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As Thầy and the Asian tour comes to a close I feel as if my sisters and I have also been travelling, but without having to step onto a train or a plane. The world has come to our doorstep! I feel so happy to have this perspective because I was beginning to wish I could join Thầy and the sangha on tour. From my experience, there seems to be something quite fascinating about travelling to different countries. It seems like I am in very close contact with impermanence. I meet people along the journey and during the brief moments of favourable conditions of our meeting I feel I can open up more easily. It seems easier to share deeply because there are no prior perceptions, less judgment, and a sense of ‘nothing to lose’ because we don’t know if we will ever meet again. Being really alive in the present and giving unreservedly as if this was the last moment with the person you meet. It seems easier to live with impermanence when I travel than when I stay in one place. Or so I thought. Luckily, the constant flux of life never ceases to intrigue, and one has to remain mindful and open in order to catch the wonderful unfolding of it all!
There is nothing more life giving than to begin spring with a health retreat at Lower Hamlet with over 50 lay friends attending (Br Phap Tu, if you know the correct number please type it in for me). We learnt to better take care of our physical, emotional and mental/spiritual health as they are inextricably linked. In particular Br Tam Thanh provided classes that addressed the needs of our monatic brothers and sisters to better understand the interaction between daily meditation practices and our physical health. It created such positive ripple effects that even those who did not attend were inspired to re-examine their lifestyle in the monastery, and others continued to apply the teachings and awareness. For example, at New Hamlet, we decided to continue to cook only light evening meals to give our body and mind a chance to rest overnight, and to feel refreshed in the morning. And about half of the sisters at New Hamlet simplified their meals to eating brown rice and sesame, to reduce the intake of oily food and sweets. This greatly supported those who wanted to purify and heal their body and mind by the Oshawa diet (only brown rice and sesame).
For some reason there has been an increase in the number of guests at New Hamlet this spring. Maybe it’s due to our new serene Buddha Garden with its cool grassy banks, or our peculiarly grand but welcoming gateway. For even though Thầy is not here, our friends come from all over the world for the spiritual refuge that Plum Village provides, like an oasis among the hectic heat of demands, activities and crazy consumerism of their environment. For one who has the ‘travelling bug’ as me, I began to see that I can ‘travel’ and get in touch with impermanence without having to step outside of Plum Village! So many interesting people came to visit, and our sangha is constantly changing its members. Some have gone and some will go to Hong Kong to establish the practice centre there, others join the sangha in Thailand, and soon 65 of us will join Thầy in two big retreats at the Institute of Applied Buddhism in Germany. There have been many requests from all over France and Europe for monastic presence to lead week-end retreats and our elder brothers and sisters take turn in reaching out to our friends. Meanwhile, some younger brothers and sisters “at home” learn to grow from taking on new responsibilities.
All our visiting friends are a wonderful flower in themselves, bringing their uniqueness, and we are grateful they share their lives with us. There was an “invisible monk” (monk not in robes) in the Soto Zen tradition who came from Brazil, a 15 year-old French girl who came with her mother because she was more interested in Buddhism and less in partying with her friends on the weekend. Friends from afar who have come before, now return bringing their family and they blended in the community as if it were their own local sangha. One sunny day a group of young Korean graduate who were touring Europe and performing traditional Korean drumming suddenly appeared at New Hamlet. Being a sangha of many young people, they immediatey felt connected and joined us to enjoy some traditional Vietnamese food – lẩu. They felt so welcomed that they spontaneously decided to stay the night and join us for a Mindfulness Day the following day. One member shared that she had heard many good things about Plum Village and now on tour she wanted to come and see for herself. Being neighbours with Japan they played their drums as a gesture of friendship and support for the terrible situation there. That mindfulness day (31st March, 2011 at noon) was special as we held a ceremony to send supporting energy to the disasters in Japan. We apologized for our negligence in taking care of the Earth, and sent energy of love and gratitude to the waters at the nuclear plant in Fukushima. It was deeply moving and we were humbled into silence as each returned to their own hamlet.
At New Hamlet we were blessed with the appearance of Sophie who quit her job in Paris and came to live with and teach the sisters French. She decided to stay for 6 months, and teach without salary!! With French classes almost daily alongside Thầy’s teachings on DVD, and classes on precepts and mindful manners, our usually light spring schedule created a buzz of learning. Our monastery became a joyful classroom. Even though most of us are yet able to understand and speak sufficient French, our French friends come and share how much they benefit from being among the joyful and fresh openness of our collective energy. It’s amazing how the presence of mindfulness and collective energy can communicate and connect despite language and cultural ‘barriers’.
The spring also brought our the ‘working bee’ nature in all of us. Every Friday we had a community working day and each Hamlet took turns to benefit from the collective effort of the 4-fold sangha. The weather really was so kind to us, providing sunny mild days where everyone put out a little effort and enjoyed a great deal of togetherness, and good healthy food. We got up to a whole month’s work completed in just one day! All in all, spring retreat at Plum Village was one wonder unfolding after another!
- 14/08/2011 19:52 - Walking With Alfred Hassler, Thich Nhat Hanh and Sister Chan Khong
- 13/08/2011 09:05 - Asian Institute of Applied Buddhism
- 03/08/2011 19:59 - The Sciences of the Buddha
- 18/07/2011 21:14 - Purple Bamboo Ordination
- 15/05/2011 12:25 - Sharing the Same Flight
Last Updated (Sunday, 15 May 2011 12:56)