Welcome to Mondo Samu - Questions and Answers about my self-work.

Mondō: "questions and answers"; a recorded collection of dialogues between a pupil and teacher.
Samu: Work service; meditation in work.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Every Body Needs A Second Body

Thich Nhat Hanh often talks about how a monk or nun has a second body.  Another monk or nun they are responsible for helping and keeping track of.  He says just as we must always take care of our own body, help it, love it, care for it when it needs attention....we must also have a second body in the Sangha to watch after and care for as if it were our own.  In this way the monks and nuns of plum village never have to worry that they will go unnoticed or be forgotten when they forget to take care of themselves, or when they need attention and cannot, or don't know how to, ask for it.

The first time I read this I thought "What a beautiful idea!" That's such a sweet and thoughtful thing in a Sangha.

In my own Sangha(s), particularly in the various virtual Sanghas, I quite often see people who,  for one reason or another, will lapse in to some type of shame or depression and then withdraw from the community.  In the simplest terms, it goes like this....they fall in to a depression (sometimes because of a relapse of whatever suffering they live with or just because), they stop posting to social media, they stop texting their friends, they stop chatting and so forth.  The less they chat and communicate with friends, the more they feel bad about themselves.  The more they feel bad about themselves, the more shame they heap on top of themselves.  The more shame they heap on top of themselves, the harder it is for them to re-establish communication because they are afraid of the shame and embarrassment.  Next thing you know, weeks or months have gone by and people start noticing "hey, I haven't seen so and so post in ages, I wonder if they are OK."

In the world of social media such comings and goings are so common and frequent that they aren't noticed that much.   Eventually, the person snaps out of it, if we're lucky, and they suddenly resurface. Things go back to normal.  Until the next time.

When I see these people come back, I often ask what happened.  The answer is always the same, or at least a variation on the theme.  See above.

Not suffering from depression myself, I have always had difficulty understanding it.  But I've seen it happen so often to so many of my dear friends whom I love very much, that it bothers me greatly.  I always want to help.  I want to fix it. But I can't.  The one thing I do know about depression is that there isn't much that I can do for someone who suffers from it.

I've spoken to several teachers about it, and the answer has been pretty much the same every time.  Just be there waiting for them when they return, with open arms and an open heart.  Accepting of them and of what they have gone through.  Don't try to push them to fix it....just show them that you love them and welcome them back.  When they show back up, it means that they are already fixing it.  They've already began the climb out again.  All you have to do....heck, all you CAN do....is show them through your actions that you were there for them the whole time.  Welcome them back to the world, as it is.  Allow them to return and not walk in to the arms of more shame and embarrassment.  Welcome them back to your heart, open and beaming with happiness to have them.  It may seem like inaction on your part, but it's actually the greatest action you can commit on their behalf.  Acceptance.

This is great advice, and really the only option that I know of.  But I think that there is one more thing we can do for one another in these situations,  I think that if we each have a second body, then there would be no being left behind, so to speak.  Take a look at your own Sangha and make sure everyone has a second body.

This isn't new...if you've ever dealt with recovery circles then you now that this sounds a lot like a sponsor.  If you have Joe, Sally, Bob, and Sue in your Sangha then it might look like this:

  • You look after Joe
  • Joe looks after Sally
  • Sally looks after Bob
  • Bob looks after Sue
  • Sue looks after you.  
  • When a new member comes in to the Sangha, Sue shifts to looking after that person and that person starts looking after you.  
In this way, everyone always has someone in the community who knows how they are doing that week or that day.  Knows where they are, what they are going though, how they are feeling.  It's not a difficult task, you just check in on them with a quick call or text now and then and see how they are feeling, catch up,  see how they've been.

When you do this regularly, you will kind of get a feel for whether they are having troubles or not and whether they are being open about it.  Remember that it's not your job to prevent them from having troubles, or to fix them.  It's not your job to do anything at all.  It's your privilege to care about them.  To know when they are having challenges and just be there for them so that they KNOW you are there for them.  And the greatest gift for them will be that you don't judge them for their suffering.

This won't solve the problem.  I don't know that it is a problem that can be solved,  I do know that it's a beautiful practice that can only bring about good in a community.  And it doesn't have to be limited to your Buddhist Sangha....this can be expanded to include all people.  In the end, after all, we are one big Sangha.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Quantify Your Mindful Eating with HAPIfork!

THIS has potential, in at least a few ways I can think of, to be VERY cool and useful!

Hapilabs announced their new HAPIfork device to help with Mindful Eating at CES this week.  There's nothing I like more than when technology comes to us in a way as to truly benefit us. I promise I will do my very best to review this when its available!



Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Let's go!

Hello, and Happy New Year! 2013 is upon us now, and I woke with all the hope and possibility of a new year on my mind, rather than a day, so here's my little twist on a favorite old Thich Nhat Hanh quote that accurately reflects my mood when I woke today:

“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twelve brand new months are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.” ~ TNH (sorta)

Starting off 2013, I'm beginning the last month of a four month dedicated practice session (that i started with my best bud Kayla) focused on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness and using the book by Bhante Gunaratana "The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English".

October was easy for me with Mindfulness of the Body.  November was insightful with Mindfulness of Feeling Tone. In December I really got benefit from the third foundation practice, Mindfulness of Mind.  I broke with my dedicated practice only once, to practice Metta, the day that the teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary became heroes in the face of tragedy and saved so many little kids lives. And today, January 1, begins the final month on the fourth foundation, Mindfulness of Dhamma!  So I'm looking forward to reading the final part of the Bhante G book and practicing with that all month.

I addition to that, Kayla's Buddha Book Club I participate in is reading Tara Brach's book Radical Acceptance.  I've read it before, and loved it.  I'll be re-reading that and participating with the group discussing it on the Facebook page.

I'm also doing some dharma study to help a friend stay on track with their studies and benefiting from  that myself as well.  Mostly I'm just supporting and discussing those teachings as a sounding board to assist them in their efforts and treating it as a foundation for my own future studies.

I rang in the new year with family at my home, and then promptly sat for 30 minutes with some of my #OMCru community.  I took refuge, and renewed my precepts, to mark the beginning of our Buddha Heart - A Yearlong Dedicated Practitioner Group.  We'll be reading the TNH classic Heart of the Buddhas Teaching and studying it together over the course of the next year, and I couldn't be more excited about that.

Lastly, I have my own ever growing stack of dharma books to read.  So while that all may sound like a lot, it's really mostly slow paced reading with lots of practice.  The goal is to study the dharma, but more so to implement it fully in to our lives off the cushion.  And I fully intend to do that as much as possible in 2013.

Please contact me if you're interested in participating in any of the above resources.  They are all full of the warmest, most helpful and friendly members.  It's a great virtual sangha.

And speaking of virtual sangha, I just want to thank all the twitter friends, Facebook friends, sangha members in all the countless Sanghas I have been privileged to visit all over this country. You all have gone from online "friends" to true meaningful friendships in both virtual and real life and I'm so very very grateful that I have that in my life.  It's been amazing to be a part of and I have seen that it is so sorely needed for so many people out there.

So, to wrap this post up, I thought I would highlight of few of my intentions that I'll be focusing on this year in various areas of my life:

New Year intentions with family:

  • Show by being.
  • Continue my healthy path.
  • Continue to teach my child compassion is the key.
  • Work on small things now that will aid long term plans. 
  • Make big effort to be more fully present with my family as my travel increases. 

New Year intentions with practice:

  • Focus it.
  • Retreat more, to...
  • Deepen it, so I can...
  • Implement it more fully and...
  • Continue working toward facilitator training.
  • Start second sangha group which is open to all.
  • Take steps toward my goal of a local dharma center.

Thank you and please have a safe, happy, and compassionate new year!