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Curriculum: For November (for life)


For awhile now, I've been considering taking advantage of the twelvedness of Buddhism's Four Noble Truths + Eightfold Path and the twelvedness of the number of months in the year to establish month-long themes in the Mind-Body Recovery Techniques Classes I teach every week. Since I have a hard time remembering the order of the eight path factors, I thought I could assign one per month for the first eight months of the year ("Is it June? Must mean Wise Effort!"), and then use the final four months of the year to ponder the Four Noble Truths aloud in class during my patter, one per month. By that system, November's ponderings would be about the truth of the end of suffering.


Shall we?


I have come greatly to value podcasts by San Francisco-area teacher Matthew Brensilver. To prepare for adding freedom from suffering as an overlay in my upcoming classes, I've been listening over and over (and transcribing) his October 21, 2013 talk entitled "Clinging & Letting Go." Three and a half minutes in, Matthew recounts having gone to a talk by teacher Joseph Goldstein, where a questioner asked Joseph to summarize the entirety of the Buddhist teachings in one sentence: "How would you characterize Freedom?" Joseph's answer: "The mind that is not clinging to anything." Our mind-body Qigong practice affords us many moments of not clinging (after moments of clenching). This should work!


In my classes through the rest of the year, we'll be working our way through the "Eight Pieces of Brocade" Qigong form. I'm not entirely sure how my thoughts on "the truth of the end of suffering" may work their way from my heart-mind into and out of my mouth moment-by-moment during classes, but I can certainly imagine having something to say about not clinging, as we move through the gestures of the second brocade: "Drawing the Bow to Shoot the Arrow." It's an exercise that happens to engage the Lung Channel, supporting the work of those organs that, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, help us grieve, help us let go. I mean, really, we draw the bowstring, then we ... let go!


In my transcription of Matthew's talk, have a line-up of several quotable quotes that have informed my own mindfulness practice—on the cushion and off—in helpful ways. If you listen to the podcast and find statements that inspire you or challenge you, please let me know what they are. Let's discuss!

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