Cornell: Thank you all. I am happy to be here tonight to spend time with sangha friends here and to continue our study of the Five Mindfulness Trainings. Tonight will be the Fifth Mindfulness Training, nourishment and healing. And I wonder—Jessica, would you read for us?
Jessica: Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.
Cornell: So in this Fifth Mindfulness Training, I think there is a lot in here. There are different ways that I have heard this one talked about. I really like the description of this, this one. This one sometimes—well, the short version of this one is about consumption and intoxicants. And something interesting about this one—I've heard it compared only with intoxication and intoxicants. Something interesting to think about this one is that when I become intoxicated—if we think chemical intoxication—all the other four are out the window. And so when we become intoxicated, we forget about all the other four. So it is kind of interesting that they are all contained within this one.
But really, looking beyond that type of intoxication, we can look at other things that we do in life and find that really, many different things can—we can become intoxicated by almost anything in our life. And an interpretation of this one that I like—it is not really the consumption of intoxicants. It is the act of becoming intoxicated, because, as I said, almost everything in our life can be an intoxicant.
What do I mean by that? We can become—if you look at something like becoming intoxicated by a romantic relationship, that could actually lead to infatuation. It can also lead you not intentionally to cutting off your connections with family and others, and you become just really one-sided on this one topic. We can become intoxicated by food, craving a certain type of food or craving food in itself as a way to cover up other types of suffering. We can become intoxicated by consumption of materials, such as we are so focused on getting the nicest house on the street that we really lose touch with everything else around us and finding out why is it that we go to work every day, and we find we become intoxicated by all of the things around us that we consume.
So we can think of if we switch now from thinking of intoxication to just consumption, so much of our life is focused on consuming, and if we look at the way our society is, this Western society that we have all built instead of living on our own little pieces of land growing our own food and all of this, we've come into cities. We have big cities where we cannot grow our own food, most of us did not build our own houses, and all of that. All of those things are done for us.
We have become consumers of food. We have become consumers of all of the things to keep our house going, and all of that. So that is fine. That is kind of the society that we live in now, but I think where we really need to take care—and it is covered in this one—is to notice around us all of the opportunities that we are given to consume too much. Just think of how you are marketed to. If you are driving out on the street and you see signs, it is like, "Buy this. Come here. Do this." And when you go there to that place to do this, well, chances are they will upsell you. "How was your dinner? Would you like dessert? Here. Look at all of these desserts that we have."
You are always given these opportunities, and if you look at what you consume on television as well, we live in a society where television is "free," brought to you by advertising. The Internet is free, brought to you by advertising. And in reality, those things are not free. They do cost you something, whether you are paying money for them or paying for them in other ways, by being bombarded by advertising and consumption.
And so, there is a lot of care that needs to be taken, because all of these things I've talked about so far are actually things that are good for us. I'm glad there is food at the market for me to buy. I'm glad there are restaurants and I can have dessert. I'm glad I have television. I'm glad I have the Internet. So all of these things are good for you, but yet when it becomes your intention is only around consuming more, consuming more, consuming more, that's where you get in trouble.
And you can look at something like TV, television. If any of you ever subscribe to cable and you get about 400 channels, you'll get a phone call. You'll get an e-mail. You will get something that tells you how right now you can get 600 channels for less than that you are paying for those 400. It is like, "Cool. Sign me up." And if any of you have done that, if you watch your bill in about 6 months, your bill is now about $50, $100 more than it was 6 months before. Although you got those 600 channels for less than you got the original 400, they trick you. But not getting off on that—it's just this idea of how much can I get, how much can I get, how much can I have? I need. I need. So this is where this one really comes into play.
I would like to talk a little bit about the four nutriments, the nutriments being this is what feeds us or what we feed each other with, and the obvious one is edible food, and that would include anything that you consume, that you eat or drink, the way of nourishing your body, what foods do I take in that sustain my life, what foods do I take in, what drinks do I take in that are healthy? The flipside of that is, when have I consumed more than what is required for me to feel healthy?
Sense impressions. Sense impressions are those things that we consume with our senses of sight, hearing, and so forth. That would be what we consume on TV, on the Internet. And you know with the Internet, that is an interesting one. Just a show of hands. How many people came here for the very first time whenever you came for the first time because you did a web search on the Internet? Any hands? Super. One of our biggest spiritual tools today is Google. And that is honest. I just asked you how many of you did a web search and found it. What a beautiful tool. Now when we turn on the news and we find out that someone may have done something to do with the Third Mindfulness Training. They use the Internet to exploit another person. We hear that every day also, so this beautiful tool that brought all of you here is also the beautiful tool that allowed someone to exploit someone. And so it is an interesting world we live in.
What I love about this, though, is when we look at these Trainings, they are not Commandments that say, "You have to do this. You have to do this." Because when we look at all of the things that come into us in life, it's like, I have to make a decision. What is right for me? What is right for the benefit of those around me? And for each of us, that answer may be different, and the same thing that is very helpful can also be very harmful. And if I say I am never going to do anything harmful, well, guess what? Sometimes I can't control—I can't see the big picture always. Accidents can happen. Maybe I have done something that allows another result to take place. But these are called Trainings. It is about developing our own skill.
So then lastly, the last of the four nutriments, consciousness. You can look at those things that are inside you, that are inside all of us—the seeds of happiness, joy, lovingkindness, compassion, seeds of anger, hatred, frustration, and so on. All of those exist inside all of us as humans, and thinking about how we nurture and feed all of those. This is from one of Thich Nhat Hanh's books: "Everything needs food. The Buddha said that nothing can survive without food. This is true, not just for the physical existence of our lives, but also for our emotions. Love needs to be nurtured to survive, as does peace, as does compassion, but suffering also survives because we feed it. We ruminate on suffering, pain, regret, and sorrow. We chew on these things, swallow them, bring them back up, and eat them again, over and over. If we feed our suffering while we are walking and eating or working, we will make ourselves victims of the past, the future, or worries about the present." And so, just thinking how we feed those things in consciousness.
I would also like to look at the subject of volition. Let me find the page where I put this. There is a concept called bodhicitta, and if some of you have practiced with our group for a while, you may have heard that word at some time in the past or somewhere else about bodhicitta. Bodhicitta—another way of looking at that word is the heart of awakening. Bodhicitta is a feeling, a concept where what you are doing is for—our actions are for the benefit of understanding and compassion and for enlightenment for all beings. And that is bodhicitta, the heart of awakening.
And this is what I love about that word. If you look at the name of our group here, it is bodhicitta. We are Awakening Heart Community of Mindful Living. Although we have this entity, the Dallas Meditation Center, there is Awakening Heart—Awakening Heart meaning all of us who practice here on Sundays, Monday—Mindful Mondays, Tuesday—Young Enlightened Souls, and the Interbeing Sangha. All of these, this community, the Awakening Heart Community, bodhicitta.
And when we think of volition—that word, volition—for some of us, it is like, what does that word mean? Volition is that what drives you, what inspires you, what is your calling in life. And we can look at our work. We like to say our calling in life is our work, and that could be true. Volition is really what is the reason for doing what you're doing. Because we can look at someone who is really good in business, and they are great at making money. If the intent behind making money is I want to have so much money that I can control a bunch of people, I can have everything I want, then perhaps that is not the most bodhicitta way of looking at it.
But say the same person is very skilled in earning money, making money, developing riches and wealth. If they can look and see that my intention behind this is that I can understand others, I can help fund projects that feed people, I can help you fund things that allow people to become closer to enlightenment, and so on. That is the way to look at volition. And think in your own work. Some of us might be in jobs that we do not like. Some of us are doing things that we like. But still, look at what is your purpose? What is your volition? And see if that's something that feeds enlightenment or bodhicitta.
I would like to talk about something. This is a quote from Brother ChiSing. This is from one of his talks, and this has to do with how do we work within this Fifth Mindfulness Training, with all of these—consciousness, volition—all of these things and these energies, and that all of these things that are good could become intoxicants that are negative. So this is from ChiSing:
"When the Buddha became enlightened under the Bodhi tree, one of the visions that he had was imagining as if all of the powers in his mind, the parts of his mind that were wanting to keep him asleep rather than awaken to enlightenment—imagine as if those were arrows, arrows that were like negative thoughts—negative thoughts that are coming at him, feelings of anger or hatred or anything like that coming at you. Because of his practice of mindfulness in peace and concentration and non-fear, those arrows simply turned into flowers before they touched him. So in his vision, it was as if these arrows of negative thinking or whatever—however you want to think of them, suffering, delusion, anger—they were headed toward him, but they became flowers. That same energy that can lead you down a path of negativity can be viewed as flowers.
"So we do not hate that negative energy. That is not the idea. We treat it with lovingkindness, as though it were a delicate flower. We do not hate hatred. We do not hate anger. We do not hate depression. Rather, we utilize those energies and work with them. We mold them into a direction that is positive. It's like the martial art, aikido. In aikido, you don't attack. You take the energy of the person coming towards you, and you redirect it, and then you have safely defended yourself, and you have safely put that other person—you just lie them down gently on the mat without harming them or yourself. That is what we are doing with our practice. Our practice is not to hate our wandering mind. It is not to hate our suffering. It is not to hate anything really. It is just to become with it, accepting of all that is, and once we come to a place of acceptance, we can work with it mindfully and wisely."
And finally, the Mindfulness Trainings, they are not meant to be Commandments. They are just meant as a place of understanding and having a perception of where you are at in your life. So in general, when you look at something you are doing or some energy that you are feeling, look at it this way. Look at the Five Mindfulness Trainings. And we examine them, and we look at each one individually. So when you are dealing with something in your energy—is it causing suffering, or is it causing happiness? Is it causing us to hurt life or have reverence for life? Is it causing us to steal from others or to be beneficial and generous to others? Is it causing us to exploit others or is it causing us to be loving and kind to others? Is it causing us to be communicating mindfully or unmindfully? And finally, is it helping us to consume and nurture ourselves in a healthy way or in an unhealthy way?
I think there is a big trick being played on us with this number five in that really, if we look at number five, I think it contains all of the other ones. All of the other ones have things to do with craving—too little or too much. You know, craving causes us to be harmful to other living beings. Craving and consumption can deprive ourselves and others of happiness. Craving can lead to exploitation of other people, and craving and consumption can lead us to not speak with lovingkindness and not to listen deeply. So when our hearts are open, the universal life energy always will bring us an example to remind us to come back to the here and now. That example might be something great. That example might be something that really tests us. But what it reminds us is to slow down. Slow down enough so that we can work with the energy wisely and mindfully so we can act with bodhicitta, or the awakening heart.