When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn't have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space. — Pema Chodron, American teacher of Tibetan Buddhism
IN TODAY'S WORKSHOP... we started our exploration of Buddhism by hearing the story of the life of the Buddha. We looked at the Four Noble Truths and the elements of the Eightfold Path and compared the latter to the seven Principles.
- How does the above quote relate to what we discussed today about Buddhism?
- Could you imagine hearing the same words come from the mouth of a Unitarian Universalist?
EXPLORE THE TOPICS WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Right Association Journal
Keep a journal about your relationships. Record significant events, both good and bad, and how they make you feel. Take special notice of any times you behaved in ways that in hindsight you did not like. How did others react to your behavior? Did they encourage you, drawing you further from your values, or did they discourage you? See if there are any patterns. Are there people who consistently move you toward your higher self? Are there others who consistently provide encouragement in the direction you do not want to go? You do not have to dump your friends if you recognize they are not as good for you as some other people. But, you could consider adjusting the time you spend with them so you give more of your time to people who help you move in the direction you want to go.
Say It Right
All families have their own styles of interacting: some tease, some are funny, some are serious, some are loud, and some are very quiet. But when you are with people a lot, it is easy to become careless or disrespectful—sometimes less respectful than we are to total strangers. How strange is that, to speak less respectfully to someone we love than to someone we do not even know? If, as in many families, this is something that is going on in your family, by doing something about it you can create a more loving environment.
Since knowledge is power, the first thing to do is recognize the situation and talk about it. If you and your family decide this is something you would like to pay attention to, make an agreement. You can call it a covenant, contract, pact—whatever appeals to you. Be specific. For example, your agreement might be:
- No name calling.
- No yelling.
- No lying.
- No sarcasm during important conversations.
Be sure everyone is clear that this is not about having more rules; it is about living your values of kindness and generosity. Be kind when people break the agreement, but remind them about it, as gently as you can. Do not treat this as a chance to tell someone they failed, but rather an opportunity for better relationships.
The Mindful Community
Is there something you could do to remind your town or city of its higher values? Perhaps the recycling program could be expanded or made mandatory. Perhaps homeless shelters could have longer hours, or, if there's no shelter in your town, perhaps a shelter could be built—an existing, unoccupied building could be made over to use very inexpensively, for example. Or, does the animal shelter offer free or low cost spaying and neutering, the best way to keep homeless animals off the streets to begin with?
Identify something your wider community could do more of or do better, and advocate for it through the proper channels. For example, you could write to elected officials and employees, create a formal petition and collect signatures, create an organization to support work you think is important for your community to do to live its values, blog about it, enlist friends to help, conduct an e-mail campaign—even stage a protest, if you feel strongly enough! (But make sure you involve your parents and find out all the pertinent local regulations.)
Reading and Writing
There are many Buddhist writers and many good Buddhist readers. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Tibetan monk, is very popular. Try his book Peace Is Every Step (New York: Random House, 1995). His Holiness, The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, the world's foremost Buddhist leader, has also written many books; his latest is How to See Yourself As You Really Are (New York: Atria, 2007). American Alan Watts has produced a few classics, including The Way of Zen (New York: Pantheon Books, 1999) and The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are (New York: Vintage, 1989).