My greatest joy is giving the gift of love and hope through the dharma, knowing it is possible for humans to transform their hearts. These dharma gifts include paying attention, practicing clarity and kindness and addressing the suffering of the world--which, of course, includes ourselves.
Right now I'm most enthusiastic about the first gift, paying attention, because it makes every part of our lives better. Paying attention allows us to become more clear, and each moment of clarity is a gift to ourselves and those around us. Clarity keeps us from contributing to more suffering. The gift of clarity and kindness also supports a peaceful heart, which allows us to address the suffering in the world with love. When we practice clarity, we offer the possibility for humans to live in a different way. But a peaceful heart is only the beginning. We also have to take action, go out and directly address the suffering with peace in our hearts.
As a parent, grandparent and a psychotherapist, I teach out of the stories of my life and the lives of those around me. I am especially touched by personal narrative, accounts of spiritual journeys, and how these become vehicles for connecting with the dharma. I believe in revealing my own story so that others are more at ease to reveal theirs. Truth talking is a way out of suffering. Discovering how our hearts and minds work and creating a dialogue supports right speech practice. This is an on-going primary practice that we can do all the time. My hope is that I encourage people how to pay attention and to tell the truth by example.
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.
Tempel Smith spent a year ordained as a monk in Burma and teaches Buddhist psychology and social activism in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is currently part of the IMS/Spirit Rock Teacher Training Program.
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 Spirit Rock.