I’m coolin’ down
I’m comin’ around
My way of looking at the world has been bringing me down
So now I’m lookin’ up
Now I’m waking up
I’m walking on this middle path practicing faith and trust
Life can be so sweet
When I know I’ve got the earth underneath my feet
And I can see the sky above me
And I hear music in my heart and know there’s people who love me
This life is lovely!
I recently returned home to Michigan from a retreat at Plum Village in Southern France where I practiced mindfulness with Thich Nhat Hanh and his community of mindful living for 21 days. I was in the company there of some long-term practitioners from all over the world and benefited from their experience and strength and from the collective energy of peace that was generated by practicing mindfulness together.
During the retreat each step, each breath, every bite of every meal, every vegetable chopped, every toilet cleaned, was an opportunity to practice being fully aware and alive in the present moment. This was not done in a strict or strained way, but was encouraged and supported in a very natural, relaxed, and organic fashion.
The theme of the retreat was “The Science of the Buddha,” and Thich Nhat Hanh shared teachings each day that related Buddhism to science, and encouraged us all to let go of our notions and thoughts and to contemplate reality using a mind of non-discrimination.
He spoke of a way of being in which all discrimination is removed, free of the burning of afflictions, our true nature, a place of “coolness” called Nirvana. When he described Nirvana as “resting with God,” I was able to understand it on a deeper level. I have had glimpses of that experience, of that deep resting, of being held by a loving and caring spiritual force much greater than but not separate from myself.
The teachings went on to tell us that this world of coolness and freedom from afflictions, this Nirvana, is found right in the heart of the world of suffering and afflictions, and not outside of it. Wow, I love this dynamic challenge of being fully alive!
How can I live my life in a way that allows me to see the sacred and the holy reality deep within the mundane parts of daily life, and even within the pain and fear and burning afflictions within and all around me?
The past few weeks back home have given me strong opportunities to put these teachings to work. Shortly after coming back to Michigan, thermometers reached into the triple digits and hundreds of record high temperatures were set across the country. Violent storms ripped through the Midwest and cut out power to many, many homes. Fires burned out of control in the West, and there seemed to be no hope for sanity, for coolness.
I returned to the stark reality of a changing global climate, a reality created by the burning of our own internal afflictions. How do we work to cool the flames?
Within the extreme heat and power outages, I witnessed neighbors and strangers reaching out and caring for one another. I continue to notice many fellow citizens choosing to ride bikes or walk rather than to drive. I see people organizing together in circles of recovery, re-skilling, and ecological restoration.
Our capacity to love is not lost, only hidden behind a furious economic machine that continues to malfunction. How do we move into our true nature of non-discrimination on a collective level? How do we maintain our cool while continuing to transform our economy into life-sustaining community?
I only know that this is something that we need to continue to explore together, and that our creativity, our love, and our spirituality will lead us toward the solutions.
Perhaps the more that we support one another in cooling down our own internal flames of suffering, the more effective we will be in cooling our planet and stabilizing our climate. I thank you for supporting my own healing and transformation and pray that I may, through music or otherwise, help support yours as well.
Staying cool with you,