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The Way Out Is In / Understanding How Our Mind Works (Episode #28)

Sr Lăng Nghiêm, Jo Confino


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Welcome to episode 28 of The Way Out Is In: The Zen Art of Living, a podcast series mirroring Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s deep teachings of Buddhist philosophy: a simple yet profound methodology for dealing with our suffering, and for creating more happiness and joy in our lives.

In this episode, lay Buddhist practitioner and journalist Jo Confino is joined by Zen Buddhist nun Sister Lang Nghiem, of the Plum Village community, to talk about the role of Buddhist psychology in understanding how our mind works. What is the impact of our survival instincts in today’s world? What are the risks of focusing only on ourselves? And are we really responsible for everything?

Sister Chan Lang Nghiem (Adornment with Heroic March) was ordained as a novice nun in 2003, received full ordination as a bhikshuni in 2006, and became a dharma teacher in 2010. Originally from Vietnam, she and her family immigrated to America in 1979. She has lived in Lower Hamlet, France; Deer Park Monastery, California; and Blue Cliff Monastery, New York. With her love of books and of Thay’s teachings, she serves on the advisory board of Parallax Press and is happy to see Thay’s books appear in schools, hospitals, and prisons, on bedside tables, and even in local coffee shops around the world. Though an amateur at sewing, she can replicate practically anything just by looking at the original product. Many of the robes, jackets, hats, cushions, and mats in Plum Village are lovingly sewn with her mindful energy.

In this episode, Sister Lang Nghiem digs deeply into Buddhist psychology and how it can help people lead a better life. She further discusses manas, interbeing, and false boundaries and identities; protective and survival instincts; pleasure seeking and moderation; levels of happiness; avoidance of suffering; individual and collective consciousness; sharing; store and mind consciousness; cultivating peace through consciousness; and new ways to lead peace talks during a war. And: why do we need a self? How that works for us and where it stops helping. 

Jo shares about the art of letting go; separation; work environments and happiness; gratitude practices; and the story of an unlikely friendship.

The episode ends with a short meditation guided by Sister Lang Nghiem.


Co-produced by the Plum Village App:
https://plumvillage.app/

And Global Optimism:
https://globaloptimism.com/ 

With support from the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation:
https://thichnhathanhfoundation.org/


List of resources

Sister Chân Lăng Nghiêm (Adornment with Heroic March)
https://plumvillage.org/people/dharma-teachers/sr-lang-nghiem/

Plum Village Community
https://plumvillage.org/#filter=.region-eu 

Deer Park Monastery
https://deerparkmonastery.org/ 

Blue Cliff Monastery
https://www.bluecliffmonastery.org/ 

‘Thich Nhat Hanh on Mind and Consciousness’
https://plumvillage.app/thich-nhat-hanh-on-mind-and-consciousness/ 

Thich Nhat Hanh On…: ‘The Mind as a Gardener’
https://plumvillage.org/articles/the-mind-as-a-gardener/ 

Dharma Talks: ‘Manas Consciousness, Teachings on Buddhist Psychology Retreat, 1997’
https://plumvillage.org/library/dharma-talks/manas-consciousness-thich-nhat-hanh-teachings-on-buddhist-psychology-retreat-1997/ 

Dharma Talks: ‘Interbeing and Store Consciousness’
https://plumvillage.org/library/dharma-talks/interbeing-and-store-consciousness/ 

Dharma Talks: ‘The Power of Understanding – Transformation of Manas’
https://plumvillage.org/library/dharma-talks/the-power-of-understanding-transformation-of-manas-dharma-talk-by-sr-tue-nghiem-2018-08-02/ 

‘Cultivating Our Blue Sky Nature: Skilful Means for Emotional Healing’
https://www.parallax.org/mindfulnessbell//archive/tag/change+the+peg 

Kristallnacht
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristallnacht


Quotes

“There’s so many different models of how the mind works. Western psychology has one model, and Buddha psychology has one model, but I think we have to remember that they’re all just models. Nothing is absolute.”

“Your thoughts continue in the world.”

“It’s important to recognize what we identify with and, when it is being challenged, the lengths to which we go to protect it, and the expense, the cost of protecting it, to our own happiness or to the happiness of the organisation, our loved ones, the people around us, other nations around us.”

“We always had to protect ourselves from the elements, the dangers. But now, increasingly, we are able to create more and more safe environments in terms of homes, or relationships, alliances and things like that – but that survival instinct, that need to protect and feel that we are being threatened and endangered is still very much alive. So we have to be quite aware of how manas operates, how the survival instinct is operating in us, so that we’re not spending all of our energy just trying to survive and trying to protect ourselves, but to spend more energy trying to recognize what our potential is and what the other person’s potential is as well. Spend more time cultivating the things that we would like to cultivate in ourselves and in the other person. More peace, more happiness, more joy and more compassion, rather than spending so much time trying to protect the boundaries that we feel are ‘ourselves’ and that need protecting.”

“The teaching of interbeing is crucial in helping us to recognize the false boundaries or false identities that we are often stuck with every day. I think we have to train ourselves to see that we’re not separate. My happiness is not separate from your happiness. We can share this cup and I’ll still be happy, for instance. Or there’s so many things that I feel are crucial to my happiness, but I can challenge that a little bit. And what I think is my happiness is not just my own individual happiness; it’s intimately related to your happiness, your safety, your well-being as well.” 

“It’s very important for us to also recognize our deepest desire. And it’s not just to survive, it’s to be happy, and to ‘download’ this message to our stored consciousness. And the stronger awareness we have of our desire, of our deepest desire – our deepest desire is to be happy. Our choices align accordingly.” 

“We can have more than one truth. We can suffer and we can be happy. And if someone’s suffering, we don’t have to just have to offer them more suffering. We can offer them lightness of being. We can offer them joy, but while also being deeply respectful of the suffering.”

“You don’t need to go on a training course, you don’t have to spend money, it doesn’t have to take 10 years of hard work, it’s just a change of perceptions, like putting a different lens in our camera.”

“Trying to avoid suffering actually leads to suffering.”

00:00:00

Welcome to the latest episode of the podcast series The Way Out Is In.

00:00:20

My name is Jo Confino, working at the intersection of personal transformation and systems change. And I’m normally with my co-host Brother Phap Huu, but he is on a retreat. Actually he’s running many retreats across South America and is currently in the Galapagos Islands doing walking meditation with the giant tortoises. And I’m sure they’ve got a lot to teach him about that practice. So stepping in today is one of our dear elder sisters from Lower Hamlet, Sister Lang Nghiem. And we are going to be talking today about consciousness and in particular about something called manas, the idea that we are a separate self. Why it is we want to protect ourselves, but also the risks of focusing just on ourselves.

00:01:15

The way out is in.

00:01:29

Welcome, dear listeners. I am Jo Confino, and I’d like to welcome Sister Lang Nghiem. Sister, welcome.

00:01:35

Hi, Jo.

00:01:36

So, sister, what’s it like doing your first podcast? How are you feeling?

00:01:41

Really nervous. I am sending energy out to the tortoises so they can poke Brother Phap Huu for not being here.

00:01:50

And getting back as quickly as possible.

00:01:52

Yes.

00:01:53

So, sister, today we’re going to talk about Buddha psychology, the heart of Buddhist psychology and how it can help people lead a better life. And I’m very aware in my own life and also seeing other people that that we get stuck in negative patterns of behavior. We tend to do things that are not good for us. We tend to avoid suffering. We tend to seek pleasure and we find it very, very difficult to change our ways. And within the Buddhist context, this whole part of consciousness is called manas. And so it’s really helpful, I think, for myself and for listeners to sort of understand how our mind works so that when we face challenges that we’re able to really look to them deeply, and to know to have the resources, and to have the methods, and have the practices to change our behavior. So can you start off maybe, sister, by just talking a little bit about the role of Buddha psychology in understanding how our minds work.

00:03:02

I think… I mean, there’s so many different models of how the mind works. Western psychology has one sort of model, and Buddha psychology has one sort of model, but I think we have to remember that they’re all just models. Nothing is absolute. And the model of mind we have in Buddhism is really to help us to practice. And like you mentioned earlier, there’s so many habits that are difficult for us to change. And once we understand a little bit how we have this framework of how mind works, it’s easier to practice and to help us to change some of the habits that we have. And actually, we have all kinds of habits. So it’s not just, you know, habits that are not necessarily good for us, that we want to change, but we also want to… There’s so many good habits that we have also that we’d like to maintain and develop or even to introduce. Earlier, when you were introducing manas, you kind of boxed all these, like not so good habits, and assigned it to manas. And I was thinking, ‘Oh, that’s a bit unfair’ because I think in… So in the Buddhist model of mind, there is the part called mind consciousness that we are aware of in our waking hours. We have a little… Mind consciousness is the part where we can recognize, we can perceive, we can cognize. And then we have the part of consciousness that we call store consciousness. And in Western psychology, you could call it the subconscious, or the unconscious, or background consciousness even. And store consciousness is… Well, really, nobody knows how consciousness works, but we just have these models to help us to understand. And I think the conversation today, we have to keep remembering that it’s just a model to help us to understand. So in the Buddhist model, the part where we call store consciousness it’s kind of like a processor and it’s always operating. So even in our sleeping hours, store consciousness continues to operate. And what it does it’s, you can say that it contains all of the potentials, it contains all the seeds we call them seeds or potentials or a storehouse. But the storehouse is not separate from the seeds, we have to kind of remember that. And store consciousness, there’s the individual and also the collective. Consciousness, in general, it consists of individual consciousness and also collective consciousness. The individual consciousness is made of the collective consciousness, and the collective is made of the individual. And so the part that we call manas is a part of store consciousness, actually, that we can say is like in Buddhism, we call it, they call… It has another name called the lover, because it comes back in it, it grasps a part of store consciousness, and to say that, ‘Oh, this is me, this is mine.’ So when we say store consciousness, we’re referring to, like, all the seeds means all of the potentials we have. We could have seeds of compassion, joy, sadness, anger, frustration, or even talents and habits that we have as well. And what manas does is… it kind of picks and chooses. One of its functions is that it picks and chooses like, ‘Oh, I’m a joyful person. I’m not an angry person. I’m a sad person.’ So a part of store consciousness and say, ‘Oh, this is me, this is who I am.’ And then it it does everything it can to protect, to protect. So manas is a part, it’s also known as the survival instinct. So in a Western psychology, we speak a lot about the survival instinct and it’s understood in terms of like the fight or flight, freeze, finding responses. And recently, there are new descriptions of it like attachment or submit responses. And… But in Buddha psychology, the survival instinct is just one part of the function of how manas functions. So other than appropriating a self, which is a part, taking a part of store consciousness and saying, ‘Oh, this is me, this is mine.’ And besides appropriating itself, it has a function of protecting survival instinct. And you can understand it in terms of fight, flight, freeze etc. responses. But it also has a function of pleasure seeking, also running away from pain, from suffering, and pleasure seeking, but also not seeing the dangers of pleasure seeking. And running away from suffering and also not knowing the goodness of suffering. And also one of its ways is it ignores the law of moderation. It’s like in any biological system where you have the the accelerator and the brakes. Manas, in terms of pleasure seeking, it will continue to to seek pleasure. There is no moderation. There is no mechanism to moderate. But in mind consciousness you do have a mechanism which is mindfulness. So it’s almost, for me, sometimes in my practice, I understand it as kind of the brakes. You know, you go, you go, you pursue something long enough and you recognize the suffering and then you kind of brake very naturally. But that is also in line with protecting, trying to protect myself and keeping myself safe and free from hurt, free from suffering. Yeah, it’s a kind of a little bit of introduction to what manas is and its different functions.

00:10:29

Great, sister, so, as you say, there’s a lot packaged in that. So let’s just go back and maybe unpack elements of that. So the first thing you talked about was that it’s a survival instinct. And it’s a sort of a creation of self, that I’m this, but I’m not that. Can you just talk a bit about sort of how that works? You know, how and why that’s important, because so much of the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh are based on interbeing, that actually everything is connected, that we cannot separate ourselves from anything else, in fact. But manas is saying, actually, ‘I am me, and to survive, I need to protect myself and I need to behave in certain ways.’ So can you talk maybe a little bit about why we need a self and how that maybe works for us, but where it stops to help us?

00:11:20

Well, it is important to protect ourselves. That’s how we can continue. But I want to speak about the extent to which manas appropriates herself. So earlier, I spoke about just things like joy or compassion, or being angry or not angry and saying this is me or that is not me, but actually extends far, far beyond feelings, emotions, what’s inside this body, seeing this body as me, seeing these feelings as me, seeing these perceptions as me, this consciousness as me. It extends far, far beyond that. Sometimes you can even think a house is you, a table is you, your favorite picture is you, the chair you sit on on an airplane is a part of you because, you know, as soon as someone violates it, you feel your boundaries yourself, quote unquote self, being violated. Or, yeah, even this cup of tea, if it has my name on it and it’s my favorite cup of tea, and if someone should take it, I have some, you know, there’s a possessiveness to it. So this self thing, we have to identify to all of the things that we are kind of attached to because then we end up protecting it. Manas kind of that’s the umbrella of manas, its field of operating. So sometimes it extends to a house, a company, a family, an organization, or even a nation. And we have to understand… So where, where we identify the boundaries of ourselves or our identity ends that is where we… how much the extent to which we will protect. And I think it’s very important to understand this because sometimes in order to protect what we feel is ours, sometimes even a nation, we do it at the price of and the lack of awareness of suffering that it could bring about to others, like if I wanted to protect my family at the price of another family’s suffering. But I would do it anyways because the function, my survival instinct is just to protect my family. And so the practice we really… My practice is, first of all, I need to recognize this survival instinct in everyone around me, not just in the people, but also in different organizations, because in the organization, there’s also a collective consciousness there. And there’s also a kind of manas operating to protect the organization. And so when something is threatened, yeah, you go to some lengths to protect it.

00:14:53

And it’s amazing, sister, how how powerful that feeling is. I mean…

00:14:57

Yes.

00:14:58

I remember, in my work, if I started a project and then someone wanted to change the way it worked or take it away from me, I felt such ownership over that. And it took me a lot. And the fact is that it harmed me because it then created all this turbulence in me, and also because I felt it was mine, it wasn’t necessarily to the benefit of the project that it was mine and done in my way, because then, actually, I boxed it in in a particular way.

00:15:28

Exactly.

00:15:28

And actually, it was only late in my career that I learned the art of letting go, that creating something was very beautiful, but there’s a point at which it’s time to let go of something. Because actually we hold on to things, and, actually, the more we hold onto it, the more they diminish and the more the more risk there is to that.

00:15:50

Yeah. So I think it’s important to recognize what we identify with and when it is being challenged, the lengths to which we go to protect it and the expense, the cost of protecting it to our own happiness or to the happiness of the organization, our loved ones, the people around us, other nations around us. And so I think, for my own practice, I need to learn how to ‘recognize this when I’m, when I’m triggering someone’s survival instinct. Because and it’s kind of easy to recognize actually like, you know, when you are talking to someone and then they end up defending, you know, an idea, for instance, or something, you know, mostly ideas end up defending ideas. Like, I’m aware that, ‘Oh, I’m encroaching on someone’s sense, their identity, actually.’ And this is quite dangerous because if you continue, then you just escalate a situation. Whereas if I know that, ‘Oh, this is something that’s important to that person and it’s related to their identity’, then I know to back down a little bit and I’ll approach it in such a way that helps the other person feel safe because each one of us, for this, we need to be able to feel safe. And so the practice is manifold, actually. First of all, we have to identify what we are, what we are identifying as ourselves or belonging to us, and that needs protection. And does it really need protection? Is it really threatened? Is it being, is it really being threatened? Am I really being threatened right now? Because, you know, sometimes the survival instinct is has been there for a very, very long time in order to help our species continue, actually. And it’s, in the past, it was very crucial because we were under threat all the time, so many predators around. We always had to protect ourselves from the elements, the dangers, so there are so many dangers around. But now, increasingly in our world, we are able to create more and more safe environments in terms of homes, or relationships, alliances and things like that. And so… But that survival instinct, that need to protect and feel that we are being threatened and endangered is still very much alive. So we have to be quite aware of how manas operates, how the survival instinct is operating in us so that we’re not spending all of our energy, just trying to survive and trying to protect ourselves, but to spend more energy, trying to recognize what is our potential and what is the other person’s potential as well. Spend more time cultivating the things that we would like to cultivate in ourselves and in the other person. More peace, more happiness, more joy and more compassion, rather than spending so much time trying to protect the boundaries that we feel are ourselves and that need protecting. And I think that teaching of Interbeing is crucial in helping us to to recognize the false boundaries or false identities that we are often stuck with every day. I think we have to train ourselves to see that we’re not separate. My happiness is not separate from your happiness. We can share this cup and I’ll still be happy, for instance. Or there’s so many things that I feel like is crucial to my happiness, but I can kind of challenge that a little bit. And also, yeah, what I think is my happiness is not just my own individual happiness, but it’s very… it’s intimately related to your happiness, your safety, your well-being as well.

00:20:25

So what I hear you saying is that, in a sense, we are so used to, in a sense, winning what we need without then thinking about what other people… If we win, someone is normally losing, and if someone loses, then we will suffer. And we’re seeing that in the world everywhere, aren’t we? That that countries that just look after themselves and just build their own wealth while other countries are suffering, and there’s poverty, and then migration. And that actually, that we have we can’t separate those out. But those migrants who want to come and get the benefits that we have. So actually, this idea of separation these days is increasingly looking like almost, like a nonsense because it’s like, unless everyone is winning, then we can’t win.

00:21:13

And I also don’t think of it in terms of winning, I also see it as survival as well. Even if you’re a big country and you have so much wealth and you continue, like you say, wanting to conquer, win more, but actually, I feel that it does have to do with the survival instinct, and it’s because of your ideas, or ideas of happiness are threatened, and that’s why you want more. You want to continue to conquer more because what you feel, you know, makes up… would be successful for you, or what you feel is, is your happiness is like the boundaries of it, it’s much larger. So I think the challenge is to come back and to recognize our ideas, our measures of success, and kind of look in, and look again, look deeply into the measures of success that we have. Because that also, yeah, it’s… we’re still on survival mode, that winning, winning is also a part of operating on on survival mode. You think you have to have that in order to be happy. You think you have to have that in order to be successful, and that’s because of your sense of identity: ‘I have to have this. My happiness is this. My success is this.’ etc. Yeah.

00:22:56

So, sister, for those of our listeners who may be listening for the first time, you know, one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s core teachings around interbeing. But can you give us a sense of how that is relevant here? So just maybe just explain a bit about what you mean by interbeing and how that understanding helps us to see things differently.

00:23:19

Well, very often we are seeing ourselves as separate. This country being separate from that country, this person being separate from that person, me being separate from the Earth, et cetera. And interbeing is when we look deeply into anything, anything at all, we can see that it’s made of a non it elements like a flower is made of non-flower elements. A flower cannot be by itself, it has to have the sun, the rain, the soil, the cultivator, all of these things that have come together to make up the flower. And so the flower has to interbeing with everything in order to be, in order to to be the flower. And it’s the same with a person. It’s the same with anything. Any phenomena we see, including organizations, including families, including nations. We cannot exist by ourselves alone, we have to interbe with everything else that is. And this is a real daily practice because we are so, so often we’re caught in this idea of separation. So, for instance, the war that’s happening, the war that’s happening between Russia and the Ukraine. None of us are outside of that war, actually. Each one of us in the way we consume, in the way we have thought, in the way we have led our lives, in one way or another, we have also contributed and been involved somehow directly or indirectly. So the war in Russia and Ukraine is made of the non-war elements. It’s not just the fighting that’s happening, that’s making the war, it’s everything that has happened before that as well. And I want to get back to survival instinct as well because I’ve been observing this too. And for me, one of the thoughts that came up as I was thinking about the situation was just how can peace talks happen that we can recognize the survival instinct? Or how can we not trigger the survival instinct of a nation? Because that’s very dangerous. How can we go about with the peace talks and negotiations in such a way that everyone feels safe? Because I know the world is, you know, kind of we’re almost taking sides, this side, or that side. But for me, what’s important is to really recognize the need for everyone the wish to survive, the wish to live, the wish to continue. And that’s true for both sides, it’s not not applicable for any one side that we want this side to not be there. And so in the… I’ve just been sending out a wish that how peace talks can happen, that we give everyone a path to continue, to survive, not trigger anyone’s survival instincts. And how can we speak about peace in such a way that everyone feels that they can be safe.

00:27:17

Yeah. So what you’re saying, sister, as soon as you take a side, you’re making someone else wrong and that person feeling wrong, it will trigger their survival instinct.

00:27:28

Yes.

00:27:28

Because if they’re made to be the bad person, they will retreat and they will then come up with all sorts of justifications for proof, that proves why we have to be acting in a way. So what I hear you saying is we have to actually expand our field of consciousness, our field of awareness, that if we’re seeing things just from one perspective, then actually we’re, by its nature, making someone else wrong about something.

00:27:53

Yeah. I think everyone needs a way out. Everyone needs a way to survive. The way out is in. Everyone needs a way out, especially when we’re feeling cornered, especially when we are feeling threatened, when we’re feeling threatened. So in terms of speaking about manas and survival instinct, I think it’s important for us to practice to recognize when we trigger, not just trigger, but we have to recognize that manas will always be operating. Manas is always working day and night to protect ourselves. And whether that is an organization or a nation, it is always working, because everything wants to continue, nothing wants to… and it will do everything it can to continue until there are no more conditions, until the conditions are no longer favorable for it to continue. But even so, like, you’ll see that everything tries its best to continue up until the very last moment.

00:29:26

And, as you say, sister, at the start, when you sort of said, actually, Jo, it’s not all about being bad, because actually if you make manas the enemy, you’re actually making the same mistake right at the beginning.

00:29:37

Yes.

00:29:39

Sister, one thing just to come back because I think it might help people is you talked about we’re all in some way responsible for the war. We’ve all played our part and a lot of people might say ‘Sister Lang Nghiem, I’ve done nothing to do that.’ So I’d really like, I think it’d nice to explore that bit because in my mind, we all contribute because our way of thinking of, you know, Russia, is this, our way of consuming has created certain needs, our way of thinking about democracy versus states that are not democratic. I mean, there’s a lot of thinking that has the individual and the collective thinking that creates Russia as this, as the enemy….. But I’m just wondering how you would describe that? So for someone sitting at home saying, you know…

00:30:33

Oh, yeah.

00:30:33

‘I’m not responsible.’ How would you sort of describe how we are all, in a sense, responsible for everything in some deep way?

00:30:44

Well, for me, recently, you know, because we had noticed that our energy bills will be, will cost three, about two, three times the price it was before, and then I realized, ‘Oh, we… every time I turned on a light or turned on a heater or something like that, I might have contributed to this in some way, in terms of financing it.’ And in terms of ideas, in terms of ideology, I think each time we’ve, well, for myself, each time I’ve harbored a thought where, you know, I want to punish someone. Or each time I’ve wanted to act out in anger, feeling justified in doing so. Each time I’ve somehow I’ve sent that energy out into the world as well, or each time I have condoned any kind of violence, even watching shows that I do, or, you know, just continue… Because all of these seeds they continue in store consciousness it contains all the seeds. And so each time I do something, I’m watering this seed or I’m watering that seed. So how much of the seeds of peace have I been able to water? How much seeds of compassion have I been able to water? How much of my anger have I been able to transform? Kind of all of these things in one way or another also contribute to the situation. Because… And one thing that occurred to me just this morning was that I felt, you know, how we say there’s a lot more destruction in the world, there’s a lot more division, there’s a lot more suffering in the world. But at the same time I was sitting back and I was also thinking to the extent that the suffering or the violence, etc. that has grown in the world, so too has compassion and understanding. And I almost feel like they are growing at scale and in parallel with one another. And I think, so I think it’s important for us to continue for each of us to do our part in contributing and in watering more seeds of peace, compassion, joy, happiness. And that is a very direct way in which we can affect the situation as well, because I was thinking if there was… If the collective consciousness is more aware and that dialog is important, peace is more important, nonviolence is more important, then we have a much bigger resource, we have a lot more energy to hold the situation. And so going back to that thought, when we speak about store consciousness, store consciousness, and in the beginning, how I said you, when you introduced manas, you associating all that to manas, actually store and manas, there’s another characteristic for it and it’s called, it’s, we say it’s indeterminate. Store consciousness is of an indeterminate nature. So you cannot say it’s good. You cannot say it’s bad. You cannot… It just, it’s like a processor that just processes everything that comes in. So. So it’s very important for us to be able to kind of cultivate our consciousness if we want more peace, if we want more compassion, if we want more joy in the world, not to just let our habits kind of operate and run on its own will, but we have to be able to bring more of the elements that we want in. And so that’s why mindfulness is very important because mind and mindfulness is like the gardener, the cultivator. And because store consciousness is indeterminate, you know, whatever you bring in, that’s more powerful, more strong, that is the direction it will most likely go into. So then it’s very important for each one of us to be more conscious in how we contribute to, we bring about peace in our daily lives, bring about a moment of joy, bring… to have the capacity to generate a moment of peace, generate a moment of joy, generate a compassionate thought, etc. Because each one of those moments we’re feeding into store consciousness and making it, directing it more in that direction. Because if we don’t, it could easily go in the direction of more violence, more greed, more anger, and more despair.

00:36:35

So, sister, what I hear you saying is that actually, we are all, you know, because when we see great suffering or great problems in the world, we tend to feel powerless. Say, ‘Oh, what can I do?’ But actually what you’re saying is exactly the opposite, that actually each of us is very powerful because each of us contributes to the collective consciousness. So either we are supporting that division or we are creating what we want to create, which is this new paradigm. And also that actually our every thought and every feeling we have has an impact on the people around us, which spreads out, so we tend to look out at the big stuff coming back to us when we feel powerless. But if we look at it from the other direction that the thoughts I have, if I’m able to be more compassionate, more loving, more aware, that will affect everyone I come into contact with, and every one of those people who is touched or sees some value in it, or feels happier as a result of what I said, they each touch many people. And actually, so if we look at it from the from a sense of power rather than powerlessness, we actually can affect great change.

00:37:46

Yeah, it’s so easy to forget when we just think of ourselves as individuals, we feel powerless. But when we can recognize our interbeing, we feel much more, there’s a lot more power, there’s a lot more. Yeah, we feel a lot more empowered in terms of the ripple effect, seen the ripple effects of our actions, even if it is only a thought. You know, before I used to think that, ‘Oh, it’s just, it’s just happening in my mind, you know, it wouldn’t affect anybody around me. So what if I had thought that’s not so, not so kind about someone, or something, or etc. It’s just all happening in my mind.’ But the more I practice, I see that that’s not true at all. It leaks out in one way or another. It ends up leaking out… So even in our own thinking, we also have to learn how to practice, to be more aware of the kinds of thinking that we’re engaged in and the quality of thoughts that we have. And I remember when… the first time I heard Thay teach about this, he said, ‘Oh, even in your thinking, even your thoughts continue in the world.’ And I was sitting in the audience, I’m like, ‘Well, if I don’t let anybody know, how can people know?’ And then the next line he said, was ‘Because it’s like rain’, you know, it’s like an acid, a cloud, it’s like a cloud. And whatever quality that cloud is, it will rain that like if it’s an acidic cloud, it will rain acid rain, and that will affect what’s in our store consciousness, what’s in our… It will land in the ground of our consciousness and go out in the world. And when I heard that teaching, that was the first time I started being more kind of aware of the thoughts that I produce, and to be more, I guess, more careful about the thoughts that I produce. So even even in our own thinking to start generating peace in our own thinking, and also training ourselves to have more compassionate thoughts and that, for me, over the years, I do see that it has a great effect on all of the brothers and sisters who are around me. Because I find it so easy, it’s so easy to have non-compassionate thoughts about ourselves, to be very critical. And because we think, ‘Oh, it’s only happening inside, you know, who cares?’ But actually, we would never say that to another person, for instance, or we would never… There was some of that as I used to say, I would never say it to another person or to even wish it on anyone else. But yet I’m always, you know, it’s always, those thoughts are always raining down on me. And so I find I’m being most unkind, unkind to myself. So it’s very important for us to train ourselves in our thinking as well. And because each thought it does water a certain seed or potential in us, in our store consciousness. And in terms of peace building, it also starts there.

00:42:01

And, sister, when you talk about sort of training our minds, so again, for the benefit of our listeners, so how does that work practically for you? So the fact is we have thousands of thoughts a day, so is it that if a negative thought comes up that you’re maybe not happy with or don’t think it’s fair? Is it that you stop the thought from even coming out, because the thought will come out. Or is it that actually, because I think Thay has talked about that, in a sense, if you say something mean or you think something mean, you can then send a thought after it to neutralize it, so that even if something, you know, it’s never too late to change things, even with our ancestors, we can go back historically and heal. But how do you do that on a daily basis, when we have so many thoughts?

00:42:49

Well, I think that the first practice is to just bring mindfulness to it, just recognizing that, OK, there’s the thought here. And for myself, I ask the second question. I mean, I asked myself, ‘Well, what quality thought is this? Is this a thought I want to keep? Is this a thought that’s helpful for me or not helpful for me at this time?’ So if I may evaluate, kind of evaluate the quality of the thought, then I would know whether I want to continue that thought or not. And so the practice is to just recognize it, just to call it by its true name or what is its nature. And we have the practice of saying ‘Hello.’ You know, when the thought comes up mean you just have to say hello to it, smile to it.

00:43:46

Not condemn it.

00:43:46

Not condemn it and not judge, not criticized because it’s there for a reason. You know, it’s there for a reason. And so the the thought of just recognizing, not pushing it away, not condemning, just smiling to it. And then when we evaluate kind of the quality of the thought, we can always change it out with another thought, like you said. It’s the practice of changing the peg. And then eventually you kind of like, because this practice is kind of like a filter, you kind of slowly, slowly filter out the kinds of thoughts that you want to keep, but it’s not just thinking what’s happening. So the practice is not just to recognize what the thoughts that are coming up and then, you know, embracing it and allowing it to be there and then, you know, waiting for it to go away or to changing it out with another thought that’s more conducive to our happiness. But also the environment in which we are in triggers many different… triggers thoughts all the time. So it’s very important if you, let’s say, if I’m in a club with blaring music and, you know, all kinds of activities around me, the quality of thoughts I have in that environment would be vastly different than if I were to sit in a forest, on the banks of a river, or next to a bubbling stream. So it’s very important to to also see that our environment in terms of the quality of thoughts that we have is very closely related to the environments that we’re in as well. Some of us are in very wonderful nurturing working environments, for instance, so it’s easy to have, you know, great thoughts allow everyone, etc. And then sometimes we happen to be in very toxic working environments. And so every day something gets triggered in us, some negative thought gets wider in us. So it’s very important to choose the environment, the good environment to be and even sometimes at cost. And we have to make that choice for ourselves. Which environment do we want to place ourselves in because the environment touches off so many things, touches off so many different seeds, thoughts, perceptions in us. So the environment here, I don’t mean just a physical place, but also the people whom we are surrounded with as well. So we really have to choose carefully what kind of quality relationship, quality life we want to lead and to kind of be very selective with the environment.

00:47:06

What were you saying that, sister, reminds me of many years ago when I, as a journalist, I was Wall Street correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, and my time was ending and I was coming home and I had two job offers, and one of them was at the Guardian in a sort of a lesser position than I was at for the Daily Telegraph in New York. And one of them was this very high position in one of the tabloid newspapers where I would be running departments and I would be earning lots of money. And it was just so interesting because I could just see probably what the manas type mind is saying ‘Ah, you know, there’s status, I’ll be able to say I’m this, I’ll be earning this much money’, but actually underneath that when I stopped, was this recognition that it would be a hugely toxic environment and that I would probably last six months to a year and that it would probably destroy my soul. And then the other job, at the Guardian, was actually a place where I felt I could be more myself. I could, I could create, I would be there for as long, you know, for a long time. And I wouldn’t have the position, I wouldn’t have the money. And it was so interesting to watch that process. And when I really sat with it, it was so clear what was attracting me to the tabloid job was, you know, it was this idea of… was my ego. But actually, I knew it would destroy me, so I took the job at the Guardian and I was there for 23 years and extremely happy. And if I had taken the other job, I would have probably, as I said, been there six to 12 months and come out feeling a wreck. So it’s… That you just saying that just reminded me of that moment in my life where I had to make that sort of choice of my environment because I knew that would decide actually my happiness, and whether I felt I could be purposeful and lead a meaningful life.

00:49:05

So that also reminds me that it’s very important for us to also recognize our deepest desire, our deepest desire. And it’s not just to survive, it’s to be happy, and to kind of download this message to our store consciousness. And the stronger awareness we have of our desire, of our deepest desire, our deepest desire is to be happy. Our choices align accordingly. And what you just shared just kind of reminded me of that. And I think it takes so much courage to be able to recognize and to make the choices that go in the direction of happiness rather than anything, anything else.

00:50:01

But this is one of the things we often confuse is happiness for for pleasure. And you start off by saying one of the core attributes of manas is pleasure seeking and avoiding, avoidance of suffering. So it’d be lovely to explore that because I think that so many people will understand that it could be on any level, it could be, it could be around food, it could be around sex, it could be around gambling, could be around relationship, could be around many things where we mistake happiness for pleasure and for seeking pleasure. And so can you talk a bit about that aspect of manas that drives us often to behaviors that we feel great shame around, but we feel pulled towards.

00:50:44

What seeking happiness is also a part of the pleasure seeking as well. So I don’t think happiness is like something pure and outside of this. But it’s just we have to be able to recognize what true happiness is. And the pleasure seeking it could be, you know… I mean, we can enjoy a piece of chocolate and say, ‘Oh, this is a source of happiness.’ But it’s only happiness to such an extent, but it is a kind of happiness. It is a kind of happiness. It may be a bit of a more superficial happiness. So I think our practice is to learn how to recognize the deeper kind of happiness because there are so many different levels of happiness and the pleasure seeking part of manas will always drive us towards these many different levels of happiness. We can feel like happy watching movies, for instance, reading a good novel. I was addicted to reading novels with happy endings before. That was one of my happinesses, but very superficial. I think now there’s so many things that pull our attention, and especially through advertisements or things like that that say, ‘Oh, this is… If you have this or if you have that, it could bring you happiness.’ Or whether it’s success or, you know, if you have this kind of job, it could bring you happiness if you have this chocolate cake, this kind of coffee, it could bring you happiness, etc.. So that’s that appeals to the pleasure seeking part of manas. There’s so many things that appeals to the pleasure seeking aspect, function of manas. But I think, in our training, in our practice of mindfulness is to recognize all of the different kinds of conditions of happiness that are available to us right now, and we have so many conditions of happiness. And I think for myself, when I first met Thay and learning and then learning how to recognize all of the different conditions of happiness that are available to me on a daily basis, every single day, the smallest things like being able to open my eyes and just see forms and colors. Or what I remember when I first came back for my first retreat and just being able to hold my niece and I was like, ‘Oh, this is such a big condition of happiness.’ But I was taking it for granted every single day that I was able to hug her. And then being able to walk, for instance. That was a huge condition of happiness that I never paid attention to. So the pleasure of walking, the pleasure of walking, so many things that I took for granted in that I took as normal in my daily life before I met Thay, when I came back from the first retreat suddenly became such sources of happiness. So it was as if I was able to open my eyes to all of the different conditions of happiness that were available to me at the time. And so, the more I paid attention to these different… Could be the blue sky, it could be the bed that I was sleeping on. It could be, you know, just the fact that I was able to… that my parents were still alive, or that I had brothers and sisters around me. So the more I was able to open my eyes to all of the different conditions of happiness that were available, and there are so, I mean countless, countless favorable conditions. And the more I felt, my happiness deepened. So I never had this idea, you know, I didn’t really… couldn’t define happiness. I couldn’t, I didn’t know what happiness was or I didn’t know how to define it, but just following Thay’s teaching and trying to incorporate mindfulness into my daily life, and learning how to recognize that I do have so many conditions of happiness, I felt my happiness become bigger, greater. And then slowly, it didn’t take much for me to be happy anymore because I was able to easily recognize the different conditions of happiness that are already available. So it didn’t take much to trigger happiness in me. And this, of course, also has… manas I know is operating at that time. When I’m able to recognize that, ‘Oh, this is a condition of happiness. It’s not separate from manas at all. So it’s a good thing. This pleasure seeking part, it is. It’s not like it’s a bad function of manas, or anything, but it is a part of who we are. It is a part of who we are. And to have conditions of happiness, it’s necessary to, I guess, to sustain life. I can’t imagine if I wasn’t able to recognize any conditions of happiness or to have any kind of, you know, pleasurable feeling or things like that. I cannot imagine that I would… I can’t imagine how life would be, so I’m thinking that it’s quite vital, and the difference between it’s not the difference between the pleasure seeking or the happiness, but I think the difference is learning how to recognize the different levels of happiness and the different kinds of happiness that are available to us. And some kinds are much more superficial. Some kinds are a lot more deep, but we don’t, we don’t consider them in our normal daily life at all. For instance, being free from a feeling of anger. Or right now being free from, right now, like not having any craving in me at this moment, like a feeling of non-craving, the state of non-craving. That’s also a very deep happiness. But very often we’re not able to recognize that, that that is a kind of happiness. And so I think training in ourselves in recognizing happiness on a daily basis is very important. And the more we’re able to do that, the more we can recognize, like, very simple but actually quite deep kinds of happiness.

00:59:08

Yeah, it’s so interesting, sister, isn’t it? Because it’s just… you don’t need to go on a training course, you don’t have to spend money, it doesn’t have to take 10 years of hard work, it’s just a change of perceptions, like putting a different lens in our camera, rather than a very narrow lens. We open up the lens and we just… So actually in five minutes, we can actually start to change the way we see our life.

00:59:36

Yes.

00:59:37

It’s that simple if we choose to. If we really, really choose to just actually there are so many things to be grateful for. And I think a lot of people find like a gratitude practice very helpful for that, isn’t it? Because it’s just to say actually every day, what am I grateful for? And there are so many things to have gratitude for. And even when we go… because it’s quite difficult because there are lots of people who are suffering greatly in the world. And it always challenged me when Thay used to say, you know, that there’s always more than enough conditions to be happy. And I think so, you know, when people are suffering, it’s really important to recognize the suffering and it’s possible to see beauty as well. And I think it’s not the fact that if we’re suffering, we have to only suffer. We can also see beauty. And it reminds me of when my mother, my mother grew up in Germany, and she was Jewish and had to leave Germany at the age of 14, after Kristallnacht, when the Nazis came and smashed up a family apartment. And my father found a way for her to go to England, and she went on a train alone, at the age of 14. And I remember talking to her about it and she said, you know, and I expect her to tell this terrible story only of suffering, you know, that she was leaving her family behind, not knowing what would happen to us, she became a refugee as a teenager, going to a foreign country. And so in my mind, I just imagine that she would be suffering hugely and just feeling this terrible pain. And she said, ‘Yes, you know, it was it was very difficult. And also, I was so excited. You know, I was going on an adventure. I was going to a new life.’ And I was so deeply, profoundly respectful of that because that changed my whole understanding that when we see someone suffering or talk about suffering, we think it has to be all suffering. And she was saying, yes, I was suffering, and also I was feeling excitement. And just the fact that she was able to describe that, actually changed my whole perception of that, actually, we can have more than one truth. We can suffer and we can be happy. And if someone’s suffering, we don’t have to just have to offer them more suffering. We can offer them lightness of being. We can offer them joy, but also while being deeply respectful of the suffering. But, sister, one thing I want to… because a couple of things you talked about and have talked about in the past about manases. One of the problems about seeking pleasure is that manas tends to ignore the issue of moderation. So it’s like, I’ll have another piece of cake and then another piece… And then so is this inability to control that, but also probably more profoundly, I think one of the dangers of seeking pleasure is if we’re also doing it to avoid suffering. And I think you’ve described in the past about manas also wants to avoid suffering. And one of the great teachings of Buddhism is actually in our suffering is our happiness and our happiness in our suffering, in the whole idea of interbeing, that it’s really important to understand our suffering, because in our suffering, we find more of who we are, we find deeper insights, we’re able to transform that into happiness. Whereas if we’re following just this idea of manas, pleasure seeking, we’re doing, often doing it as a bypass for our suffering to avoid past suffering or avoid future suffering. So can you talk maybe a bit about just that idea of pleasure seeking and moderation, but also that actually, if we’re trying to avoid our suffering that leads to addiction, it leads to much greater… I mean, trying to avoid suffering actually leads to suffering.

01:03:31

Well, I’ll give an example. In terms of avoiding suffering, sometimes when I recognize this, this quality, this habit, this energy come up, all I want to avoid this, if I have an argument with a sister, and then I don’t want to kind of cross paths with her on that day or something. And I… So my practice, I say, I just talk to myself and I say, ‘Oh hello, manas, I know, I know, I know you’re there, I know you’re trying to protect me. I know you’re trying to protect me.’ So I say ‘thank you.’ You know, ‘thank you for protecting me, but the sister’s not, she’s not dangerous, she’s not dangerous, and I can approach her.’ So then I kind of deal a little bit with this energy of avoiding, avoiding suffering, because it seems going to talk to her is a source of suffering at that time. So then I say, ‘Oh no, she’s not dangerous. She won’t be. She’s not a source of suffering.’ So I kind of download these messages and then I try my best not to avoid her, for instance. I think it’s important to be able to talk to yourself in terms of moderating manas, so that it doesn’t go too far in the pleasure-seeking direction or to far in the pain-avoidance direction. It’s important that we speak to us, we talk to ourselves, and when we recognize that we are pleasure seeking, that was, ‘Oh yes, I am running after this kind of pleasure’, you know, so just to bring awareness to it, just bring mindfulness into it. And even when we are avoiding suffering, just to bring mindfulness to it as well. And I think especially in terms of running away from suffering through pleasure seeking, only, you know, seek to drown ourselves in movies, or seek to drown ourselves in conversation, seek to drown ourselves in this or that. There’s so many different things that we can consume in order to kind of forget our suffering or run away from our suffering. And a part of that is also because we’re not ready to, we’re too afraid, we’re too afraid of the suffering that’s there. And so our daily practice is in terms of coming back to ourselves and recognizing what is there and just to be able to embrace it without pushing it away or judging etc. is very important. But some suffering is so deep and it won’t, like manas is very powerful in terms of protecting and not allowing even memories to come up. So some suffering is very deep, it won’t, we might not even be aware of it. And this consuming, consuming in order to cover up our suffering is very, a very powerful habit energy. And I think the message we have to download to ourselves on a daily basis when an uncomfortable feeling comes up or when a painful memory comes up, is to reassure ourselves that we are safe, we’re safe and it’s OK for that memory to be there. It’s OK for that suffering to be there, because the habit is that we don’t want that suffering to be there. So for myself, I often talk to myself and I say things like, ‘Well, it’s OK.’ Or ‘Can I, can I get permission to look into this, you know?’ Well, because the protective mechanism is so strong that I need to seek permission from my own self to look into something. And I think when I’m able to do that, then the seeking pleasure, that that habit of consuming into in order to cover up a certain kind of suffering is not so powerful anymore, because there’s no need, I have permission to look into the suffering, I have permission to… I feel safe, I have permission. I remember the first time I kind of like viscerally felt this kind of energy and that I had to ask permission was when I was playing volleyball, actually beach volleyball with the brothers and sisters at a beach near Deer Park Monastery. So it’s sand, it’s a beach, and all of the brothers and sisters, they knew how to dive and go after the volleyball. And, you know, every time you dive you, you land flat. And I had such a protective instinct I couldn’t allow myself to fall. No matter, you know, what I did, even I couldn’t allow myself to fall. And so I stood there for a moment and I said, ‘It’s perfectly safe, you know, we are in a very soft, sandy beach, you can fall. You can fall.’ And then I was like, ‘Can I get permission to fall?’ You know, so I was really talking to this protective instinct. And sure enough, after a few minutes, I was able to, I was able to dive for the ball and allow myself to fall. Before that, I’ve been playing volleyball for quite a few years already with the brothers and sisters, and I just could never do it. And that one day I observed, oh, everybody’s just allowing themselves to fall flat. You know, at first it was like, ‘Oh, everybody’s allowing themselves to be injured, you know?’ So that was my first kind of like experience with talking to this protective mechanism in me, and seeing how strong the desire to protect myself is, whether it’s my body, my feelings, my perceptions, my thinking etc. So every time I need to look deeply into something or I feel like I’m running away from something. And sometimes I can’t recognize what it is that I’m running away from, actually, because it’s so, it’s so skillful at hiding and not allowing me to see what it is I need to, what I’m suffering from. So for instance, just last year, I spent a lot of time kind of like learning languages just… And it was a sort of running away. I knew that, I knew that I was using language learning as a method of running away from some, I just, you know, I just felt I was running away from something, but I wasn’t very clear on what it is and I was running away from yet. But I just… it was almost like an addiction learning language for me, just this last year. And then I spent some time just saying, just talking to myself, ‘Yes, I know I’m running away from something. I know I am, you know, there’s things that are… I’m not so happy with right now. Would you allow me to look into it? Would you allow me to be with it?’ And I had to talk, I had to have these conversations with myself for a while before I was able to actually recognize what what it was that I was really suffering from and to really be able to to have it like come up to my mind, consciousness clearly enough that I could call it by its true name, like recognize it and say, ‘Oh, that that’s… So this is what I’ve been suffering from.’ So sometimes you, you know, it’s very automatic, the pleasure seeking, the pleasure seeking. We don’t know what it is we’re suffering from yet, so I think it’s quite important to have this, develop this relationship, and learn how to speak to ourselves in such a way that we have, we develop a relationship that will allow like more flow, more circulation in our consciousness, and then some suffering that needs to surface and that needs to come up so that we can look into it… But for me, I feel like manas does such a good job of protecting anyways, that when I’m ready it will automatically know when I’m ready to look into something. But my job is to not get lost in the consumption or the pleasure seeking or… And my job is just to make some space to download, you know, messages of safety or that I’m strong enough or, et cetera, like to kind of reassure that it’s OK. But I know that, you know, when, when it’s time for me to look into something, it will come up, when I’m ready.

01:14:35

Such a profound thing you just said, I just want to just refocus on in a moment, because what often happens is that we also seek pleasure in order to beat ourselves up and because we often have our inner critic often at war with ourselves. And so, you know, we act in something, then we feel shame and then we feel we’re bad people. And so… And then we get in the cycle when then we want to consume even more. And what you said was so profound because you said what essentially you are saying is ‘if I show compassion to myself, if I show patience to myself, if I deeply listen to myself’, so all the things we normally try to do for other people, but often find it very difficult to do it for ourselves. But if we do that for ourselves, then actually we are becoming our friend rather than an inner critic, we’re an inner lover. We’re someone who’s learning to love ourselves, appreciate ourselves, recognize the suffering, and be there for ourselves. And so, in a sense, it’s our own self healing. It’s not… Someone else can’t heal us.

01:15:44

Yeah, yeah.

01:15:45

Something else can’t heal us, but we can heal ourselves.

01:15:49

So, so the other part of practicing with manas, so first I say ‘Hello!’, I recognize how it works when I want to, you know, when I’m pleasure seeking or when I’m running away from suffering, or when I’m ignoring the law of moderation. Or, you know, when I’m in survival mode, when my survival instincts have been triggered. So the first, the part of the first part of the practice for me is just to recognize it. But the second part relates to what you just shared too, is that I actually am learning how to be grateful for it, to say thank you, thank you, manas. Like even when I’m pleasure seeking because I know that I’m trying to protect something, I’m trying to run away from something in order to protect something as well. So now I’m learning how to say, ‘OK, well, thank you.’ Maybe it’s not so necessary right now. Yeah, thank you anyways. Thank you for protecting me, but maybe I don’t need protection right now. I can look into this, or I don’t need this kind of pleasure seeking. I don’t need this kind of.. I don’t need this right now.

01:17:11

Yeah.

01:17:12

But thank you anyways. So I’m learning how to to be grateful to the different ways in which I am protecting myself. Yeah.

01:17:22

And often when we’re protecting ourselves, we’re increasing suffering because if we face the suffering, we realize it’s never quite as bad as we think it is.

01:17:31

Yeah.

01:17:32

And as we were talking, sister, reminded me of once when I was at the Guardian and I was running, I was news editor of the business and finance section, and there was someone who kept on criticizing me, one of the… He was the the most senior reporter, and I always felt he was judging me badly for the story choices I was making, in the way I presented the pages. And it was really getting under my skin. I was angry. I was feeling upset. I was feeling belittled…. My mind was going into overdrive. And then one day I thought, I just need to face this because I was using it to judge him, I was using it to also to judge myself, ‘Well, maybe he’s right and you know, all this, all the way our mind works.’ And I just asked him for a meeting, and I just sat in a room with him and I said, ‘This is how I’m feeling. I’m feeling judged. I’m feeling that you’re belittling me. This is what’s coming up for me.’ And he was so apologetic. He said, ‘Look, I’m so sorry. This was not my intention at all. You know, I, I think, you know…’ We had a long chat and he became my best friend and my best supporter. And in every meeting, if there was a challenging situation, he would speak up for me. And it was such a powerful example that actually, often when we face something, it’s never as bad. I always say this, I imagine this famous cartoon I once saw of a dark room, and on the shadow of the wall is this huge monster, and you think this huge monster’s… And you want to run. But when you turn and face it, it’s a little mouse just in front of a lamp, so it’s casting this huge shadow. But actually, it’s just a small mouse. And I think this attempt to run away from our suffering creates suffering. And when we face our suffering, and the way out is in, as you say, the name of this podcast, then we can actually find happiness and joy. Actually, by going through, I think most people feel they’ll get lost in the suffering that they won’t be able to handle. It will be too much for them. But actually, when we face it and go rather than get lost in it, we go through it, on the other side of the suffering is our joy, is our happiness. And we can’t bypass it. And it’s so hard in this modern society to really have the support to do that, because, as you said, there are so many pressures on us to consume, to look for fool’s gold. So, sister, just one final question. Just remind me, how many years have you been a nun?

01:20:10

Since 2003.

01:20:12

Wow. So 19 years.

01:20:14

Something like that.

01:20:15

So, with everything you’ve said, how would you describe the difference you see in yourself, from the person from 20 years ago to the person you’re now? How would you characterize that sort of shift, and how it’s… And the impact it’s had on your life?

01:20:37

I’m neither the same nor different. I guess. It doesn’t… Well, when I first became a nun, I had no idea I was going to live this kind of life, actually, because when I first entered the monastery, of course, I had so many ideas about monastic life, what it is and what it isn’t, etc. And then being a nun every single day, my ideas about what being a nun is or what practice is, what kind of person I am, it’s just constantly being challenged all the time. Every day I have… I find I have to remove or dismantle one idea or another that I have about myself or the life of a nun, the life of community, what Plum Village is even. And I think that aspect has continued to this day. So even after 19 years, I still feel every single day I have to remove some kind of idea that I have about about myself, or about the monastery, or about the practice, or about what engagement is or isn’t, etc. So many different ideas. But if I think of it like that, then I feel maybe my bodhicitta is still meaning, you know, the Beginner’s Mind, is still alive since this practice is still very much alive. So I guess I had to be be thankful, and be thankful for that. And it seems every day there’s something new, new to to practice, to practice with…. Anyhow, I do love being in this community, being with you, and being with the brothers and sisters, et cetera. Yeah.

01:22:42

Lovely. Dear sister, thank you so much for joining us today and for sharing your wisdom.

01:22:48

Thank you.

01:22:50

And sister, in Phap Huu’s absence it would be lovely if you could give us a short guided meditation just to ground ourselves and come back to the present moment.

01:23:06

So, dear listeners, right now, we will practice a short, guided meditation. You might like to do this in a quiet place, or somewhere you can feel you can close your eyes and relax your body, sit still for a few moments. And we can just simply close our eyes and allow the words to do its job. Breathing in, I’m aware of my inbreath. Breathing out, I’m aware of outbreath. In, out. Breathing in, I bring my attention to my body. Breathing out, I relax my whole body. In this moment, I feel relaxed in my body. In this moment, I feel safe in my body. Breathing in, I smile to the thoughts that are rising in me. Breathing in, I’m aware of the thoughts that are rising in me. Breathing out, I smile to the thoughts that are arising in me. Aware of thoughts, smiling to thoughts. It’s OK for my thoughts to be there. Smiling to them, relaxing in their presence, and feeling safe in my thinking. Breathing in, I’m aware of the feelings in me. Breathing out, I smile to the feelings that are happening in me. Aware of feelings. Smiling to feelings. Feeling safe to feelings. Feeling safe with feelings. Breathing in, I embrace myself in my entirety. I embrace all that I am. Breathing out, I smile a smile of gratitude to all that I am, including the birds, the sky, the white clouds, the squirrels, the sunshine, the water, my neighbors, my friends, my roommates, my community. Smiling with love to all that I am. My pain, my difficulties, my joy, my sorrow, my peace and happiness. Smiling with love and gratitude. So, dear friends, you can open your eyes now. Thank you so much for practicing with us this short guided meditation and for joining us in the podcast today.

01:29:41

And dear listeners, we hope you’ve enjoyed this episode, and if you would like to hear more you can find The Way Out Is In on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, on other platforms that share podcasts, and also on our own Plum Village App. And the podcast has been brought to you with the support of the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation.

01:30:32

The way out is in.


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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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