April 17, 2006

“The Barn at the End of the World”

The Apprenticeship of a
Quaker Buddhist Shepherd
by Mary Rose O'Reilley

Book Description:
Transcendence can come in many forms. For Mary Rose O'Reilley a year tending sheep seemed a way to seek a spirituality based not on climbing out of the body but rather on existing fully in the world, at least if she could overlook some of its earthier aspects. The Barn at the End of the World follows O'Reilley in her sometimes funny, sometimes moving quest. Though small in stature, she learns to flip very large sheep and help them lamb. She also visits a Buddhist monastery in France, where she studies the practice of Mahayana Buddhism, dividing her spare time between meditation and dreaming of French pastries.

Meaningful Quotes:
“Breathing in, I become a flower... Breathing in, I become a mountain... Breathing in, I become water, reflecting all things. Calm water...” Thich Nhat Hanh

Buddhism is a recipe for making oneself into an infinitely compassionate being...

“...the practice of mindfulness is a sneaky way to have a rich life.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

“When we breathe, that is normal. When we practice, we bring mindfulness to breathing. Breathing is always breathing. Right mindfulness becomes one with breathing and gradually transformation occurs. When we breathe with mere recognition, quite naturally breathing becomes slower. When we dwell in sitting still, the quality of breathing is different, feels light. This is the joy of meditation. There is letting go and freedom in that. Thus we nourish ourselves. Body and mind calm down and we smile.
  We smile out of our inner calm and that takes the calmness deeper. The breath is a rest between past and future. We bring our mind home to our breath. Only our breath brings about oneness of mind and body. Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body.... We invite our breathing to embrace our whole body. This is the beginning of love, compassion, of understanding. Calm and harmony embrace our body. When five or ten minutes pass this way, my body is calm. This is mindfulness of body.
  Next we practice so that feelings become the object of practice. Peace helps us to dot he work of healing. First we have to put our body at peace, then we turn to our feelings. We feel joy because we see that the path is helping us. Breathing in, I fell happy.... We need these resources of calm and peace; only then can we recognize our unpleasant feelings. We embrace them. We do not blame or oppress our suffering. Embrace a feeling like a little child. Who is going to look after your unpleasant emotions if not you? We must not let the child be alone. Right mindfulness increases our resources. Our healing gets easier. That is the dharma, that mustard seed. Water it so it can grow. Embrace your suffering with your deep and calm breathing. You don't need to do anything else.
  Mindfulness does not force, does not invade. When we're sad, when we're angry, this is the way to practice: I breath in and know I am sad / Breathing out, I smile with my sadness....
  Don't judge, don't scold yourself. Just be with the feeling. When we have embraced our anger or our sadness in calm, we will begin to see its root. That is wisdom, and that is what liberates us from pain. Right mindfulness is presence, body/mind in the here and now. We can only recognize something when we are present, and then we can embrace. We make it calm when it is painful, but if it is already beautiful, we make it more beautiful: full moon, sunset. Stopping is essential to looking deeply.”
Thich Nhat Hanh