Covering Mud With Straw

Thich Nhat Hanh writes in Being Peace (1987):

The fourth practice is Covering Mud with Straw.  You know when you walk in the countryside after a rain, it is very muddy.  If you have straw to spread over the mud, you can walk safely.  One respected senior monk is appointed to represent each side of the conflict.  These two monks then address the assembly, trying to say something to de-escalate the feeling in the concerned people.  In a Buddhist sangha, people respect the high monks.  We call them ancestral teachers.  They don’t have to say very much; whatever they say is taken very seriously by the rest of the community.  One says something concerning this monk, and what he says will cause the other monk to understand better and de-escalate his feeling, his anger or his resistance.  Then the other high monk says something to protect the other monk, saying it in a way that the first monk feels better.  By doing so, they dissipate the hard feelings in the hearts of the two monks and help them to accept the verdict proposed by the community.  Putting straw on mud– the mud is the dispute, and the straw is the loving kindness of the Dharma

I want to put straw on the mud.  I am not a senior monk.  I am just another person asking us to stop the fighting, to pause, unconditionally to cease the hostilities.  Maybe if we just stopped and breathed, we could find refuge.

I am inhaling all of the darkness and misunderstanding and hurt feelings and anger and sadness of the past few days, and I am exhaling peace and relaxation.  I am inhaling the disputes and arguments, and I am exhaling peace and happiness. This practice is called Tonglen.

Pema Chodron has written about tonglen:

This is the core of the practice: breathing in other’s pain so they can be well and have more space to relax and open, and breathing out, sending them relaxation or whatever you feel would bring them relief and happiness.

Enough talking.  Enough explaining.  Enough thinking.  Enough.  Let’s try breathing.  Let’s try stopping and breathing.  Let’s just stop.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes:

In the peace movement there is a lot of anger, frustration and misunderstanding.  The peace movement can write very good protest letters, but they are not yet able to write a love letter.

He could be talking about blogs.  He could be talking about us.  May we be excellent to each other.  May we all be safe.  May we all be well.  May we all be peace.


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  1. Please stay.

    • Alma on June 30, 2008 at 21:52

    if we are willing to RESPECT that others POV might be different than our own.  It might take some people avoiding other people for awhile, but its doable.

    I want everyone to stay too.

    Thanks davidseth.

    • pico on June 30, 2008 at 21:56

    from Radiohead:

    I’d drown my beliefs

    To have you be in peace.

    Just don’t leave.

    I’m not living.

    I’m just killing time.

  2. and it was your words in Robyn’s essay this morning that helped me get to a more peaceful reflective place after hearing some things that knocked my boat off course. I decided it was not time to react. So thank you again.

    I don’t know if I’m ready to write a love letter yet, but I’m certainly willing to reflect a bit. LOL

    • RiaD on June 30, 2008 at 22:32

    make me add….for now

    i’m leaving…for now.

    i’m busy. i don’t need to put so much of me into trying to soothe adults into listening and showing respect. i haven’t slept hardly for 2 nights & again have no appetite. this is making me ill.

    i’m fed up with whiney yappy people…he said she said yapyapyap natternatternatter

    NO-ONE is thinking before they speak

    NO-ONE is listening

    i am tired of trying.

    i thought the people here ….i dunno? were more responsible adults? were more respectful than avg?  had evolved farther?

    i was disillusioned 🙁

    but thank you davidseth….

    btw…i’ve always loved your name


  3. offer.

    I think getting away every so often is good — the material we’re dealing with is so heavy and heavy on our minds.  That’s part of the reason for what has happened in such a sad way.  

    Maybe, a respite for all involved will lead to a newer and fresher feeling and a return by all.

  4. for a full-scale cardboard mulching.  Spread cardboard on the ground, then pour on a mulch of wood chips mixed in with leaves.  Water thoroughly if your ground is dry.  It seals the soil fertility in and keeps the grasses from coming up.

    Lots of kind gestures of this sort can keep your mud well under straw.

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