“No” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
During Thich Nhat Hanh’s recent California talks, this question stuck out. The Zen Master’s reply offers us another way of deeply understanding “inter-being”. Most dharma teachings refer to the word emptiness, as a door to our liberation. Meaning, all phenomena are empty of a separate self or existence, while simultaneously, all things are full of non-self ingredients. The word, Inter-being is Thay’s contribution to help us clarify the true nature of everything. If we look at a flower with the eyes of interbeing, we see the soil, rain, seed, sunshine, time and so on, of which the flower manifest. Take away any ingredient and the flower is not there. So we can say that the flower inter-be’s with us and the rest of the universe. Thus, this nature of interbeing exists with me, you and everything else; including pairs of opposites we perceive with our dualistic ways of thinking: left and right, ill-being and well-being, and war and peace. If we take away one side of any of these pairs of opposites, the other side is also no longer there. There can be no left without the right.
War, or conflict, is always there, and not just when bombs are falling and guns are firing. Inside of us there is constant states of dissatisfaction. We desire this, we want that, while we don’t want the other. This mud of dissatisfaction is always there in some form. It comes up at expected and unexpected moments. But if we use our mindfulness or non-judgmental, present moment awareness to recognize that energies of conflict have arisen, we can help put those energies at ease. Using the elements of inner conflict to help change the situation rather than ignoring them or letting them linger and becoming a bigger war. By recognizing our moments of well-being, of thinking, speaking, feeling and being at peace, we are better able to appreciate the pleasant effects of peace, thus do what we can to keep peace within. Turning unpleasant thoughts and feelings into gratitude and happiness. Intentionally implementing the phrase, “no mud, no lotus.” Perhaps you have noticed both war and peace co-existing inside, at the same time.
Just today I experienced going from inner states of peace to war. It was a quiet, blue fall morning with only sounds of an occasional acorn dropping onto the roof while I sat meditating. Instantly the relative quiet was transformed into loud bursts from a gas leaf blower being used across the street. I could feel agitation and wanting that sound to go away. Then wanting that person to go away. How could he make so much noise on this beautiful day? What gives him the right to make so much noise and disturb me and perhaps other neighbors? A memory of being a drummer in a rock and roll band while in high school appeared out from nowhere. We would play current Creedence Clearwater songs loudly and proudly in the garage, until the inevitable visit from the police who responded to neighbor’s complaint’s. I believe they complained about the sound level and not how badly we played. Breathing in, I’m aware of agitation, breathing out I calm my body and mind. After some breaths and calming, then I knew what to do this morning. I grabbed my earplugs and instantly this conflict inside was eased. Even though the blower sound remained, it did so about 35 db less. A smile returned to my face. This peace treaty took about two minutes to sign within my heart.
During the rest of the time I sat, an image came back to me of a woman who slowly swept leaves and debris from the 57 steps near the dining hall at Deer Park Meditation Center. For over an hour she focused her attention to the task, slowly, quietly and peacefully. She conveyed peacefulness with her movements and broom. I felt peaceful experiencing her quiet efforts. I recognize that somehow loud, motorized sounds can bring me to a state of inner conflict. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always enjoyed Nordic skiing and snowshoes to snowmobiles, a canoe and kayak to a motorboat or jet ski, and even walking or biking and not driving. They seem to be more peaceful ways of co-existing, within myself and the world around me. Recognizing that war can break out at any time, I am doing my best to breathe and walk with peace.
Wishing fellow veterans of war and peace a joyful holiday and successful peace treaty negotiations.
Should there ever be a desire for a pleasant holiday where the practice of mindfulness, peace and love is nurtured, consider Deer Park, near San Diego. Here are the monastics brothers joyfully singing their parody tribute to a popular tune.