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Rest, Refuge, and Retreats (pt. 1) (11 min.)

Go to Part 2 of this talk:
Rest, Refuge, and Retreats
(pt. 2 / Jared Ramsburg)
(9 min.) [transcript]

Go to Part 3 of this talk:
Rest, Refuge, and Retreats (pt. 3) (4 min.) [transcript]

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"Rest, Refuge, and Retreats" (pt. 1)
Transcript of a talk delivered by Br. ChiSing
Breath of Life (Interfaith Mindfulness Fellowship)
August 5, 2007 - Dallas, Texas

There are times in our lives when we feel all this pressure and stress from daily life in the American way. The pressures of society, of doing more, getting more, buying more, having more… it's quite exhausting, really. They don't tell you that in the commercials of course. But it's quite exhausting.

And so when we come together in this context to just stop and to breathe, the first thing we might notice is it not necessarily the peace of this present moment. What we might notice at first is how much stress is in our body. How wired our minds and our thoughts are. And that's ok, because that is the first step of stopping. It's just to stop. And when you have all this momentum in your mind and in your body, when you stop… it's still going on. And so by stopping to notice that is the first thing we notice, that there's all this energy and stress in our bodies. There's all these thoughts flowing through our mind. We can just watch them like a waterfall. And if we can just simply stop and watch these energies, these thoughts, sooner or later watching them becomes… has the same effect that watching a waterfall does... just a stream of the energies and the thoughts going by. We're not attached to them. We just let them be. Let them be like a waterfall. Let them be like the floating clouds. For some of us we might feel like they are swirling storms of clouds; maybe a hurricane or a tornado. But just let it be. And the miracle of stopping and letting things be is that, without doing anything except, except just observing and watching and being with things as they are… they begin to slow down. They begin to become more peaceful. They begin to transform.

Yin Yang in a lotus That's the miracle of our practice. It's a very Yin practice. "Yin" is a Chinese word for that way of being which is just resting, being. It's sort of the compliment to Yang energy, which is doing and kind of being direct about things. But Yin is about receiving, about letting things be; the indirect way of transformation. So in our society I think we really need to reemphasize the practice of Yin energy. Not that Yang is bad, we need both. But in our society we have become way too Yang. So much so that we really do need to come back to Yin… come back to just being, just resting, just stopping; allowing the transformation of the world to take place by simply sitting and breathing, and allowing our mind to just slowly rest — like a pebble dropped into the stream of water and just slowly coming down and just resting at the bottom.

So during the first fifteen minutes of our sitting meditation you might be… kind of feeling like it's like this pebble going down and wobbling. But if you just trust yourself to this moment, entrust yourself to who you really are here and now… eventually, maybe at the twenty minute mark, you'll feel a glimpse of that sense of stillness.

It is so imperative in our practice that we not only come together once a week, regularly, and not only that we practice at home every day, but that we from time to time come together for weekend or weeklong retreats. It is so imperative because of the way we live our lives in this society. We need those longer periods of time because it takes that much time to let go of all of the stuff that we accumulate from our western American way of life. So please if you… if you have the ability to go to a retreat, to give yourself that treat; please do so.

I'm going to be going on a retreat next week so I won't be here next Sunday. But Michael Gott and members from the Center for Spiritual Living will be here with us, to offer their support in the practice. So I will be with you in spirit next week. And I am not just going on this retreat for myself alone. I do it for your sake as well. And you know over the last several months I've been noticing that the stress level is accumulating a little bit in my body, a little bit more than, than usual and it's time to see my teacher once again; and to go to a weeklong retreat with him.

I went on a weekend retreat with brothers and sisters in the Order of Interbeing which I am a part of in January, and it was such a wonderful practice together with my brothers and sisters. My heart just opened. And I shared that story several months ago. Maybe I'll share it again some other time. It was at that retreat that I met a wonderful younger Dharma brother named Jared from Los Angeles, who is sitting here with me today. He's visiting me this week. I don't think I've ever met a young adult that is so mindful and so caring. And that makes me smile because I know there is a great hope in our world today, in our generation today. And that you know in my generation which I guess we call it generation X, you know, we were kind of, rebellious and kind of confused. And I don't know maybe the next generation which you are maybe part of called generation Y… you know, can question the way things have been going and create the change that is necessary.

Sangha member: "It's nice to know we baby boomers have it together though."

So whatever generation we are, we are always coming back to the same thing, aren't we? Anyway I just remember the closing of the retreat I stayed for an extra day so that I could just be in the retreat center without a lot of people and just be quiet without a schedule. And Jared was my roommate and so we woke up and we didn't say a word. We just stayed in silence and we just did sort of miming to each other, it's like you know… bow to each other. And then, I kind of made the sign for like… you know let's walk over to the meditation hall, so we can sit and then eat breakfast after… So we just, wanted to just stay in that beautiful, noble silence together and just practice. And so we sat and then we had water and then we had mindful breakfast, and we shared afterwards with words coming from a place of deep peace.

I also had a wonderful experience of just drinking that cup of water with Jared; just seeing Jared drinking it so mindfully. I wanted to drink that mindfully, too. So I did, I drank. I drank that one cup for just fifteen minutes. And I had such an opening of my heart from that drinking of that water. Just realizing that all the water in that cup is one with the water in my blood, which is one with the water in the oceans and the rivers and the clouds and the rain and… just feeling, tangibly feeling, that oneness. Not just in my intellectual small little ego mind which most of us operate in but feeling it in my entire being, my body, the great mind of the universe that is expressing as us.

Just having a Dharma brother so mindful is of such encouragement and support. That's why we need to be here for each other, that's why we can't just sit at home alone but that we come together to practice together and offer ourselves to one another. Even if we don't know each other by name or, or even talk to each other necessarily each week. But our whole being is there for one another. And you don't even know… someone might be sitting next to you and is receiving your mindfulness and your loving kindness. And because of that, there's an opening that occurs for them. Maybe when they get home. You know, the practice… it… the result doesn't always get felt right away in the retreat setting or in the evening setting. Sometimes it's like a tree that bares fruit. There's something going on that's growing, and then suddenly afterward sometime it blossoms, or it grows, the fruit comes through. I think that's what I experienced at the retreat. You know after all this practice, and then after the retreat was over I spent this extra day and then this cup of water was that moment where all the fruition of the whole practice, not just of that one weekend, but of my entire life coming together in that moment. Just a small little glimpse and it was just so very beautiful.

So I want to say thank you to Jared, as my Dharma brother for being there. And I'd love to ask you to share any of your own joys, challenges, insights in the practice with us that you would like.

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Transcribed by Jody Whitcomb

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