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Lions Roar : January 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2012 45 Imagine a Pine Tree THICH NHAT HANH answers a retreatant’s question on what to do in the face of suffering. The Buddha said that you shouldn’t amplify your pain by exaggerating the situation. He used the image of someone who has just been hit by an arrow. A few minutes later, a second arrow strikes him in exactly the same spot. When the second arrow hits, the pain is not just doubled; it is many times more painful and intense. So when you experience pain, whether it’s phys- ical or mental, you have to recognize it just as it is and not exaggerate it. You can say to yourself, “Breathing in, I know this is only a minor physical pain. I can very well make friends and peace with it. I can still smile to it.” If you recognize the pain as it is and don’t exag- gerate it, then you can make peace with it, and you won’t suffer as much. But if you get angry and revolt against it, if you worry too much and imag- ine that you’re going to die very quickly, then the pain will be multiplied one hundred times. That is the second arrow, the extra suffering that comes from exaggeration. You should not allow it to arise. This is very important. It was recommended by the Buddha: Don’t exaggerate and amplify the pain. ♦ other words, my father and I inter-are. We all inter-are. I used to believe that my father had no excuse for his behav- ior—his chronic infidelities, his willingness to jump ship. After all, his own father, Buddy, wasn’t like that. Perhaps Buddy had never heard of Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, the longtime presi- dent of Notre Dame. Yet he lived Hesburgh’s well-known quote: “The most important thing that a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” The Awakening the Heart retreat is help- ing me to look more deeply into things. To see the rain in the flower or the piece of paper. To see that my father was a product of many causes and conditions. Like me, like all of us, my father was wounded. I don’t know the source of his suffering and maybe I never will. But I under- stand suffering. My father was trying to fill himself up with busy- ness, women, and booze. No one does that unless they hurt. If Thich Nhat Hanh is right and my father is indeed in me, then I can heal his wounds. When I heal my wounds, it heals his, and it heals the wounds of future generations. With my suffering transformed, I won’t pass it along. The cycle stops. TOUCHING THE EARTH is the last activity of the evening, so afterward I fall into noble silence along with the other retreatants and I file out of the gym. It’s a special feeling to walk without words with hundreds of people. Little sounds take on new tex- ture. There’s the sound of feet on hard concrete, then the sound of feet on softer earth, rustling through grass. Thich Nhat Hanh has taught us to do walking meditation at a normal clip. In this way, we can do it always, anywhere. Inhale, I take three steps; exhale, five. Inhale. Exhale. The Douglas firs tower darkly above me, and a weeping silver linden gives off its perfume. Roots, branches, leaves—I feel my connection to these trees, the way that they take in my breath and the breath of all of us, and then give it back to us as oxygen. I feel connected to the other retreatants, too, united in our prac- tice, in our inhalations and exhalations. And I feel connected to my father. I have a debt to him—a debt for this life. I used to believe my father left me twice—once to be with his second wife and once to die. But he didn’t leave at all. Thay’s right—my father is walking with me now. ♦ PHOTOBYLIZAMATTHEWS