So, before I begin my dharma talk, I actually want to do a few things out of order, if you don't mind. One of our 10 major spiritual practices that we like to promote is the practice of gratitude, and this is a powerful practice because it is actually very much related to mindfulness, because to bring to mind, to bring to remembrance is the practice of mindfulness, and when you bring to mind, bring to remembrance gratitude, all the blessings that you have received and given, this is a form of mindfulness practice.
For some of us, some days we are able to be very mindful of our breath and just be present here and now. You know, it is not always that way. So there are other mindfulness practices you can do if being still and silent for 20 to 40 minutes is still very difficult for you, and mindfulness of the breath is still somewhat challenging for you. Don't worry. You can always do other practices that will help cultivate more mindful energy within yourself so that eventually it does become easier to practice mindfulness of the breath, mindfulness and stillness and silence. You can also practice mindfulness of gratitude and mindfulness of lovingkindness, mindfulness of the blessings in your life, mindfulness of all the blessings that you give to others.
So in Buddhism, we have the practice of metta, which is a nice step-by-step process on how to meditate on lovingkindness. We did a little version of that tonight. The traditional way is to practice sending yourself love, loving kindness, wishing yourself well, may I be happy. May I be peaceful. May I be healthy, etc. Just all these wonderful affirmations of kindness to yourself, really wish that for yourself. The idea is that when you are full of this lovingkindness generated toward yourself, then it hopefully makes it easier for you than to start generating that same lovingkindness outward to others.
So traditionally, you start with yourself, then you send that blessing intention to someone it very easy to send blessings to, such as a benefactor or teacher, someone who has blessed your life. Then you can go to someone a little less easy to love or you can go to someone neutral to you perhaps. So maybe someone you see every week like at the grocery store, the cashier. You don't know them. They're not really part of your life necessarily in a major way, but you know them and you see them at least once a week when you go to the grocery store. You can bring them to mind and just bless them. Think about how hard their job might be some time with grumpy customers or something. Just bless them.
And then once you get the hang of that and you are really sincerely feeling this lovingkindness, you can start challenging your practice a little bit. Maybe potentially add someone that is difficult, a little bit difficult. But don't jump to someone who is very difficult yet. This is a practice to cultivate the ability to be with lovingkindness in these different circumstances. So maybe someone who you are in a relationship with, but who hurt you this week. So you might want to just send lovingkindness to them. Or maybe someone that you don't like very much, but you don't hate him either. They just kind of annoying you sometimes. You just send them lovingkindness.
Allow your heart to keep cultivating that ability to expand in lovingkindness and to see that the lovingkindness that you give to yourself and to a benefactor and to someone neutral and someone easy to love the is the same lovingkindness that you can give to someone you don't like so much. It is the same love. It is the same kindness. It is the same blessing energy, and it does not discriminate. You see?
Our human ego likes to discriminate, but lovingkindness does not discriminate. The energy of blessing—it is kind of like what Jesus said. God has the sun and the rain fall upon everyone alike, whether righteous or not. It is just what the universe does. It just blesses everyone, and it is up to each person to take that blessing and do something with it or not. That is our choice, but the universe itself is just about blessing and lovingkindness.
So then, once you're really doing well, you can start practicing with sending that lovingkindness blessing to those who are very difficult to love, and once you get the hang of that, you can start sending it to many, many beings across the planet. You can start with directions or categories of beings. All beings who live north of me or south of me or east of me or west of me, or all male beings or all female beings, all heterosexual beings, all gay/lesbian beings, all African beings and Asian beings and Caucasian beings or whatever. All beings under the age of 18, everyone over 18, whatever. You can start getting creative with your meditation in how you send blessings. You can send to all the Christians or all the Jews, all the Buddhists, etc. and then of course, you can also think of everyone who is going through an illness or even specific kinds of illnesses. You can list them. So you can be creative in the way you practice lovingkindness blessing.
So that is one example of metta lovingkindness meditation, and then of course, there is gratitude. So before I continue with my talk, I want to actually have this practice just for 5 minutes, the practice of gratitude. I would like for you just to pick one partner who is nearby you or across the room, and there should be enough people in the room for one person to have one person. So you will be in pairs, and this will only be for 5 minutes, so don't worry if you don't know each other. Just enjoy this practice. So if you can just kind of turn toward a partner.
[... break while audience does a gratitude practice exercise ...]
So, how do you all feel from that exercise?
Audience Member: Rejuvenated.
ChiSing: Yeah? You know, there was a study done on the practice of gratitude journaling. They divided everyone into three categories and they were told to write every day in their journal for about a week or so. One group was told to just write whatever came to mind. They did not have a type of particular topic. Just write whatever. The second category was asked to write all the things they are grateful for and all the blessings. So that is what they did. And then the third category of people were asked to write basically complaints, whatever didn't go right and things that bothered them that day.
So then they studied patterns of these peoples health and emotional wellness and all this stuff after month. It is very interesting that obviously the people who wrote about their complaints, they were not doing as well emotionally of the other categories. But the surprising thing was that of the other two, the ones who are just writing whatever and the ones were writing gratitudes, it was the ones who wrote about gratitudes whose emotional states of well-being were so much farther, and even their health was improving much more than even just writing whatever. I thought I was very, very interesting.
You know, the reason why I am talking about this is I am noticing that I want to focus on little bit more on the gratitude practice, too. You know, because I'm a human being, there are days when, for example, my headaches just get really bad like they did the last couple of weeks, and the kind of triggers my human response of oh no. I'm afraid. What if the tumor is growing and that is why I am having these pains, and maybe it is starting to push on my optic nerve because the doctors say that I can go blind if the tumor continues to progress? So, you know, I start having all these thoughts and ideas, and I kind of go into my little room in my little cave, and pout and all that stuff. I do that, too. I confess.
However, because of this practice, I never stay down there. I am grateful that I have this practice that does not allow me to stay down there too long. I try to remind myself that who I am is a being of eternal light and love and life, and I am just going through this human journey for little short time. And it doesn't matter if it is 44 years or 88 years. From the perspective of history, it is a very short time either way, so I don't want to waste that time worrying about how long or short it is. I want to remember to just enjoy this moment in this hour, this day, this week, this month, this year, and not worry about how longer short it is going to be.
And I also want to remember and remind myself that there are greater forces of reality that are embracing all of us, and so I am being taken care of. You know? And it doesn't actually matter if I get sick and die or if I get healed and live for a little bit longer. Either way, I am always being taken care of. Everyone is being taken care of. So when I remember that, it just shifts everything, you know? But here's the secret. It is easy to remember that if you have practice behind your belt. It is so much easier. Anyone can do it, but it is a lot easier to come back to that remembrance when you're doing your daily practices, your weekly practices. Does that make sense?
I mean, no one has to practice meditation to remember the truth of who they are, but I am just saying it is a lot easier in the dark times to go back to that place of light when you have done your homework for many, many days, weeks, months, years of practice. So wow, I'm just so grateful that I do have this practice. I can't imagine how much harder it would be to go through the healing from cancer without practice. So I am very grateful for that.
So, let me just talk about two things. I'm going to talk about something a little bit more philosophical, and I'm going to talk about something little more practical. So let's start with philosophical here. How do we practice prayer in a positive become a powerful way? Well, first I will share that I do believe all prayer has some kind of impact, because all thoughts have some kind of impact, and when you have a thought of prayer, that has an impact. But I also believe that certain states of consciousness can add more power to a prayer or a thought then other states of consciousness.
A state of consciousness that is scattered, distracted, and undecided on what it really wants, I'm sorry, but that is not a very powerful state of consciousness, and if you have that kind of state of consciousness while you are praying or thinking of a positive intention, you're not giving a lot of fuel or energy to that thought or prayer. But when you have a state of consciousness that is mindful, concentrated, strong, positive, intentional, and confident, that state of consciousness gives oomph to all your prayers and thoughts much more than a distracted, undecided, wishy-washy state of consciousness.
But even if your state of consciousness is not fully mindful or concentrated, it still has an effect. Even the prayer of, "Help," could have an effect and impact. So all prayer is precious, even those kinds. But I want to share with you more effective, more powerful ways of praying, and one of them is to make sure that when you pray, you are in that meditative state of consciousness that it gives power to your prayer.
And another thing about prayer is there are forms of prayer that are about begging, pleading, and they can have a good effect. I'm not denying that, but those are usually the kinds of prayers of a lower state of consciousness. There's nothing wrong with having a low state of consciousness and, just like there is nothing wrong with having state of consciousness of a child. That is just where they are at, and then of course they mature and grow. There is nothing wrong with that kind of prayer with begging or pleading or requesting, but I just want to share that there are other higher levels of consciousness of prayer that are more mature than this form, which is begging or pleading, and that is the kind of prayer that is affirming, affirmative prayer.
So instead of saying, "Please. I am so terribly weak, and I need help, and I am helpless," I mean, those are good at certain levels of consciousness, but at higher levels of consciousness, you don't need to pray like that. Prayer then is more like this: "I trust in a greater reality that is full of wisdom and lovingkindness and true spiritual power. I believe and I know that this reality is always embracing me and that I am one with this reality and that I have every right to this reality because I am an expression and manifestation. I am a child of this reality, and I am the inheritor of this reality, and so I have every right to affirm that because of my oneness with this greater reality, I do and can and will manifest healing and health and wellness in my relationships and my finances and in all areas of my life. And I'm so grateful that this is the truth. I'm so grateful that no matter what happens in circumstances that no circumstance can ever, ever negate the true reality of my eternal beingness. And so I just accept that this is the truth. I accept that I am being taken care of, and I just release all care and concern. I just surrender at all. I let it go. I release it, and I know it is so."
So, that is another way of praying, a higher-level consciousness way of praying. It is more affirmative, you see? And prayer like that, it uplifts your consciousness, doesn't it? Yes, it does. So I want to encourage you to start praying like that also. You can still pray other ways. There are many ways of praying, and sometimes I do the other kinds of prayer. I call it whining prayer. But make sure that is not the only kind of prayer you're doing. Affirmative prayer is a very, very wonderful practice, especially when you're doing it on behalf of someone who may not be at that level of consciousness yet. Maybe they're so caught up in their suffering and their illness or their despair or their tragedy they just cannot pray in that state of consciousness at this moment.
So you can pray in solidarity with them, because we are connected. This is the truth of interbeing. Because we are not separate entities, but we are connected always to each other in oneness and solidarity, therefore we can actually enter into that mindful, prayerful state of consciousness comment affirm our thoughts positively, and connect with those we are praying for or praying with, thinking of, and we can share that state of consciousness and blessing with them, especially when they are not able to do that for themselves. You see? We can offer our merit and our practice and our blessings on behalf of others always. This is the truth of interbeing.
I want to say one more thing about healing prayer. You can utilize words. You can utilize feelings, you can utilize visualization. So words, feelings, visualization. You can also even use objects, blessing objects if you want. Some people like to do that as well. Whether or not you use objects blessing, special blessed stones or objects or whatever, whether you do that make sure you at least utilize positive words, feelings, and/or visualizations when you pray for others. I personally love visualization, but some people prefer words, and other people just prefer silent feeling, just love without words or visualization, and that is fine, too. Whatever you prefer is fine.
When you're in the elevator with all those strangers, if you're a visual person, just send a ray of light to each person because you never know if you'll ever see them ever again and this is the opportunity that the universe gave you this moment to be a blessing. We don't need to wait to be a blessing for all the starving children of the world or to bless a whole entire country or whatever. Right now, you can give a blessing, and it doesn't even have to be a blessing to someone who can return the blessing to you, someone who can say thank you.
You can bless people without them even knowing it, we don't have an opportunity to say thank you, because you don't need for them to say thank you to you. You bless because you just bless, and the reason why we are always blessed is not to hoard all to ourselves. We are blessed to be a blessing. That's it. We are always blessed to be a blessing, so accept the blessing that you already have received, and just give blessings. Just give them without any need for a thank you.
How many of us are going to know every single seven billion people on the planet? None of us. None of us. So, we are not necessarily meant to bless personally every single human being on the planet, so what we can do is personally bless every single human that we have contact with. So maybe that is not seven billion people. Maybe that's just 1,000.
Audience Member: And they bless everybody else, it could get to seven billion.
ChiSing: That's right. She stole my little secret there.
Audience Member: Oh.
ChiSing: Yeah. You know, this is the problem about doing meditation. You can get psychic, too. So we just do our part. You know, I confess. I used to like focus on, okay, kind of rushing through the week at the grocery store and getting my car repaired or whatever and not really thinking about these strangers that I kept meeting, because I was like well, I've got to focus on the sangha in the workshop I'm going to lead. Those are the people I want to focus on. But you know what? That is not the right attitude.
Every single person—and if you get in a car wreck and someone comes and helps you pick out a spare tire, you bless them. In the grocery store line when you see the cashier, you silently bless them. Bless them with a smile. I can't tell you how many times I have seen a cashier and you can just tell they are really ready for the day to end, and the customer in front of me is like complaining I'm going on and on, and the poor cashier, they're like doing everything they can not to say anything. I'm like, bless their heart. And you know what? When I get to them, I might not even say that. I just smile, and I just say, "Thank you." And I can even help with bagging groceries, just to give them a few seconds of relief until the next complaining customer behind me.
You know, there's so many ways that we are meant to bless each other, so it does not have to be the important people. It does not have to be the people that are closest to us. It can be just anyone and everyone that we come into contact with, even if just for a second. So let us start just being a blessing here and now in each moment in that way and know that when we just bless our little circle of influence, it ripples across amongst other circles of influence until everyone and the whole world is touched.
Oh, now I have run out of time. I can't share the practical thing I wanted to share, so I will have to share that with you in June, but I will share one part of it, health tips. I was going to give you a little list of 12 health tips, but I would just give you one. Please try to minimize your sugar intake, especially processed sugar, like cane sugar or corn syrup sugar and those kinds of sugars. Please just try to eliminate all that or lower that.
There actually is a little bit the conspiracy I believe amongst the big food companies in the world. They actually voted together several years ago to add more sugar into every single product on the market. Why? Because they discovered through their laboratory experiments that sugar makes you crave their product more and makes you addicted more, but fortunately, they only found out recently that it also causes a lot of health problems for everyone in the world. So now they're like, "Whoops." They're trying to silently, secretly back off from the promotion of sugar so that people don't blame them or sue them.
However, those of us who are in the know, we realize now that we need to start lowering our intake of that kind of sugar. If you want something sweet, try fruit. Or if you want a sweetener, you can use stevia, which is a natural plant product. But please avoid that kind of sugar that is not good for you, because if you do that, you're just actually going against the blessing healing prayer for yourself. You know, you can't pray for healing and health and blessing when you are at the same time intoxicating yourself with things that are not good for you. It is like a contradiction.
And of course, you can't avoid everything. That is not good for you, but you can try your best to do the little things that you know. So I am just sharing with you from what I have been learning about trying to heal myself from cancer, one of the things is it is important to our health in general to stop eating so much sugar. Okay? Because not everything sweet is good for you, and that is a lesson right there in our dharma, right? Not everything pleasant and pleasurable is good for you. So be careful. This is also part of our dharma practice.