2020 has been a tumultuous year, reminding many of us of our desire and need to heal and re-center ourselves. We started this group to bring together people across the country who identify as Asian American in a monthly call for meditation, rest, and mindfulness.
Once a month, we share in a guided meditation, reflective reading, and community healing space for us to reflect on our own identities and challenges in this time: how are we feeling, how do we show up in community, and how can we support and uplift each other? We invite you to grow this space with us as we explore these questions with ourselves and each other.
Each session includes:
This space is for anyone who identifies as Asian American and is looking for a sacred space to come home and connect with self.
Come sit and breathe with us.
Every 4th Sunday evening of the month*, 8 PM – 9:30 PM EST
*Our January 2021 Healing Space will be held on Sunday, January 17 (3rd Sunday)
Steven Wakabayashi (he/him) is a second-generation Japanese-Taiwanese-American, creating equitable spaces digitally and in New York City. In 2019, he traveled around the world for a year to study meditation in six countries and sitting in silence for two months. He's the host of Yellow Glitter, a podcast on mindfulness through queer Asian perspectives, and is the founder of QTPOC Design – an organization empowering LGBTQ+ designers of color with education, mentorship, and networking opportunities.
LoAn Nguyen (she/cô) is a first generation Vietnamese American arriving here as a refugee. In 2017 LoAn came to NYC from an oversea teaching assignment. A PFLAG Mom to her queer daughter, LoAn advocates for her chosen family of LGBTQIA+ and uses mindfulness in the tradition of Plum Village to support others to come home to their true self and the gifts we already are to each other.
Carol Yang (she/her) is second generation Taiwanese American, born and raised in Southern California on land originally occupied by the Chumash people. She practices mindfulness and meditation to understand her own history, present, and future. She believes in the philosophy of Harm Reduction: the movement built and imagined by people who use drugs of “meeting people where they are.” In 2020, she paused her graduate program studies and has been seeing a new therapist, teaching herself how to write 中文, and spending many hours cooking hearty soups.
We’re continually seeking to improve our Mindful Sights offerings. If you have any questions or would like to connect with us in other ways, please email us at [email protected].
Sun, Feb 28, 2021 5:00pm PT / 8:00pm ET
Sun, Mar 28, 2021 5:00pm PT / 8:00pm ET
RSVP here on Eventbrite
Sun, Apr 25, 2021 5:00pm PT / 8:00pm ET
Sun, May 23, 2021 5:00pm PT / 8:00pm ET
Sun, Jun 27, 2021 5:00pm PT / 8:00pm ET
Sun, Jul 25, 2021 5:00pm PT / 8:00pm ET
Sun, Aug 22, 2021 5:00pm PT / 8:00pm ET
Sun, Sep 26, 2021 5:00pm PT / 8:00pm ET
Sun, Oct 24, 2021 5:00pm PT / 8:00pm ET
Sun, Nov 21, 2021 5:00pm PT / 8:00pm ET
Sun, Dec 19, 2021 5:00pm PT / 8:00pm ET
Once upon a time there was a beautiful river finding her way among the hills, forests, and meadows. She began by being a joyful stream of water, a spring always dancing and singing as she ran down from the top of the mountain. She was very young at the time, and as she came to the lowland she slowed down. She was thinking about going to the ocean. As she grew up, she learned to look beautiful, winding gracefully among the hills and meadows.
One day she noticed the clouds within herself; clouds of all sorts of colors and forms. She did nothing during these days but chase after clouds. She wanted to possess a cloud, to have one for herself. But clouds float and travel in the sky, and they are always changing their form. Sometimes they look like an overcoat, sometimes like a horse. Because of the nature of impermanence within the clouds, the river suffered very much. Her pleasure, her joy had become just chasing after clouds, one after another, but despair, anger, and hatred became her life.
Then one day a strong wind came and blew away all the clouds in the sky. The sky became completely empty. Our river thought that life was not worth living, for there were no longer any clouds to chase after. She wanted to die: “If there are no clouds, why should I be alive?” But how can a river take her own life?
That night the river had the opportunity to go back to herself for the first time. She had been running for so long after something outside of herself that she had never seen herself. That night was the first opportunity for her to hear her own crying, the sounds of water crashing against the banks of the river. Because she was able to listen to her own voice, she discovered something quite important .
She realized that what she had been looking for was already in herself. She found out that clouds are nothing but water. Clouds are born from water and will return to water. And she found out that she herself is also water.
The next morning when the sun was in the sky, she discovered something beautiful. She saw the blue sky for the first time. She had never noticed it before. She had only been interested in clouds, and she had missed seeing the sky, which is the home of all the clouds. Clouds are impermanent, but the sky is stable. She realized that the immense sky had been within her heart since the very beginning. This great insight brought her peace and happiness. As she saw the vast wonderful blue sky, she knew that her peace and stability would never be lost again.
That afternoon the clouds returned, but this time she did not want to possess any of them. She could see the beauty of each cloud, and she was able to welcome all of them. When a cloud came by, she would greet him or her with loving kindness. When that cloud wanted to go away, she would wave to him or her happily and with loving kindness. She realized that all clouds are her. She didn’t have to choose between the clouds and herself. Peace and harmony existed between her and the clouds.
That evening something wonderful happened. When she opened her heart completely to the evening sky she received the image of the full moon–beautiful, round, like a jewel within herself. She had never imagined that she could receive such a beautiful image.
There is a very beautiful poem in Chinese: “The fresh and beautiful moon is traveling in the utmost empty sky. When the mind-rivers of living beings are free, that image of the beautiful moon will reflect in each of us.”
This was the mind of the river at that moment. She received the image of that beautiful moon within her heart, and water, clouds, and moon took each other’s hands and practiced walking meditation slowly, slowly to the ocean.
There is nothing to chase after. We can go back to ourselves, enjoy our breathing, our smiling, ourselves, and our beautiful environment.
When we light a candle, many places are illuminated –
the immediate area around the candle,
then the area a little further away, then even further away.
When we light a second candle,
it also projects the same three areas of light.
And in each of these areas of light, the light of the other candle
enters with varying intensity.
Once we’ve lit the second candle,
there is not a single area of light
that comes from only one candle.
There is always the light of the other candle in it.
The different areas of light
do not have only an individual manifestation.
They also have a collective manifestation.
You are like a candle.
Imagine you are sending light out all around you.
All your words, thoughts and actions are going in many directions.
If you say something kind, your kind words go in many directions,
and you yourself go with them.
By lighting up the lamp of mindfulness in you
and recognizing what is positive in you to re-nourish,
and negative in you to be transformed,
you have begun your social action from yourself...
from that base, we advance,
and we create the collective awareness,
the collective environment...
Many of us are over-scheduled. Even the lives of our children are over-scheduled. When we can allow ourselves to rest and relax, healing becomes possible. There is no healing without relaxation. In the Plum Village Tradition, we learn the art of being lazy, at least one day a week.
It is possible to practice mindful walking and sitting in a way that we can rest and restore ourselves. We can also take time to completely stop, lie down, and practice a deep guided relaxation or ‘body scan’. In Plum Village centers we offer guided lying-down relaxations of 30 minutes or more in our meditation halls. We are guided to follow our breathing and relax our muscles, allowing our body to truly rest.
We think that when we are not doing anything we are wasting our time, that is not true. Our time is first of all for us to be. To be, to be what? to be alive, to be peace, to be joy, to be loving. And that is what the world needs the most. So we train ourself in order to be. And if you know the art of being peace, of being solid, then you have the ground for every action… because the ground for action is to be. And the quality of being determines the quality of doing. Action must be based on non-action.
- Thich Nhat Hanh
In the Buddhist tradition we speak of “mindfulness of the body in the body” (kāyānupassanā). It means we become aware of the body from within the body, through our felt experience of the body.
In deep relaxation, we may take time to visit each part of our body in turn—the forehead, the jaw, the shoulders, arms, hands, belly, and so on—gently allowing that part of our body to release any tension that is there. We may take particular themes to contemplate the body, such as compassion, gratitude, wonder, or impermanence.
Relaxation brings peace, happiness and creativity. It is possible to incorporate it into our daily life—taking a moment to completely put down our burdens after a long day at work, or scanning our body for a few minutes before we go to sleep. In challenging situations, 5 or 10 minutes of full attention on our breathing and body, in the sitting or lying position, can be very helpful and give us the space and clarity we need to continue.
Additional reading: Be Still and Heal: Healing by stopping, calming, resting, and looking deeply
Caring for Our Worry
It is in moments like this that we stick to our mindful breathing and gently recognize our afflictions, whether anger, frustration, or fear. Suppose we are feeling worry or anxiety. We practice, ‘Breathing in, I know that anxiety is in me. Breathing out, I smile to my anxiety.’
“Maybe you have a habit of worrying. Even if you know it’s neither necessary nor useful, you still worry. You’d like to ban worry and get rid of it, because you know that when you worry you can’t get in touch with the wonders of life and you can’t be happy. So you get angry at your worry; you don’t want it. But worry is a part of you, and that’s why when your worry comes up, you have to know how to handle it tenderly and peacefully.
“You can do it if you have the energy of mindfulness. You cultivate the energy of mindfulness with mindful breathing and mindful walking, and with that energy, you can recognize and tenderly embrace your worry, fear, and anger. When your baby suffers and cries, you don’t want to punish him or her, because your baby is you. Your fear and anger are like your baby. Don’t imagine that you can just throw them out the window. Don’t be violent toward your anger, your fear, and your worries.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh, Fear, Essential Wisdom for Getting through the Storm
We don't truly live in villas, houses, bungalows, duplexes, or flats.
We live in our minds.
Yes, that's our permanent residence.
And there are no constraints of square feet there.
It's a vast space with unlimited area.
And you know what?!
No matter how well-organized your rooms, balconies, garages, and verandas are,
Life is good only when things are sorted there - IN YOUR MIND.
And that's where we keep things messy:
Regrets piling up in one corner;
Expectations stuffed in a closet;
Worries littered everywhere;
Comparisons spilt on the table;
Complexes leaking from an old bottle;
Grudges stinking in a box;
For this "real home" of yours,
You can't outsource housekeeping.
You gotta do it yourself!
The Third Mindfulness Training: Cherishment as True Love
Aware of the suffering caused by discrimination and oppression, I vow to understand its roots within my consciousness and my body and the collective body of the sangha and larger society. I vow to recognize the ways in which I have benefitted or not-benefitted explicitly or implicitly from systems and structures that foster discrimination and injustice. I am aware of the legacy of violence, especially unlawful police violence, perpetrated against Black people, indigenous people, people of color, differently-abled people, people of various gender identities and expressions and sexual orientation, and others who are marginalized. I acknowledge the lived experience of all people to deepen my capacity for understanding and for greater compassionate action. I am aware that narrowly constructed, prevalent interpretations of intimate relationships constrain how we cherish each other in our expression of love, leaving many further isolated and alienated. I am committed to looking tenderly at my suffering, knowing that I am not separate from others and that the seeds of suffering contain the seeds of joy. I am not afraid of bold love that fosters justice and belonging and tender love that seeks peace and connection. I cherish myself and my suffering without discrimination. I cherish this body and mind as an act of healing for myself and for others. I cherish this breath. I cherish this moment. I cherish the liberation of all beings guided by the wisdom and solidity of the sangha. This is my path of true love.
In these past six months, our human family throughout the world has met monumental challenges and suffering, for many of us the most drastic in our lifetimes. Today we all have a role to play in the rising tide of collective awakening to racial injustice and systemic inequalities. Together we continue to face the climate and ecological crisis, the virus crisis, and a societal crisis in terms of poverty, class inequality, and the imbalance of power and militarization of our world. It is abundantly clear how all these elements are interconnected consequences of the fundamental human crisis, the spiritual crisis. We practice remembering this shared suffering as a human family caused by our unskillful, toxic, exploitative, and discriminative ways of living across many centuries.
Today we reach out to our spiritual community to invite us to stop, look deeply and broadly, and seize this wonderful and painful moment to dig down honestly into our practice—100 percent, as Thay would say. Where are we with our practice: How are we doing? Are we calm or furious? Are we afraid or invigorated? Are we lonely or sad? Are we engaged or do we want to look the other way? Or are we all of these things? As we honor our emotional experience at this moment and care for what is arising in us, we are invited to examine our lives and our community and help move our world towards a more inclusive and compassionate society.
How can we help, respond to, and participate in this moment of potentiality? We are reminded of our Teacher during the war in Vietnam when the bombing and killing seemed unlikely to end. In his most dire moments, Thay had to pause and hold his face with his two hands to grieve and to keep himself from exploding out of anger. He wrote many poems about the pure love of his childhood to keep his loneliness warm; and he translated Buddhist texts to nourish himself and keep his Bodhicitta alive. He did not only rest there in his inner refuge of the Ultimate Dimension, but used it as the foundation for his rigorous and charged actions to affect the historical events of his time. Thus, there was the continual emergence of our tradition of Engaged Buddhism, of contemplative actions for a healthy, compassionate, and awakened society.
We would like to take this chance to offer some points of departure for reflection, as we explore what we, as practitioners and Sanghas, can contribute. They are not a kind of definitive guidance, but an invitation to come together and look deeply and help our Sangha be a more inclusive, harmonious, and awakened place of refuge for all.
Mindfulness Trainings as a Compass: The Five and the Fourteen
The Mindfulness Trainings are our guide and our teacher. They are the gems in our pocket. In difficult moments, we can turn to them for inspiration and direction. They are a precious and deep inheritance from many generations of teachers, and a concrete expression of our love for ourselves, others, and the planet. We need to regularly show up to recite them together and have discussions about how they apply to our current situation, to collectively check our direction and practice. Reciting the Mindfulness Trainings and looking deeply together will help us identify the right action for ourselves and our community. Mindfulness practice and meditation must go hand in hand with contemplation, a deep-looking into the aspects of our daily lives and social structures to examine their ethical and moral foundation, which can help move us into compassionate and direct action. The Mindfulness Trainings can act as a mirror to examine ourselves and our community to see where new branches can grow and which roots need to go deeper.
Resources from our session
Great chant from the introduction
Engaged Buddhism with Thich Nhat Hanh
Loan’s podcast episode
Discover Native Lands
Resources for activists (Michelle’s document) (Donating) (Race repository)
The Second Mindfulness Training: Belonging and Connecting as True Happiness
Aware of the suffering caused by ignorance and aversion of my own and other’s racial, ethnic, cultural, and social history, its legacy and how this affects me whether I am aware of it or not, I am committed to connecting to these histories.
I know that turning toward these histories with an open heart is my journey of awakening to true belonging. I will take the time to learn the history of the racial and ethnic group with which I identify as well as for other socially constructed racial and ethnic groups.
Aware that there is no genetic or biological difference between different racial and ethnic groups, and that these identities were constructed by one group to establish dominance over others, I will turn toward racial and other forms of othering with an open heart and compassionate action.
I know that this history has led to fragmentation inside and outside body and mind and brought much suffering to all beings. I vow to transform this suffering through the practice of connecting with an open heart.
I will notice when emotions of belonging and othering arise and I will ask myself ‘why’? Whatever feelings, perceptions, or mental formations arise, I will embrace and when needed engage with love in action.
I am committed to practicing Right Resolve, Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood so I can help relieve this legacy of racial and social suffering. I will practice looking deeply to see that true happiness is not possible without true connecting leading to belonging and understanding.
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