The First Mindfulness Training: Reverence for Life

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.

Can you share the ways you relate to reverence for life in your own practice and experience? Do not think of this question in terms of “right” or “wrong” answers–just articulate how you personally understand the First Mindfulness Training, how it has helped you gain clarity in your practice, and how you might further your own understanding of reverence for life.

Feel free to share in the comment section below.

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3 thoughts on “The First Mindfulness Training: Reverence for Life

  1. I have been learning new ways of protecting and showing compassion especially towards
    animals. Seeing myself as that animal and how easily that animal could be me helps
    me see compassion in the moment. I take the time now to scoop indoor animals up
    and put them outside, and showing others that same action cultivates this in the world
    around me. When people at work come and get me to fetch an animal out of their
    cube, I try to take a minute to explain why I’m putting in the effort to do so. That not
    only reinforces my own practice, but opens a connection for me to explain how others’
    faith/religion could be incorporated into the same principle….which is planting seeds. 🙂 I try
    to address and speak about the fear that causes their knee-jerk reaction to kill.

  2. Each of the Five Mindfulness Trainings begin with “Aware of the suffering caused by…” The Mindfulness Trainings don’t tell me “Thou shalt not…” My previous experience with morality had taken place in that kind of context (as commandments to obey). But this only led to fear from threats of punishment and feelings of guilt. This seemed so counterproductive to me to say the least!

    Instead, the Mindfulness Tranings raise my own awareness, placing the response-ability upon myself and my own actions, without feelings of guilt or fear. The key lies in mindfulness, not obedience (after all, obedience to whom?). In such awareness, how can I not do otherwise than to act out of compassion? So they don’t merely teach me to avoid certain actions, but also to act positively. Through awareness, Mindfulness Trainings awaken my own sense of response-ability, rather than to just react out of habit.

    When in high school, I took an elective course called “environmental science” which first brought to my attention how life thrives in the context of an ecosystem, and how every species played a vital role in sustaining it. In a similar way, the First Mindfulness Training raises my awareness of the balance of life, how all creatures live in relationality rather than as discrete entities living independently of one another.

    Universal suffering requires universal compassion. How can I place dotted lines around certain beings and exempt them from compassion? When I become angry, I react out of habit, attempting to pinpoint one individual as the source of (my) suffering. And then I think, “This person does not deserve compassion.” Instead, I react out of anger. This habitual thinking comes from discriminating THIS from THAT, as if I could isolate the two. But the Buddha taught that THIS arises because of THAT.

    Violence begins in the mind with the mental divisions we create. I have become more aware of this over the years–religious, racial, national, economic, political, and sexual divisions and many more: As long as we think in terms of THIS versus THAT rather than THIS arises because of THAT, we perpetuate suffering because we cannot see that we all need compassion. And that response-ability lies with me, within me. Through mindfulness, I can learn to cultivate that universal compassion that we ALL need.

  3. Just wanted to share an experience I had tonight…..
    As I was pulling into the driveway, I noticed a boy my son plays with in the neighborhood,
    chasing geese in a cul-de-sac. There were about 25-30 of them. (There is a lake behind
    me) He was on his bike and the geese were running around screaming. It sounded like a
    baby cry to me. Not the tone, but a cry for help. I froze…I think in dis-belief…and I said
    out loud “Awwww….the geese need me”. I shouted, so he could hear…”Please don’t do
    that, your scaring the birds, and it’s not nice” He rode over and said “what did you say?”
    I repeated it and then said…”take a moment and imagine you being chased on your bike
    by a car and the person hanging their head out the window laughing….really take a minute,
    and imagine that.” He looked away, looked back and said “I’m sorry”.
    I have watched these same geese fly over my back porch in their V shape for the last
    11 seasons. I have fed them breadcrumbs, and waited in the street for them to cross.
    Have I seen them before? Yes. Have I ever felt them before. No. This was intense for
    me. I felt reverence for their well-being. I have spent alot of time realizing how to help
    people. How to value human life and how to fight for it in productive, caring ways. I am
    becoming more aware that animals have the same ‘breath’ I do. A couple of years ago,
    I probably would have not said anything to him, just to avoid any conflict with him or
    his mother. I probably would have not noticed, either. It would not have been “worth it”.
    Well, walking in the house, I was prepared to tell his mother/father the same thing,
    I was prepared to stand by what I did for the geese..It would
    have been worth it. May I continue to grow in this value of all living things. Big and
    small.

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