if we will be swept away by our inability to get things done, to make money and of course, to be useful. My inquiry right now is, what gives our lives meaning in this physically distant society?

I am reminded of the Great Vow of the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, “until the hells are empty, I will not become a Buddha. I will remain until every sentient being is liberated.” Each Bodhisattva offers us ways to stay connected to the intention to care for others, even though we may not be physically present with them. Our intentions are powerful. They are what creates meaning in our lives. In Buddhist thought, intention is what creates karma, or the results of our thoughts, words, and physical actions.

Thich Nhat Hanh tells us that there are four qualities of mindfulness: compassion and loving kindness, great understanding and wisdom, and action and vows. We need the mind of love and wisdom in order to take action and have the nourishment to continue acting in accordance with our intentions when things are difficult.  He reminds us, “When you love, you have to act. If you say that you have a lot of love but you don’t do anything then that is not love that is merely lip service.” When we invoke the Bodhisattvas’ names, we call upon these qualities in ourselves. Thay speaks about these same four qualities in the life of a Bodhisattva which enable us to bring compassionate action in alignment with our deepest values. “The Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara illustrates the first aspect, love. Manjushri Bodhisattva represents great understanding. Samantabhadra is Great Action and Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva the Great Vow. In Mahayana temples usually the ears represent Avalokitesvara, Manjushri by the eyes and Samantabhadra by the hand.”  We see that the intention to be awake and to be of service requires us to hear the needs of others, the see what is useful and do able and the will to make it happen.

I know in our sangha we have those who are living Bodhisattvas.Spring Dandelions

They are writing cards to the elderly, calling friends, reconnecting with relatives and offering homes and support for those who are mourning. Taking our place as Bodhisattvas, we use our gifts to continue to act despite the limitations and adversities. As we take time to consider our roles in this new society, what makes us come alive for ourselves? How can we manifest the desire to connect, to care for others and in doing so, care for our own sense of meaning and contribution? Sometimes it’s a simple phone call or a text, a message of care, a trip to the supermarket for an elderly friend, sometimes it’s walking someone’s dog, or leaving a pot of pansies on a doorstep. Our actions can take many, many forms, but what is the connecting thread in all of these is the mind of love, the understanding of our own and collective aspirations and the ability to act, the mind that finds a way to love—even in this.

May we all trust our light,

Celia

I am here for you

All quotations from a Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh on January 15, 1998  in Plum Village, France.