Photo credit: Matt Collamer
This audio recording was created at our May 7, 2019 group meditation. The talk starts at 36:00. Have fun listening!
This video recording was created at our May 7, 2019 group meditation. Enjoy!
Training 6: Walk and Talk in the Manner of Love
Training 6: Walk and Talk in the Manner of Love Enjoy a 30-minute balance compassion meditation and a talk on how to skillfully walk and talk in the manner of love. This class is part of our Creating the Beloved Community free training series. Read these tips to get the most out of this video: https://www.boundlessloveproject.org/news/2019/3/14/tips-for-watching-a-live-stream-or-recorded-video Check out other classes in this series here: https://www.boundlessloveproject.org/creating-the-beloved-community Read and print your own copy of the Beloved Community Pledge here: https://www.boundlessloveproject.org/news/2019/2/26/the-beloved-community-pledge This video was recorded May 7, 2019 at the Boundless Love Project's Group Meditation.Posted by Boundless Love Project on Tuesday, May 7, 2019
VIDEO OPTION: The content of this article was shared and video-recorded at a recent group meditation. The video starts with a guided meditation, but if you wish to only hear the talk, scroll to minute 38:00. Please click the icon to turn on the sound and push play. Then sit or lie down in a comfortable, energizing position; close your eyes; and listen with an open heart and mind. Enjoy!
The following is a transcript of the talk.
Walk and Talk in the Manner of Love, for Love is Our Fundamental Nature
"They'll know we are Christians by our love." Thus reads the words from the 1960s hymn by Father Peter Scholtes. Now not all of us listening are Christian, so I invite you to substitute that word for whatever role or identity resonate with you.
"They'll know we are Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, atheists, and so on by our love."
"They'll know we are activists, artists, athletes, teachers, and so on by our love."
This sentence powerfully embodies the heart of all wisdom traditions. This sentence also embodies the most powerful and easeful way to live from any role you serve, because the effectiveness, creativity, peace, joy, and power of our labors arises from how much love we bring to those roles.
The Creating the Beloved Community Series
This article is part of our Creating the Beloved Community series which helps us understand what we can do to create a global beloved community where all life thrives. In this article, we look at the fifth training of the voluntarily taken Beloved Community Pledge, which reads: WALK and TALK in the manner of love, because love is our fundamental nature.
Three Wise Views
In the past four talks we focused on getting the mindset right, because when we see clearly with wisdom, skillful and loving actions flow from us effortlessly. In these talks, we showed how viewing the world nonconceptually like a smart phone, puts us in touch with our unconditional love. Alternately, we can view all life to be one unified whole, and we told The Story of Nothing (and Everything!) to help us comprehend how this might be the case. Alternately, we can have a selfless view, where we recognize that nothing that we can see, hear, touch, taste, feel, or experience is who we truly are, including our own bodies, thoughts, emotions, and sensations. We used direct inquiry and pointing to help us see this truth. If you missed any of these talks, I invite you to listen to, watch, or read them at our website BoundlessLoveProject.org.
The two paradoxical views: that we are nothing, and that we are everything -- are both wise and skillful. We can use whichever view we more easily access, and confidently switch between these views whenever that helps.
Paradoxes are common within wisdom traditions, but we must always remember the wise counsel of science fiction and fantasy writer Diane Duane, "The doors to Truth are guarded by Paradox and Confusion. Should you turn your back on them when you meet them, you are forever denying yourself access to the Truth."
In summary, to make loving behaviors effortless, we can view the world nonconceptually, or with the understanding that everything we see and experience is us, or recognizing our selfless nature.
Now that we have the mind-set right, let's talk about what it means to "walk and talk" in the manner of love.
The Benefits of Ethical Codes
All wisdom traditions have ethical codes of conduct that encourage us to live skillfully.
Skillful living benefits us in numerous ways. First, it prevents the arising of regret and remorse; improves our relationships with all people, animals and nature; and enhances our quality of life. Second, the intention to live skillfully allows our unskillful behavior to serve as a warning alarm, reminding us that we are living in ego and need to wake up and return to mindfulness.
Third, living skillfully benefits all life. When you do not harm, judge, molest, or steal from others, you lovingly giving them the freedom to be their authentic self. This is a huge gift that all life appreciates.
Ethical codes can help give us clarity on how to live skillfully and enjoy all of these benefits.
The Shadow Side of Ethical Codes
Not surprisingly, our egos have corrupted these ethical codes. The ego uses ethics as a basis to strengthen its story of self, and to judge, condemn, and harm others. If our egos use our ethics to harm others, then we are not showing other who we are "by your love."
Thus, see all judgment, blame, and cruelty as an act of ego. During this course, the Mindfulness Fundamentals course, and in other classes, we have taught you many mindfulness tactics that we call "agape arsenal techniques." Use those techniques called Blame Flipping, "If not for my good fortune, I would be them," or Imagine the Innocent Infant Inside. All of these methods, detailed on our website under the resources tab, help us remember that those we condemn are merely acting out their unfortunate conditioning unskillfully.
By remembering that we are all just bundles of conditioning, we inspire compassion within ourselves. For when we reflect on the kinds of negative conditioning that other must have endured for them to be thinking and acting in such harmful ways, our heart opens with compassion. It reminds us that if we harm others, that increases the unfortunate conditioning in the world. But skillful and loving acts creates fortunate conditioning that inspires healing, growth, and skillful transformation.
In other words, never use ethical codes to judge, blame, punish, or mistreat others. All that comes from the ego. Use ethical codes to create harmony in your relations and to aid you in escaping the prison of your ego.
Understanding the shadow side of ethics, we now turn our attention to how do we "walk and talk in a manner of love."
The Five Precepts of Buddhism: How to Refrain from Harming
During our Mindfulness Fundamentals course we interpreted the 10 commandments from the Judeo-Islamic-Christian traditions. For a new angle on ethical codes, in this class we will reflect on the Buddhist moral code known as The Five Precepts.
The Five Precepts largely encourage us to refrain from harming ourselves and others. They are:
1. I vow to refrain from harming living beings.
This first precept really covers all of the precepts. However, when we are lost in ego, the ego can justify anything, so it helps to clarify what is skillful and what is not, which the other precepts do.
2. I vow to refrain from taking that which is not given.
3. I vow to refrain from causing harm through sexual misconduct.
4. I vow to refrain from false and harmful speech.
5. I vow to refrain from the misuse of intoxicants.
These precepts are short, easy to memorize, and extremely helpful as a guide. They draw clear, bright lines of what harms ourselves and others.
We can develop confidence in these precepts by learning, understanding, and appreciating them while we are calm and clear-headed. Then when caught in ego, our confidence in the precepts, gives us a little edge, that helps us tip the odds that we will refrain from unskillful activity.
Stage one: Nonharming
When we are new to ethics, it is wise to have our top priority be refraining from doing harm. Thus, commitment five from our Beloved Community Pledge, might as well read, "walk and talk in a manner of harmlessness."
This narrows our focus and makes growth more manageable. We train in not killing, not stealing, not engaging in sexual misconduct, not using unkind and hurtful speech, and not misusing alcohol and drugs. Through this training, we learn the powerful skills of renunciation, patience, resolve, and the very challenging skill of holding our tongue.
Such training will challenge us. But by engaging the challenge, we will learn to spot when the ego is active in us, as well as when we are mindful.
Ways to Move from Ego to Mindfulness
Of course, when lost in the falsehood of ego, we need to resist the temptation to act unskillfully. Unfortunately, willpower is a limited resource that can become exhausted. Thus, when our body alerts us that we are caught in ego through an emotional or mental disturbance, or because we witness ourselves engaging in unskillful activity, it is wise to do what we can to become mindful and return to a nonconceptual, unified, or selfless view.
Many agape arsenal techniques can help you do that, but I mention three of them here:
1. Conscious Breathing/Taking a Mindful Pause
First, there is taking one or more conscious breaths for as long as is needed to center and focus ourselves. By breathing deeply into the abdomen and chest, relaxing our heart space, and focusing our attention on the subtle sensations of breath, we help clear the mind, and draw on our inner love, peace, and creativity to see our situation freshly with new eyes.
To develop this wonderful habit, work daily with the "Breathe" slogan. Instructions on how to do this can be found in our "Working with the Slogan 'Breathe'" blog post on our website.
2. Seeing Like a Smart Phone
A second approach to help us get out of ego is to see like a smart phone camera. This helps you notice the story that the mind adds to the situation. Once you see the story, you can see what falsehoods it contains: futuring, pasting, self-view, fixed-view, judgement, or the many kinds of greed or aversion (Learn about these falsehoods in our Mindfulness Fundamentals Course). By noticing your thoughts and stories, and seeing the delusion in them, and no longer believing them, you will move back into the seat of mindful awareness.
3. Balancing Compassion.
A third approach is using the balancing compassion meditation, which I learned from Dr. Kristin Neff who researches compassion and wrote the book Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. This approach is particularly helpful if you are with others or engaged in an activity.
First, you think of a skillful quality that you or those you are with need in the moment such as: patience, courage, wisdom, and so on. On the inbreath you silently say the word as a loving blessing for yourself. On the outbreath you silently say the word as a loving blessing for those you are with, or for all beings if no one is present.
This meditation helps connect us with others, calm the mind and body, helps us refrain from acting unskillfully, and even helps manifest the qualities we need.
When we do this technique, others may notice we are taking a short pause. In truth, we are coming out of ego, and into mindfulness where we can access our inner spaciousness, creativity, and skillfulness.
To learn this skill, use the balancing compassion meditations found on our website as your daily meditation, and work with the slogan "Compassion for All" to set the intention to do these mini-balancing compassion meditations in your daily life.
Returning to Mindfulness
When we use these techniques or others to return to mindfulness, then we then no longer need to use our willpower. We have returned to a nonconceptual, unified, or selfless view, and these allow skillful actions to flow from us effortlessly.
The Dark Night of the Soul
Learning the art of nonharming also benefits us tremendously on our mindfulness journey. Before we reach the first stage of awakening, and at other places along our journey, we may experience what St. John of the Cross called a "Dark Night of the Soul." This stage is where many of our egoic demons arise one after the other, causing us a lot of prolonged and intense mental suffering.
Dark Nights can last a few days to many months. Moreover, if we don't learn what it is here to teach us, we may have to experience it many times until we finally learn its lessons.
Dark Nights exists for our benefit, that we may progress further on the path to awakening. However, if we remain in ego during it, we will act out unskillfully in a way that harms ourselves and others. Our egoic falsehoods will try to convince us that our suffering is the fault of other people and external situations. It will encourage us to blame, shame, and lash out at those around us, make drastic changes to our lives, and act unskillfully.
Thankfully, all of the training we have done in nonharming will aid us in moving through this stage without hurting ourselves or damaging our relationships or careers.
When a dark night arises, we must remember that our suffering comes from within, not from without. Even if we are on a safe, sunny, warm, relaxing beach, observing the clear waters, we would still feel miserable, because the suffering we experience is not about our external conditions. Dark Nights exist to show us that our mental and emotional suffering is self-inflicted due to the stories we believe. It's an opportunity for us to see the falsehood in those stories, and the suffering they cause us, so we are inspired to stop believing them, and let them go.
How to Use a Dark Night to Awaken
Thus, a wise way to move through a dark night is with a three-fold approach:
First, apply our training in nonharming to do no harm. This will be hard, but we and everyone around us will benefit from it, and it will allow us to move through the Dark Night quicker.
Second, continue to mindfully see the selfless, impermanent, and unsatisfactory nature of all forms. See these three aspects in the stories we think, the possessions we own, the sensations we feel, the body we temporarily reside in, the consciousness that we have, and so on. See how all of these things are nature unfolding lawfully due to causes and conditions that are outside of our control. This will help us let go of the stories that keep us trapped in ego.
Third, compassionately allow all of the unpleasantness to be as it is. Offer no resistance to it. In those times where we do resist the unpleasantness, notice how that resistance intensifies our suffering. Directly seeing how resistance increases our suffering gives us the wisdom to stop resisting. Then we can let go of the stories of resistance, welcome the unpleasantness, learn from it, and move through the Dark Night more quickly. Dark Nights are one reason why wisdom teachers tell us, "the way out of suffering is through."
If we successfully use a Dark Night to deepen our practice, let go of our fixed-views, and come to know our selfless nature, then the first stage of awakening typically follows quickly on the heels of the Dark Night.
Stage Two: Moving from Harmlessness to Love.
Hopefully, we now appreciate the importance of training in harmlessness.
Having trained in harmlessness, we will grow, change, and evolve to where being harmless is easier and more effortless. Then it is time to move to from harmlessness to love.
At face value, The Five Precepts are about doing no harm. Not harming others is a great blessing to all life as this allows them the freedom and space they need to thrive and live their authentic life. Although nonharming does not make things worse, unfortunately many beings are hurting. Love is a positive force that not only does no harm, but also actively benefits and heals ourselves and others from the harm that has been done to us.
Thus, we can look at The Five Precepts through a broader and loving view. Let's go through the precepts again and then share Buddhist wisdom teacher Thich Nhat Hahn's loving interpretation of each precept.
These quotes of Thich Nhat Hahn's come from his book For a Future to be Possible, and they were assembled by the wonderful people at Common Ground Meditation Center in Minneapolis, MN.
Precept One: I undertake the training to refrain from harming living beings.
"Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of all beings. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life. This is the first of the five mindfulness trainings, I vow to study and practice it."
In addition to not killing, we can further broaden this precept to understand that we will not harm anyone, nor support others in doing harm, and not justify any act of harm in the world.
Yet again, we can further broaden this precept to understand that we will do our best to serve and benefit others, to help others serve and benefit others, and to support all actions that serve and benefit life. Now we have infused this precept with a call to love.
Precept Two: I undertake the training to refrain from taking that which is not given.
"Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to cultivating loving kindness and learning ways to work for the well-being of all beings. I will practice generosity by sharing my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth. This is the second of the five mindfulness trainings, I vow to study and practice it."
Here, Thich broadens the precept from not stealing to generously sharing of our time, energy, and material wealth to benefit those in need so that all life has enough to thrive.
Precept Three: I undertake the training to refrain from causing harm through sexual misconduct.
"Aware of suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual activities without love and commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to protect couples and families from being harmed by sexual misconduct. This is the third of the five mindfulness trainings, I vow to study and practice it."
Again, Thich broadens this precept to actively working to create loving, nonexploitive relationships between the genders and those of all ages. Each of us is called to help create a culture where women; children; people of color; disabled people; elderly people; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people; and all people of all kinds, and all beings from all walks of life, are cherished, respected, and given the freedom to live their authentic lives.
Precept Four: I undertake the training to refrain from false and harmful speech.
"Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am determined to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy and hope. I will not spread information that I do not know to be certain and will not criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. [And I am going to add here: When I notice or label someone's actions as unskillful I will remember and convey through my words and deeds that they still have inherent value and worth. Now back to Thich's quote...] I will refrain from uttering words with the intention of causing division or discord. I am determined to make efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small. This is the fourth of the five mindfulness trainings, I vow to study and practice it."
Thich transforms this precept to refrain from false, unkind, and harmful speech, into a precept of only using wise speech that serves, helps, uplifts, and inspires others. A tall order, but it takes us from nonharming to love.
Precept Five: I undertake the training to refrain from the misuse of intoxicants.
"Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to the cultivation of good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to (mis)use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that undermine spiritual growth such as unwholesome TV programs, magazines, books, films and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with such poisons is to harm all beings. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society. This is the fifth of the five mindfulness trainings, I vow to study and practice it."
Here again, Thich takes us from nonharm to love. He encourages us to mindfully notice how all of the food, alcohol, drugs, and entertainment we consume affects us, and to feed our bodies and immaterial nature with those items that nourish, uplift, and benefit us.
Should We Really Master Nonharming First?
Of course, the conceptual idea of mastering stage one: nonharming, and then progressing to stage two: loving, is too simple for it to be entirely true or practical. If you find implementing the loving aspects of one of the above precepts easy, then go for it. But with those precepts you struggle with or are confused about, or cause you to become overwhelmed by the millions of things you need to do to address all of the desperate need in the world, then focus on the nonharming approach first. Use your inner wisdom to guide you on this.
Thus, we generally start by evaluating our own behavior, seeing where our actions cause harm, and do what we can to walk and talk in a manner of nonharming. We refusing to kill, hurt, steal, molest, cheat, lie, or condemn others. Then we generally progress to walking and talking in a manner of love, where our actions serve, uplift, inspire, and heal others.
By training in skillful living, we mature, grow, and awaken and then our actions will effortlessly match our loving intentions and "They'll know we are mindful by our love."
• Consider signing the Beloved Community Pledge to commit yourself to helping create a global beloved community.
• Consider listening to the full Create the Beloved Community series to have a deeper understanding of the Beloved Community Pledge, mindfulness, and the how to’s of following this pledge with ease and joy.