Awakening Together

Radical Acceptance:  Enhancing your Life with the Heart of the Buddha (pp 283-306)

Solitude and Connection

Meditation and reflection are important solitary practices helping us with what we do off the cushion to benefit our relationships.  Daniel Siegal in The Mindful Brain has done research that shows when we meditate in private, we are actually improving our capacity for connected relationships in the real world.

The Buddha stressed the importance of relationships in his teaching.  “As he was sitting there, Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, “This is half of the holy life, lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie.” “Don’t say that, Ananda. Don’t say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path. “And how does a monk who has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, develop & pursue the noble eightfold path? There is the case where a monk develops right view dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment. He develops right resolve…right speech…right action…right livelihood…right effort…right mindfulness…right concentration dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment. This is how a monk who has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, develops & pursues the noble eightfold path. “And through this line of reasoning one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life: It is in dependence on me as an admirable friend that beings subject to birth have gained release from birth, that beings subject to aging have gained release from aging, that beings subject to death have gained release from death, that beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair have gained release from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. It is through this line of reasoning that one may know how having admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life.” The Buddha SN 45.2

Putting Camaraderie into Practice

In Touching Peace, Thich Nhat Hahn notes several ways to handle situations in which we have hurt others:

  • Take responsibility for causing pain
  • Listen deeply to understand the person’s suffering
  • Sincerely apologizing
  • Renew our intention to act with compassion toward this person and all beings

Gregory Kramer has developed a practice called Insight Dialogue which he characterizes as a verbal (speaking and listening) meditation.  For further details click this link.   The steps to be fully present when you speak are:

  • Pause
  • Relax
  • Open
  • Trust emergence
  • Speak the Truth
  • Listen Deeply

“When we practice pausing and deepening our attention, instead of being driven by unconscious wants and fears, we open up our options. We can choose to let go of our mental commentary and listen more deeply to another person’s words and experience. We can choose to refrain from saying something that is intended to prove we are right. We can choose to name aloud feelings of vulnerability. We learn to listen deeply and speak with mindful presence, to speak what is helpful and true.” Brach, Tara. Radical Acceptance (p. 291)

The Challenge and Blessing of Vulnerability

Tara Brach shares the story of one of her clients who bravely shared her feelings of anxiety and fear in a choir meeting.  Instead of being shunned and rejected, she felt the loving support of the group.  In fact, others shared with her that they had the similar feelings during the meeting.

“When we expose our own hurt or fear, we actually give others permission to be more authentic”. Brach, Tara. Radical Acceptance (p. 294).  This can be a risk as there is always a possibility of being hurt.  “What makes us willing is that the greater hurt, the real suffering, is in staying armored and isolated. While it takes courage to be vulnerable, the reward is sweet: We awaken compassion and genuine intimacy in our relationships with others.”  Brach ibid

When other accept us, it doesn’t mean that they don’t set boundaries or give feedback.  Accepting is keeping the relationship open with clear communication.

Walking the Path with Spiritual Friends

Spiritual friends in pali is kalyanamittata.  Groups of spiritual friends in the west are often called KM groups.   “And what is meant by admirable friendship? There is the case where a lay person, in whatever town or village he may dwell, spends time with householders or householders’ sons, young or old, who are advanced in virtue. He talks with them, engages them in discussions. He emulates consummate conviction in those who are consummate in conviction, consummate virtue in those who are consummate in virtue, consummate generosity in those who are consummate in generosity, and consummate discernment in those who are consummate in discernment. This is called admirable friendship.” AN 8.54

Our sangha is a place to be with spiritual friends.  “Some of our deepest awakenings happen through the intimate and loving connections that remind us most fully of who we are…Although scriptures guide us and practices focus and quiet us, ..the living experience of love reveals our intrinsic wholeness and radiance. Our life is embedded in an interdependent field of being and when we are relating consciously—when, as Rumi says, “our friendship is made of being awake”—the suffering of our personal trance dissolves.”  Brach, Tara. Radical Acceptance (p. 301)

Reflection

  • Reread this talk and reflect on it.
  • Practice the steps of Insight Dialogue as you converse with others. It takes practice and you will get better with each conversation!
  • Practice the steps that Thich Nhat Hahn recommends when you have hurt someone. What do you experience?

Meditation

  • Meditate as usual in your daily practice with concentration and mindfulness.

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