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Beginning Anew (10 min.) MP3
"Beginning Anew"
Transcript of a talk delivered by Br. ChiSing
Awakening Heart (Community of Mindful Living)
October 12, 2008 - Dallas, Texas

I'd like to have more time for sharing tonight because one of the things I appreciate about our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh is, as a teacher, his, one of his main emphases is on community. Whereas many other practice centers around the world and in this country, perhaps they might emphasize more ritual or chanting. They might emphasize silent sitting. And all those things are present in Thich Nhat Hanh's way of sharing the dharma, but the one he is most well known for is community. He says that we do not just simply take refuge in the Buddha, which can be expressed through devotion and ritual and chanting. And we do not just simply take refuge in the dharma which can be expressed in study and practice of sitting and walking meditation and in the silence. We also take refuge in the sangha, the community of our brothers and sisters our spiritual friends and teachers who support us and whom we support along the path.

In this country there has been several waves of the teachings of the dharma coming to the West from the East. In the early days especially in the early 20th century there were many Asian immigrants that came over and they brought with them mostly Pureland Buddhism which is very devotional, which definitely honors the refuge of the Buddha with the chanting and the statues. And of course you start seeing many people putting Buddha statues in their houses because they thought it was really cool. They liked it. Even though they may not understand the meaning of the Buddha or what it means to take refuge.

Then later on in the middle of the twentieth century, more Zen teachers came over and vipassana teachers and other meditation teachers, and then people began to study the teachings more and to practice meditation more. And now in the last couple of decades and especially this decade, there has been an overwhelming desire and need and a call for community. Because without understanding what true community is, our world has very little chance of continuing in a healthy form in this century and the next.

Relationship is so important. Harmony in community and family is so important. And that's why, when we come here, we don't just simply sit in silence together. We also share, we also listen. And it is through this messy practice of sharing and listening and sometimes having difficulties with other friends and members of the community... that's how we grow and that's how we learn to be community. And that's how the world understands how to be community. It starts right here, right now.

I really didn't know what I was going to share tonight, but what's coming up for me is the fact that this is the first time I went to Minnesota when my ex-partner no longer lived there. He has moved to Minnesota with his new partner, I mean to Canada. But I continue to go there because it's not about him. In fact, he was simply a vehicle for me to grow and learn and when the time came for that to end, it ended. We're still friends. But because of that relationship, I made very many connections in Minnesota that are continuing to blossom to this day. And I stayed with my best friend Andy and his girlfriend, Megan, this weekend and it was just wonderful. I had lunch with my Dharma teacher from the Zen center. I spoke to sixty or more college students on the practice of mindfulness at the University of Minnesota. And I gave a talk from my heart to the Thousand Water Zen Center in St. Paul, and many people were in tears by the end of the talk because their hearts were open, because I was just being myself, not putting on any airs, just being me.

The last time I saw my ex-partner was a few months ago in June. We had not really talked heart to heart for a long time, for several years. But he had requested that we have a time to come together and meditate, to recite the five mindfulness trainings and to share in this process which is called "beginning anew." The first step is called "flower watering," where you talk about what's positive, what's good, what's true and beautiful. The second step is then to share beneficial regrets of what you may have done unskillfully. Not about giving yourself a guilt trip, but simply sharing in ways that you think you may have, you could have done something a little better. So you just share things that you regret that you acted unskillfully. And then the third part is then you share any hurts that the other person may have caused or that you feel they have caused. And I add a fourth step which is then to bring it back to the positive. What are the hopes that you have, what are the positive hopes that you have in this relationship from this situation.

So we did that. We sat together for half an hour. We recited the mindfulness trainings. We bowed to the Buddha statue three times. And we sat and we shared flower watering, beneficial regrets, sharing of hurts and our hopes.

At first I didn't think he was going to be able to do it because I was so angry at him for past things. But I was actually, because of this process, able to share the hurts without getting angry, and to share just honestly from my heart. And he was able to simply listen and he actually said afterward how surprised he was that I could actually share something so deep and hurtful and painful without going into yelling and anger. And so he had a deeper appreciation for my practice and for this practice, and he was very grateful. And that was the last time I saw him. I'm not sure I'll ever see him again because now he lives in another country. But I'm very happy that I did this process. And we can do this process with anyone; with an ex-partner, ex-wife, a mother or father, son or daughter, co-worker, friend.

My friends who are also Dharma teachers, Peggy Rowe and Larry Ward have written a wonderful new book called Love's Garden, A Guide to Mindful Relationships. And Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a beautiful excerpt, a beautiful introduction to that book and the full excerpt is in a current issue of the Shambala Sun Magazine from November 2008. The theme of this issue is "The Dharma of Loving." So if you have a chance to read this beautiful book or the excerpt in the magazine, please feel free to do so.

You know I've always been a lover, and that is my orientation of my heart. And even as I practice sitting and walking and living mindfully, to me it's a way of making love to the universe. And as I sit, I don't try to get something out of it necessarily, although of course I do benefit much from it. But I sit with the attitude of realizing all the good that is already being given moment to moment in every moment so richly and deeply. And I sit with gratitude with the attitude of "thank you." And just every breath in, and every breath out is intimate communion, intimate love, intimate oneness with all that is. And you are my oxygen, you are my life, you are my love. Thank you.

Transcribed by Peggy Browning

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