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Transforming Suffering into Peace & Joy

By Sheila Canal

When Laurel and I realized we would need to leave Deer Park early and miss the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings recitation ceremony, our first reaction was disappointment. We had gotten to know one another over the course of the five-day Order of Interbeing Retreat [January 2007], and we promised each other we would do the recitation ceremony in the shuttle bus on the way to the airport.

The morning arrived and we left the sangha as they were prostrating — touching the earth. Our shuttle was waiting for us at the foot of the hill outside Clarity Village. We immediately noticed how quickly our driver spoke. He was helpful, though, and friendly and mentioned how cold it was and that climate change was even affecting San Diego. Communicating and mobilizing about catastrophic climate changes are of great concern to Laurel so there was immediate agreement and solidarity there.

Our driver asked about our teacher and noted how many people come to Deer Park when Thay is there. With that as a lead, Laurel explained we were members of a group of householders who took vows to follow the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings and we were missing a ceremony by going to catch our planes. She expressed our desire to recite the ceremony. Our driver was quite willing, saying he felt the spiritual energy in the van already!

Thus we performed the Sanghakarman procedure; there was harmony in our community and our ceremony proceeded. As we left the potholes of the long dirt driveway and met the less bumpy asphalt, we bowed through the rest of the prostrations, sang the Heart of the Prajnaparamita and the Sutra Opening Verse. Then we took turns reading each of the fourteen trainings.

Usually I become ill when reading in a car. The essence of the practice, the familiarity of the words, being open and present after five wonderful days on retreat, and taking turns reading miraculously kept the usual nausea and dizziness away. We shared the merit at the stoplight before the airport, bowing to the San Diego harbor, its palm trees, cruise ships, blue water, and sky.

Questions came then from the driver. How long have you been involved? How long does it take to practice these?

Upon hearing the phrase “transforming suffering into peace and joy” our driver shared that his only child was diagnosed closely after birth with cerebral palsy, was hypotonic and quite disabled. As Laurel held my arm she shared that her only child too had been born with severe disabilities and that being a mother to her child is what brought her to our practice.

Laurel understood completely and perfectly the suffering of our driver and his wife and child. In true bodhisattva fashion, she embraced his experience and offered her friendship. Successfully raising her daughter to the age of nineteen took a lot of effort, advocacy, and faith, which Laurel was ready to share with these parents of a four-year-old.

As we parked at the airport, the gratitude was overflowing, ours to him for being open and in harmony with our ceremony and his for our sharing the practice and our understanding and compassion towards his suffering. We all appreciated the moment that brought us together.

We are hopeful that the phone numbers exchanged will lead to deep friendship and support and indeed help in the process of transforming suffering into peace and joy.

Sheila Canal, True Spiritual Understanding, lives in Ashland, Oregon where she has been a member of the Ashland Mindfulness Sangha since 1996

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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