Home Practices for the Rains Retreat

Please enjoy a series of practices inspired by the Rains Retreat at Plum Village Monastery.

We hope that these suggestions will help you bring the spirit of the Rains Retreat into your everyday life. To feel more connected to others in this journey, you might like to find and join a sangha (practice community) either in person or online.

Watch Sister Tue Nghiem’s Talk

In Zen, we often say that the moment of death is the moment that reveals how we have been practicing. Indeed, the fear of dying is the base for all other fears. As practitioners, death should be an object of our contemplation.

Sister Insight shares her experience of practicing in a way that helps her to let go of clinging, of suffering and of perceptions. Contemplating death brings us back to what is most essential in life and helps us to live each day fully and meaningfully. We become determined to live our life with kindness and love and to savor every moment.

Experiencing the death of a beloved one, or grieving over the state of our planet, are also difficult moments in our lives. Even though there is the teaching of impermanence, a loved one’s passing still is a loss. And in addition to the loss, we might be struggling with guilt and regret inside of our heart.

Sister Insight shares her personal experience of having gone through the loss of her mother and her teacher. Taking refuge in the Sangha, getting in touch with Mother Earth, taking refuge in the island of self and dwelling in the present moment, were the four key practices that helped her.

Suggested Home Practices and Reflections

1. Letting go of guilt and regret

“When our loved ones die, it is our guilt and regret that eat into us.” (Sister Insight)

  • Look into the causes and conditions that came together to contribute to the situation that you regret or feel guilty about. Is it really “you” and “you” alone who was responsible?
  • Write a letter to our loved ones who have passed away and express your regret.
  • What were their joys, passions, and dreams? How can you continue to live those joys, passions, and fulfill their dreams?
  • Offer your love and care to those who are alive, right by your side, and you will experience what Thay means by “In true love, there is no separation between the lover and the beloved”.

2. Going through grief and loss

  • Take refuge in the sangha, in a community of practice. 
  • Get in touch with Mother Earth and see the interbeing of the elements inside and outside of ourselves. 
  • Breathe mindfully, stay present, see clearly, and do not run away from or suppress emotions.
  • Recognize the stories that are the “second arrows” –  smile to them and let them go.

A Guided Meditation for you to enjoy

In this short guided meditation from the podcast series The Way Out Is In, Brother Phap Huu guides us through practicing with 5 Rememberances, meditating on impermance and death in order to experience being fully alive.

No Coming, No Going

Dear friends, our 90-day Rains Retreat has now finished! Although we were not able to bring you home practices every week, we hope you have enjoyed this offering you and been able to take some of the spirit of our practice into your daily lives. You might like to enjoy this photo albumn which has documented the retreat.

Watch Sister Tu Nghiem’s Talk

Are you aware of your body in daily life? Do you take time to pause and relax between activities? How do you start your day? Do you take a moment to touch a feeling of gratitude and joy for being alive? Let’s explore these and many more questions as we are gently guided by one of the eldest disciples of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh – Sr. Tu Nghiem (Sr. Eleni).

As a practitioner, we need to know how to nourish our body and mind with beauty through what we consume with our senses. We need to be aware of our body and mind, in order to recognize what causes us well-being and ill-being, so we can choose the direction in which we want to go. The Four Noble Truths and the Five Mindfulness Trainings will help us to live in a healthy, ethical and balanced way. They show us very concrete ways to help reduce the suffering around us.

Suggested Home Practices

1. Turning towards beauty and gratitude to water seeds of happiness as early as possible in the morning before your day begins

Upon waking up in the morning, notice the beauty in your immediate surroundings – a starry sky, the first rays of the sun, trees outside the window, rolling clouds, and birds singing…

Can we give rise to gratitude for the simple yet miraculous conditions that make this moment possible? 

Ears that can hear, eyes that can see, hands that can touch, fresh air to breathe and metta, compassionate thoughts to send out to the world?

2 Relaxing between activities

As you move about during the day, taking care of various tasks or between appointments or classes etc., use it as a chance to relax the body and mind. Truly feel your footsteps – cultivating mindfulness and peace as you walk and allow healing to take place. 

Also enjoy sitting down for a few minutes, if you have been standing up for a while, taking time to rest your body and enjoy mindful breathing,

3. Engaged action in the world

The Five Mindfulness Trainings and the 14 Mindfulness Trainings are concrete ways we can practice to reduce suffering in ourselves and in the world. They are an expression of the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path that help us create more happiness and prevent suffering, including the practice of mindful consumption in many aspects of our life.

A Guided Meditation for you to enjoy

In this short guided meditation, Brother Bao Tich reminds us to practice looking around us and getting in touch with the wonderful gifts of Mother Earth: the trees, the clouds in the blue sky, the clear stream, the vast ocean.

Watch Brother Minh Hy’s talk

Br. Minh Hy invites us to connect to great ancestral teachers who played a very important role in Thay’s journey of renewing Buddhism. Inspired by their example, we can improve and refine our own practice, with faith and perseverance. We can make their practice come to life as we apply it to our current times, as Thay has done throughout his life.

Indeed, the ancient Buddhist wisdom on the mind and the way out of suffering is timeless: the challenges of our society have their roots in afflictions that lie within our own mind. Learning to understand it, and to find appropriate practices for ourselves, is the way out of suffering.

This Dharma Talk was offered on the Memorial day of our Ancestral Teacher, Master Nhật Định, founder of our teacher Thay’s root temple in Huê, Vietnam.

Suggested Reflection Questions and Home Practice

  1. Note down the occurrences during the day when you are able to hold back words that may hurt others. How does it feel immediately and afterwards? How does it affect the people around you?
  2. “Mindfulness of love and gratitude help us untie the internal knots” (Br. Minh Hy). Looking deeply into a situation in your life, are you able to see the myriad causes and conditions that have brought it about? Can you feel gratitude for some of those causes and conditions?

A Guided Meditation to Enjoy

In this meditation, Sister True Dedication teaches us the steps available to us to find and connect to the source of love we have for ourselves. By following this guidance, we practice the much needed care we need to give ourselves so that we can take care of others. This is one way we can be a gardener for our own mind.

Watch Sister Hội Nghiêm’s talk from Sun 9th October

“Mindfulness of breathing is the great vehicle used by buddhas to save beings who are drifting.” – Master Khương Tăng Hội

Meditation Master Khương Tăng Hội, the first patriarch of Zen in Vietnam, was a great source of inspiration for our teacher Thay to practice and develop Engaged Buddhism.

In this talk by Sr. Hội Nghiêm (English translation by Sr. Lăng Nghiêm) on the master’s Memorial Day, we learn how mindful breathing helps us to take care of our body and mind, to gradually let go of all afflictions and views that bind us. Practicing mindfulness in our daily life enables us to keep balance on our path of service. As our hearts become more free, our activism also gains a new, deeper dimension.

Background of Master Tăng Hội song

This hymn was composed by Chân Minh Giới and Chân Minh Tuệ in 1995 when Thay taught extensively on Master Khương Tăng Hội as part of the “Living Buddhism” series. 

Chân Minh Giới and Chân Minh Tuệ members of the Order of Interbeing from the Thuyền Từ (“Boat of Compassion” Sangha) in Virginia U.S. 

A translation is available here and the sheet music is here.

Suggested Home Practice

Dear friends, 

Here are some reflection questions and practices based on the talk. You may like to apply one or more as your focus for the week. 

1.) What is it that takes away our inner freedom? When a mental formation that brings agitation in our body | mind arises, for example jealousy, merely recognize it and smile to it. Then notice all the moments when that mental formation is not there, i.e. the “non-jealous” moments throughout the day. 

2.) Look with fresh eyes to see that the one you were upset with yesterday is not the same person today. Looking this way gives both of you a chance to  change. This is the concrete practice of impermanence (in time) and non-self (in space). 

3.) One time in 2006, to help us commit to solid and peaceful steps, Thay gave each of his students a length of wool to tie around the foot. You may like to do the same at home, or find other skillful means to bring full awareness to your steps.

A Guided Meditation to Enjoy

A short guided meditation by Sister Dieu Nghiem (Sister Jina) that focuses on generating mindfulness and gratitude for the body.

Watch the Q+A from Thurs 13th October

Through her own experience of fearlessness, hope, compassion, anger, and despair during the war in Vietnam, Sr. Chân Không shares how she transformed unwholesome seeds through mindfulness practices in our Plum Village tradition.

Touching on difficult topics such as suicide, alcoholism and self judgements, Sr. Chân Không showers us with practice songs and stories that touch the seeds of hope and transformation. Like a loving grandmother, she offers a lived wisdom of the Dharma and deep faith with openness. She emphasized the importance of choosing appropriate mindfulness practices that work for us given our personal preferences and circumstances, including hugging meditation, walking meditation, chopping vegetables, cooking, singing, dancing etc…

Suggested Home Practice

Identify a “practice friend” in your daily environment that helps you feel grounded. Perhaps it is a tree outside your window, a wind-chime in the doorway, a very zen cat, a particular scent… 

What does being grounded feel like in the body and mind? Are there other moments when you touch this feeling? 

A Guided Meditation to Experience

In this guided meditation, Sister Dang Nghiem offers guidance on practicing loving kindness toward yourself with a series of short embodiment practices.

Watch the Panel Sharing from Sun 2nd October

Is Plum Village “engaged” enough today? Is our daily practice of mindfulness an appropriate answer to the problems our world is facing? If we look deeply at current issues such as war, injustice, or the climate crisis, we can understand their connection with our ways of thinking, speaking and acting.

In this panel, Brother Pháp Hữu, Brother Pháp Linh, and Sister Hiến Nghiêm share their insights on Applied and Engaged Buddhism, drawing on our teacher’s life as a peace activist and a community builder. Our teacher believed that deep understanding can only come about when we practice together as a Sangha, generating a powerful energy of mindfulness and concentration, giving rise to great insight. The power to help with compassion and resilience can be found within each one of us.

Sources for further reading: In the following books, Thay shows us how we can bring about the radical change that our world needs:

Questions for Reflection

Dear friends,

Here are some reflections and practices based on the panel sharing. You may like to choose one or more of them for this week.  

1. Embracing a moment of discomfort 

“The suffering of today is – we run away from our suffering.” (Brother Phap Linh) 

Ask ourselves: 

  • How am I taking care of the moments of discomfort?
  • Are these ways in line with my deepest aspiration? 

“We are taking action when we embrace a moment of suffering.” (Brother Phap Linh) 

2. Giver and Receiver inter-are 

“When we teach (or offer something), we must be careful not to water the ego.” (Brother Phap Huu)

Notice how we feel in the body/mind during and after an act of offering. For example, washing the dishes for the family, letting someone go first, taking on tasks from a colleague, taking care of someone in distress… 

3. Shifting consciousness through the Five Mindfulness Trainings 

“We have the right and the responsibility to live life deeply. We have the freedom to choose how to think, speak, and act, to liberate ourselves from the system of our creation” (Sister Hien Nghiem) 

  • How has practicing the Five Mindfulness Trainings shifted your consciousness? 
  • What changes have you seen in the way you listen, speak, and consume?

A Guided Meditation to Experience

This meditation by Brother Pháp Linh allows us to get in touch with the unpleasant feelings we have been carrying within us during the day and to embrace them with love and care. By shining upon them the energy of mindfulness, our feelings will get calmed and soothed.

Watch Brother Pháp Ứng’s Dharma Talk from Sun 25th September

Nourishing ourselves with positive elements gives us the strength to heal from suffering. Without nourishment, we cannot heal.

The more we are aware of suffering, the more important it is to dwell peacefully, happily, and with compassion in the present moment. The present moment becomes a refuge preventing us from drowning in collective suffering. It gives us faith to move on and take action from a place of love.

Coming back to the present moment is already engaged Buddhsim. It is a daily training. Coming back to our breathing, listening to the bell, walking mindfully… are all practices that help us to generate the energy of mindfulness.

Suggested Daily Practice

Each day for one week, whenever you stop to breathe, put a hand on your heart and smiling, quietly say to yourself:

“I am loved
I am complete
I am nourishing and healing myself
Healing begins with myself right here, right now”

A Guided Meditation to Experience

This guided meditation by our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh allows us to connect the Buddha inside of us.

Watch Sister Chan Duc’s Dharma Talk from Sun 18th September

In this first talk of the 2022 Rains Retreat, Sister Chan Duc (“Sister True Virtue”) reminds us of the preciousness of having the opportunity to practice together for three months.

As human beings, we have a deep tendency to believe in a separate self and to strive in order to protect ourselves. Our non-stop thinking comes from this instinct of self-preservation. It stops us from being in touch with the wonders of life and the nature of interconnectedness of all that is.

Sister Chan Duc shares ways that allow us to calm down our thinking and come back to the present moment. We need a calm and clear mind in order to help relieve the suffering of the world without being carried away.

Suggested Daily Practices

Practices for daily mindfully living mindfully from Sister Từ Nghiêm based on Sister Chan Duc’s talk

In the morning

While waking up, silently recite the gatha:

Waking up this morning I smile
24 brand new hours are before me
I vow to live deeply in each moment
And to look at all beings with the eyes of compassion.

This gatha when recited as your first thoughts of the day sets your mind in the direction of positive and Right Thinking – to live mindfully and look at people and situations with understanding and compassion.

During the day

Walking mindfully – to refresh the mind and renew mindfulness energy, and to ground you during challenging moments.

Each step in peace is a nourishment. Walk just to walk. If we walk without thinking, it calms the mind and body.

In the evening

Think of one person or situation to whom you feel gratitude and appreciation. “I feel grateful for…”

Write it down in a gratitude notebook and come back to these gems when the mind meanders to negative realms.

Find creative ways to infuse your day with mindfulness. Return to the present moment again and again.

A Guided Meditation to Experience

This guided meditation from Brother Phap Luu allows us to observe our thinking and understand how certain thoughts can lead to particular emotions as well as touch a sense of space and freedom. (It is not necessary to download the Plum Village App in order to enjoy the meditation.)

Keep Reading

Join the conversation

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

19 Sharings
Oldest Most Gratitude
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

/ Register

Hide Transcript

What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

00:00 / 00:00
Show Hide Transcript Close