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Lions Roar : September 2016
I solemnly swear that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich . . . that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, that I will faithfully and impartially discharge all duties incumbent upon me. — from the Judicial Oath of the United States 28 U.S.C. § 453 TWO OATHS SERVE as the foundation for my daily practice: my Judicial Oath of Office and my oath to follow a spiritual path of awakening for the liberation of all beings. I serve as a Right Meditative Engagement The Sanskrit word samadhi is often translated as “meditative absorption,” but this can suggest being so absorbed in some- thing (such as a favorite piece of music) that we are oblivious to everything around us. If we engage our bodies and minds and breathing and emotions fully in mindfulness practice, on the other hand, that same quality of spacious connection can continue as we rise from meditation. Mindfulness goes hand in hand with noticing the environment around our body, around our breathing, around our thoughts and emotions. We listen to what our partner is saying rather than men- tally replay the tense moments from our day at work. We notice the swaying of the trees in the wind, just as we notice the movement of our legs in walking meditation. Same directness, same inclusiveness. Right Speech From mindful listening can arise mindful speaking. Here non-effort may provide another helpful hint: leaving pauses in our speech allows for genuine dialogue. Slowing down the impulsive momentum of saying one thing after another is a natural result of mindfulness. Mindful communication is the basis of mindful communities. Mindless speech is speech that causes harm through gossip, slander, lying, and deception. The result of such speech—as when politicians play on our fears to incite hatred—is a divided society; we feel more disconnected from each other. Mindful speech is acting to heal societal wounds. Right Livelihood Mindfulness brings a sense of well-being, an inner richness we share with others by our work in a kindergarten or hospice, cor- porate offices or a bank. The ordinary meaning of “livelihood” connects it with surviving—the way we earn money in order to live. Right livelihood lifts our gaze from the simple mechanics of survival. Our work is the way we contribute to the common good. Livelihood is our offering, an act of generosity. We are called—the root meaning of “vocation”—to serve and inspire, to propagate healthiness and sanity in myriad ways. Right Action Meditation in action is the natural expression of mindfulness. These steps on the path of awakening remind us that the proof of our practice is in the pudding of daily life. The whole pur- pose of this training, it has been said, is to manifest. Sitting still and radiating compassion are useful first steps, but now the old slogan is reborn amid the urgent necessity for compassionate activity to meet the challenges of climate change, increasing social inequality, and disintegrating societies based on fear: “Don’t just sit there, do something!” Let’s conclude our contemplative walk by returning to where we began: the Buddha. The practice of mindfulness meditation and the teaching of the eightfold path have been handed down to us in human lineages of transmission beginning with the Awak- ened One. Thus, the Buddha stands as original ancestor as well as embodiment of the teacher principle. Living human teachers— sometimes called “spiritual friends”—remind us of the neces- sarily expansive quality of walking the path. We all have habitual blind spots, and so we contract from time to time into our own narrow versions of the path of awakening. Spiritual friends encourage and provoke and challenge us to engage mindfulness as a step toward a completely awakened life. ♦ GAYLON FERGUSON is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Interna- tional Buddhist community. His latest book is Natural Bravery. magistrate judge within the District of Columbia’s trial court. I also practice Buddhism, training in the Theravada tradition under my primary teacher, Gina Sharpe. Judging gets a bad rap. To many, a judging mind is to be avoided. Back when I used to teach mindfulness as “paying attention to everything that arises without judgment,” someone asked, “Can you be mindful and be racist?” My answer: Only if mindfulness is uprooted from its moral underpinnings. The Buddha spoke of how he came to his own judgments in upholding the monastic codes. The Dhammatthavagga Sutta The Mindful Judge Intentional awareness has served GRETCHEN ROHR well in her challenging work as a magistrate judge in Washington, D.C. LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2016 66