A pervasive but often invisible source of suffering in our culture is self-aversion. We are a busy culture, and we move through our life feeling anxious and dissatisfied, but not fully conscious of how we neglect or judge our inner experience. We suffer from a lack of belonging: to our own bodies, to each other and to the earth. When we practice Buddhist meditation, we learn how to listen deeply and hold our life tenderly.
The open space of compassion allows us to realize that our thoughts and emotions are not who we are; they are waves in our ocean. This gives us the freedom to live more wisely and love more fully.
For over thirty-five years, I've been exploring the awakening of awareness with yoga, meditation, a clinical psychology practice and relationships in spiritual community (sangha). Since the untying of emotional knots is an essential part of "waking up," it is natural for me to weave these elements into my Buddhist practice and teaching. With formal practice, and a genuine engagement in sangha, we can cultivate the qualities of heart and awareness that allow for deep emotional healing and spiritual freedom.
Buddhism guides us in slowing down, quieting and paying attention in an honest and caring way. Through our mindfulness and compassion practices, we establish a sense of intimacy and belonging to our life. We discover that there is no Buddha "out there." Rather, we realize that our true refuge is the wakefulness, openness and love of our own natural awareness.
Thanissara, originally from London, was a nun for 12 years in the tradition of Ajahn Chah and has taught internationally the last 30 years. She is co-founder and director of Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat, South Africa and has an MA in Mindfulness Psychotherapy Practice from the UK. She is co-author of Listening to the Heart, A Contemplative Guide to Engaged Buddhism, author of Time To Stand Up, An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth, and several books of poetry. She currently lives in the North Bay, California and teaches at IMS and is on the Teacher Council at Spirit Rock, a Core Teacher at IMS, and Guiding Teacher of Sacred Mountain Sangha.
The inspiration for my teaching is to help people discover the direct experience of ultimate truth that underlies conventional reality, and then infuse life with an ever-deepening awareness of this mystery as it manifests in our everyday work and relationships. I have practiced meditation since 1976, and have been authorized to teach by Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw of Burma.
Our potential as humans is vast and deep, and can be intentionally developed. There is a way that we can learn to open to all of our experience with kindness and clarity. As we begin to find this stability of heart and mind, wisdom will emerge.This emergence of wisdom, and strengthening of compassion, are the road to our individual and collective happiness and well-being.
Yanai Postelnik has been engaged in full-time dharma practice and service since 1990. His practice and teaching are inspired by the Thai forest tradition and nourished by time spent in the natural world. He has been teaching retreats around the world for 20 years, and is a guiding teacher of Gaia House, England.