At the end of a retreat conducted in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, retreatants are invited to take the Five Mindfulness Trainings. These are the lay precepts cast in terms of positive engagement by Thich Nhat Hanh. At one level that is so; at another, they continue to contain elements of the “do not” found in all calls for ethical behaviours. While the terminology is not as directive, the commitment to not kill, not steal, not engage in sexual misconduct, not speak in anger or untruthfully, and not to use intoxicants is very much evident. It’s unavoidable really. The first step of any practice whose intention is well being begins with restraint.
This aspect of ethics is a touchy one for many of us. We don’t like being told what to do; even more, we dislike being told what not to do. And yet, in the liminal space between moving forward and holding back, there may be something valuable that can emerge.
So today, I’m watching the many ways in which I can act with restraint, hold back, pause. Not as a process of denying myself or others but rather as a practice of awareness, of not obstructing the possibility of something different arising.