News, Notes, and Correspondence

[Spring 10 (2001): 203-205]

As part of training people who are going to work with others, most of them as psychotherapists but some also in other situations, Curtis and I and our colleagues, calling ourselves EastWind Institute, have created a program that brings together some excellent teaching and practice from Shambhala Buddhist training, and some excellent teaching and practice from western psychotherapy. Recently we had one of our week-long intensives, and I had the joyful and difficult assignment to teach about some of the qualities of mind which are uncovered through extensive practice of mindfulness-insight meditation. I was to teach, on a Thursday in mid-March, about the qualities of exertion and patience, how they are associated with freedom from hope and fear, the non-aggression of not over- or under-reacting to our experience and continuing our self-existing journey with a light touch. And also, steadiness—balance and flexibility, even tempered yet colorful; riding the mind; humor providing a fresh start. And, to be sure, love for the journey—non-struggle; pain and pleasure awaken liveliness; heart free from resentment and expectation; we never tire of being good students.

These qualities can't really be told in prose. I decided Cummings' poetry would do it. And, I selected fifteen of his poems to read, one or more [end page 204] for each of the main categories of the topic (listed above), as the way to accomplish the teaching. What a success!

The group sat in meditation, as we normally do, for an hour before the "talk" began. Thus everyone's mind was settled and open to some extent. Then away we went, beginning with "since feeling is first." People asked for some poems to be read twice, and after each poem there was time / space for speaking the feelings and thoughts that were arising. When I had finished, with "may my heart always be open to little," one person suggested that the group create a poem, whoever wished speaking a line.

At lunch later, one of our colleagues said "We're all in our right brains." Yes, yes. Cummings did it.

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