2009 Living Happy Workshop
The "Living Happy Workshop" is an active and useful workshop to remind all of us of the simple practices that bring peace and contentment to us and those around us in our daily lives. There are several topics ranging from our own inner peace to the extension of that to others in our communications and in our awareness of the spiritual environment.
On September 26th, 15 participants of various ages and cultural backgrounds, and several dedicated volunteers, gathered at the Dharma Drum Mountain Vancouver Center to learn and experience the possibility of “Living Happy”. After early greetings, registration and refreshments, we gathered in the Chan Hall. We were each assigned one of three groups and took our seats on cushions, and briefly introduced ourselves to one another.
Venerable Guo Shu, the Abbess of the Centre, opened the Workshop with warm welcoming remarks by encouraging us to actively participate in the activities and enjoy every minute. Venerable Cheng Geng Fashi also gave her embracing, happy welcome to participants. Thereafter, our host of the Workshop, Jen-ni Kuo, explained the day’s Workshop was composed of a series of hands-on exercises to help participants gain benefits and incorporate the varied experiences into their daily activities.
We began with defining tension and practiced gathering and releasing tension from our muscles. The “relief” experienced when we relaxed was a reminder of how we hold tension in our bodies in much of our daily activity. Concentrating on relaxation and release of this tension, makes the body, then the mind, much more content. It frees the mind to become more aware of the present moment. Practicing relaxation was an excellent beginning to the activities of the day!
To illustrate concentration and awareness, we were taken through an exercise of walking, maintaining total awareness of our steps and our feet touching the floor. Concentrating only on the action of walking and keeping the mind and body relaxed, we were then given a straw and a ping pong ball. The ball was to be balanced on the straw as we continued walking!
After several minutes of experiencing our minds, our bodies and the effect on the ping pong ball, we formed back into groups to discuss what we observed. There were many thoughts expressed about working very hard to maintain the balance of the ball on the straw, about wanting to show off with one’s skill, about embarrassment when the ball dropped, about holding a relaxed body and being aware of the ping pong ball but not distracted by it, about the feeling of distraction when someone else dropped their ball, and many more. It was a very stimulating activity! We took from it the lesson of practicing awareness and minimizing distraction. How we are much more effective in our actions when we stay relaxed and aware.
Volunteers provided a delicious and varied lunch. Venerable Guo Shu Fashi taught us the Ch’an style of eating: how to sit, hold our bowl and how to move the food to the mouth. Then, chewing and moving the food within the mouth and experiencing the activity fully; pausing with each mouthful; then to notice the action of swallowing. Some participants commented on how valuable this lesson was and how it could be carried into daily life.
We gathered back in the Chan Hall after lunch and practiced the Eight-Form Moving Meditation through a set of exercises. Again, the focus was on relaxation and awareness. The exercise was not strenuous but gave the body a renewed energy.
Then we returned to our cushions, assumed a relaxed pose and practiced staying calm and aware through a variety of sounds that distract most of us in our daily lives. As we later discussed in our groups, these noises often create thoughts and tension in our bodies and it was important to practice remaining calm. We also discussed activities in our daily lives that would allow us to practice relaxation and clearing of the mind – brushing our teeth, lineups, riding transit, lunch breaks, walking and so on.
With the sunshine and cool wind, we all enjoyed participation in a game in the back garden. We moved a marble from one table, across the lawn to another table, carrying it with chopsticks! It was a wonderful sharing of laughter, skill and encouragement! We all worked hard to contribute to our team and most were surprised at the skill they demonstrated, by staying calm, aware and focussed. There were many laughs and much applause!
We returned to the Chan Hall to watch a DVD show on “Protecting the Spiritual Environment and Settling Our Lives.” This was a good reminder of our existence with nature and the world around us. In her closing remarks, Venerable Guo Shu encouraged us to continue what we learned from the Workshop in our daily lives, to improve the quality of our lives. She further urged us to open ourselves up to help others, and to uplift the characters of humanity and build a pure land on earth. She also welcomed us back to visit, participate in activities, and for volunteering.
She concluded by sending participants her blessing “A mind at peace, a life at peace”. The organizers of the workshop were highly acknowledged for the excellence of the presentations, the well-organized day, the variety of presentation styles and the careful attention to everyone’s comfort. Experiencing new methods requires good energy and a feeling of assurance. This was offered and embraced throughout the day!
With a whole day of activity focussed on relieving stress and expanding awareness, the next step – taking the practice into one’s daily life – is a natural progression.
I highly recommend this workshop to everyone – there is no pre-requisite knowledge – just a requirement to want to live happily!
(by Gayle Hall)