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Taking Refuge in the Unknown

Taking Refuge in the Unknown with Dawn Haney from Turning Wheel Media on Vimeo.

Part of Refuge & Resistance class series, more at

Video Image Description & Transcript

[Image: “Refuge & Resistance” in shades of purple lettering overlaying an aqua blue-green curving river flanked by wooded hills]

Welcome to Refuge & Resistance, as we Take Refuge in the Unknown.

[Image: Close up of Dawn Haney, light-skinned with wavy brown hair and an orange and black paisley scarf. Behind Dawn is a light brown sandy beach, small ocean waves, and bright blue sky with some wisps of white clouds.]

Hey, this is Dawn Haney with Buddhist Peace Fellowship, checking in with you all from the San Francisco edge of the Pacific Ocean there behind me.

I came down here today in part because the ocean is a place of refuge for me. When I’m here at the ocean, whatever problems I’m having start to feel — they don’t disappear, but they start to feel pretty small in comparison to the vastness of the ocean.

I sometimes find it hard to take the time to seek this kind of refuge because there’s so much happening in the world right now.

[Image: Closer view of ocean waves and wet sand. Half the view is blue sky.]

My partner reminded me this morning that it’s part of our “revolutionary duty” to love this planet, to love the people and the creatures on it, and to love ourselves.

[Image: Returns to close-up of Dawn Haney in front of the ocean]

Yet love is only one part of the equation for building the collective power we need against fascism, white supremacy, and all that ails our world right now. You might be hoping I’m about to say the like exact words you’ve been hoping to hear about how to resist — what targets we need to fight, when you’re supposed to show up, how we’re going to win.

I have to admit I’m sort of longing for those answers too. For someone just to show up who’s going to tell me where to be, what to do. And yet, I also know that in our practice of Buddhism, we don’t actually find refuge in clear answers. Refuge is instead found in what the Buddha called the Three Jewels of Buddha, which is not just the historical person but our own capacity for awakening. We can find refuge in the Dharma, the teachings and also the truth of the ways things are. And finally, refuge in the Sangha, in the community of all beings who are here along with us in this fight.

The practice I offer today is to find refuge in the unknown.

I invite you to think about where you find the easiest refuge. For me today that’s here at the ocean or in nature more generally. You might find easy refuge in the love of others, whether people, pets, other creatures. Or the breath may be a solitary, steady refuge for you. Whatever it is that brings you a sense of groundedness, compassion for self as well as others. Letting the experience of this refuge wash over you like waves that will continue to be here with you.

You might decide just to stay with this practice, especially if you are finding it kind of difficult to experience a sense of refuge. Or if it’s just a welcome relief to have a taste of refuge in your life.

But if you feel steady in this practice, in this sense of refuge, you might also welcome in a place where you are feeling less refuge, where you are feeling at odds or a great a sense of unease about the unknown. Maybe you are not sure what to do, how to be, how to show up in this world.

And just notice as you contemplate this, how it shows up in your body — whether there’s constriction or ease. You might notice how it shows up in the mind — whether your thoughts begin racing, whether there’s a sense of numbness or checked-out-ness.

See if you can just say yes to whatever you are noticing. Allowing it to be. Not needing to change anything about it. Just getting to know your experience, your relationship to the unknown.

Take a moment to reconnect with that place of easy refuge. Letting the in-breath and the out-breath, or the sounds of the waves, reground you.

If you are still feeling open and curious about your relationship with the unknown, you might investigate how it connects with these Three Jewels of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

  • Does your relationship with the unknown lead to a sense of suffering? Or does it open a sense of liberation to your own true Buddha-nature?
  • If there’s suffering, can a reflection on some teaching of the Dharma — maybe impermanence or compassion — have any impact on your relationship with the unknown?
  • And if the unknown leads to any sense of loneliness or isolation, can bringing in a sense of your community or Sangha remind you of your interdependence with all other aspects of life?

As you investigate, remember that there’s no one right way to respond. Your goal is just to stay open & curious about your relationship to the unknown, and how it leads toward either more suffering or more liberation.

And as you investigate, when you feel that sense of kindness — toward yourself, toward what’s arising — when you feel that sense of kindness ebb, just bringing yourself back to that place of really easy refuge. Whether you are held by the ocean waves or nature, the easy love of companions, or the steady, living pulse of the breath.

[Final image of a yellow dog grabbing a ball at the edge of the ocean. Words appear: Buddhist Peace Fellowship | Learn more at]

© 2017 Buddhist Peace Fellowship

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