CPRD 304 – Assignments

CPRD 304 assignments – select two from the following five assignments:

 

  1. The Day of Compassion (adapted from Scott Plous)
  2. The Meditation on Personal Formation
  3. The Mindful Dinner Party
  4. The Peace Treaty (adapted from Thich Nhat Hahn)
  5. The Vow of Silence

 

 

  • The Day of Compassion (adapted from social psychologist Scott Plous)

 

 

Part I

Select a full 24 hour period that will be your day of compassion. During this entire day, do you best to devote your full attention every minute to exercising compassion. Begin the day with loving-friendliness meditation as we have practiced in class. As much as you are able throughout the day: be kind, compassionate, kind, and respectful to others; help others in need whenever you can; be attentive that you do no harm, no matter how slight, to others or to yourself; be careful to avoid any malicious, disrespectful, or harsh speech.

Examine every action and every decision of every kind, whether trivial or not–brushing teeth, washing clothes, surfing the net, decisions about giving time or money to others. Don’t limit yourself to holding doors or petting dogs–think about all the unnecessary suffering that happens in the world and strive to have the greatest impact you can within your circumstances but without feeling phony or insincere.

If you find that you naturally have a compassionate disposition, try to direct attention to groups you normally would not. And even if you find that your actions do not differ much from how you would ordinarily act, strive to observe yourself, your actions, and your responses and everything that happens during the experience carefully.

If any unforeseen events should prevent you from carrying out your day of compassion as expected, or you are dissatisfied with it, you may repeat it on an alternate day.  Also, it is best not to tell others anything about what you are up to until after your day of compassion is completed.

 

Part II

Write a 3-4 page reflective essay on your experience. Be sure to include your thoughts on:

  • how you defined / conceived of compassion
  • did your behavior differ from normal days, and if so, how?
  • if your behavior was different, who did you like better, the “everyday you” or the “day of compassion you” and why?
  • if you prefer the “day of compassion you” what factors are preventing you from “coming out”?
  • what are the benefits and drawbacks of acting with compassion?
  • do you think that the “one month from now you” will be changed in any significant way by this experience?

 

  1. The Meditation on Personal Formation

 

Part I

Carefully read Book I of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. In this section, Marcus Aurelius reflects on the people who have been part of his life, what he has learned from each, how they have shaped him and made him the person that he is. After reading and thinking about this, spend some time reflecting on who has influenced you and in what ways. Then, compose the “Book I” for your life thus far. Start by making a list of the people you will include, and do not hesitate to revise or add to it as you go along. Do not try to complete one entry at a time, but go back and forth, and allow yourself plenty of time to go back later and make revisions and additions. As you work, additional thoughts and recollections may come to you.

Do not limit yourself only to the most obvious and important people in your life. Possibly someone who crossed your path only briefly had a big impact in some small way. Possibly someone you find difficult, obstreperous, or ornery is, despite drawbacks, a meaningful influence and a part of you now. You cannot, of course, make your reflection “complete,” because everyone you come across has some sort of effect. Also, you may well have been shaped by others in ways you are not aware of. But, if not complete, do strive to make your reflection comprehensive to your satisfaction.

Once you have finished your reflection, share the entire reflection with the people included in it, where it is both practical to do so and you are willing. Later, after they have had a chance to read your reflection, find an occasion to discuss it with each, listen to their reactions, and share thoughts.

 

Part II

Write a 3-4 page reflective essay on your experience. Be sure to include your thoughts on:

  • how did you select people to include / not include in your reflection and did that change in any way as you developed the essay?
  • how did developing and writing the reflection affect you?
  • did the exercise change the way you look at any of the people you included, and how?
  • how did you react to others’ reactions, and did anything surprising or unexpected emerge from these discussions?
  • do you find that this exercise in any way altered your sense of self or who you are?

 

  1. The Mindful Dinner Party

 

Part I

Plan, organize, and hold a mindful dinner event with some friends. In advance, you should discuss the plan with the friends who will be participating, select the date, decide on a location, plan a healthy and nutritious menu, and decide who will supply which ingredients. The food preparation and cooking should be part of the mindful dinner. The location should, as much as possible, be one where there will be no outside distractions, and you should select a date and time when everyone can participate without feeling rushed.

The dinner itself should be eaten in silence, and during preparation and cooking conversation kept to a minimum, restricted to communication that may be necessary for meal preparation. There should be no television, music, or other distractions on for the duration of the experience.

At all times strive to be aware of your actions, what you are doing, and why. Whenever you catch your thoughts wandering from the event at hand or the people you are sharing it with, notice that and gently direct your thought back to the present.

During preparation, take note of the food you are handling, reflect on where it came from, how it came to you, and all the people involved in its production  and handling up to that point. Be attentive to and observant of all steps in the preparation and cooking, and the transformations that the ingredients go through. Set the table, plate and serve the food with care and attention to aesthetics and environment.

Remember to eat in silence! Do not rush through your food, but also do not take it artificially slow. Most importantly, with each bite, do not become occupied with the next bite that you will take. Instead, pay close attention to the food in your mouth, the flavors, what different flavors you can discern, and how the flavors and textures change as you chew. Observe the sensation of the food as you swallow it, and contemplate how it is broken down and digested, how it nourishes the body, and how it transforms as it passes through. (To help prepare, the day before your mindful dinner read through this article on the digestive process: http://www.iffgd.org/site/gi-disorders/digestive-system and take a look at the summary charts on this nih page: www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Anatomy/your-digestive-system/Pages/anatomy.aspx )  

Maintain your silence as you clean up together, wash and dry dishes and put everything away. Maintain mindfulness of your actions, and reflect on your experience. Finally sit down together to discuss and share thoughts about your mindful eating together.

 

Part II

Write a 3-4 page reflective essay on your experience. Be sure to include your thoughts on:

  • how did you decide who to invite, and how did you go about advance planning and preparations?
  • how does mindful eating together compare with mindfully eating alone?
  • how did this change your experience of eating? Did you notice and learn anything that you are normally unaware of?
  • how did your friends respond to the experience and what emerged in your discussions?
  • does this experience affect how you look at food? Do you expect to experiment with having mindful eating meals in the future?

 

  1. The Peace Treaty (from Thich Nhat Hahn)

 

Part I

Undertake a “peace treaty” with someone with whom you have a disagreement, or who you feel has wronged you, or who feels you have wronged them. Note that, just as it takes two to tango, this exercise requires that both parties to the treaty be willing to try it out. It is, therefore, necessary to have this in place as a ground agreement in advance. So, for example, if you have a friend, partner, sibling or other with whom you have had some dustups in the past, you could propose, at a time when you are both calm and on good terms, that you give this a try if and when you find yourselves angry with one another again. (Be sure that the other person has a chance to read through, think about, and understand the idea of the peace treaty.) (But don’t try to pick a fight just to have a chance to practice the peace treaty!)

 

Following is the peace treaty, its rationale, and how to implement it, transcribed from Thich Nhat Hahn:

 

“Anger and hatred are the opposite of loving kindness and compassion, and the practice of dealing with our anger is also the practice of loving.

 

According to the treaty whenever you feel anger is coming up as a form of energy, you should not let it alone. You have to invite mindfulness to come up also, because anger comes up from a seed and mindfulness also comes from a seed. The seed of anger and the seed of mindfulness are always there inside you.

 

So every time the seed of anger comes up we invite the seed of mindfulness to come up and embrace the anger. Do not do anything, do not say anything, just hold on to your mindful breathing and take good care of your anger. That’s one of the articles of the treaty.

 

Another article of the treaty is that you have to communicate your suffering to the other person, not later than 24 hours, because it’s not healthy to keep the suffering to yourself for too long. We should not try to suppress our anger. According to the treaty you have to tell the other person that you are angry, that you suffer and you want him to know that you suffer, before the deadline of 24 hours. According to the article you have to tell him/her in a peaceful way- the practice of loving speech.

 

You can tell the truth-what is in your heart, but you tell it in a way that is calm. So before the deadline you may want to practice mindful breathing, mindful walking, so you have the calm that is necessary for communicating that to her/to him.

 

If the 24 hours is about to end and you have not found enough calm to communicate with him/her, the peace treaty provides you with an article to help you. That is the “peace note”. You write it down on a piece of paper, “Dear one, this morning you did this, you said this to me. I was very angry. I suffered a lot and I wanted you to know it.” And you sign your name, “yours not very happy right now.”

 

Usually the person who is suffering will have the right to meet with the other person in about a week to tell him/her about it, and the other person just accepts to listen, and not to reply. When you give the other person the note you will get a relief already. During the week you both look into the matter. If you find it is your wrong perceptions, your seed of anger is too big- then you have to call him/her right away to apologize. And if the other person discovered that he/she was not very mindful, telling you that or doing that, then she has to telephone in order to apologize. We should do it as soon as we find out, as soon as the insight comes, in order to stop the suffering of the other person and your own suffering.

 

So the “peace note” will help both sides continue the practice of deep looking. While you sweep the floor or cook dinner you can practice looking deeply: “What have I done that she would get angry like that? Have I done that kind of thing in the past? Yes, I have done things like that, out of my forgetfulness.” So that is the practice of meditation- looking deeply into the matter.

 

If the other person presses for a discussion you should always refuse, because discussing when you are angry is not a good thing. The only thing you can do is to wait for next week when you have the opportunity to tell her/him of your suffering. And the other person will listen only. Even if you say things that are not correct he will listen only. That is the practice of compassionate listening- listening in order to relieve the suffering in the heart of the other person, and not to criticize or to analyze or judge.  

 

In the Buddhist circle there is a person whose name is Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Deep Listening- she just listens. And that kind of listening is called compassionate listening. You listen with compassion in you heart so that the other person will suffer less. Because he has an opportunity to express his suffering to someone who has the capacity of listening, he will suffer less. So deep listening is one aspect of our practice and that is the practice of love.

 

The Peace Treaty

In order that we may live long and happily together, we the undersigned, wishing to restore our deepest love and understanding, gratefully agree as follows to these terms and conditions:

 

I, ……………………. (the one who is angry) agree to:

 

  1.        Refrain from saying or doing anything that might cause further damage or escalate the anger.

 

  1.        Not suppress my anger.

 

  1.      Practise breathing and taking refuge in the island of myself.

 

  1.      Calmly, within 24 hours, tell the one who “has made” me angry about my anger and suffering, either verbally or by note.

 

  1.      Ask for an appointment for later in the week (eg Friday night) to discuss this matter more thoroughly, either verbally or by note.

 

  1.      Not say: “I am not angry. It’s okay. I am not suffering. There is nothing to be angry about – at least not enough to make me angry.”

 

  1.      Look deeply into my daily life while sitting, walking and breathing, in order to see:

 

¨the ways I have not been mindful or skilful enough

 

¨how I have hurt the other person because of my own habit energy

 

¨how the strong seed of anger in me is the primary cause of my anger

 

¨how the other person suffers also

 

¨how his or her suffering waters the seed of my anger

 

¨how the other person is seeking relief from his/her own suffering

 

¨that as long as the other person suffers, I cannot be truly happy.

 

  1.      Apologise immediately, without waiting until the (Friday) meeting, as soon as I realise my unskilfulness and  lack of mindfulness.

 

  1.      Postpone the (Friday) meeting if  I do not yet feel calm enough to do it.

 

I,  ………………………. ( the one who “has made” the other angry) agree to:

 

  1.  Respect the other person’s feelings, not ridicule him or her, and allow enough time for him or her to calm down.

 

  1.  Not press for an immediate discussion.

 

  1.  Confirm the other person’s request for a meeting, either verbally or by note, and assure him or her that I will be there.

 

  1.  Practise breathing and taking refuge in the island of myself to see how:

 

¨    I have the seeds of unkindness and anger as well as the habit energy to make the other person unhappy.

 

¨    I have sought relief from my own suffering by making the other person suffer.

 

¨    By making him or her suffer, I make myself suffer.

 

  1.  Apologise as soon as I realise my unskilfulness and lack of mindfulness, without making any attempt to justify myself or waiting until the (Friday) meeting.

 

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– (signed)

 

Part II

Write a 3-4 page reflective essay on your experience. Be sure to include your thoughts on:

  • how did your partner in the treaty initially react?
  • what thoughts, concerns, or trepidation did you have going into this exercise, and what happened to those thoughts?
  • what did you learn about the other person as a result of the exercise?
  • what did you learn about yourself?
  • do you expect that this exercise will have any effect on how you relate to others in general?

 

  1. The Vow of Silence

.

Part I

Select a weekend when, apart from regular activities, you can be relatively free from outside commitments and activities, and plan this for a weekend of self-examination and directed attention to mindfulness. Continue with your regular meditation schedule as usual, but also do not hesitate to augment it if you are so inclined. Make a personal vow of silence for the entire weekend. Avoid all verbal communication unless absolutely necessary, and in that case try to make do with a note. For the duration, do not watch tv, listen to radio or music, turn on or use a mobile phone, or surf the internet. (You may go online for the purposes of school related work, e.g., research for a paper, but not for facebook, other social media, imdb, random browsing around, etc.)

Strive to closely observe and attend to all of your actions and decisions throughout the weekend – be aware of what you are doing, how you are spending time, what decisions you are making. Also be very aware of how you are reacting to situations, to stimuli, to your own actions. Be aware of what you are feeling – any feelings, even the slightest, of anxiety, tensions, indecision, tiredness, relaxation, comfort, itches, twitches, pains, and tickles, and all other types of sensations. When you are involved in a focused and directed activity, e.g., studying, or working out in the gym, by all means do try to stay focused and engaged in your activity, but, outside of that, try not to lose yourself in your thoughts, daydreams, reactions, and ordinary wandering mind, but instead observe those thoughts and what the mind is fabricating, just as you might study and observe a fascinating curiosity you spot in a museum.

Finally, regardless of your usual meditation schedule, do conclude the second day with a period of meditation before retiring to bed.

 

Part II

Write a 3-4 page reflective essay on your experience. Be sure to include your thoughts on:

  • what preconceptions did you have going into this exercise, and how were they born out, or not?
  • did your behavior differ from normal days, and if so, how?
  • what was the effect of keeping silent and reducing electronic and other external stimuli? How did that make you feel, and did those feelings change over the course of the weekend?
  • what was the day after the exercise like, and how did the experience affect your feelings and experiences on the next day?
  • did you discover anything about yourself?
  • do you think that the “one month from now you” will be changed in any significant way by this experience?

 

  • Seneca’s Letters (4, 24, 70 and 82)
  • Seneca’s Consolations to Marcia, Helvia and Polybius, and On Earthquakes