Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I know that we don't know enough - the power of meditation

Oprah: What do you know for sure?

Nhat Hanh: I know that we do not know enough. We have to continue to learn. We have to be open. And we have to be ready to release our knowledge in order to come to a higher understanding of reality. When you climb a ladder and arrive on the sixth step and you think that is the highest, then you cannot come to the seventh. So the technique is to abandon the sixth in order for the seventh step to be possible. And this is our practice, to release our views. The practice of nonattachment to views is at the heart of the Buddhist practice of meditation. People suffer because they are caught in their views. As soon as we release those views, we are free and we don't suffer anymore.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk who is largely responsible for this entire blog and the actions connected with it, was on my mind and his teachings on mindfulness and deep breathing flowed through my day. In the morning, I noticed that my friend (and fictive brother) Chris had posted a link (on facebook, of course) to Oprah's interview with Thich Nhat Hanh. I did not, at that time, read the interview. I have only just read the interview now. But, I have read several Thich Nhat Hanh books over the last 7-8 years.

At the after-school program, two students had a difficult day today. As I was dealing with the students' anger and pain, I thought of Thay, the Vietnamese word for teacher, which Thich Nhat Hanh is often called. In thinking of him, I led these students through deep breathing. One of the students, the one who was hurting, was effectively calmed by the time we got to the tenth breath and discovered that she wasn't really hurt that badly (which I knew to be the case) and ran off to her class. The other student, who struggles daily with his anger and frustration with the world around him and with his peers, tried the breathing exercise with me.

It was more difficult for him. Tears filled his eyes. His reasons for being angry kept rising to the surface. I realized that deep breathing would not be enough and thought of Thay's walking meditations. He had so much angry energy. So, I had this student walk with me to the copy room - taking five steps for each breath in and five steps for each breath out. Pretty soon (after about 20-25 steps) he was completely calm and eagerly shared everything he knew about prehistoric tigers and birds (which is a lot by the way).

It was an interesting experience because I have often thought that I would like to institute/integrate meditation into the after-school program, but had felt overwhelmed as to how to do it. Did I need a specific teacher? Where would we get the funding? Would the students respond well to it? Etc., etc., etc. Today, I realized how much I was overcomplicating things. I don't need a meditation "class." I just have to recognize the opportunities when they arise and share meditation practices with the students. Thank you, Thay for all of your wonderful teachings. Thank you, Karen for introducing me to Thich Nhat Hanh's work and for the opportunities you have given me to hear him speak in person. Thank you, Chris, for posting this interview in your Facebook status. Thank you, Kyle for your practice and commitment to mindfulness as it reminds me, on a daily basis, to continue down the Good Long Road.

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