Sunday, August 30: 5 Mindfulness Trainings

Dear friends,

Please join us this Sunday for the Recitation of the Five Mindfulness Trainings, which will include some of the ceremonial chanting (Incense Offering, Opening Verse, The Three Refuges, Closing Verse) in the Plum Village tradition.


Sunday, August 23: Right Action

Dear Friends,

It is my pleasure to facilitate this Sunday as we continue to explore the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path. Buddha is said to have stated, "wherever the Noble Eightfold path is practiced, joy, peace and insight are there". I am honored to be sharing on the topic of RIGHT ACTION.

About Right Action, Thay says: There are many things we can do to practice Right Action.

1. We can protect life
2. Practice generosity
3. Behave responsibly
4. Consume Mindfully

The basis of Right Action is Right Mindfulness. In mindfulness we recognize our thoughts that lead to our actions and make decisions that produce healing and recognition.

In the next week I invite you to explore one of the above practices with mindfulness and see what happens when you bring awareness to your actions.

Peace and Joy


Sunday, August 2: Right View

Hey everyone,
Good news, this Sunday we will all see everything exactly as they are, be able to see with the eyes of non-self, inter-being, impermanence and realize Nirvana! Hahaha, just playing, I mean, maybe. that could happen, it is possible, but that will not be my intent (despite what the brain wants). The reality of insight isn't something conveniently packaged into a concept that the brain can comprehend intellectually (concepts by definition can only point us in a direction). However, the good news is that understanding certain things on an intellectual level can help pave the path to a deeper realization; and that insight comes effortlessly as a natural byproduct of practicing Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration (along with many other aspects of the Noble 8-fold path) :)
So this Sunday, we will dive into Right View, talk about our experience with practicing with it, and help us to relax into being in tune with these deep understandings of reality. Maybe for just a moment, we can remove the human filter and see with our real eyes. For homework, until then, I invite you to spend at least 5 minutes imagining that you suddenly have amnesia (forget how to speak, read, write, label things, etc.) and all that you know is that you are not from this planet; that you are from another planet in another dimension where you didn't previously have eyes. I highly encourage you to spend at least 5 minutes of silent sitting meditation with your eyes closed to prepare for this experiment. Closing your eyes for the sit will symbolize the instant you experience the amnesia and the 5 minutes of sitting will symbolize what life is somewhat like on your home planet (wearing ear-plugs can help too but not necessary) :) Enjoy!

_/|\_ Nick


Sunday, July 19: Right Concentration

Dear Friends,

I hope this finds you well and enjoying your breathing! :)

This week at sangha, we will continue our exploration of the Noble Eightfold Path with the theme of Right Concentration. I (Stephanie) will be facilitating.

About concentration, Thay says:

"Joy and happiness are born of concentration. When you are having a cup of tea, the value of that experience depends on your concentration. You have to drink the tea with 100 percent of your being. The true pleasure is experienced in concentration."
(From The Pocket Thich Nhat Hanh)

In the days leading up to our gathering, I invite you to experiment with doing just one thing at a time with your full concentration, and see what happens!

Bowing and smiling to all,

Stephanie :)


Sunday, July 12: Right Mindfulness

Dear Sangha,

Last week Marge gave an overview of the 4 Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path, the heart of Thich Nhat Hanh’s (Thay’s) teaching as well as the Buddha’s first teaching after his enlightenment. Over the next few months we will be devoting a Sangha session to each one of the Steps of the Eightfold Noble Path. We are starting with Mindfulness, the 7th Step in the Eightfold Noble Path. It is the heart of our practice so it is fitting to start here.

At Deer Park Monastery, (and other monasteries in our tradition), as you probably know, the large stain glass window at the front of the Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall has three Sanskrit words on it, Smrti, Samadhi, Prajna, which we translate as Mindfulness, Concentration and Insight. These are the last 2 and the first of the 8 steps in the Eightfold Noble Path, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration and Right View. This sums up our practice. Mindfulness deepens to concentration and produces insight, which is enlightenment, wisdom and our salvation. Insight is the goal of our practice and what makes our practice possible.

Thay says mindfulness is our inner sunshine. I love that. It’s so clear. It is this great power which we have to shine our attention upon the present moment and upon any specific aspect of the present moment. Mindfulness is the essence of what we are. One of the characteristics of light, and mindfulness, is that it makes no discrimination. It shines everywhere, though it can be focused.

Smrti is also translated as remembering. We remember we are breathing. We note our breathing in and out, and this noticing, calling our breathing by its true name, invites our mind to attend to the actual sensations of our breath. This is mindfulness of breathing. It is a great practice for it allows us to move from thinking, remembering, imagining, planning, worrying, trying to figure out how to accomplish our projects, etc., to simply enjoying our breathing and the world as it is, in all of its amazing wonderfulness, in the present moment. Mindfulness of breathing is a powerful practice, which is an antidote to a problem we have, which is the opposite of mindfulness, which Thay calls forgetfulness. He says we live as if in a dream, not noticing or enjoying the wonders of life. He also says this forgetfulness has the quality of dispersion, and some of our literature talks about “leaking.” Our vitality leaks away because we are caught up in a treadmill of thinking in ways which do not enhance our life but actually exhaust us. We shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves for functioning in this way. It is actually very natural. The human brain, neuroscientists have discovered, has a negativity bias. It is Teflon for good news and Velcro for bad news. This comes from hundreds of millions of years of evolution in which it was paramount that we are ever aware of the predator who might take us out of the game with a single bite. Not so important to notice the good news in that situation.

But now, things are completely different. Now, being paranoid and mistrusting of others is completely pathological and threatens all of life on earth. Now we want and need to cultivate happiness and wellbeing and through loving kindness and compassion to communicate to others that they are safe too and can relax their guard and join in the fun of being alive and caring about each other and the whole earth community. Now, instead of thinking about how to use Earth for our survival and success in a struggle, we need to settle down and enjoy interbeing with a world that has birthed us and supports our life and with which we are completely one.

Now, with the incredible powers granted to the human species by 13.8 billion years of cosmic evolution and 4 billion years of the evolution of life on earth, we have the chance to reflect upon (remember, Smrti, be mindful of) our enormous good fortune to be born humans, and to shift from nervous and fearful pursuits, to communion with our fellow beings, what we might call real Holy Communion. This is our chance to feel how we are inside of Mother Earth, being loved and cared for by this planet, as if we were in her womb.

Mindfulness of breathing is mindfulness of reality, beyond our thoughts. This is Thay’s definition of Nirvana, reality without concepts. Mindfulness of breathing quickly becomes mindfulness of body. They are inseparable. Mindfulness doesn’t exclude anything and mindfulness of our breathing body immediately includes the air we are breathing and the world which generates this air and the sky and the trees and the whole world, as directly experienced in its exquisite detail and in its beautiful wholeness. Mindfulness, like light, doesn’t discriminate, and thereby illuminates the interdependencies, the interconnectedness, the richness of reality.

By practicing mindfulness in this way we are opening ourselves to the world, softening the tension in our bodies which prevents our senses from working well and keeps us from feeling all the subtle depths of emotion and feeling of which we are capable, and which emerge naturally when we are unafraid, relaxed, open, attentive, and in the beloved company of our loved ones, including our Sangha.

Thay said our practice is very simple. We focus on our breathing which makes us aware of our body which brings us into the here and now where we can get in touch with our feelings and from this state of mindfulness and concentration we can get insight, a transformation, liberation.

This Sunday we will enjoy practicing being mindful together, a wonderful condition for our joy and happiness.

I look forward to being with you this Sunday.

Please smile and be mindful of every breath, every step, every moment you are alive.

Universal Emptiness of the Heart
True Enlightenment Garden


Sunday, July 5

This Sunday Marge will be facilitating and will introduce a series on the basic teachings of the Buddha that the sangha will be contemplating over the next 2 months. She will talk about the Four​ Noble Truths and give an overview of the Noble Eightfold Path, describing how the Five Mindfulness Trainings and the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings embody that path. Then during the following sangha gatherings in July and August facilitators will lead us in a more in-depth contemplation of the elements of that Eightfold Path. As the Buddha is said to have stated, “Wherever the Noble Eightfold Path is practiced, joy, peace, and insight are there”. Please join us, even though it is a holiday weekend!


Sunday, June 21

Heather will be facilitating sangha this Summer Solstice Sunday, where we will practice sitting meditation, walking meditation and deep relaxation in silence.