The more I rest in present awareness, and don't separate myself out from life, the more I appreciate the impact that I have on others. Only when I am present am I sensitive to my connection to the world, am I able to feel how important it is to be non-harming in my words and actions. When I am lost in thought, I lose that simplicity and sensitivity.
I continually point toward this secret of the present moment, for if I am really present, I don't suffer as much, I don't cause as much suffering, and I am less afraid. I may experience intense pain or pleasure, but the degree of mental suffering lessens. Practicing mindfulness de-conditions the habits that prevent me from being centered in the present. This in turn gives me a more stable awareness, which allows me to recognize my inherent peace and freedom.
It is this taste of nowness--introducing people to the living quality of the present moment and its sense of freedom--that most engages me in my teaching practice. I find no evidence of suffering, in my mind, unless I remind myself of some event that is not in the present. Suffering arises when I am lost in my imagination, reviewing the past or fearfully anticipating the future.
I feel tremendous gratitude and love for the dharma, and the practice of awareness. Knowing my mind a little better, and being less preoccupied with my internal drama, makes me more available to the suffering of others. Consequently, I am moved to give to others rather than focusing on what I can get. In spite of being more attuned to suffering, staying present allows each day to become more joyful, compelling and intereesting. My desire to run from this moment, by running after an imagined, better future, or away from a past fear, has diminished. It is present wakefulness that helps me recover my capacity to live with balance and ease in the world.
Hozan Alan Senauke is a Soto Zen priest in the tradition of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. He was ordained by Sojun Mel Weitsman in 1989. Alan is presently head of practice at Berkeley Zen Center in California, where he lives with his wife and two children. He is also Senior Advisor to Buddhist Peace Fellowship, where he served as Executive Director for more than a decade. In another realm, Alan has been a student and performer of American traditional music for more than forty years.
Hugh Byrne is a guiding teacher with the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. Hugh has practiced Buddhist Insight Meditation for twenty-five years and has been teaching meditation since 2000, teaching classes, retreats and workshops in the Washington area and in the U.S. and abroad. He is a cofounder of the Washington Buddhist Peace Fellowship, the Mindfulness Training Institute of Washington and the Meditation Teacher Training Institute.
Over the years of teaching, I've found a growing need for profound lovingkindness and compassion--a transformation of the heart--to underlie the insights and understandings that come out of the practice. An opening of the mind needs to be supported by compassion from the heart if the practice is to be integrated, fulfilled, and lived in our lives.
The value of mindfulness practice is discovered in the freedom we find through awareness. Without awareness, we repeat the patterns of fear and conditioning that keep us entangled individually and collectively. Without awareness, we suffer. With awareness, we can see the contractions of the mind, how the mind gets caught and how we can learn to let go. With awareness we can reawaken to the purity of joy and freedom that is fundamental to our true nature.
As a Dharma teacher, I simply remind others how it is possible to live in this world and find freedom. I listen to practitioners and try to remind them that it is truly possible to be free.
Jacques Verduin, M. A. Somatic Psychology, is the Founder and Director of Insight-Out, a non-profit which aims to turn violence and suffering into opportunities for healing and learning for prisoners and challenged youth.
Jacques has been a leader and innovator in the field of rehabilitation for prisoners since 1997. He is an expert on violence prevention, emotional intelligence, restorative justice and mindfulness. Born from 18 years of listening to the traumas of thousands of offenders and victims, a deeply transformational program, Guiding Rage Into Power (G.R.I.P.), has emerged.
Verduin's presentations make interesting connections between the specific predicament of incarceration and the general suffering of the human condition. His perspective draws from working in-depth with victims and offenders, rival gangs and racial factions, and articulates a methodology that helps transcend the 'Us and Them' fallacy. Besides the US, presentations and trainings have been offered in Guatemala, El Salvador, Bosnia, Italy and the Netherlands.
I try to convey that the wisdom and compassion we are looking for is already inside of us. I see practice as learning how to purify our mind and heart so we can hear the Buddha inside. In doing so, we naturally embody the dharma and help awaken that understanding and love in others we meet.
I try to use the formal teachings as a doorway for people to see the truth in themselves. I feel I'm doing my job when people look into themselves to come to their own deep understandings of the truth, access their own inner wisdom and trust in their "Buddha-knowing," as Ajahn Chah called it, which is different from their intellectual knowing.
The Buddha-knowing is a deeper place, underneath the concepts, which is in touch with the truth, with our seed of awakening. I want practitioners to have more and more confidence in, and familiarity with, that deeper place of knowing. It is accessing this dimension of our being that becomes the guide to cutting through the confusion caused by greed and fear. We have everything we need inside ourselves. We do not need to look to a teacher when we remember who we really are.
Teacher-trainee with Skillful Meditation Project, and long-time Vipassana meditator, conducts individual interviews and leads small groups in Recollective Awareness practice. Buddhist Chaplain and author of Our Own Teachers and Dharma Camp.