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Lions Roar : January 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2012 48 to do—to be is first. To be peace. To be joy. To be happiness. And then to do joy, to do happiness—on the basis of being. So first you have to focus on the practice of being. Being fresh. Being peaceful. Being attentive. Being generous. Being compassionate. This is the basic practice. It’s like if the other person is sitting at the foot of a tree. The tree does not do anything, but the tree is fresh and alive. When you are like that tree, sending out waves of freshness, you help to calm down the suffering in the other person. Your presence should be pleasant, it should be calm, and you should be there for him or her. That is a lot already. When chil- dren like to come and sit close to you, it’s not because you have a lot of cookies to give, but because sitting close to you is nice, it’s refreshing. So sit next to the person who is suffering and try your best to be your best—pleasant, attentive, fresh. If I’m feeling a very difficult emotion, maybe anger, or deep sad- ness, and I try to focus on my breath, isn’t that a way of avoiding my emotions? Usually people lose themselves in a strong emotion and become overwhelmed. That is not the way to handle emotion, because when that happens you are a victim of emotion. In order not to become a victim, breathe and retain your calm, and you will experience the insight that an emotion is only an emotion, noth- ing more. This insight is very important, because then you are no longer afraid. You are calm, you are not trying to run away, and you can deal better with emotion. Your breath is you, and you need alliance with your breath to be more of yourself, to be stronger. Then you can handle your emotion better. You do not try to forget your emotion; instead you try to be more of your- self, so that you are solid enough to deal with it. It was heartwarming to see so many children at the retreat. I feel comfortable with children. I have never been cut off from the younger generation. Whether they are monastic or lay, com- munication is always “on” with the younger generation. That is one of the elements of my happiness. Sometimes young mothers bring their children into the med- itation hall because they don’t want to miss the dharma talk. That’s very nourishing for everyone. The babies don’t know what’s happening, but they feel the peaceful atmosphere. That energy of peace is rare in society—it’s very rare to have fifteen hundred people sitting and producing mindfulness and peace. If you offer children a glimpse of peace and love, even if they are very small and they don’t know language yet, that does not mean that they don’t feel it. Try to imagine a young mother feeding her baby during the retreat. She is listening to the dharma, she’s con- suming the dharma, and the baby is consuming both the milk and the dharma at the same time. It’s very beautiful. Later on, when the children encounter the cruelty in the world, they will remember that there was a time when they had the opportunity to encounter the energy of peace. When a sangha, a Buddhist community, comes together and practices, it can always produce that kind of peaceful energy, and young peo- ple can experience it and start planting the seeds for the future. Engaged Buddhism tries to bring this peaceful energy into many different situations. In schools, in hospitals, in town halls, in congress, the practice of mindful breathing is possible. Is living in the present moment at odds with enjoying the media? Can we be mindful and still enjoy the internet and TV and movies and books? There are good books and movies that you can enjoy. That’s okay—it’s good to enjoy them. But sometimes the quality of the film or book is not good at all, yet you don’t turn it off because if you do, you will have to go back and experience the suffering inside you. That is the practice of many people in our society. Many people cannot be with themselves. They have pain, sorrow, or worries inside, and they read or watch or listen to cover this up, to run away from themselves.