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A Letter of Spiritual Encouragement
August 1, 2007

Br. ChiSing, Letter of Spiritual Encouragement August is "Committing to the Path of Awakening" Month. And I am encouraging you to examine your life today and this week to see what you would like to do in order to commit yourself more fully to the Path of Awakening.

According to some studies, it takes about 3-4 months (which is about 108 days) to effectively change an old habit and form a new habit. I want to challenge you to make a commitment starting sometime this month for 108 days -- a commitment to forming a new habit of daily meditation at home, weekly meditation with a group, a monthly "Day of Mindfulness" retreat (alone or with a group), and a quarterly weekend retreat (as well as an annual weeklong retreat, if that is within your means).

Mindfulness is not a quick-fix. Mindfulness practice is a lifestyle. It is a new habit that you need to commit to every day. It is like eating three meals a day and getting about 8 hours of sleep each night. It isn't anything extraordinary. And yet, for so long, we have been living as spiritually malnourished beings; it's as if we've only been eating one meal every few days and sleeping only a couple of hours a week. Then, when we encounter mindfulness practice, especially at a retreat, it feels extraordinary. But you can't just go to one retreat or a couple of group meditations and then stop there. You must continually commit yourself to daily practice, weekly practice, monthly practice, quarterly practice (and annual practice, if it is in your means). It's just like committing yourself to eating three nutritious meals a day and sleeping about 8 hours each night. You don't just eat one meal and sleep one night and then wait several days before eating and sleeping again. That is not healthy at all. And yet, that is exactly what we have been doing spiritually most of our lives.

We don't even realize that we are spiritually malnourished because most of us have never really known any other state of existence. Since our parents were probably spiritually malnourished, and all of our peers were most likely spiritually malnourished, and even our religious leaders may have been spiritually malnourished, our own state of spiritual malnourishment just seemed normal. But now, we have the opportunity to change all of that. We have the amazing opportunity now to break this ancestral cycle of spiritual malnourishment and begin a new generation of spiritual nourishment, transformation and enlightenment.

I encourage you to make a commitment to your own happiness, a commitment to transforming your suffering, a commitment to realizing enlightenment in this very lifetime, for the sake of all beings. I encourage you to wake up from the delusions of the self-centered self, to wake up from our collective addiction to distraction, to wake up from the extremes of both materialistic workaholism and of metaphysical laziness.

Do it today, do it this week, or do it next week, but just do it.

August is the 8th month of our Western calendar. The number 8 is a sacred number that symbolizes Enlightenment and a New Beginning. The Buddha taught the Eight-fold Path of Enlightenment. A week is composed of the 7 days from Sunday to Saturday and then the 8th day starts a new cycle, a new 1st day of the week, so it is a new beginning. All numbers, of course, are sacred. But we can take advantage of ancient symbols and spiritual traditions. We can use them positively for our benefit. So let us take advantage of August, the 8th month, as an opportunity for us to begin anew, to "Committing to the Path of Awakening."

You can choose to start your 108-day commitment on August 1st, which is also a sacred day in the Earth-based spiritual traditions ("Lammas" is the mid-point between Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox). Or perhaps you need some more time to prepare for this commitment. So you could choose August 5th as your start date, the first Sunday of August, when we will have a special "Encouragement and Blessing" Ceremony at the Sangha. Or maybe August 8th (8-8). Or perhaps on the eve of the New Moon on Sunday, August 12th. But whenever you choose to start this commitment, I encourage you to do it sooner than later, to do it this month, to do it with dedication and determination.

I close this letter with a Buddhist prayer, written by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Also, please listen to some of my Dharma Talks again or for the first time; and visit our Sangha page to see our upcoming schedule.

In Light, Love, and Life,
Br. ChiSing

A prayer written by Thich Nhat Hanh:

Dear Buddha,

I feel warmth in my heart every time I am able to talk to and confide in you. I feel your presence in every cell of my body and know you are listening with compassion to everything I say. You walked on this planet Earth as a free person. I also want to walk on this planet Earth as a free person.

Around me are people who do not walk as free people. They only know how to run. They run into the future because they think that happiness cannot be found in the present moment. They are walking on the Earth but their minds are up in the clouds. They walk like sleepwalkers, without knowing where they are going. I know I also have the habit to lose my peace and freedom as I walk.

Dear Buddha, I vow to follow your example and always walk as someone who is free and awake. I vow that in every step I take, my feet will truly touch the Earth and I shall be aware that I am walking on the ground of reality and not in a dream. Walking like that, I am in touch with everything that is wonderful and miraculous in the universe. I vow to walk in such a way that my feet will be able to impress on the Earth the seal of freedom and peace. I know that steps taken like this have the capacity to heal my body and mind as well as planet Earth itself.

When I practice walking meditation with the Sangha, I vow to be aware that it is a great happiness to walk with the Sangha. With each step, I am aware that I am not a solitary drop of water but am part of a larger river. With mindful breathing and steps, I shall produce the energy of mindfulness of the Sangha. I shall open my body and mind so that the collective energy of the Sangha can enter me, protect me, and help me to gently flow along like a river, harmonizing myself with everything that is. I know that by entrusting my body and mind, as well as my painful feelings, to the Sangha, they may be embraced and healed. In this way, I shall be nourished as I am practicing mindful walking with the Sangha and make significant transformation in my body and mind. I shall open myself to the Sangha's energy as I practice walking meditation. I vow to walk in such a way that every step and every breath can nourish myself and my Sangha with the energy of freedom and solidity.

Dear Buddha, I bow in gratitude before you, before all Bodhisattvas and before all my brothers and sisters.

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