A tragedy occurred while we were teaching in Singapore, the act of terrorism that killed 9 Black people praying in their church. It was on the front page of all the Asian newspapers! Can you imagine not being able to meditate safely in our center, in our communities of refuge and celebration? How can mindfulness help?
When we’re mindful, we can see that “race” is just a concept – albeit a deeply ingrained one. There is no cell, gene, telomere that can distinguish the Singaporean from the African American from the Chinese American from the Jewish American or the Hispanic and Latino American.
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied together into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Breathe these words in. ‘Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly’. Who said this? The Buddha? Thich Nhat Hanh? Or Martin Luther King? Great leaders see clearly how interconnected and interdependent we are, that we inter-be in all our joys and sorrows.
Today, you may be rejoicing that the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. Today, you may be grieving institutionalized bias and violence blighting [...]
Today dawns bright and cloudy in Singapore. The clouds shield the island city from the hot equatorial sun, and the humid breeze is soft and warm. Immense skyscrapers dot the skyline of this ultramodern city where the first-ever Wisdom 2.0 conference in Asia, attended by 500 people from 26 countries, has ended. Now Jack and I teach a daylong at Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery (KMSPKS), the largest Buddhist temple here, with a Hall of Great Strength, a Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas, and a Hall of No Form, which boasts a giant Buddha and holds 2000 people.
It’s fitting that we teach in the Hall of Great Compassion, dedicated to Kuan Yin, for this whole week we’ve received so much kindness and caring from Singaporeans. We taught and listened to teachings about compassionate leadership during the conference. And I’ve been heartened by Pope Francis’s encyclical about climate change. Several of this little island’s most enticing tourist spots, including a biome to preserve cloud forest flora, are built on land reclaimed from the South China Sea. Thriving Singapore’s very existence is threatened by rising sea levels.
Elizabeth Rice called my attention to an essay written by Bhikkhu Bodhi* joining hands with [...]
“We look with uncertainty
beyond the old seeking of
to a softer, more permeable aliveness
which is every moment
at the brink of death;
for something new is being born in us
if we but let it.
We stand at a new doorway,
awaiting that which comes…
daring to be human creatures,
vulnerable to the beauty of existence.”
– Anne Hillman
My cousin Myra sent me a video of their three dogs whom I haven’t seen for six months. Henry is no longer a cuddly little puppy; Oscar has matured and grown to love him, and elder Jack is much thinner; friendly and frail, he lies still, observing Henry and Oscar play. They are a tableau of life — playing, nosing around, and inevitably, changing. Growing older, and finally, old.
When I tell people I turn 70 this month, the spontaneous reaction is usually a surprised, “Oh! I didn’t know you were that OLD!” It’s a funny mirror held up to my own sense of being young thanks to the blessing of good health and energy. Then the question: “How does it feel?” The felt sense is exactly the same – moment by moment, life unfolding in the form of this birdsong, this rug under my feet, this stillness, these fingers [...]
My 2-year-old son developed a fear of the shadows cast on the wall by the slats of his crib, and he was inconsolable. He didn’t want to be in his bedroom, let alone his crib, and his twin sister innocently yelling, “SHADOWS!” probably wasn’t instilling much calm in him. My wife and I held him, walked him around, cuddled him, sang him songs, and even tried to talk him out of it. His fear and panic only seemed to increase with every external distraction we offered him. Eventually, and embarrassingly late given that I’m a meditation teacher, I realized I could help him out of this fear spiral with some mindfulness skills. Facing each other, we sat down on a rocking chair, and I placed my hand on his back. I asked him, “do you feel my hand rubbing your back?” He put his head on my shoulder, and I asked him, “Do you feel my shoulder on your cheek?” With each question about his immediate physical experience, his breathing slowed, and his muscles slackened. This little boy, who was so panicked a minute earlier, had fallen asleep in my arms.
We can all learn to soothe ourselves when we’re wracked [...]
This past Sunday morning, our sitting group celebrated our beloved InsightLA teacher Paloma Cain, who’s moving to Nashville on Monday. Jack and I spoke about letting go; Sandy Robertson, head of Patient-Centered Care at the Wilshire VA hospital, told an inspiring story about Paloma’s work there.
And it was also the day before Memorial Day. Memorial Day weekend heralds the unofficial start of summer, time for beach, barbecues, blockbusters… But it’s also a day when we’re called to remember the men and women who died in all wars. To see some of their faces: http://thefallen.militarytimes.com.
Regardless of what you or I think about war, about the military, or about what’s honorable service, we can understand the longing to live for a purpose bigger than just ourselves. America’s warriors are volunteers, people who care. They choose to put their lives on the line to serve and protect others – us! Wherever we stand on the political spectrum, we can separate our passionate, wildly divergent beliefs from simple respect for selfless service, personal sacrifice and love of country. Mutual respect is an honorable path to peace.
When we practice mindfulness together, over the years we realize that we and our beautiful country, our magnificent blue [...]