"The Five Mindfulness Trainings are one of the most concrete
ways to practice mindfulness. They are nonsectarian, and their
nature is universal. They are true practices of compassion and
understanding. All spiritual traditions have their equivalent to
the Five Mindfulness Trainings.
The first training is to protect life, to decrease violence in
ones self, in the family and in society. The second training
is to practice social justice, generosity, not stealing and not
exploiting other living beings. The third is the practice of
responsible sexual behavior in order to protect individuals,
couples, families and children. The fourth is the practice of
Deep listening and Loving Speech to restore communication
and reconcile. The fifth is the practice of Mindful Consumption,
to help us not bring toxins and poisons into our body or mind.
The Five Mindfulness Trainings are based on the precepts developed during the time of the Buddha to be the foundation of practice for the entire lay practice community. I have translated these precepts for modern times, because mindfulness is at the foundation of each one of them. With mindfulness, we are aware of what is going on in our bodies, our feelings, our minds and the world, so that we can avoid doing harm. Mindfulness protects us, protects our families, and our society. When we are mindful, we can see that by refraining from doing one thing, we can prevent another thing from happening. We arrive at our own unique insight. It is not something imposed on us by an outside authority.
Practicing the mindfulness trainings, therefore, helps us be more calm and concentrated, and brings more insight and enlightenment."
-Thich Nhat Hanh, Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices (2009)
The Five Mindfulness Trainings
Reverence For Life
The Five Mindfulness Trainings represent the Buddhist vision for a global spirituality and ethic. They are a concrete expression of the Buddha’s teachings on the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, the path of right understanding and true love, leading to healing, transformation, and happiness for ourselves and for the world. To practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings is to cultivate the insight of interbeing, or Right View, which can remove all discrimination, intolerance, anger, fear, and despair. If we live according to the Five Mindfulness Trainings, we are already on the path of a bodhisattva. Knowing we are on that path, we are not lost in confusion about our life in the present or in fears about the future.
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.
Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering; that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion; and that running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair. I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy. I am committed to practicing Right Livelihood so that I can help reduce the suffering of living beings on Earth and reverse the process of global warming.
Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.
Loving Speech and Deep Listening
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.
Nourishment and Healing
OFFERING THE FIVE MINDFULNESS TRAININGS, the foundation of our practice
Each year on our two Loving Work Foundation retreats in Viet Nam, we offer the opportunity for our friends to receive transmission of the Five Mindfulness Trainings. Our retreat leaders take seriously the charge our beloved Thay has given us to build sangha, and we know that one of the important ways we fulfill that charge is by offering our Loving Work Retreat and Homeland of Our Teacher Retreat participants to take or renew the Mindfulness Trainings. Thich Nhat Hanh has given us such a beautiful, engaging and inspiring ceremony, in which we invoke both Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to bear witness to this solemn transmission of the Buddha’s precepts and our tradition’s core trainings in mindfulness. The retreats in 2018 were no exception.
Early during each retreat, we present and read the Mindfulness Trainings aloud as a sangha. On another day, Trish offers a Dharma Talk inviting our friends to carefully consider the Mindfulness Trainings historically, interpersonally and in the context of the ill being that underlies human experience. During Dharma Sharing, those already embracing and practicing with the Trainings, offer insights arising out of their personal experience. Finally, those who wish to receive the transmission are invited to complete an application declaring their aspiration.
The practice leaders then identify a time and place toward the end of each retreat to perform the transmission ceremony. There are so many lovely and sacred places to choose from on every retreat. Sometimes a monastery or pagoda reveals itself as the perfect location,
as when we offer the transmission in collaboration with the monastics at Từ Hiếu Pagoda or Diệu Trâm Nunnery in Hue.
The new tea house at Diệu Trâm Nunnery, next to and affiliated with Tu Hieu Monastery in Hue, our Root Temple, was the perfect setting for the transmission ceremony in 2018 for our Loving WorkRetreatants. Shareef Muhammad received transmission of the Five Mindfulness Trainings and was given the lineage name Loving Compassion of the Heart. Shareef was surrounded by 17 sangha friends, 5 of whom are Order of Interbeing Members, and other friends who had previously taken the Five Mindfulness Trainings. Our Dharma teacher and practice leader, Trish Thompson, presided over the ceremony. This was a wonderful moment for all of us together. To offer support and receive the energy of transmission within the fold of our root temple was particularly inspiring.
During the 2018 Homeland of Our Teacher Retreat, it became clear that we should hold the transmission ceremony during our two-day sojourn on mystical and enchanting Ha Long Bay. Floating peacefully among the thousands of tiny, mist-enshorouded islands, three lovely sangha sisters received the transmission of the Mindfulness Trainings for the first time. Janet Sterk received the Trainings with the lineage name Loving Solidity of the Heart. Camille Kulka received the lineage name Loving Determination of the Heart, and Dominika Paleta received the lineage name Loving Nurturance of the Heart. Two other sangha sisters renewed the transmission of the Trainings: Sandy Trudel, Compassionate Inspiration of the Heart; Hitomi Izosaki, Happy Path of the Heart; and Cathy Parsa, Boundless Faith of the Heart.
Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing. We bring our body and mind into harmony while we wash the dishes, drive the car or take our morning shower.
On our retreats, we do very much the same things as when we are at home- walking, sitting, working, eating, etc. We practice mindfulness throughout every moment of the day and not just in the meditation hall, but also in the kitchen, the toilet, in our rooms and on the path leading from one place to another.
In practicing together as a Sangha, as a community, our practice of mindfulness becomes more joyful, relaxed and steady. We are bells of mindfulness for each other, supporting and reminding each other along the
path of practice. With the support of our friends around us, we can practice to cultivate peace and joy, as a gift for all of those whom we love and care for. We can cultivate our solidity and freedom – solid in our deepest aspiration and free from our fears, misunderstandings and our suffering.
On our retreats, we aspire to approach every aspect of the practice with curiosity and an inner listening. We aspire to practice with understanding, not just for the form and appearance. We aspire to practice with a relaxed and gentle attitude, and an open mind and receptive heart.
Our breathing is the stable, solid ground, in which we can take refuge. Our breathing is always with us, like a faithful friend. We do our best to be there for our friend, regardless of our internal weather – the thoughts, emotions, and perceptions. When we feel carried away by our internal weather, we return to our breathing, to collect and anchor the mind.
We feel the flow of air coming in and going out of our nose. We feel how light and natural, how calm and peaceful our breathing functions. What a miracle! We can return to our breathing at any time, while sitting, walking, reading, or listening to our friend . This peaceful source of life is always there for us.
“Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in.
Breathing out, I know I’m breathing out.”
Conscious breathing is the bridge, uniting body and mind, bringing the energy of mindfulness into each moment of our life.
During our retreats, the practice of Noble Silence is observed for part of each day. After our evening activities, we return to our room in as much silence as is possible, enjoying our silent steps. Maybe we will want to go very slowly, aware of the night sky and the sounds around us. Some of us may be in a twin-share room. Observing Noble Silence in the presence of others can be very nourishing, helping us to maintain our freshness.
On those days, when we are in an environment designated only for us, we will observe Noble Silence, beginning after evening practice and extending until after the small bell is invited to end Mindful Eating during Breakfast. When in a busy hotel restaurant, we will not use our Bell. We can practice our own version of Noble Silence (as well as the Five Contemplations Before Eating). During these mornings, we can connect with our friends by engaging in ‘Noble Speech,’ avoiding unnecessary chatting, enjoying mindful and joyful connections with our retreat spiritual family.
The energy of mindfulness generated by the Sangha can be healing, penetrating our body and mind. For some of us, the opportunity to enjoy this kind of silence is rare. We are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity.
Wherever we walk, we can practice meditation. This means that we know that we are walking. We walk just for walking. We walk with freedom and solidity, no longer in a hurry. We are present with each step. And when we wish to talk we stop our movement and give our full attention to the other person, to our words and to listening.
Walking in this way should not be a privilege. We should be able to do it in every moment. Look around and see how vast life is, the trees, the white clouds, the limitless sky. Listen to the birds. Feel the fresh breeze. Life is all around and we are alive and healthy and capable of walking in peace.
Let us walk as a free person and feel our steps get lighter. Let us enjoy every step we make. Each step is nourishing and healing. As we walk, imprint our gratitude and our love on the earth.
We may like to use a gatha as we walk. Taking two or three steps for each in-breath and each out-breath,
Breathing in “I have arrived”; Breathing out “I am home”
Breathing in “In the here”; Breathing out “In the now”
Breathing in “I am solid”; Breathing out “I am free”
Breathing in “In the ultimate”; Breathing out “I dwell”
Sitting meditation allows us to return home to give full attention to and care for our self. Like the peaceful image of the Buddha on the altar, we too can radiate peace and stability. We sit upright with dignity, and return to our breathing. We bring our full attention to what is within and around us. We let our mind become spacious and our heart soft and kind.
Sitting meditation is very healing. We realize we can just be with whatever is within us- our pain, anger, and irritation, or our joy, love, and peace. We are with whatever is there without being carried away by it. Let it come, let it stay, then let it go. No need to push, to oppress, or to pretend our thoughts are not there. Observe the thoughts and images of our mind with an accepting and loving eye. We are free to be still and calm despite the storms that might arise in us.
Sitting meditation is meant to be enjoyable! If our legs or feet fall asleep or begin to hurt during the sitting, we slowly and quietly, adjust our position. As we shift our body, we maintain concentration by following our breathing.
Our Retreat schedules include frequent opportunities for sitting together in a circle to share our experiences, our joys, our difficulties, and our questions relating to the practice of mindfulness. We quickly learn, that we benefit from each other’s insights and experience. By practicing deep listening while others are speaking, we help create a calm and receptive environment. By learning to speak out about our happiness and our difficulties, we contribute to the collective insight and understanding of the Sangha.
Sitting, listening and sharing together, we recognize our true connections to one another.
Eating a meal together in mindfulness is a meditative practice. We offer our presence to the food and to the friends around us. We serve ourselves in silence, realizing the many elements, such as the rain, sunshine, earth, air, and love, have all come together to form this wonderful meal. Through the food, we see that the entire universe supports our existence.
We are aware of the friends around us, as we serve ourselves, taking the amount that is good for us. Before eating, a bell will be invited for three sounds, as we enjoy breathing in and out. We are then invited to practice the Five Contemplations:
This food is the gift of the whole universe, the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard and loving work.
May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude, so as to be worthy to receive this food.
May we recognize and transform unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation.
May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that reduces the suffering of living beings, stops contributing to climate change, and heals and preserves our precious planet.
We accept this food, so that we may nurture our brotherhood and sisterhood, build our Sangha, and nourish our idea of serving all living beings.
We take our time, as we eat, chewing each mouthful carefully, until the food becomes liquefied. This aids the digestive process, and allows us to really enjoy each morsel of food and the presence of our dharma friends around us.
Eating in silence, the food becomes real with our mindfulness, and we are fully aware of its nourishment. In order to deepen our practice of mindful eating and to support the peaceful atmosphere, we remain seated during this silent period. After 15 minutes, of silent eating, two sounds of the bell will be invited, signaling the end of the meditative period. We may then enjoy mindful conversation with our friends seating near us, or begin to get up from the table.
Upon finishing our meal, we take a few moments to notice that we have finished, our bowl is now empty, and our hunger is satisfied. Gratitude fills us as we realize how fortunate we are to have had this nourishing food to eat, supporting us on the path of understanding and love.
THE BODY AS PRACTICE
Mindful Movements and Deep Relaxation can support our health and happiness, and keep us in touch with our body. Taking care of our body is an important practice. We need our body to be healthy, in order for us to evolve on the path of understanding and love.
Each day on our retreats, we practice some form of Mindful Movements (Yoga, Tai Chi, Stretching). This is an opportunity for us to unite our mind and body. We enjoy opening our body, stretching up to the sky and releasing down to touch the ground. We do every exercise with the awareness of our breathing and of our action. We find a sense of balance and flexibility in our own body and mind. We practice in a relaxed way, not straining to gain anything.
Deep Relaxation, practiced as a community, is usually offered immediately following lunch and is led by an experienced practitioner. This practice creates a wonderful energy of peace and harmony, as we totally let go, returning back to take care of our body and mind. We use the breath as our anchor to help us. Our breath is also like a wave, gently rocking us into a deep peace. In this state of rest, our body and mind can release their burdens. A lot of healing happens just by letting go and sinking into this state of total relaxation. After practicing Deep Relaxation, led by a friend who is experienced in the practice, we may use these techniques anytime we need to rest.
The practice of Mindful Movements and Deep Relaxation allows us to listen deeply to our bodies. We learn to be gentle with ourselves and to give ourselves space to understand and to grow. Practicing in this way, our body becomes our friend, not a burden. Compassion towards ourselves will penetrate into our interactions with others. How we walk, move, sit, stand, and hold our body are reflections of our states of mind. When we move with ease, others around us will also feel light and relaxed in our presence.