Where there is breath, there is compassion.
Where there is breath, there is gratitude.
I find this guided meditation video helps me to focus on being aware of my breathing.
I learnt from the video that mindfulness can be referred to as heartfulness, which is an awareness or a non-conceptual knowing that goes beyond the five senses of hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting and touching. According to Jon Kabat-Zin, when we hear the sound of a bell, what we hear is not the bell as “bell” is just a name – what we are hearing is the sound in its original spirit, and on the top of the sound, the mind adds the thought to identify the sound as the sound of a bell. He added that instead of experiencing our life in the bare actuality of the senses, we are actually more experiencing life through our thoughts about our experiences, and our preferences, fears, worries, concerns, etc, and in essence, not really inhabiting the full spectrum of our innate capability. He said that it involves a certain kind of discipline, and it is actually remarkable that so many people are now moving to want to cultivate mindfulness in their lives.
And yes, perhaps mindfulness or heartfulness is about living and experiencing the world in a non-conceptual manner that transcends the limitations of language. On one level, we all associate meanings and concepts with sights, sounds, tastes, smells and touches – these concepts have their place as we use them to interpret and communicate to ourselves and one another, which engages the five senses. At the same time, these concepts may well be a finger pointing to the moon, or a boat leading us to the destination, to the direct experience of life or existence itself, and when we touch that ultimate reality, we no longer need the boat. We enter into a wordless realm that can only be experienced and understood with our intuition or sixth sense, so to speak. This somehow reminds me of the flower sermon I came across some time ago, in which Buddha used a flower without words to teach mindfulness. I think I came across this flower sermon in Anthony De Mello’s “The song of the bird“, which I find intriguing and inspiring.
“Toward the end of his life, the Buddha took his disciples to a quiet pond for instruction. As they had done so many times before, the Buddha’s followers sat in a small circle around him, and waited for the teaching.
But this time the Buddha had no words. He reached into the muck and pulled up a lotus flower. And he held it silently before them, its roots dripping mud and water.
The disciples were greatly confused. Buddha quietly displayed the lotus to each of them. In turn, the disciples did their best to expound upon the meaning of the flower: what it symbollized, and how it fit into the body of Buddha’s teaching.
When at last the Buddha came to his follower Mahakasyapa, the disciple suddenly understood. He smiled and began to laugh. Buddha handed the lotus to Mahakasyapa and began to speak.
“What can be said I have said to you,” smiled the Buddha, “and what cannot be said, I have given to Mahakashyapa.”
Mahakashyapa became Buddha’s successor from that day forward.”
(From “Flower Sermon“)
“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change” ~ Buddha
I have read the article on seeing the world through Buddha’s eyes, and it reminds me of some of the things I learnt in Buddhist Studies I took in secondary school, though I have forgotten some of them as well. As the article noted, “Prince Siddhartha left home and became a spiritual seeker for one compelling reason: to understand the needless suffering human beings cause themselves and others and to find a way to assuage it.” From what I remember reading the textbook, Siddhartha grew up in a palace and indeed he had everything he desired for comfort and luxury. He had not known any kind of suffering yet because his father, the king, did not want the sage’s prophecy that his son would become a Buddha to come true, and wanted to keep his son in the palace to succeed the throne. However, one day, as a young man, Siddhartha went out of the palace for a walk in a nearby village, and witnessed reality for himself, such as people suffering from sickness, old age and death. He was deeply saddened by the reality of human sufferings, and decided to renounce his princely life, and decided to seek the truth for himself. In a sense, his situation reminded me of King Solomon who also had everything he desired, yet could not find any meaning in life.
Eventually, after learning from a few ascetic teachers, Siddhartha still could not find satisfactory answers to the question of sufferings in life. He tried extreme asceticism himself, by fasting for days and living on bare minimum, but one day he nearly fainted and drowned in a river while bathing due to prolonged hunger. He then decided to find a middle path – one that avoids the extremes of luxury and pleasure on one hand, and the extreme of hardship and pain on the other hand, in order to find a balance in life. So, as the story goes, he accepted some food offered by a kind woman, and ate, and sat under a Bodhi and began to meditate on the nature of sufferings and life.
As the article noted:
“He came to three core conclusions about the way the world works, called the “three marks of conditioned existence.” These three are radical impermanence (anicca), pervasive suffering (dukkha) and no fixed or permanent personal identity (anatta).”
(From “Right View: Seeing the World through Buddha’s Eyes” by Lewis Richmond)
At this point, I decided to refer to Wikipedia to refresh my memory on the life of Siddhartha and how he became a Buddha when he sat under a Bodhi tree and meditate for many days on the nature of sufferings.
“According to Buddhism, at the time of his awakening he realized complete insight into the cause of suffering, and the steps necessary to eliminate it. These discoveries became known as the “Four Noble Truths”, which are at the heart of Buddhist teaching. Through mastery of these truths, a state of supreme liberation, or Nirvana, is believed to be possible for any being. The Buddha described Nirvana as the perfect peace of a mind that’s free from ignorance, greed, hatred and other afflictive states, or “defilements” (kilesas). Nirvana is also regarded as the “end of the world”, in that no personal identity or boundaries of the mind remain.”
(From Wikipedia on Gautama Buddha)
The first two marks of conditioned existence – “nothing is permanent” and “life is suffering” – as mentioned in the article, are also observed by Peter Rollins in his video message on pyrotheology, when he shared that nothing can give us certainty and satisfaction or make us whole and complete, and that life is difficult and there are no easy answers.
When I first learnt about the impermanence of all things in school, I thought it sounded depressing, even though it is based on a true observation that everything is temporary and will die or disappear one day, whether plants, animals or humans. I haven’t learnt about metaphysics then, though today I would say that impermanence is true in a material sense, but in a non-material sense, there is energy that cannot be created nor destroyed, and can only be transformed from one form to another.
Nevertheless, there is a certain inner peace when one accepts that nothing in the material world is permanent, whether it is health, longevity of life, material possessions, status, power, influence, and so on, and so does not hold tightly onto these things. By accepting the reality of impermanence, one can embrace and overcome the sufferings that arise when these things are no longer in existence. This takes a certain mindset to meditate on regularly.
I think it is remarkable that Buddha received the knowledge and understanding about the nature of sufferings not by formal education but rather through his own personal observations and experiences in life. As the article noted: “In fifth century B.C. India, there were numerous philosophical and metaphysical schools teaching various theories about matter, spirit, soul, causation and the appropriate way to live. Siddhartha studied these theories, but rejected them in favor of a more experiential approach. He was, like the pre-Socratic Greeks, among history’s first empiricists, relying on his own experience and observation to understand the world.”
I think it testifies to the usefulness of meditation and contemplation because oftentimes living in a modern, fast-paced society, many people tend to be caught up with running the rat race, maintaining status quo and indulging in entertainment and so on, to the extent that they forget to take time to slow down and get in touch with themselves and ponder the nature of sufferings in life. This is a reminder for me to slow down and meditate as well, because I am a product of the modern society and formal education that has moulded me to fit into the socio-economic system. I think in this sense, the teachings of Buddha are timeless because his realisation of the three marks of conditional existence – impermanence, sufferings and egolessness – remain unchanged, and they are just as relevant and applicable today as it was thousands of years ago.
Like what the article concluded: “Seeing the world through Buddha’s eyes is the work of a lifetime, one that constantly needs to be renewed at every life stage and in every societal circumstance.” Yes, it is an ongoing process to see the world through Buddha’s eyes, so in this sense, my understanding of “awakening” is not a one-time event but rather a continual and conscious act of practising awareness of the reality that nothing is permanent (at least in the material world), life is suffering and the ego is an illusion.
I was also reflecting recently that whenever I need guidance in life, I would instinctively or intuitively look to Jesus, or sometimes Buddha, for inspiration and guidance, as they have set admirable examples for me to live, as they have inspired me by the way they show compassion, bear sufferings with patience, wanting the best for others, and so on. I am open to the possibility that Jesus might have travelled to India to learn buddhism before returning to Israel because their teachings of love and compassion share a number of similarities, except that they used different terminologies to reach out to difference audiences – Jesus might have used “Father in heaven” to speak the Jewish lingo, for example. Both Jesus and Buddha have tasted various kinds of sufferings in life, such as rejection, hunger, and so on, although Jesus died a painful death as a scapegoat whereas Buddha passed away peaceful at the age of 80. So in this sense, I have a higher regard for Jesus in view of his self-sacrificial love than Buddha, comparatively speaking.
Meanwhile, here’s sharing this article below I find interesting about the gospel of Thomas that reveals the influence of Buddhism on Jesus’ teachings.
“Exploring the Gospel of Thomas, we discover that Jesus believed the self and the divine to be identical and one. Furthermore, the Kingdom of Heaven is not in the future but is “right here.” and one only needs to be awakened to this perfection. Jesus, in this gospel, speaks of enlightenment, the same type that is taught by Shakyamuni Buddha, Shin teachers and Zen Masters. In addition, Thomas does not have a narrative story line but just 114 sayings attributed to Jesus, many of which are akin to Zen koans. Here, Jesus is never presented as Lord or Savior, but rather as a spiritual guide who is equal to his students. In addition, the Gospel of Thomas does not contain a supernatural virgin birth or the doctrine of the Virgin Mary. It does not teach of original sin. It does not mention Jesus’ crucifixion or resurrection. It does not teach Jesus’ death as a payment of debt to “atone” for humanity’s sins. It does not include any supernatural healings or miracles. It does not mention the so-called end-times or the wrath of God. It does not mention salvation through faith in Christ. It does not exclude women.
The Exclusion of Thomas
Why was the Gospel of Thomas disqualified from the Christian Bible and eventually outlawed? During the reign of Emperor Constantine around the 4th century C.E., the Roman Empire was looking to reconstitute and solidify its power. The Emperor and the existing power structure chose the Pauline sect of Christianity as the “official” religion, which include the epistles of Paul and the Gospels and books from his disciples that form the present-day New Testament. Teachings from the Gospel of Thomas and other Nag Hammadi texts were seen as a danger to the developing ecclesiastical and political structure because they rejected the authority of the bishops, priests and deacons. Roman Church father Ignatius warned the Christians to “honor and obey the bishop as you would God.” It is quite easy to see why the church councils did not choose the Gospel of Thomas and other similar texts for their Bible. As a result, for political reasons these texts were banned and later destroyed for the good of Empire and Church. After all, bishops and priests would lose their power and influence with the common people, if the common people learned that Jesus taught they did not need such religious authority/intermediaries of the Church, bishops and priests, and that the Kingdom is within all and is directly accessible to everyone without them; we all are sons/daughters of God.
Why Study the Gospel of Thomas?
You might be wondering why Shin Buddhists should even bother to study the early teachings of Jesus? Our interest in learning about the early teachings of Jesus is not to discredit Christianity but because this Gospel shares similar mystical content with the Shin and Zen Buddhist traditions, we 21st century Buddhists can learn a lot from this ancient mystic, called Jesus of Nazareth. So, by studying the teachings of the Gospel of Thomas through the lenses of Buddhist thought and religious experience, we can further deepen our spiritual path and awaken to our True Nature, our universal Buddha-nature, which ultimately has no name but is experienced as faith, compassion and wisdom.”
I have listened to the podcast and I noted that Peter Rollins was sharing about his book on the idolatry of God which may be summarised in one of these train of thoughts, as noted by a reviewer:
“By embracing and participating in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, we give up our desire to find satisfaction and thus find a deeper satisfaction, that can be grasped here and now. “Not one that promises to make us whole…but one that promises joy in the midst of brokenness and new life in the very embrace of pain.””
I have listened to the host of the interview sharing about why he felt the need to ask Pete the question about dealing with a loss because he himself had lost his 25-year -old son last summer, and he broke down and wept as he shared about this sad news with Pete after the interview. He had come to find that Pete’s perspective on coming to terms with one’s loss particularly helpful for him because he felt his experience was validated, which is an important part of the human experience. Yes, the depth of human experience is larger than any religious box, as it involves authenticity and freedom.
I was reflecting that Peter Rollins’ worldview is similar to the buddhist’s worldview about being free from attachments to desires to be happy and satisfied. It reminds me of a video message by Peter Rollins last June, in which he also shared a similar message about how the church system was like a vending machine selling products, telling people to worship this god or pray this way in order to be happy and satisfied, which only results in people using god or religion as a psychological crutch. I remember that during the Q&A session in that particular video, some of the audience could not help but notice the similarities between his worldview of non-attachment and the buddhist worldview of non-attachment, as someone asked him about buddhism, and I think Pete was open to that worldview, if I remember correctly.
After all, some worldviews, such as the importance of being free from attachments to an idol or illusion in order to experience deep joy and peace in the midst of sufferings and uncertainties, share a common truth, which transcends religious boundaries and philosophies. I was listening to his latest interview again earlier, this time without my headphones, so I could catch his accent better, and I could relate to his growing up in a highly religious and divisive environment in which people would fight and kill over differences in belief systems which form their identities, and I agree with him on the need to find commonalities among different belief systems or religions and be open and willing to learn from one another instead of allowing differences in beliefs create strife and divisions over them.
Pete observed that the strong and hostile reactions that conservative evangelicals had over Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins” have gone beyond mere disagreements over doctrines; rather their hostility is merely a reflection of the internal disagreements inside them which they have not dealt with because of their attachments to certainties, and the book happens to stir up or trigger those internal disagreements within them. So the conservative evangelicals are not so much having a personal vendetta against Rob Bell but rather are experiencing an internal conflict within themselves, and Rob Bell’s book happened to challenge the very idol of certainty that the evangelicals had been desperately trying to hold on to, and they see his book as a threat to their self-created security blanket about their faith, not willing to undergo the necessary but painful road of questioning and doubts in order to find true freedom from their attachment to idols/psychological crutches and their addiction to and obsession over certainty and satisfaction.
According to this buddhist worldview, attachment is the root cause of suffering.
‘Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.’ 
Similarly, this article suggests that by accepting that suffering is part of life, and embracing pains and uncertainties as part of the full and deep human experience, it is possible to liberate oneself from attachment, and even experience a deep and profound sense of peace and acceptance in view of life’s inevitable sorrows and pains.
“Buddhist practice, in this perspective, is oriented away from the world: life is suffering, the world is a place of uncertainty; liberation lies in freeing oneself from attachment to worldly things and concerns, attaining a transcendent enlightenment.”
Like what Pete said, this worldview is not meant to make people depressed even though it sounds depressing, but rather it is meant to remind or awaken people to the fact that they are already depressed, and they only need to acknowledge and accept that sufferings are part of life to be free from depression, which is a paradoxical truth, as he also acknowledges it.
I learnt that there are others who have also noticed the similiarities between Peter Rollins’ worldview and buddhist worldview of practising non-attachment as a way of liberation. This book reviewer noted that Rollins has been sharing a deep spiritual truth in his latest book about how we can welcome doubt and express compassion even in the midst of our suffering, which resonates with Buddhism’s central teachings about living in compassion and appreciation of the world as we find it.
“Contemporary Christianity works well for millions of Americans because America is a successful nation. One reason that Buddhism meshes well with impoverished Asian cultures is that Buddhism’s central teachings urge people to quit striving after human desires and focus, instead, on right living that compassionately helps others and awakens a deeper appreciation of the world as we find it. Buddhism begins by taking into account that life will involve a great deal of suffering—something most American preachers are hesitant to proclaim. Rollins starts with that deep spiritual truth and preaches a Christian hope that, even in the midst of suffering, we can appreciate each other, we can express our compassion and we can appreciate the sacred wonders of the world around us. This survivor’s faith welcomes doubt. This survivor’s faith frees us from striving after typical symbols of success. This is a Christian message that finds hope and a way forward, even as tragedies befall us.”
I myself experienced an existential crisis in my early 20s, and have written poems as a form of catharsis, so I am no stranger to this existential depression, so to speak. I was reflecting that there is a difference between transformation and denial – two persons may be smiling in the midst of sufferings, but for different reasons – one may have learnt through pains and hardship to come to a place of transforming one’s perspectives of life to embrace the inevitability of sufferings, while the other may be simply suppressing and avoiding the reality of sufferings and trying to be happy, which may work in the short run but may not be useful in the long run because reality will always catch up somehow. There comes a time when every person needs to face the reality of sufferings in life, and finds their own way of accepting and embracing life’s pains, struggles, uncertainties and sufferings, in a way that they can handle. I like Thich Nhat Hanh’s perspective on how this transformation of fear and pain into a deep, profound sense of peace and acceptance is carried out.
Nhat Hanh: “So you recognize that fear. You embrace it tenderly and look deeply into it. And as you embrace your pain, you get relief and you find out how to handle that emotion. And if you know how to handle the fear, then you have enough insight in order to solve the problem. The problem is to not allow that anxiety to take over. When these feelings arise, you have to practice in order to use the energy of mindfulness to recognize them, embrace them, look deeply into them. It’s like a mother when the baby is crying. Your anxiety is your baby. You have to take care of it. You have to go back to yourself, recognize the suffering in you, embrace the suffering, and you get relief. And if you continue with your practice of mindfulness, you understand the roots, the nature of the suffering, and you know the way to transform it.”
So to me, buddhism, even though it is commonly seen as a philosophy rather than a religion, is neither theory nor theology, but rather a practical, hands-on and do-able way of living that every person can practise. This is not to say buddhism is the be-all and end-all, as it does not profess to give a definite answer to every question or mystery in life, but rather is based on time-tested wisdom and understanding about the nature of existence. I am still learning myself, and at the same time, I find there are also meaningful truths to learn from other belief systems, such as the concept of grace and true identity from the christian gospel of inclusion and Jung psychology, for example.
Dan gives very condensed introduction to breath therapy and why it is so useful – connection to life span, clearing conditioned memory imprints, applications in daily life, to reach peak performance, also spiritual aspects of being and using this method… Enjoy!
May 2010, Vilnius, Lithuania.
This illuminating video summarises the benefits of breath therapy. It is intriguing to learn that breathing accounts for removal of 70 percent of metabolic waste and toxins from the body, and when we maintain or raise our breathing capacity, we can extend and improve our life. I note that conscious breathing can strengthen our immune system, improve our natural healing abilities, release negative impressions and clear subconscious beliefs and early conditionings from our system. I also learn that conscious breathing may very well be the easiest and most powerful way to clear our head, settle our stomach, calm our nerves and open our heart, which build us up physically, emotionally and spiritually. I find this video a good reminder to practise conscious breathing myself, and an affirmation of the benefits I have been learning and experiencing. I am also learning to dwell on the following thought:
Yes, peace and love is the defining essence of our being.
“Accept your past without regret, handle your present with confidence, and face your future without fear.” ~Unknown
I find this a simple yet profound quote. From my understanding, the practice of mindfulness is the practice of living in the present moment with confidence that love is our present reality in the here and now where there is no more regret of the past or fear of the future.
It is like coming home to the Father within us who loves us and embraces us, according to Jesus’ parable of the lost son. Whether it is the younger son (who may symbolise the regret of the past) or the older son (who may symbolise the fear of the future), both are equally beloved and precious children of the Father, who is our highest self.
Like the Father in the parable, we can welcome and embrace our lost self (younger son) back into our true home who was wounded in the past and comfort our long lost inner child within us. We can also comfort and assure our ego (older son) that all we have belong to him and all he needs to do is simply to enjoy the present moment instead of trying to work so hard to earn rewards in the future. The present moment is our true home where all the riches are and where we can enjoy the wonders of life.
“The Buddha said, ‘You have to make the present moment into the most wonderful moment of your life.’ This is possible. If we are able to go home to the present moment, to the here and the now, and become fully alive, fully present, we can touch all the wonders of life that are within ourselves and around us. Everything belonging to us is a wonder: our eyes, our nose, our body, and our mind. It is only because of the tension in our body and mind that we do not notice it.
Our true home is right here, but sometimes we can’t find it because it’s hidden by the tension and pain in our bodies and minds. If only we know how to relax, we can release the tension, open up our mind and body, and let the energy of mindfulness bring a relief to our pain and suffering. We don’t have to do much. We just bring our mind back to our body to become fully present in the here and now and allow our body to be there, to receive the energy.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh (From “Together We Are One”)
“What I’m about to share has been the most freeing realization in my adult life.
I am a mirror. I am a mirror to my kids. I reflect who they are back to them. And as their mirror, I look at them first. And what I see in them, I reflect back to them. And I see greatness… I see pure hearts… I see smiles and I see love.
Kids are smart, extremely smart. And their souls are sensitive, extremely sensitive. They KNOW if you’re proud or disappointed in them. They pay attention to your words, the tone they’re spoken in and even the pauses between them. They study the expressions on your face and the shape of your eyes. You can’t fool them. Every kid knows how their parent feels about them.
And here’s the thing… If your approval of your child has any connection to their “performance”…. you are an insecure parent. You have never known unconditional love. You have never had someone who believes in you.
Some of our religious parents are looking into a broken God for their reflection. Jehovah isn’t a loving father. Jehovah is an insecure tyrant just like the broken men who created him.
There are millions of beautiful kids out there who are looking in dirty and broken mirrors. And they think it’s them, when really it’s the mirror who’s broken. The kids are fine. They don’t need fixing.
To reflect greatness back to your kids, you must first see the greatness in you. It wasn’t until my adulthood that I started to see myself clearly. I thought of myself as a 5, but others said, “No Mike, you’re a 10 in every way.” Do you know how healing that is? Do you know how empowering that is?
Everyone has greatness in them. Whether you see it or not depends on the clearness of the mirrors around you. Be a clear mirror… especially to your kids. :-)”
- Mike Myers
Yes, we are a mirror in which others see a reflection of ourselves. As he put it, in order for us to reflect greatness to others, we need to see greatness in ourselves first. This relates to a similar message Jim Palmer shared in his recent blog – that by healing ourselves, we heal others too. Similarly, when we learn to see greatness in ourselves, we can reflect greatness back to others.
From the parent-child perspective, this is especially important, because children grow up mirroring the same things they see in their parents. For those of us who grow up in broken or dysfunctional families (as every family is dysfunctional in some ways), whether we have parents who are emotionally or physically absent, or who are even abusive towards us, we can trace back to the roots of their mistreatment – they would have experienced brokenness in themselves, and missed seeing the greatness in themselves, hence we have inadvertently become the unfortunate recipients of their mistreatments.
However, with the insights obtained through our experiences and our meditation as we breathe and look deeply into the nature of things, we begin to understand life with regard to our mirror reflection to one another. We can then take appropriate steps to create a new reality – it is never too late to realise and learn the truths, so as to change the course of things, determinedly focusing on healing ourselves and overcoming self-rejection, so that not only we rise up from the hurtful past to embrace life with greater peace and fortitude, we will also impact others – our loved ones, our future generations, and whoever else with whom we will interact at some points in time – with our inner peace and strength.
We like to make a distinction between our private and public lives and say, “Whatever I do in my private life is nobody else’s business.” But anyone trying to live a spiritual life will soon discover that the most personal is the most universal, the most hidden is the most public, and the most solitary is the most communal. What we live in the most intimate places of our beings is not just for us but for all people. That is why our inner lives are lives for others. That is why our solitude is a gift to our community, and that is why our most secret thoughts affect our common life.
Jesus says, “No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15). The most inner light is a light for the world. Let’s not have “double lives”; let us allow what we live in private to be known in public.
- Henri J. M. Nouwen
That is true – our inner life is a life lived for others because our time spent in solitude can be a blessing to others. We are all interconnected so what we do to ourselves we do to others and vice versa. Meditation therefore is a powerful way to live in service to the world – it has the power to transform the world in a peaceful way.
It is peaceful listening to the interview with Thich Nhat Hanh as it reminds me of the importance of staying in the present moment by being aware of my breathing and knowing that being alive is a miracle itself. I agree with his observation many people, including myself, tend to sacrifice the present for the future by worrying and being distracted by events, hence coming home where the present moment is is the key to happiness as well as healing and transformation of our sufferings.
I like his deep understanding of our inter-being as we are all connected, and by understanding the nature of sufferings and being in touch with our sufferings, we can relieve our own pains and help others too – his analogy of a mother comforting her crying baby is a powerful tool of illustrating how we can take care of our own pains and anxieties through compassion. There is much wisdom and insights in his sharing, gleaned from ancient teachings and practices which I am still learning. I also find comfort in his analogy of “no life, no death” as a beautiful cloud being transformed into rain, snow or sleet, and so in the same way, our beloved ones who have passed on continue to live in and around us.
As for the second half of the video on “The Dhamma Brothers”, I noted that vipassana meditation has indeed helped the prison/rehab inmates in many ways, such as becoming more relaxed and being able to get along with one another better. One particular inmate’s testimony stood out for me – which goes something like “I used to think my greatest fear used to be growing old and dying in prison; now I think my greatest fear is growing old and not knowing myself”. I think that speaks volumes of the benefits of meditation, which includes enabling people to know themselves, perhaps as if for the first time, and embrace their fears and anxieties as part of their whole being.
I googled about vipanassa meditation and I learnt from this article that it “is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind.”
I think I will continue to find out more about this as it is worth practising as a lifestyle. Like what Thich Nhat Hanh said, every moment can be an opportunity to touch the miracle of being alive by going back to our breaths.
I also managed to find his book “No death, no fear” online, which was mentioned during the video interview with Oprah Winfrey. I like what he wrote here:
“Our true nature is the nature of no birth and no death. We do not have to go anywhere in order to touch our true nature. The wave does not have to look for water because she is water. We do not have to look for God, we do not have to look for our ultimate dimension or nirvana, because we are nirvana, we are God.
You are what you are looking for. You are already what you want to become. You can say to the wave, “My dearest wave, you are water. You don’t have to go and seek water. Your nature is the nature of nondiscrimination, of no birth, of no death, of no being and of no non-being.”
(From “No death, no fear” by Thich Nhat Hanh)
I think it takes deep awareness to touch the ultimate reality of “no birth, no death” because the media, the society, our physical senses, and so on, are so conditioned to think in terms of birth and death, coming and going, and so on. I feel a sense of deep peace when I contemplate on the possibility or the idea of our true nature that is interconnected with the universe, such as there is no separation between us, and we are one with the universe, just as the wave is one with the water.
I think meditation enables people to love and accept themselves. It is powerful because it helps people to overcome self-condemnation by embracing their past wounds and shadow self and observing thoughts and emotions in their minds without engaging them. This results in healing and transformation, and people become more relaxed and peaceful, as we have seen in the real life example of the Dhamma brothers in the maximum security prison in Alabama.
I admire Thich Nhat Hanh for being a living example of the Buddhist teachings on peace and nonviolence. His life speaks volumes of his wisdom and gentleness, as he has been through the Vietnam war and living as an exile from his homeland and yet exudes peace and harmony.