We hope you are able to keep the energy of peace, joy, and mindfulness alive in your daily life after a retreat at one of the Plum Village Mindfulness Centers. Establishing a practice at home helps us to continue nourishing the seeds of mindfulness within us every day, and enables us to live in a more fresh, spacious and joyful way.
We are happy to offer five suggestions and resources to support your practice at home:
1. Find a local sangha
“It is probable that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community, a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living.” -Thich Nhat Hanh
Practicing regularly with a sangha allows us take refuge in the collective energy of a community of practitioners. A sangha protects, anchors and nurtures us. Without the support of a sangha, sometimes it can be easy for us to lose our way in the chaos of daily life.
Thay teaches that a good sangha, like a family, does not need to be perfect. If everyone in the sangha is practicing wholeheartedly, then the shortcomings and difficulties we encounter––in ourselves or in each other––become the fertile soil for transformation.
There are sanghas all over the world. Find one close to you here. If you there is no group close to you, you may wish to start one. Here are some suggestions and guidelines for starting a sangha. If you have received the 5 Mindfulness Trainings, you can encourage your sangha to recite them together.
2. Choose a mindfulness bell
“A bell of mindfulness, whether it is an actual bell or some other sound, is a wonderful reminder to come back to ourselves, to come back to life here in the present moment. The sound of the bell is the voice of the Buddha within.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
At Plum Village, the sound of the bell reminds us to let go of our thinking and come back to our breathing. At home, you might like to program a bell of mindfulness on your cell phone or computer. You can also use the ringing of our telephone, the local church bells, the cry of a baby, or even the sound of fire engines and ambulances as a bell of mindfulness. With just three conscious breaths, we can release the tensions in our bodies and minds and restore peace in ourselves.
3. Water flowers often
“Every child is born in the garden of humanity as a flower.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
In the practice of Beginning Anew, we practice first and foremost to recognize and appreciate the positive qualities in another person or in ourselves. Thay teaches that as practitioners, we should be skillful gardeners of the mind. The mind contains all seeds, both good and bad, and when we water the positive seeds––such as love, compassion, joy, and understanding––they become stronger.
In watering the flowers of our loved ones or ourselves, we shed light on the strengths and beautiful qualities of that person, encouraging those seeds to grow and blossom. Recognizing the positive traits in others also allows us to see our own good qualities. When we practice flower watering, we support the development of good qualities in each other.
We may also like to practice the other two steps of Beginning Anew with ourselves or our loved ones. After watering flowers, we can practice sharing regrets for any suffering we may have caused. Finally, we can practice asking for help or support.
4. Nourish yourself with the practice and teachings
“Mindful consumption is the way out of craving, not only for us as individuals, but also for the whole world.” -Thich Nhat Hanh
The internet, books and magazines offer an abundance of resources to nourish our practice. In the Five Mindfulness Trainings, Thay reminds us to consume in such a way that preserves our peace and happiness. Although the media can often expose us to negativities, we can also use technology skillfully to find support for our practice.
Resources that can help nourish our practice include the The Mindfulness Bell magazine, the Plum Village Online Monastery, the Deer Park Dharmacast, and Thay’s books, which are available through Parallax Press. You are also invited to connect with the Plum Village community on Instagram or on Facebook.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
The practice of smiling can benefit everyone around us. You might like to hang a calligraphy, a painting, a branch or a leaf in your room that reminds you to smile when you wake up. Thay says that once you develop the practice of smiling, it becomes natural and habitual, and you may not need a reminder. A smile relaxes all the muscles in our face. We can practice smiling even when we do not feel joy. We can smile to life, to our bodies, and even our suffering.