The Power of Kindness

Between the Women’s March on January 21st and the Airport protests on January 28th, I became empowered by kindness.  I have experienced and believed in the power of kindness for quite some time now, but over the span of a week I touched into something far more resilient.  I know it is not my kindness and yet I can feel it’s power flowing through me.  This kindness is not connected to one thing or event.  It has been steadily growing within me since the Women’s March and by Saturday night it was almost too much to bare.

Just before bed on Saturday, I took a moment to sit with all the dread, panic and elation from the day.  I thought about all the travelers who were suddenly detained without warning.  I remembered a video clip I saw of a middle aged Iranian man in tears over concern for his brother.  I asked myself this question:  If I were suddenly arrested what would I miss the most?  What would I want in detention with me as a refuge.  It was my 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva cards.  I realized I would write them on toilet paper if need be just to have them close.

Tonight we talked about this profound kindness that has been springing up in protests all over the country this last week and the practices that we hold close or take refuge in.  We talked about the kindness as a sense of solidarity, that when we stand as part of the collective we can feel it but not so much when we stand as an individual.  We talked about the aliveness it brings.  How is creates capacity we didn’t know we had and whether we are willing and able to take a risk to join into the collective and be apart of a larger voice.  We even talk about ordinary acts of kindness some of us experienced over the last week and the profound impact it had on us.  We peered into the question of whether we can even connect to this power and still hold a voice of outrage and anger.  By the end of the sit, it was clear that the kindness that is stirring in this country is real.  It is powerful and it is active.

I feel so tender and expansive right now that I asked the group to hold off on reviewing the book.  Instead I would like to use our weekly sit to connect with whatever is most alive for us.  Life seems so fluid that I want our group to be a refuge that provides a sense of solidarity, collectiveness and kindness.  I want us to help each other stay grounded in our practice and connected to this greater gift of kindness.  So instead of writing a post before the sit, we will write a post after the sit to sum up the wisdom we connected with during the evening’s exploration.

May the collective wisdom we touched into tonight support us in finding a practice that we can truly take refuge in and support us in turning towards this practice throughout the upcoming week.  With a deep bow….




I Have Missed You!!!

Hi Everyone – tonight I thought we would catch each other up on how the marches went (I know, it seems like ages ago).  I’ve had some profound changes in my heart and soul I’d like to share.


Weekend Nonresidential With Tuere and Vimalasara

After spending the weekend in DC, I am really looking forward to this weekend.  I hope to see you there…


Courageous Engagement: Seeing The Tiny Cuts

This week we will be exploring the 3rd section of Chapter 1, pp 25-35.  As I read through the words it struck me how common it is for a marginalized person to be aware of the tiny cuts of oppression.  But what if you didn’t know or consider oneself as “marginalized”.  You would not know of your collusion in your own oppression.  Nor would you be able to see your unwitting push to maintain status quo, the very thing that generates your oppression.  You would feel the inner pain and anguish from the weigh of the system but remain unable to free yourself from its true causes.  There is an obscure sickness in our current societal systems/structures and our reliance upon them for affirmation and safety will surely lead to more suffering and death.

There is, however, another way to live but first we must see the tiny cuts that are the cause of our inner pain and anguish.  We see these cuts by our willingness to let pain and dissonance of our discontent rise up within us and the veil of confusion drop away.  According to Thannissara, “the challenge is to be utterly realistic about what we face, while maintaining our practice of Dharma and our well- being.  We do this better when we collaborate”.  In my view, this means the cultivation and development of a strong, socially committed sangha (community of practitioners).

This weeks practice questions:  Can you be “utterly realistic”, without falling into judgment and blame, about how it is in the world?  Can you see the “tiny cuts” of your everyday life?  How connected are you to a group or community around your heartbreak issue?  Is this group or community active in empowering you to challenge the structures that maintain oppression in the world?  What would it take for you to feel our natural capacity to transform self and society?



Slow Down, Let’s Sit And Consider What Makes Us Want To Turn Away

This week we will take a deeper look at the 2nd quarter of Chapter 1.  As I was reading this chapter I found myself wanting to quickly move on.  I found it difficult to stay present as I read of difficulty after difficulty.  It is quite painful when we take a full look at the way we treat life, earth, animals and other humans beings. It’s not hard to see the disconnection, the blinders and denial we need to live in just to get up in the morning.  Page after page, Thannissara lays out the causes leading to our blindness, deafening and hardening armor that reinforces the continuation of this painful way of living.  Within these same pages, however, Thannissara also weaves in the way leading to liberation.

Liberation is born out of experience.  It is in our willingness to investigate the nature of suffering that we find freedom.  The only way I know how to practice that is connected to the present moment is through the use of contemplative questioning.  Last week we looked at the need to let go of guilt and fear as preparation for doing this work.  The Intention to Stand Up  statement is a way to practice returning the mind to present moment and strengthen out capacity to stay with the difficulty of whatever heartbreak issue we have chosen to work with over the next 6 months. Hopefully, it will support you in looking a the pain of your chosen heartbreak issue without getting swallowed up in the pain.

Keep in mind, Buddhist practice is not about how to solve the problems/difficulties in our lives.  Nor is it about learning how to pretend to “put up” with the problems/difficulties in our lives.  And it is not about learning how to disconnect from the problem/difficulties in our lives.   Buddhist practice is about one thing – as I see it – learning to let go of our resistance/aversion to the reality that problems/difficulties are present in our lives and in doing so, we free up the mental energy we used to solve, pretend and disconnect around the problems/difficulties to show up, full throttle, for whatever is direct action response is needed in the moment.

This weeks practice questions will help us see where we pull away from the pain and suffering of our heartbreak issue. Try to use them to look directly at your heartbreak through the lens of all its varying facets, both internally and externally.  Can you sense when or where you become disconnected to the pain/reality of your heartbreak and allow your relationship with it to reside primarily in the world of thought – opinions, ideas, complaints and judgment?  Do you trust that practice can help you reclaim a more direct and compassionate response to this heartbreak?

As you know, I will beat the Women’s March in Washington DC next weekend.  For those of you not going to DC, I believe it is still important to be involved locally. Here is a link to the corresponding march in Seattle

It begins…

PS: In case you can’t open the Word doc or don’t have a printer, here it is again:


In the depths of my heart and soul, I wish that _______________________

Did not exist and see the difficulty I have accepting its existence in the world.

I recognize:

I, alone, did not create _________________________.

I, alone, cannot prevent the suffering arising out of ________________________.

I, alone, will not eliminate the existence of _________________________.

I understand:

That the nature of human existence is in suffering.

That the nature of mindfulness practice is to bring me into communion with suffering.

That my ability to respond to suffering is within this communion not outside of it.

Therefore, to the extent that I am ready, I sent an intention to:

Work with others towards the elimination of _________________________.

Investigate any mental torment that stifles my efforts.
Do whatever I need to protect and take care of my heart and soul.

Finally, A Conversation In My Language

It was quite impressive to hear all the causes we will be hearing about over the reading of Time to Stand Up.  There were many different issues and concerns – some very new to me.  This may seem a little daunting to many of you.  How can we explore all these troublesome issues (the ones that break our hearts and keep us up at night) and stay sane?  We do it one week at a time.  We will travel slowly but deliberately.

I realized that one of the biggest reasons I love about this book  comes from the way Thannissara talks.  She talks like Black people talk when we are discussing the difficulties of discrimination and racism.  We talk about our world situation in stark, bleak and intense terms. At the same time, spiritual practice for our community is life changing.  It is how we have been able to live with the constant pressure of oppression while maintaining an ability to laugh, sing and enjoy life.  This way of exploring will be new to some of you but trust me, it will be well worth learning if you really want to be engaged with social issues.

I think it is important to put our work in a framework around using the book.  The book is less than 200 pages separated into six chapters.  We will review one chapter a month which means we will be working with this book until the summer.  I hope you will understand we are not going slow – we are moving deliberately and with intention.  Basically we will divide each chapter into 4 quarters and work with practice questions raised by Thannissara in each quarter.  Technically, we could finish the whole book in a month or two – but would anything really change?  Thannissara suggestion that Buddha’s shift in understanding emerged out of a long process seems more realistic to me.  Likewise, we need to let our understanding unfold over time.

The first quarter of chapter 1 raises some good points.  The four messengers that changed Buddha’s life were not the uplifting splendor of a glorious new day but the bleak, troublesome images of death – messages we would prefer to avoid.  What messengers brought you to this path?  Does it relate to the heartbreak that keeps you up at night?  How can we align our deepest refuge in practice towards our heartbreak?  Are you willing to let the pain of your heartbreak shock you out of your complacency and into action?

We will look at these questions and more on Thursday… Tuere

Wait, Why Are We Practicing?

This week we are starting the book Time to Stand Up by Thanisssara.  I have been trying to read a good portion of the 1st chapter but I find myself wandering back to Thanissara’s introduction.  It feels like we need to stop here and explore the fundamental question of why are we practicing before moving into how to practice as  socially engaged Buddhist.

Let me first say – I LOVE THIS BOOK!  I really enjoy Thanissara’s dharma talks and her writing style is equally engaging.  In her introduction she starts with acknowledging that she “would have preferred to write something lighter, happier and more innocent”.  Instead she is going to ask us to “look at a burnt and tortured earth with its polluted rivers, dying oceans, razed forests, devastated wastelands and its litany of extinct species”.  I wish I could just rewrite everything she says but I won’t.  I will just share that we are going to explore the difficulties of social engagement through Buddha’s wisdom within the Four Noble Truths and in doing so, cultivate a resilience that will enable us – as practitioners – to be of benefit to the world.  Each of us really needs to buy this book (whether or not you attend Thursday nights).  It will challenge some of our habitual thinking around practice and social action.

For instance, Thanissara asked the reader – “…what value is all this meditation and mindfulness if we just sit by and let the world burn [and suggests that] the old premise of ‘getting involved in politics is inappropriate for a follower of a contemplative tradition’ isn’t going to hold ground when the ground beneath us is disappearing…”  To begin, she invites us to “follow our own heartbreak” by scanning our consciousness for the issue that keeps us up at night and set an intention to do something about it.

I would like each of us to pick ONE social issue/concern that breaks your heart and bring it with you tomorrow night.  We may all have different issues.  In fact, it would be great if that were true.  But even if we have similar issues, we will not have the same intentions nor the same capacity to get involved. We will then explore what we perceive as the limitations and strengths of our practice.  Although, we will be reading Thanissara’s book about social action for the Earth, we will apply it to our own issues/concerns.  See you tomorrow…