Impermanence

Session based on teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh about “Impermanence” – Saturday 16th September 2017

IMPERMANENCE MAKES EVERYTHNG POSSIBLE

We are often sad and suffer a lot when things change, but change and impermanence have a positive side. Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible. Life itself is possible. If a grain of corn is not impermanent, it can never be transformed into a stalk of corn. If the stalk were not impermanent, it could never provide us with the ear of corn we eat. If your daughter is not impermanent, she cannot grow up to become a woman. Then your grandchildren would never manifest. So instead of complaining about impermanence, we should say, “Warm welcome and long live impermanence.” We should be happy. When we can see the miracle of impermanence our sadness and suffering will pass.

Impermanence should also be understood in the light of inter-being. Because all things inter-are, they are constantly influencing each other. It is said a butterfly’s wings flapping on one side of the planet can affect the weather on the other side. Things cannot stay the same because they are influenced by everything else, everything that is not itself.

–Thich Nhat Hanh (Lion’s Roar Magazine, February 2017)

Interbeing

Session based on Thich Nhat Hanh’s concept of “Interbeing” – Saturday 9th September 2017

CLOUDS IN EACH PAPER

If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.

“Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter” with the verb “to be”, we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud, we cannot have paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.

If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.

— Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Session with Barbara Winfield – Saturday 19th August 2017

 THE BREATH OF LOVING KINDNESS 

So the idea that a group of people meditating together, come to breathe in closer synchronicity, combined together with the knowledge that the one thing that everybody on the planet is doing at this very moment, is breathing made me turn to combining the breath with the practice of Loving Kindness.

This can be done sitting or lying down.  I like to do it lying down, when I can rest my arms briefly on the ground as I breathe.

 

  • SETTLING DOWN BREATH. Lying down make sure you have enough space to rest your arms comfortably out to the side and settle the breath.  Then keeping the elbows on the floor if possible, bring the fingertips of both hands to the sternum/heart/body.  Opening the arms to rest on the floor as you breathe IN.  Bringing the fingers back to sternum/heart/body as you breathe OUT.  Allowing the body, face, jaw, shoulders to soften with the slow, relaxed exhalation.  Repeat this relaxed, breath IN and OUT several times until you feel you have got a relaxed rhythm.
  • BREATHING FOR YOUR SELF. Then bring both fingertips back to heart/etc. Focusing on the kindness and gentleness of the soft breath, make each breath a gift to yourself.  Let that feeling of love, kindness, peace, openness or any other quality that works for you, enter you with the soft welcoming breath.
  • Then, for a few rounds, repeat the opening sequence with both arms opening and closing with the breath.  Then settle again with both fingers resting on heart/etc
  • BREATHING FOR A LOVED BEING. Then, let one hand remain touching the heart and open out the other arm comfortably to the side.  Visualise that you are reaching out to the Loved person or Being, someone you admire, the force of nature, a pet, or whatever stimulates a feeling of warmth and love in you towards another entity.  Maybe you might sense that person/being resting alongside you or sitting in front of you, or maybe sitting beside you with your outstretched hand resting on their back behind their heart.  Feel the softness, openness and ease of your breath having an effect on that loved person/beings breath.  As if you were breathing together in harmony.  If it works for you, sending positive feelings of warmth and kindness towards them.  Noticing whether or not this seems an easy thing to do.
  • Bringing both hands back to the heart/etc and repeating the opening sequence of breathing several times.
  • BREATHING WITH A NEUTRAL PERSON. This time, change hands.  The one hand resting on your heart, the other hand reaching out.  This time reaching out to the neutral person.  Someone you barely know.  Maybe someone you pass in the street or at work.  Repeat the same practice, breathing kindness towards them.
  • Bringing both hands back to the heart/etc. and repeating the opening sequence of breathing several times.
  • BREATHING WITH A DIFFICULT PERSON/BEING. Change hands again, this time reaching the other hand out to the difficult person.  Noticing resistance to doing so, but continuing to bring the mind back to allowing your relaxed breath to reach out to them.  They too have their dreams and hopes.
  • Back to bringing both hands to the heart/etc and repeating the opening sequence of breathing several times.
  • BREATHING WITH THE WHOLE WORLD. Finally, extend both arms out to either side as if you are to embrace the world, which in a way you are.  Allow that soft breathing to include yourself, the loved being, the neutral being, the difficult person and then extend it beyond to family, friends, community, gradually opening it out as if in concentric circles to gradually include the whole world.  Maybe sensing yourself looking down on the earth, sensing that the one thing you are all doing, the one thing that connects you all, is that every being on our planet – humans, animals, birds, bees, insects, trees, water, plants – everything breathes in and out.  Everything circulates air and water, breathing in atoms from the breath of each other and each living thing on earth.  When you are ready to return, gradually bring yourself back to lying on the ground and bring your fingers back to your heart/etc.
  • For a little while longer, with your fingertips at your heart, just bring your soft, relaxed breathing back to yourself, knowing that each breath we breathe echoes the universal breath of the whole world.