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Letter from the Editor

Dear Thay, dear Sangha,

   Is the whole world on fire? Some days it feels that way. Some days, pain and anguish cry out so loudly, so relentlessly for compassion and healing. 

   In the midst of the flames, the teachings and stories in this issue bring me back to the inner wellspring of my practice. They nourish my determination to be of service, to help put out the fires of suffering even when my bucket of water seems so small. They remind me that as we meet suffering, none of us is alone. Countless ears are hearing the cries of the world. Countless hearts and hands are responding with loving-kindness.

   This issue is full of the deep engagement, struggles, and joys of practitioners who are walking a path of mindfulness and compassion. The authors reveal the Buddha’s teachings on how to calm anger, how to take right action, and how to give from the heart. They show how they’ve walked peacefully for their ancestors, for themselves, and for all of us in places mired in a history of slavery. They invite their descendants to take refuge in their peaceful breathing. 

   As we do our best to transform suffering, Thay’s gentle, clear voice is a bell of awakening that brings us home to the truth of who we are. His teaching, “Interbeing and the Nature of Perception,” explains our inseparable oneness with all life, and shows how “our mind has the capacity of beginning anew and re-creating the cosmos.” In “Freedom Is Our Practice,” he says the purpose of mindfulness practice is to cultivate inner freedom, “and with your freedom, happiness is possible. With your freedom and happiness, you can help so many people for you have something to offer them.” 

    Complementing Thay’s teachings are historical perspectives and insights from Brother Phap Lac and Mitchell Ratner, who explore what it means to be a member of the Order of Interbeing. The Order, which Thay founded fifty years ago in the cauldron of the Vietnam War, is a community of people who have committed to live according to bodhisattva vows. Order members do their best to practice mindfulness and compassion, to build community, and to reduce suffering wherever they find it. 

   Also in this issue are timeless gathas (practice poems) for looking deeply into violence and hatred, and for healing racial and social inequity. Valerie Brown’s gatha concludes beautifully:

Breathing in, I listen deeply in this moment. 

Breathing out, I recognize the energy of compassion is born from my suffering.

Breathing in, I know love has the power to heal and transform.

Breathing out, I know love has the power to heal and transform.

   May these offerings help cool the flames of our suffering, nourish our mindfulness and understanding, and help us build a community of love.

   With love and gratitude,

   Natascha Bruckner

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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