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Winter Solstice
Honoring the Clouds of Our Practice
Listen to this talk:
Nutriments for Our Lives (18 min.) MP3
Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
August 8, 2010 - Dallas, Texas

Yesterday during the Dallas Meditation Center staff retreat, we had about 14 of us or something like that. It was a beautiful, beautiful morning retreat. At the time we finished our two sitting meditations and walking meditations, there was such a beautiful energy in the room, and an opening up of deep memories, all of us together remembering that we have been together before in other configurations, and here we are once again coming back together finally once more. And all of us have had so many interesting twists and turns and our separate individual journeys, and they have been interwoven with each other in many different forms in different times and places. They are all coming to this moment right here and right now, so if we have enough mindfulness and presence, the ability to truly be here and now, then finally we are home in the very home that we never actually left. It only felt that way because we were lost in our minds and forgetfulness. Through mindfulness, we've reawakened to the home that we have always been in in the here and now, finally, finally. Along the way on the journey, we've learned so many things, discovered so many things, and through all of the different trials and errors, we have cultivated deep wisdom.

So I would like to invite you right now to contemplate deeply all the wisdom that is already within you from this lifetime of experience and many lifetimes also of experience. Contemplate all the different ways that what you consume creates the conditions that support either suffering or peace in your life and the lives of others. Not only what you eat and drink, but also what you listen to, what you take into your consciousness. Just contemplate that for a minute. Because one of the deepest teachings of the Buddha is simply that every effect has a cause or several causes, and so it is not like there is some random deity just kind of imposing certain things on people, certain faith or certain predestination—like okay. These over here are going to suffer and go to hell. These over here, they will go to heaven.

We laugh right now, but about five centuries ago John Calvin came up with this idea, and a lot of people believed him that God predestined certain people to go to hell, no matter what they do. It doesn't matter. They are predestined. Even if they are beautiful, saintly, godly lights, they are predestined to go to hell. These people, no matter how awful they lived their lives or how many people they killed or how many people they hurt, they're going to go to heaven. It is just by the pure grace of God some go to hell and some go to heaven, and this was a belief, and it is still a belief in some people's consciousness. So even though we laugh today, it is rather tragic and sad that this kind of belief exists and existed. But the Buddha taught that all the effects you see have causes, and so one way of saying that is that there is a computer thing—I can't remember how it goes, but anyway, what does then is what comes out.

Audience Member: GIGO?

ChiSing: Yes. How does that—

Audience Member: Garbage in, garbage out.

ChiSing: Right. GIGO. Garbage in, garbage out. So, it can be simplified into that kind of statement, that everything that you are experiencing, whether it is peace or suffering or anything in between that, it is the result of what you are bringing in, what you are consuming, what you are digesting in your body and your consciousness, individually and collectively as a society. It just boils down to that.

The Buddha taught that there are many different kinds of nutriments that we can take in. One kind is edible foods, and that is very obvious. If you eat healthy things, that is usually good for you. If you eat a lot of junk food, that eventually will harm you. But also, another kind of nutriment is what you take into yourself in the form of teaching, beliefs, conversations, things that are not necessarily food, but they are also either nourishing you toward wholeness or disintegration, toward peace or suffering. So we look at those nutriments in our lives as well. Another kind of nutriment that the Buddha taught is called volition, which means choice. It is interesting that he taught that as well, so our choices and the way we choose and how we choose also can cause suffering or peace in our lives, and also even feeling numb to thinking that we are not making a choice, but not making a choice is also making a choice. So that can add to our suffering or to our peace.

And finally, another kind of nutriment that the Buddha talked about. He said consciousness is also a nutriment, which is very interesting to me. So your state of mind, your attitude, filtering your experience also can be a cause for suffering or peace. Isn't that interesting? Even if it is like, for instance, if something is coming your way, like a food or a experience, even if it is positive, your state of mind, your consciousness, if it is negative, at that moment, it filters it through, and it distorts it, and what you receive adds to your suffering rather than peace. Isn't that interesting? Even if it is something good that you are receiving and maybe someone is giving to you, but if your state of mind, your consciousness is full of negativity, that is what filters through, and that is what you receive. Isn't that interesting, that the Buddha would say your consciousness is also a nutriment? So let us contemplate those four ways that we perceive nutriment, and are we taking in things in a way that is adding to our peace and our love and our joy and our wholeness and our ability to be on the path of enlightenment or are we taking things in that cause suffering, feed our anger, feed our sadness, feed our confusion? So these are things to contemplate deeply.

You know, meditation is not just about Samatha, which is calm concentration leading to peace and bliss. Meditation is also about deep looking, contemplation, seeing the truth of things so that we can transform them. So don't just meditate just for the peace part. Meditate also so that you can look deeply at what needs to be changed your life. Otherwise, you're just blissing out, which is nice, but that is not the complete picture of the path. Okay? You need to also look deeply, contemplate what is the reality here, and what needs to be changed so that we can grow on the path that we are on right now to our liberation and freedom.

So I just wanted to share two experiences I had from evening meditation. I've shared this before, so I will just keep it brief for those who have not heard it. I want to share it. When I was at Plum Village after starting the meditation practice 12 years ago, about two years into practice, I went to Plum Village, France for retreat there, and we did all the different meditations like walking meditation, sitting meditation, eating meditation, hugging meditation, listening meditation, speaking mindfully meditation, walking to the bathroom mindfully meditation, and all of us were in little family groups, so we all had different job assignments for each of our groups. Some of us had cutting the carrots meditation, cleaning the bathroom meditation, and other different working things to do as a working meditation. But on about the third day or so of the retreat, I was eating lunch quietly, silently, at a table with others who were also silently eating very slowly. We would just take our food with a fork, take a bite, and put the fork down while we were still chewing food. Because in eating meditation, you don't get ready for the next bite while you're still eating the first bite, because then you're not really fully with this bite of food in your mouth. You allow yourself to really, truly, deeply be with just tasting the temperature, the texture, the taste, everything, and just feeling it as you swallow and also eventually not only the sensation of the food, but also eventually when you get the hang of it, you can contemplate what the food is, where it comes from, and things like that. This is rice, broccoli, tofu, whatever. And tofu is made of soybeans, and soybeans come from this and that and everything. So you just allow that to be a part of the meditation.

So I suddenly was eating my food, and I put the fork down, and I just swallowed, and then I looked up. Because for the longest time, I would just only be with my food. I didn't want to look at anybody at the table, you know? But then I just dared to look, and they were so peaceful, so beautiful, so mindful, and they were really enjoying their food deeply. And watching them was a nutriment that nourished me, that nourished my happiness in that moment, and I realized, oh. Not only is this food nourishing, but these people are nourishing, and it was the first time I realized you can be nourished with things other than food. And then I looked out the window, and I saw the sunlight streaming through the trees, and it was so beautiful to see that. And I heard the children outside laughing with their parents outside, and that was beautiful, the sound of children laughing.

And then I felt something inside my heart, like a warm feeling, and it began to grow and grow and grow, and then it began to fill my whole body, and then beyond my body, it felt like it is expanding more and more until it was reaching the entire universe, and I had tears coming out my eyes as I felt the love that overcame my whole being, and I realized in that moment my mind interpreted the experience in these words, that everything is an eating meditation, and what that meant for me was that I realize the deep truth of interbeing in that moment.

I realized that just as I was receiving food from this plate of food, later on I would be giving food to the microorganisms in the bathroom, and the sunlight is nourishing the whole planet, and the trees are giving me oxygen, and I am giving them nourishment through my breathe as well, and the adults are nourishing the children by giving them a safe place to be themselves, and the children are nourishing the adults by reminding all of us not to be so serious, but to be like children in the practice. And all of this, I just saw that the whole universe is really all about generous nourishment of each other, giving and receiving. It is this great cosmic communion, this great cosmic Eucharist that we are feeding one another always, giving to one another always, receiving from one another always. And that is—the whole universe is all about that, and it was so beautiful, just to feel the vibration so strongly of the generosity and the gift of every being working together in the universe. It was so profound. And that was one of my first spiritual breakthrough experiences from the practice. I mean, I have heard the words interbeing, but now I knew it in my heart.

And a second experience I had a few years later during our retreat afterwards, my friend Jared, we were roommates at