Last month, we published Verena’s aspirations to follow the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings in her daily life and to ordain into the Order of Interbeing.
Below is her version of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, a living document that she uses for her practice. It does in no way replace the official version of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, which can be found here.
The First Mindfulness Training: Openness
I am aware that everyone on this Earth is trying in their own way to be happy and to reduce suffering. We all have the same wholesome and unwholesome seeds in our store consciousness. Through different circumstances, we developed different views and strategies to arrive at happiness, and different conditions make us feel safe, seen and connected. To me, the Buddhist teachings are guiding means to help develop my understanding and compassion, cultivating joy and inclusiveness. This does not mean that these teachings are superior to other teachings, nor is their wisdom unchangeable. I have been very fortunate to receive many positive qualities from my ancestors and still struggle every day with the challenges that they have also passed on to me. I am no different from others in this respect. When I hear myself thinking ‘I am not like that’, I know I can return to ‘Are you sure?’
The Second Mindfulness Training: Non-attachment to Views
I am determined to practice open-mindedness and allow my views to be impermanent and be enriched by new insights in interaction with others. “None of us knows more than all of us.” This is a wisdom of the heart rather than rhw intellect. I am deeply aware that the knowledge I presently possess is not changeless, absolute truth, and that being alive means learning and transforming. Through the practice of compassionate listening, deep looking, and letting go of notions, I am deeply in touch with the present moment and the truth that is found in the here and now. I do not need to test this experience against a theory, or draw conclusions which give me a false sense of control and safety. ‘Not-knowing’ gives me a freedom to experience this moment just as it is.
The Third Mindfulness Training: Freedom of Thought
Aware of the suffering in me, when I feel that another person is trying to impose their views on me, I am determined to look deeply at the seeds that are being touched and not react until I have regained some peace and stability. I will listen deeply to try and understand the reason for this person’s behavior. I am deeply committed to live the view that different opinions can coexist peacefully. I will not make another person’s suffering my responsibility, since I know this waters the seeds of my habit energy of trying to ‘fix’ their problems in ‘my way.’ I am aware that compassionate listening is my most important ‘tool’ when I am confronted with fanaticism and narrow-mindedness. If I can remind myself that being kind is more important than being right, I may be of help in those situations.
The Fourth Mindfulness Training: Awareness of Suffering
Aware of the suffering caused by ignoring my own pain in any given situation, I am committed to transforming my habit energy of ‘focusing on and caring for others’ and making space to look deeply into my own feelings. When a situation makes me feel uncomfortable, I am determined to go back to my breathing and ask “how do I practice with that?” to remind myself that taking care of myself is essential in having a positive influence on the outcome. I am deeply aware that ignoring my emotions to stay available to the other person may inadvertently influence the situation in a negative way. When I need more space to take care of myself because I am suffering from strong emotions or I lack the energy to sufficiently take care of them in that moment, I will practice compassion for myself by taking this space and not forcing myself to stay in the difficult situation. Once I have taken care of my own suffering in a gentle, embracing and accepting way, I know I will have the space to be truly present with and for those who are suffering. I will use skilful means to communicate and choose wisely between the options of WhatsApp, email, telephone, Skype, or meeting face-to-face. In this way, we will both have a chance to transform our suffering into compassion, peace and joy gradually in our own time.
The Fifth Mindfulness Training: Compassionate, Healthy Living
Aware that true happiness is rooted in peace, solidity, freedom, and compassion, and that joy can be nourished by connecting wholeheartedly with Sangha friends, I am determined to live simply and not use more resources for my daily life than I need. I will remind myself that I have more than enough conditions for happiness available in the here and now, and I will try to limit my exposure to advertisements or other stimuli that water the seeds of consumerism in me. I will practice diligently to grow my understanding of my habit energies related to how I nourish my body and mind, holding gently the fact that I am practicing with and for all generations (past and future) present in me. I am determined to water the wholesome seeds by choosing non-processed organic (non-toxic) foods and drinks as much as possible, by choosing films, books, music, websites, friendships and chance-interactions that cultivate a sense of optimism, connection and love; and by creating spaces in my life to rest, reflect and connect to nature. I will try to refrain from watering unwholesome seeds and allow myself to begin anew every day in doing so.
The Sixth Mindfulness Training: Taking Care of Anger
When the seed of anger has been touched and it manifests in me, I am determined to return to my breathing and embrace it. If necessary, I will remove myself from a situation where the seeds of anger are watered any further in a skilful way. I will refrain from feeding my anger with thoughts of blame or thoughts of being a victim. I will hold my anger gently like a crying baby and will try not to push it away or fix it by reminding myself that feeling anger is part of being human and it’s not necessarily a sign of failure. I know I do not have to understand right away, so I can relax and trust that insight will come. I am aware that once I understand the roots of my anger—namely my wrong perceptions—and that seeds of suffering in my store consciousness have been touched, I can grow to understand the suffering of the other person. By stopping, creating space, and acting from the heart instead of reacting out of habit energy, I can nourish my understanding, love, joy and inclusiveness as well as preserve and grow the precious connections that I have with others.
The Seventh Mindfulness Training: Dwelling Happily in the Present Moment
Aware that life is available only in the present moment, I will practice stopping and mindful breathing to be aware of what is happening in the here and the now. I am committed to training myself to live deeply each moment of daily life, even though my habit energy of being carried away by regrets about the past, worries about the future, or craving, and feelings of sadness in the present is still strong. I know that especially when I am tired and/or stressed, I have a tendency to lose myself in dispersion and lack the discipline to meditate and/or rest. When I stop, sit down (with a cup of tea), and look around, it is so easy to touch the wondrous, refreshing, and healing elements that are inside and around me in all situations. The chatter in my head will quiet down by itself. If I take care of getting enough sleep, everything will be easier. Then, I will be able to cultivate seeds of joy, peace, love, and understanding in myself, thus facilitating the work of transformation and healing in my consciousness. I am aware that real happiness depends primarily on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy.
The Eighth Mindfulness Training: True Community and Communication
Knowing that true community is rooted in inclusiveness and in the concrete practice of the harmony of views, thinking, and speech, I will practice looking deeply into my views on how to organise, communicate, be together, and listen deeply to the needs, views, and suggestions of others. Knowing that renewing the Sangha is just as important as having a solid base together, I will practise letting go of habits that are not fundamental to our happiness. I will experiment playfully and joyfully with new ways of practice, while being conscious of my own needs for safety, feeling included, and a sense of togetherness and expressing those in a wholesome way.
I am determined to learn to listen deeply to myself and others in the Sangha, and make space for what comes up, knowing that I do not need to act on it immediately; I am allowed to take time to breathe with it. I will refrain from uttering words that can create discord or cause the community to break, and will instead keep the energy of curiosity and openness to other views alive in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I will practice flower watering frequently, be it formally or informally, to keep our Sangha flowers fresh and lively. Whenever difficulties arise, I will remain in my Sangha and practice looking deeply into myself and others to recognise all the causes and conditions—including my own habit energies—that have brought about the difficulties. I will take responsibility for the ways I may have contributed to my own, or other people’s suffering, and keep communication open. I will not behave as a victim, but I will be active in finding ways to reconcile and resolve all conflicts. Any suffering that will affect our future together is worth making an effort to resolve and transform it.
The Ninth Mindfulness Training: Truthful and Loving Speech
Aware that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to learning to speak truthfully, lovingly, and constructively. My intention is to use only words that inspire joy, confidence and hope as well as to promote reconciliation and peace in ourselves and among other people. Whenever I hear myself think in a negative way with anger, frustration, or blame, I will go back to my breathing and recognise what is happening by saying the words “I have an opinion about that.” I will reconnect to the wisdom of interbeing and not fall into the habit of seeing people as either perpetrators or victims. I am determined not to say untruthful things out of fear, shame, or pride. I will protect the happiness and harmony of our Sangha by refraining from speaking about the faults of other people in their absence and will always ask myself whether my perceptions are correct. I will speak only with the intention to understand and help transform the situation. I will do my best to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may make difficulties for myself.
The Tenth Mindfulness Training: Protecting and Nourishing the Sangha
Aware that the essence and aim of a Sangha is the realization of understanding and compassion, I am determined not to use the Buddhist community for personal gain, be it financial, political or as a way to fulfil unwholesome emotional needs. I am committed to learning to look with the eyes of interbeing and to see myself and others as cells in one Sangha body. I will not see my own Sangha, nor my own tradition of practice, as superior to other Sanghas or traditions. Nor are we inferior or equal. As a true cell in the Sangha body, generating mindfulness, concentration and insight to nourish myself and the whole community, I am at the same time a cell in the Buddha body. I will actively build brotherhood and sisterhood, flow as a river, and practice to develop the three real powers—understanding, love, and cutting through afflictions—to realize collective awakening.
The Eleventh Mindfulness Training: Right Livelihood
Aware that doctors are generally trained to fight disease and suppress symptoms rather than promote health and remove causes of disease, I try to promote happiness and relieve suffering to the best of my abilities as an elderly care physician. Being fully present, listening deeply, and speaking from a place of compassion and understanding are more important tools to me than pharmaceutical interventions. I feel deeply grateful that my vocation is in harmony with my practice in that way, and realise that the way I raise my children, how I treat my neighbours and friends, and my activities for Wake Up Netherlands may be of even more value for future generations. I am determined to behave responsibly as a consumer and as citizen and will not be discouraged by knowing that even with all my efforts to do good, my knowledge of how things are produced and which choices are beneficial—or un-beneficial—is limited. I aim not to invest in or purchase from companies that contribute to the depletion of natural resources, harm the earth, or deprive others of their chance to live. I am investing my time, energy, and enthusiasm in creating a living community, where we can practise and grow together in a sustainable way.
The Twelfth Mindfulness Training: Reverence for Life
Aware that much suffering is caused by war and conflict, I am determined to cultivate nonviolence, compassion, and the insight of interbeing in my daily life and promote peace education, mindful mediation, and reconciliation within families, communities, ethnic and religious groups, nations, and in the world. When I hear someone use words containing racism, division, or discrimination, I will gently challenge them and question them in order to understand what makes them speak or act in such a way. I will not support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. I will diligently and compassionately practice deep looking with my Sangha to discover even more ways to protect life, prevent war, and build peace.
The Thirteenth Mindfulness Training: Generosity
Aware of my very fortunate circumstances of living in a safe country, having had the opportunity to receive an excellent education, having a place to live, enough to eat, having a beautiful path of practice together with Sangha friends, and being healthy and energetic, I am immensely grateful and do not take these conditions for granted. This gratitude easily overflows in my way of thinking, speaking and acting. I love to create art, newsletters, events and retreats in our tradition to share my joy, happiness, and practice with others. By sharing my material resources, I water the seeds of ‘having enough.’ My experience is that if you share joy, it multiplies! Provided that I balance all this enthusiasm with a need for rest, silence and reflection, sharing, and connecting with others is my favourite way of being the change, and it is guaranteed to water my seeds of happiness.
The Fourteenth Mindfulness Training: True Love
I am aware that infatuation is not love, and that intimate relations motivated by craving cannot dissipate negative feelings buried deep inside of me. It will rather most likely bring them to the surface. I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my habit energy of falling in love and to look deeply into the way I nourish my mind with thoughts of romance. I will nourish the awareness that I do not need to be different than I am, that I am worthy to receive and able to give love (loving kindness, compassion, joy, and inclusiveness). When entering into a romantic relationship, I fully accept that to know and understand my feelings completely, I need time and space with the other person as well as by myself. To connect to, understand, accept and love each other, we open up to each other in various circumstances over time, surrounded by family and friends. I will cultivate awareness of impermanence and enjoy the present moment with my beloved deeply, knowing that our connection might change. I know that respecting the rights and commitments of myself and others will support both our happiness. This includes respecting my own and other peoples’s aspirations, preferences, path of suffering and transformation and freedom. I will treat my body with compassion and respect, and know it is much more than just an object of sexual desire.