The Way Out Is In / Befriending Our Habits (Episode #44)

Br Pháp Hữu, Jo Confino


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Welcome to episode 44 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 the first podcast recording of 2023, the presenters – Zen Buddhist monk Brother Phap Huu and journalist Jo Confino – discuss habits, both the positive ones that help us lead better lives, but also those that can cause us harm and make our lives difficult. Both presenters share negative and positive habits, and the difficulties of transformation. 

Can you guess the negative habit both presenters have in common? And how can we transform our negative habits and bring more positive habits into our lives? Is it possible to truly transform at the base? How important is friendship in facing our habits? Also, what is ‘shining the light’ and how can this Plum Village practice help us? 

Brother Phap Huu shares on the topic of the most recent practice of shining the light during the annual Rains Retreat; rushing energy; generosity; dealing with inferiority complexes and accepting ourselves; folding clothes; mirroring each other’s transformation of habits; the interbeing of the community; and collective awakening through individuals’ positive habits. And what did Thich Nhat Hanh mean by “happiness is a habit”?

Jo delves into sharing the light for lay practitioners; seeing the best in people and watering people’s positive flowers; cultivating awareness; speed, chasing deadlines, and rushing as a way of life; inherited habits; fear of humiliation; and the interbeing of complexes. And what happens when you look deeply at just one bad habit?  

The episode ends with a short meditation guided by Brother Phap Huu.


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

‘Shining the Light’
https://www.parallax.org/mindfulnessbell/article/shining-the-light/

How to Take Care of the Habit Energy of Worrying https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jANxd6YGdAA 

‘Home Practices for the Rains Retreat’
https://plumvillage.org/articles/home-practices-for-the-rains-retreat/ 

The Four Noble Truths
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy-RI3FrdGA  

‘The Five Mindfulness Trainings’
https://plumvillage.org/mindfulness/the-5-mindfulness-trainings/ 

The Seven Factors of Awakening
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Factors_of_Awakening 

Beginning Anew: Four Steps to Restoring Communication
https://plumvillage.org/books/beginning-anew/ 

The Way Out Is In: ‘Deep Reflection: The Calligraphy of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh’
https://plumvillage.org/podcast/deep-reflection-the-calligraphy-of-zen-master-thich-nhat-hanh-episode-23/ 

The Way Out Is In: ‘Free from Views in a Polarized Wold’ 
https://plumvillage.org/podcast/free-from-views-in-a-polarized-world-episode-36/


Quotes

“Happiness is a habit.”

“Thay always says suffering and happiness go together, so don’t be so blinded by suffering without recognizing happiness. And don’t be so confident about happiness that we forget that if we don’t take care of our happiness, suffering will come.” 

“It’s a beautiful meditation to look into our habits, because you can go into the history of it and know yourself more.” 

“Happiness is a habit in this particular practice; knowing the goodness in the here and now.”

“When we enter the monastery for a retreat, there’s one habit that we invite everyone to practice, and it’s probably very new to someone who has never had any introduction to Buddhism or spirituality: stopping when you hear the sound of the bell. This is a habit that we have introduced to hundreds of thousands of people. And this habit brings out awareness in us. So, in my training, before reviewing and transforming my negative habits, I try to cultivate good habits first.” 

“If you do a lot of good things, you don’t have time to do bad things.”

“Underneath our greatest problem is our greatest gift.”

“Meditation is a habit. Meditation is not sitting in a temple, meditation is having moments where you connect to yourself. You allow yourself to be in stillness, you allow your mind to have a break. Bring it to oneness with an action. Walking, sitting, mindful breathing, enjoying a cup of tea, enjoying a cup of coffee; these snippet-moments can be wonderful habits that we can all create for ourselves.” 

“None of us is 100% perfect, but collectively we are forests that have leaves. Some trees offer flowers, some trees offer fruits. And all of us offer shade together. A sangha, sometimes we call it a forest. So don’t be so focused on just one tree. One tree may not be so strong and may not change the world, but one whole forest is a different story.”

“With our thoughts, we create the world.”

“Understanding the causes of my suffering has given me a route out of it. And if I had not gone into my suffering, I could never have found happiness.” 

“A real friend is someone with the courage to point out your shortcomings.”

“Offering guidance to another is offering guidance to ourselves.”

“Once there is seeing, there must be action. Otherwise, what’s the use of seeing?”

00:00:00

Welcome back, dear listeners, to this latest episode of the podcast The Way Out Is In.

00:00:22

I am Jo Confino, working at the intersection of personal transformation and systems evolution.

00:00:28

And I am Brother Phap Huu, a Zen Buddhist monk, a student of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, in the Plum Village tradition.

00:00:35

And this is our first podcast of 2023. Happy New Year, brother!

00:00:41

Happy New Year, Jo! And Happy New Year, everyone listening to this podcast.

00:00:45

Absolutely. And today, brother, we are going to be talking about habits because they say we are creatures of habits. And some habits are positive, they help us to lead better lives, but a lot of our habits can actually cause us harm or actually make our lives more difficult. So we’re going to be looking at this episode of how we can transform our negative habits and how we can bring more positive habits into our lives.

00:01:17

The way out is in.

00:01:30

I am Jo Confino.

00:01:32

And I am Brother Phap Huu.

00:01:34

And, brother, welcome back to 2023. We are sitting in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Sitting Still hut in Plum Village, south west of France. And it’s a very calm day. It’s been very misty, but also very quiet. So this is a good way to start the year with a sort of a moment of quiet. Brother, we’re here to talk about habits today. And I know that for me, when you, because you just mentioned yesterday, we passed each other, you said, let’s talk about habits tomorrow. And all my negative habits started coming up. I started sort of thinking of all these things that I get stuck in. And then I asked my wife, and then she produced this long list and I had to stop after a while because I thought, you know, enough already, enough, please, stop. So we all have negative habits. And often at the new year, we make commitments to change, and often we don’t follow through that because actually it’s very difficult to change. So, brother, what inspired you to think of this as the topic for today?

00:02:40

What inspired me was I took time near the end of the year to just sit and just to reflect on 2022, because 2022 has been a very big year for me personally and then for Plum Village monastics, Plum Village followers, as well as anyone who knows of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, because our teacher passed at the beginning of the year, January 22nd, 2022. And I just felt like so much has happened through the year that I just wanted to take a moment to look back. And we have this practice in Plum Village we call it shining light. And when we say shining light, what is our light? Mindfulness, awareness. And we projected unto us an object. And for me, I want it to reveal myself, like I don’t have to review what happened because that is a history, like I can talk about it, but I want to see how I have shifted in the here. And just like you, Jo, like the first thing that I recognized was Iike I look at my negative habits first, it’s just so natural for me to, like, be very critical with oneself. And I did look at some habits that I truly want to transform in the coming year. And why do I have these habits? And that was my question, that was my meditation. And then I wanted to look at the good habits that are there because in Buddhism or in the teachings of our teacher, Thay, always says suffering and happiness they go together, so don’t be so blinded by just suffering and without recognizing happiness. And then don’t be so confident about happiness and forgetting that if we don’t take care of our happiness, suffering will come. So that was the reason. And yes, I guess like let’s just talk about each other’s habits. It’d be fun. So I get to know you more.

00:04:53

Oh. So this is a bit of a challenge, brother. And it’s so interesting you say, because I didn’t even think about my positive habits, I just went immediately to thinking oh, god, what have I, what are my negative habits and why have I been unable to transform them? So maybe we could start off with talking about maybe one habit that we’re maybe not so happy about. And also, given your very positive intervention, one that maybe we think supports us. So, brother, why don’t you begin?

00:05:27

Of course, the monk goes first. Okay, so a habit that has been very alive in me and I see how it affects my daily action, so habit in body, speech, and mind. So this one, it comes from more of an energy, I would say, and it’s rushing. And this rushing energy had been so alive in 2022. Definitely when I’m in a context of listening to somebody ask questions, whether it is the Dharma, whether it is work, whether it is about survival as a practitioner, as a monastic, and then the instinct of like wanting to help or wanting to give an answer. And I just see myself leaping before somebody ends their sharing. And as I was sitting near the end of 2022, I was like, Wow, I did that a few times. And particularly like there was a conversation, we had some friends, and I talked about someone without them knowing that I would talk about them. And I don’t know if it was in my place to share, even if it was watering their good flowers, because sometimes people like to be anonymous or people like to be humble. And I’ve just been recognizing, like this leaping energy of not being aware of what’s happening around, like to be more considerate sometimes. So this has been very alive in me and it starts with conversation. I recognize I don’t wait for people to finish, sometimes, and I interject my opinion right away. But then I’m like, Yeah, but please, keep talking. And I’m just like, Why did I just do that? And then it trickles into my service because I like things to be done quick, mindfully, quick. But one of the things that Thay has instructed me, was like to entrust more into my community, and because of this rushing energy, I also feel like I push some of my fellow Sangha members in doing work or doing service. And then the same thing when it comes to relationships. Like I expect things to be better, like I guess it has created another habit which is like hearing something that is not so beautiful. And then I would like to make it beautiful right away. Yeah, but that person is also like this. And then I just realize, like, why don’t I give give space for things to be also. And it’s okay when they’re suffering, it’s okay when it’s a mess, it’s okay when it’s not that great. And then have time to care for it rather than like to push it aside, Oh, yeah, let’s not talk about it because things are right there also, you know. And so I feel like this rushing energy has been very alive in me. And maybe coming back to it is to say the fear of, the root of it, the fear that we’re going to continue Thay, we’re going to continue this legacy of Plum Village. Nobody is going to bring us down, even though our founder has passed away, they need to hear a voice, they need to make sure the world needs to know that we are here. You know? And I think like this fear of being left out, and I’m sure it has connection to even my childhood. I wrote in my journal, was like, why do I rush? And I said, oh, do I want to be heard? Is it fear of being left out? Is it inferiority complex, equality complex, or even being superior? Because I want to be heard. And I just recognized that during my childhood, like my mom and dad were such hard workers, first generation in the U.S.. They had two jobs a day and they would work, work, work. So every time I come home, nobody was there. And so just to be heard was something really big. So our weekends were really big, like we would go to Burger King together and enjoy a whopper. But that moment of being together, talking, sharing, asking how we are, like I felt so included. And I think that little child of not being heard is still being transformed now, like in 2023. So it’s a beautiful meditation to look into our habits because you can go down the history of it and then you can know yourself more. And there was a moment I was just like, Whoa, I thought, I have transformed this, but here it is. And I can smile to it now. Yeah. So that’s something. How about you, Jo?

00:11:19

Oh, so we’re doing the negatives first?

00:11:20

Yeah. Let’s go on the negatives first.

00:11:22

So, brother, who could imagine that I was going to say pretty much exactly what you were going to say? So my habit that I think is negative is also rushing, doing things at speed. And I had this insight, brother, as I was walking from our house to do this recording, that actually that was at the root cause of actually many of my bad habits. So to give you an example, so one of the things I do is I tend to be impatient and then become short tempered. So to give you an example, my wife, Paz, she’s dyslexic, and so sometimes she doesn’t do things in the way that I would like them to be done. And I get frustrated. And so even though I know she’s dyslexic and I know that actually I love her for her dyslexia, because actually it allows her, it shows up in all sorts of amazing creative ways and beautiful ways of seeing the world that are not mainstream. But I still continue to be frustrated when she doesn’t do things that I think are simple and should be done in a certain way. And then also I realized that I drive fast and again, you know, my wife, Paz, she hates it when I drive fast, especially round corners and she feels a bit can feel carsick. And yet I know that, but it’s in me that I just, if I were to drive at the speed that she would love, it would drive me crazy. And so I was thinking about sort of that and other aspects of, you know, speed and realizing that at the root of it was very similar to you, this feeling of… How best to describe this feeling of there’s not enough. And I need to always be on the lookout for things. I think growing up, I feel I was a bit like a social butterfly that I would go to one flower, which might be a group of people or a friend or whoever, looking for some nectar to suck up. But if there’s nothing there I would just quickly go to the next flower. So in a sense, my the speed was always wherever I landed, I would immediately have my antennae up to say, Can I get my needs met here? Or, if not, I’ll go somewhere else. And I realized then that actually I took on a job that was all about speed, because as a journalist for 40 years, it was all about deadlines. It was all about sort of speed, either being chased by a deadline or chasing a deadline. And so actually, my whole life was defined by looking for very quick answers, like when you’re writing, when you’re interviewing someone, a bit like brother, I didn’t want to let people finish because if they weren’t giving me the information I wanted, then I would quickly step in because I… time. You know, it wasn’t that time was money, but if I didn’t do things on time that it would fall apart. So I was always looking for people to deliver to me what I wanted rather than actually allowing people to be themselves and to express themselves. So who could have guessed it, brother? It sounds very similar, and I see how that manifests in so many ways that actually, like you, I think I’m just looking to get some need met. And when I don’t get that need met, it brings up sort of my short temper, my anger, because it’s like, meet my needs. So, Oh, dear, let’s…

00:15:15

Let’s change gears a little bit.

00:15:16

Can we edit that last section out? Let’s start off with the positive.

00:15:22

Yes.

00:15:23

So, brother, what about a positive habit or something?

00:15:26

A positive habit? I’ve learned to be very optimistic. And I have a habit and I think I inherited this from my parents, which is being generous. I always give things to my brothers and sisters and friends when I know I have more than enough. For example, sweets, gifts, socks. For some reason, mom, at the early days, always gave me socks.

00:16:06

Every mom does.

00:16:06

Yes. It’s almost like, you know, as a monk you’re always going to have cold feet or something. But very grateful to mother, sister and father for always sending these care packages in my early days as a novice. And it was just so natural for me to be generous and to share. And I know that this was inherited, like I inherited this goodness. So that’s a quality that I still have today, because that also brings up a lot of compassion in me. And now that it’s not just material is also… how can I share your suffering? Like when I do see my siblings who are going through something, I also accept like sometimes I’m powerless, like I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what to do, but can I share that with you? Like, at least that intention is there, you know, like, I want you to know that I know you’re suffering and I want to be optimistic like, okay, the Buddha teaches us everything is impermanent. There’s always a way out. So let’s take some time. And that’s a habit that I have ingrained in myself. And especially now, like… So this is connected to the good habit and the bad habit because like I love to do. Like, I always tell a community like, put me in the front line, like I want to be in the front line. Like which organizing team is missing? I’ll show up, you know, because that is a part of like giving that I feel also it talks to my inner child, like I feel seen in a way, but I can look at it from not an ego perspective, but more of like this gives me a lot of energy. So I will show up for these moments. So this habit of giving, which also trickles into action, and then people always have this comment is like, Oh, Brother Phap Huu, I know you’re very busy. And then they’re like, And how do you do it? Like, how do you have a smile when you see me and so on? And I said I’m optimistic because whatever I’m doing, I know that there’s a lot of suffering in the world, there’s a lot of difficulty. And like, who knows if we will survive another crisis as humanity, you know? But I want to do everything in this moment that I can to contribute to the goodness that I can in my capacity. So I have definitely trained that mentality in myself. But I’m also balancing it. Right? So I don’t want to be blinded by it also like I don’t want to… And I think that’s where the rushing also comes from. So just some of that reflection between in the good habits. Yeah. How about you, Jo? Good habit?

00:19:24

Good habit. So I think… So what came to my mind was I tend to see the best in people, even if I feel let down by them or I see them behaving in ways that I feel may not be appropriate or are hurtful. And I sort of always, I think I’m a bit like a puppy dog, sort of that even if the master will sort of scold it, that it will come back wagging its tail and sort of looking all sort of and just looking for to be loved, you know. So I think it’s also in the sort of good and bad, you know, there’s wanting to be loved also means that I know what it’s like to want love and to receive love. So when I receive it, it brings me so much happiness. So I think a lot of the time when I am with people, if I see them suffer or even if there’s nothing particularly going wrong, my wish is always to say something positive about them. I think I’m very perceptive of getting to the core of people and actually seeing what it is that really, really makes them alive, makes them tick. I’m able to sort of see qualities in people that I think are at the core of their being. So I get a lot of joy from actually recognizing that and then showing that I recognize that. And I know that people, you know, when, and in Plum Village it’s called sort of watering people’s positive flowers, but it could just be called a compliment. But that when I compliment people on… and it’s not just saying something for the sake of it, when I’m able to express a quality in somebody, people respond with just such a joy that, you know, you see this big smile come up and it’s like being recognized, being seen, and how hungry I think we all are for that very simple nourishment in our lives. And I just like to deliver is Iike, you know, giving someone a bouquet of flowers. But this is like a bouquet of compliments. And I think it makes a big difference in people’s lives. I think often people feel they are failing or that they are not good enough or they don’t deserve it. And so I love it just to help people, just to see what is beautiful in them, actually.

00:22:37

So, brother, on to the difficulties of transformation because, I’ll tell you, you know, what I see in myself and what I see in many other people is that often these habits are so ingrained in us.

00:22:51

Yeah.

00:22:52

And especially if they’re, as we’ve talked about from childhood patterns, they are very deep within us. And even when we become aware of them, they can be very difficult. We can think, right, we’re going to really transform this but they’re like almost, I think, of a sort of, in a sense, a weakness in the earth. You know, that when the plates move, when there’s a volcano, there’s a weakness in the earth. And as soon as there’s a movement, it will shoot up again. So that even though we may want to change that, these seem to keep cropping up. So, the question of the day, brother, you can see it coming…

00:23:31

Yes, I think I know what you’re going to add. Go for it. I’m ready. I’m ready.

00:23:35

Is it possible to truly transform at the base?

00:23:41

Yes.

00:23:42

Yay!

00:23:42

Yes.

00:23:45

And how?

00:23:46

Yes, that’s why we practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a habit that we all can cultivate. It’s the habit of coming home to the present moment, to free ourselves from our over worrying mind, our anxious mind, our storytelling mind that would tell us that we can’t change. And so to come back to the here and now and to be aware of what is happening inside of us emotionally, our feelings. What is our mind? Are we neutral? Are we pleasant? Unpleasant? The three states of mind. Where are we in this moment? So with mindfulness, we can cultivate a habit of awareness. That’s the first step. We have to have mere recognition. We have to be able to call things by its name. And the trick is to not go down this rabbit hole of being, writing like this list for Santa, like all of the naughty things that you’ve done for the year. Like don’t be so critical with oneself. It’s okay to know that, Oh man, I have a lot of shortcomings. We need to learn to accept that also. And then truly pick one, pick one for a period that you really want to transform. Normally, especially coming to a retreat like our friends who come to Plum Village for a week or for two weeks, and they feel so inspired by what they see around, about what they see in practitioners around them, or they see in the monks and nuns, or they see in Thay, those who have had the opportunity to be in his presence. So then they also become too ambitious with their transformation. And in our culture today, it’s like we want things to work so fast, like instant, like deliver it right now and or you get your money back, you know. And this kind of culture has… This is a selling point. And we have allowed this culture to enter into our own way of looking at our own transformation. And I have friends and I’ve met people who’ve gone through so many wellness trainings and so many different programs, so many different traditions also in Buddhism or in any religion. And then, when things don’t work out after two weeks, you say you quit because it didn’t offer you benefit. But I’m like, Bro, you’ve lived for 35 years, like, you can’t transform all that in two weeks. Come on, let’s be realistic. And so this energy of like a quick fix is so powerful in our culture today. So what you have explained about habit is that it’s so ingrained in us and some of it is transmitted to us, it’s from generation to generation. So when we practice mindfulness, we learn to shine our light of awareness to our action of thinking, of speaking, and of doing. And we can select a good habit that we already have and we want to continue to cultivate. Look at a habit that truly offers us joy, happiness and fulfillment as a human being. And we all have good habits just like what we just expressed, generosity, seeing goodness in people. But if we don’t keep feeding, and if we don’t keep training those habits, those habits will also die out. So looking at the negative is the same as let’s not try to transform our, okay, I’m speaking for myself, my 35 years, and to become a Buddha tomorrow. It’s not going to happen. The Buddha also went on a whole journey himself. So be more practical. Like what is that one habit that nags you? At the end of the day, you reflect on it and you say, Oh, why did I behave that way? And truly break it down. When does it show up in the day? How is it triggered? How is that habit generated? And so this is the practice of the Noble Truth in Buddhism. It’s like looking at suffering, knowing its roots, seeing the end of it, because now that you know the cause of it. But then it is the path so there needs to be some diligence, some discipline. One of the things that work for me is look at training new habits for yourself that can also have an impact to your day to day thing, to your day to day way of behaving. So when we enter into the monastery to a retreat, there’s one habit that we invite everyone to practice. And it’s probably very new to especially someone who has never had any introduction to Buddhism or spirituality, it is stopping when you listen to the sound of the bell, right? This is a habit that we have introduced to hundreds of thousands of people. And this habit, it brings out awareness in us. So in my training I have, before reviewing and transforming my negative habits, I try to cultivate good habits first. I love folding clothes for some reason.

00:30:10

You sure you want to do that in the podcast, brother?

00:30:11

I know. Please, dear friends, don’t send me your laundry.

00:30:16

I think all your brothers and sisters, they’ll start delivering boxes to your door.

00:30:22

I guess because as Thay’s attendant, that was one of the things that I truly enjoyed doing because I can keep his robe straight without ironing it. You know, when it comes out of the dryer, it’s nice and warm, and there’s something about that. And one of the first habits that I learned was folding my blankets. I never folded my blanket until I came to Plum Village because my thought was like, it’s my bed, so I’m sleeping on it. Nobody needs to see my bedroom. So when I go to school and I come back, I’m going to sleep in it again. So what’s the point of folding the blanket? But living in a community such as Plum Village, especially being trained to become a monk, suddenly was put with 11 other men, and we were taught to live in harmony and to see that our surrounding is also the landscape of our minds. So learning every morning to fold your blanket, so that was a new habit I was cultivating. Learning to be more gentle in bodily movement, because you’re living with 11 other people. So if you’re going to wake up in the middle of the night and you need to use a restroom, be considerate. So these were new habits that I was training. So it’s easier to train new habits. And then when you have like a set of good habits, meditation is to look at yourself, is to have time to review. So I did started to review myself and look at the habits that was bothering me. And one of it was like, I can’t, I couldn’t quiet down, like sleeping was very tough because I was such an active, young person. And I love wherever the noise is, I follow it. So learning, ah, that’s why I can’t sleep so peacefully, even though I was a very easy sleeper. But I had so much dream and not saying that dreams are bad, but like, it’s like how busy my mind was, and I started to learn to really practice noble silence, like follow the schedule of the community and then applying it for oneself. Yeah.

00:32:42

So, brother, I just want to track back a bit because there was a lot in what you said. And so when I was a young man and sort of around the age of, I think around 30, so, you know, younger than you, and I started getting involved in self-development work. And I had this idea to begin with that if only I could sort out my problems, then they would, you know, I understood them and I healed them, they would go away and I would never have to deal with them again. And subsequently I realized a lot of people start off with this idea that you actually need to get rid of them and that if you understand them. And then because it’s so hard to get rid of them, people actually feel that they’re failing. And so one of the things I heard in what you said is often we use our failure to change our habits, to confirm our bad habits, that we’re not good enough, that actually if we can’t change our habits, then actually we don’t deserve to be recognized, we don’t deserve this. So actually, we use the inability to change as a way of berating ourselves. And I think, as you said, a lot of people, they write the list and they think I should transform them all, which is a guarantee of failure. And I see that on the other side of it. I saw there was someone who came to Plum Village not so long ago who was so sort of entranced by the practice that I remember he came out at the end before he left and he said, Wow, and he wrote down this list of ten things he was going to change. And I said, Brother, that is a guarantee of failure because actually, the truth is you’re not going to do all those ten. And then you’ll probably just say, Oh, well, look, you know, as you say, it doesn’t work.

00:34:36

Yeah.

00:34:38

And I said to him, Just choose one. Because the other thing, brother, maybe you can talk a little bit about, is in the one is all right. So in a sense that sort of idea I had as I was walking up here, that actually while there are many manifestations of what I consider my negative habits, actually, they emanate from one place. So if I focus in one place, then it’s likely that the change will happen outside, in many forms, rather than seeing it as a sort of many-headed hydra that I have to attack. So can you talk about the sort of interbeing…

00:35:15

Yeah.

00:35:17

How we get to the base of things.

00:35:18

Yeah. And I want to emphasize on what you just said, that habits, it’s not about getting rid of it because we are made of actions. So there are habits that, like I shared, are transmitted to us, that we are doing it without even knowing. And then if we suddenly allow ourselves to be more aware of it, it gives us an opportunity to transform it into a different habit. So look at it as continuation of action. So bringing the mud, transforming it into a lotus. And if you do a lot of good things, you don’t have time to do bad things. So coming to what you just shared, the one contains to all, that is so true because when we learn to come home to ourselves and to reflect on ourselves and look at our history and we can be so overwhelmed by the stories and the negativity and that you don’t even know where to start. But if you just go and you just select one that has immediate impact today and you start working on it, when you are transforming and you’re looking deeply at one habit, suddenly it will start to affect your whole state of mind. It will affect your whole way of speaking. It will train yourself to show up differently. Inferiority. I had a huge complex of inferiority. I am a very small person and I was always the smallest in my class, so I was always treated as a cute little child. And sometimes it felt great. I felt very loved. But then sometimes I felt like I’m never, ever going to be someone who anyone can rely on because that was what people viewed me as. And fast forward into monastic training and to enter into the community, I had this complex also, and it shows up through my way of being in groups. I would shrink just very naturally without the community asking anything from me. I just felt not seen, and I don’t want to be seen because I’m scared of being seen, even though I want to be seen. You see? Like your own complex creates such a rabbit hole for yourself. And you lose energy. And then I start to think, Oh, when that person looked at me, what were they thinking? And then you create this perception, and this perception becomes your truth of what people think of you, right? So one thing that I really had to work on was whenever we enter the streets, and this was like the early 2000, so I ordained in 2002 in France. In the towns Bergerac, and Bordeaux, and Sainte-Foy-la-Grande, you know, like there wasn’t many Asians and there wasn’t monks known. Like today we’re more known, people know Village des Pruniers is Plum Village is somewhere in this region. But back then it’s like whenever they see us in the street, like the way they would look at us was… It was very overwhelming for me. It was like they saw an alien. And because I’ve already had this complex, it added salt to the wound. So I would lower my eyes, I wouldn’t even look in people’s eyes and I would just ignore people because that was my way of dealing with a complex and that becomes a habit. So I really wanted to change my presence. And so one of the things I realized we have these circle sharings in Plum Village, Dharma sharing. And whenever I would share, I would never look at the community. I would only look down, look on the floor and share. And what happens is I would go on and on and on without knowing what people would think, because I don’t allow myself to look at people’s faces. So the one contains all of my action. And so I had to break free from this inferiority complex and to tell my little child inside learn to accept yourself. Wear this robe of freedom. This is the gatha, like when we put it on, we say, this is the robe of freedom. I’m like, But I don’t feel free because I think too much of how people see me. And then I had to start to talk to my own judgment. And the more that I was accepting myself, I became more gentle with myself, I allowed myself to look at people, I allowed myself to feel shame when I did something wrong. But then I know that it’s okay because I’m going to transform. And then to see how much I have grown within a span of, you know, six months, nine months. Like now that every time I share, I can look at people and still have the habit to look down. But it’s okay, I’m making progress. So when you truly see one habit that has such impact and you start to work on it, you can be with it for years and it will trickle within your day to day life. And I start to see that, oh, I can show up with more confidence. I know how to become aware of my body. So what you shared, what you asked, Jo, was like the one contains all, like I think that example of inferiority complex for me has a huge impact on how I show up, how I speak, how I love, how I understand. And it also allows me, because I’ve experienced it, so now I can use this inferiority complex that I have and I’ve transform, I believe, a great deal, but from time to time it still comes up. But I can accept it, I can smile to it, I can actually take his hand and say, It’s okay. Like your mind is your own judgment. Like, people probably have better things to think about than about you. Right? And I can bring ease to my own inferiority complex.

00:42:56

So, brother, you speak something very important here that I’m hearing because, you know, Thay, one of his calligraphy is No mud, no lotus. And what I think a lot of people do and, in sense, we’ve used that term in this podcast, of good or bad, which sometimes is not helpful because actually if we think a habit is bad, then what we tend to do is either try and get rid of it quickly or deny it because we don’t want it to show up, we don’t want to be sort of seen to be it. But actually the answer’s always the way out is in, because if we try to push it away or deny its existence or sort of try and sort of just pretend it’s not there, then actually firstly we give it more power, because what you deny and what you try to hide actually gains power. But also the answer is in, is in the issue, is in the habit. And to give an example, when, you know, I think as we do this podcast, I’m learning more and more that actually we have some things which are quite similar. So I was also quite short for my age and I had this sort of real feeling of humiliation that I hid away from life because I always had this fear of humiliation. And then someone once told me that underneath our greatest problem is our greatest gift. And what I realized, a bit like what you were saying, brother, that if I recognize that actually my greatest fear was humiliation is because I’d felt humiliation. So if I actually turn that around and say, I know what it is to be humiliated, and so actually I know what it’s like, I don’t have to hide away from it because I’ve already experienced it. So actually, what would happen if I actually turned it upside down and actually said, I can be courageous because I already know what it’s like to be humiliated. And actually just that sort of innocence, it was an insight, actually, shared and someone shared it with me. And then I sort of really saw it that actually I can be courageous, I can actually be at the forefront because what can possibly go wrong is that I’d get it wrong and I might feel humiliation. But I know what that’s like, it doesn’t harm me anymore. And it actually allowed me to completely come out of my shell and actually take risks and be courageous. And, as you say, you know, be at the foreground and say, actually, if in these doing, I’m up for it, because actually I realized all that fear of humiliation was actually hiding my strength, hiding my courage. But if I just sort of always try to hide it away, then I would never have got the insight. So I think that what I hear you saying is actually the mindfulness isn’t I’m mindful of it and therefore I’ll push down, but I become friends with it. And I think one of the things that we often do is we fail to recognize that what we term negative or weak or whatever actually is part of us. It is in us. And if we deny it, then actually we are denying a part of ourselves. And I think one of the things that I’ve been practicing with recently, and I’m not sure how consciously, but it’s sort of been coming to me, is to welcome in my weaknesses, is to say actually there a part of me, they have helped me to build my understanding of life. In Thay’s words, you know, by understanding my suffering, by understanding the causes of my suffering, has given me a route out of my suffering. And if I had not gone into my suffering, I could never have found the happiness. And I hear that very much in you as well, brother.

00:47:11

Yeah. And I think what we talked about was the core, the base, and also doing things daily can help nourish our transformation of the base. So I was also allowing myself, like you said, to be a little bit more courageous, to transform the root of suffering, which is like I would put myself more in places where I have to speak because it is a training to tell the inferiority complexes that I have, that it’s okay, it’s okay to use your words. It’s okay to shake in front of 30 people. It’s okay to even like stutter when you’re getting so nervous because if I’m never going to do this, then when will this transformation from the base happen? So once you see it, there needs to be action. And this is where our daily life, how we start to paint our day has an impact on the transformation of habits. Because what are habits? Habits are actions that come from our way that we perceive ourselves consciously or not consciously. And once you start to see your habits that you want to transform, you have to start to create conditions to support the transformation and the growth. So we also have to recognize the good habits, such as what we talked about, the good habit, that generosity. Because if you only focus on your negative, you also become… you will become a victim of yourself. You won’t allow yourself to grow because the inferiority complex will take over. So our interbeing even of complexes can be a meditation. It’s easy to break things down. In Buddhism, we love numbers like The Four Noble Truths, The Seven Factors of Awakening, The Five Mindfulness Trainings, and we have a number for everything. But the core of Buddhist insight is right view, which is to be free from all views, to see the interconnectedness of everything. But it is helpful to categorize things in order to have clarity. So once we see, we start to have to apply, and this is why in Asia sometimes we talk about spirituality as the path. We call it a path because we have to create a path for us, for transformation. And Thay has this calligraphy and it is like a Zen stick, and it goes like this, and I love it. And I need to write it because, like, this is what I need now. It goes, If there’s not action, what is the point of seeing? And I think all of us can meditate on this quote because I am sure we have said so many times to ourselves, I’m not going to do this again. Or tomorrow I’m going to be different. But we don’t condition ourselves to have transformation, and that’s why we have to train new habits, because sometimes something is old, is harder to change. But while you are doing newer things, it will have an impact on the things that we have been carrying. And one of our training as a monastic is actually we have to take care of our physical health as part of our schedule. We have to exercise, we have to… Thay even wrote in one of his books to us, he says, I want all of you to sweat at least once a day because health is everything. If you’re not healthy, you can’t practice. If you’re not healthy, you cannot be a part of the community, you cannot follow the schedule, which will then bring in complexes. You feel not a part of the journey, not a part of the community, etc., etc., etc.. And I know that exercise for me has become such a wonderful way to also be free from this stillness that we live in, in Plum Village. Sometimes, like I sit so much, from the sitting sessions to the nonstop meetings, to consultations, to the wonderful tea sessions of richness in conversation. But there’s so much like just sitting. And when I’m able to move my body, like this is, especially coming back to Plum Village in 2016, like going into fifth gear as abbot, because now Thay wasn’t able to speak and wasn’t able to lead the way he did in the past. Like, suddenly, all of us we had to do so much more, like planning for our Dharma talk, at the same time welcoming, you know, 200 people on arrival day, and then checking in with the CTC, which is the care-taking council, the engine of the community. And then you can be so overwhelmed. And one of the good habit was exercise. That was when I felt like I can release energies in me, my frustration, my anger, my annoyance, and let it sweat. Right. And then, when I’m able to do that, that becomes my daily food and that nourishes my sitting, that nourishes my being with people. And so generating and creating habits that are not directly involving, we can say, our transformation at the base of a habit that we really want to work on still has an impact. And meditation is a habit. Please, dear friends, meditation is not sitting in a temple, meditation is having moments where you connect to yourself. You allow yourself to be in stillness, you allow your mind to have a break. Bring it to oneness with an action. Walking, sitting, mindful breathing, enjoying a cup of tea, enjoying a cup of coffee, like these snippet moments can be wonderful habits that we all can create for ourselves.

00:54:22

And as you say, it’s not to think of a habit as just something negative, which is our mind. Because I think Thay said happiness is a habit. So what did he mean by that, brother?

00:54:37

Happiness is a habit it means for me, at least, right now, it means to see the wonders that are there in life. We have a view of what happiness is, and I think the mainstream view of it is like success, right? Like having money to be sustainable for ourselves and then money to help others. And we think that is success. We think that is happiness. And we strive all of our energies to do that. But in Buddhism and in Zen, especially when Thay talks about happiness, it is the happiness in the present moment. If we take a pause and we take a break from our running after our success and we see like, Wow, I have a house to live in. I have fresh drinking water. That is joy. I have electricity. I have food. My eyes are still in good conditions. I can go for a hike and enjoy a sunset. Like these are the happiness that can become a habit, to recognize the goodness in the here and now, in the midst of suffering. This is not denying. This is not pushing away suffering. We’re not blinding ourselves with happiness, but it can give us strength, and then to go into the darkness where it needs light. So it’s like a car needs fuel to drive, it needs energy. Whatever we are doing, we need fuel in order to offer. If I don’t have enough happiness, my presence ain’t that great. Jo, you don’t want to be with me when I’m not that happy. And the habit that I can have is when I know that I don’t have enough well-being, I don’t want to show up, and I don’t want to push myself where I can create a mess. But then I can also look at myself, say, I don’t have enough happiness, I need to generate happiness. Thay sees it as a challenge for us. He said, a practitioner has to know how to generate joy and happiness every day. And Thay said, Thay did this during the war. You, my children, my students, you’re living in quite a peaceful environment, so please don’t think it is impossible. And I remember Thay said that like all of us, young ones, we got goosebumps and we just looked at each other and we’re like, Let’s all just smile right now. Let’s like, let’s be happy. But that, a smile is a training. And one of my counter, my counter to my inferiority complex is with strangers like looking at me weirdly in the street was learning to smile. I’m like, All right, if you’re going to look at me weirdly, I’m going to smile to you. And later on I would even walk down the streets like, especially when I would go on home visits, like every two years we were given permission to have a home visit, or three years, or four years, depending on the monastic. And we’re out of our monastic environment where people are not practitioners and I’m going to receive so many looks. So I started to ask them, how are you? And, you know, most of the time people are very automatic, I’m fine and then go on. And from time to time I would actually get someone to stop and say, Wow, thank you for asking. And somehow we enter into some kind of conversation and very quick like, Oh, what are you? And then this kind of like training I gave myself was also addressing my inferiority complexes. And so happiness is a habit in this particular practice, knowing the goodness in the here and now.

00:59:23

Thank you, brother, beautifully spoken. We also need good friends to point out our habits, because a lot of our habits we are blinded to. We all have our blind spots, and, as you said, sometimes we don’t know the way we’re behaving. As you said, sometimes things are transmitted to us. I know that my lability sometimes to be short tempered, I very much saw and learned from my father. And so I just want to talk about, you started off to talk about shining the light, and there are practices within Plum Village which help to show up these blind spots and help people to recognize what may be going on that they might not be aware of. I know that one practice, which we’ve talked about in a previous episode when I was here with my wife, Paz, was, you know, beginning a new practice once a week where part of the practice is watering flowers is […], but part of it is showcasing what it is that the other person may have behaved in a way that could be hurtful or whatever. And that is a very powerful practice in terms of showing up habits and actually showing that they often come up, it’s not once, but actually they come up repeatedly. So that’s one practice. But within Plum Village, you also have shining the light practice. Do you want to tell us about how that helps in this process of showcasing what maybe needs addressing and how that might be done?

01:01:01

Yes. What you pointed out at the beginning, we all need friends. That is so important. And a real friend is someone that has the courage to point out your shortcoming. So if somebody who you consider a friend tells you that you have a temper or you should work on this, please don’t see it as a negative, because there’s even a saying in Vietnamese, it’s like when somebody loves you, some from time to time they would offer you bitter medicine. Because bitter stuff are normally good for your liver. Right? And that’s just to show because I love you and that’s why I want you to transform, and I’m not just going to give you sugar all day. And the same in a community like you have shared, it is easier for us to not see our own action because we don’t have a mirror in front of us all the time, but our friends, our community, our loved ones, can be a very good mirror for us. But what is very important, the only way shining light works in our community is if we have a relationship, if we are friends with each other. We have been with each other for over six months to a year. New novices that are ordained, they don’t get shining light the first year because we want to have time with them before we offer our trimming, we would say. It’s like when a plant starts to come, we start to see thorns that come up here and there and it needs a little bit of care. But it needs a relationship, we have to know each other. And because if it’s just two strangers, then it becomes… we’re criticizing each other. So this practice, we do it once a year in the Plum Village tradition. It’s always a part of our three months Rains Retreat. So we need a facilitator, someone to hold the space. And for us,the brothers in Upper Hamlet, we always shine light per session, one hour and a half, just for two persons. Each person gets 45 minutes and we would always read a text before we get into the session, and this text was written by our teacher and it talks about the interbeing nature of our community. So I want to read it because it will offer you the feeling and the atmosphere of what shining light is. So it goes like this. Meditation on offering guidance. Lord Buddha and teachers over many generations, today we have a chance to practice offering guidance to our brothers. We know that in spirit we are all part of one Sangha and that our flesh and bones are also part of one Sangha. Therefore, we are aware that offering guidance to another is offering guidance to ourselves. We vow to use all of our love and understanding in order to practice offering guidance. We promise that every word we speak will come from the good intention of wanting to have a correct view about the person to whom guidance is being offered. We vowed not to let our anger, sadness and prejudice wrongly influence our opinion. We promise that every word we speak will come from love, because offering guidance to one is also offering guidance to many. We are aware that this practice will offer benefits to each of us. Dear Buddha and ancestral teachers, please support us in our wholehearted effort to successfully offer guidance today. And we would first invite the individual who is getting shining light from the community to shine light on himself. So every week is two persons, so we know who is being offered guidance, we have time to reflect. So we also have a guideline, like we’re not just going to talk about that person’s everyday life because it’s too broad, we want to focus on their spiritual growth, their growth in the monastic realm, like as a monastic member. So we look at their practice, their mindful manners, is how as monastic we conduct ourselves, and that includes body, speech, and mind. We look at our attendance in the schedule. Is somebody wholehearted with the community, or are they slowly drifting away, or are there periods in the year that they drift away that they’re not aware of, seasonal changes? And then we also looked at their study, their offering. As Dharma teachers we do more offerings, so it’s a chance for even our young ones to have a chance to shine the light to their mentors. So it’s a very inclusive practice. And we also look at habits. There are some habits that can be very impactful and we can do it from a place of love so that we can point it out. So these are our guidelines for study. Practice, study, service, and then joy also. It’s like, how are you contributing to your own joy? And also your own suffering. Are you taking care of it? Are you generating happiness? Right? So somehow this is like our arch of where we want to pay attention to in that person. And it’s always wonderful to hear the person shine light on themselves. And each of us is different, so some will go first to their negative and some will only talk about their negative habits. And from time to time, like the facilitator, or even their mentor in the session said, How about your good ones, brother? And for some, it’s really hard to water their own flowers. And before that person ends, they always will say, And dear Sangha, please open your hearts to shine light on me because I really want to grow. And that is an invitation for all of us to shine light. We will all take turns. So we have including that person’s personal shining light, it’s 45 minutes, and we ask everyone to be mindful of the time because we want to be more intentional with our shining light, and we even have somebody typing while the shine light is being shared, so it’s all written down for us. And at the end of the Rains Retreat each of us gets a shining light letter that becomes our compass for the year that we can always reflect on. Like, Oh, I remember that, brother, talk about this habit. Have I transformed it? And so I have letters since a novice. I have 21 shining light letters that I still keep today. And what is so beautiful in the shining light because of the community of how big we are in Plum Village, at least like we have 40 brothers in Upper Hamlet, and I’m not going to know everyone. So listening to the shining light, I get to know that person through the eyes and their ears and experience of my brothers. And what’s also very interesting is when you shine light on someone, you want them to be a particular way, it’s mirroring who you want to be. So from time to time, I would also remind the community that we want to shine the light to our brother in the direction of collective view and not personal view, because we can all become very personal. And it’s like, Thay always says, like when you love someone, you want to love them for who they are, for not how you want them to be. But sometimes we forget, we’re projecting what we want for ourselves in that person, and that’s why there’s this line that in this meditation that we read before, it’s like we know that offering guidance to one is offering guidance to many, and to be aware of that. And we truly have to use loving speech and deep listening. If somebody becomes very critical, I will stop them. Shining light is not an opportunity to pull out all of their negative and start criticizing them. We have stopped many sharing in our growth as a community in shining light. When somebody becomes very personal with someone, and you can tell by their energy, you can tell by the tone of voice, and a good facilitator would wake up the bell and say, Dear brother, this is a practice of shining light. This is not Beginning Anew, and so please do not bring your anger and your frustration into this. And if it is, then it becomes very toxic this session. And when we end what we have created in Upper Hamlet, is we give space for review. So sometimes some views are put out and it may not be accurate. So somebody may say, Oh, I don’t see that in this brother. And we have this space to look together to see if a view is correct. This year, particularly all of the shining light that we offered there wasn’t a view that we had to correct. And sometimes one brother would would say, oh, you know, this is coming from my own experience, and I can be wrong, but I would like to offer it. And it comes from a real space of love. And the one receiving, even at the end, we always give a little space for gratitude just to offer thanks. But you’re not allowed to say I agree and I don’t agree because that’s not the practice. Your practice as the one receiving is to be an open lake, just to receive all of the offering into your own lake for you to reflect on later. But if during that session that you’re saying he’s right, he’s wrong, then you lose the whole point of offering guidance because we all have blind spots and we use these shining lights for candidates becoming Dharma teachers or becoming a bhikkhu, a fully ordained monk, or fully ordained nun, as a reference to see if that monastic is mature enough to take on a new responsibility. So this shining light for myself, I see it as such a wonderful sangha building practice. But you have to have relationships. Like I tell, some Sangha member has asked, Can we apply this? I’m like, Have you been together? Like, No, we just started. Then don’t do it, because you don’t know each other enough. You have to have a relationship, not like an intimate relationship, but like you have to be together.

01:13:35

And brother, how was yours? This Rain’s Retreat.

01:13:40

It was very… And it was a lot of love. There was a lot of love. I was able to be very honest with my community, because sometimes I think for elders in the Sangha, we go through things that we keep to ourselves in order to keep an image in a way. Sorry, but to keep our stability and sometimes more in intimate spaces with my other colleagues that are my peers, I can open my heart more. And to some young ones, like they’ve just been in the Sangha for two years, I don’t feel so close to them, I’m still getting to know them and to trust each other, etc.. But this year I always choose, I always ask myself is just one thing that is vulnerable that I’m working through. And I noted down, and then, in that moment, if I feel ready, I will offer. If not, then I hold it to myself. But this particular year I was very open, so I was able to share. And then, when you open yourself that way, somehow your brothers also feel they get to know you, and then they also offer their shining light to you. And there was a lot of love. There was very good feedback and also good suggestions for myself. So definitely going to return to the letter. I tried to do it like six months, I would revisit and then continue. Yeah.

01:15:27

So you’re very lucky, brother, just to have shining light once a year, because with Paz I get, I think, a sort of daily shining light…

01:15:34

A daily dose.

01:15:34

Microdosing..

01:15:38

We can call this shining light vitamins.

01:15:43

Pop one a day.

01:15:43

Yes.

01:15:45

Brother, before we finish, it feels important to, because we’ve been talking about in the one is many, or in the one is all, because I think it’s really important to actually recognize that this difficulty of changing habits doesn’t just relate to us as individuals, but relates to us as societies.

01:16:04

Yes.

01:16:05

And so if you look at what’s going on in society at the moment, there’s this recognition that because of climate change, social injustice, destruction of biodiversity, etc., we need to radically change our society. But it’s so difficult.

01:16:20

It’s difficult.

01:16:21

And if you look at… And it’s no different from an individual. The society is just the manifestation of the group mind of…

01:16:30

All of us.

01:16:30

Of all of us. So I think it’s really useful to look at not just to when we look at the difficulty of changing society or how frustrated or angry we might get that society isn’t recognizing what needs to change and responding is also to look at us, ourselves, and realize actually, if it’s difficult for us, it’s actually even more difficult sometimes for a society. And there was someone I was coaching recently and she was talking about, you know, her work which is engaged in this desire to change society. And she was talking about how she wanted to, you know, address people’s fears. And then she was talking about herself and she was talking about, you know, her own fears, but she hadn’t linked them together. So she hadn’t linked that her difficulty of facing her own fears was actually exactly the same as society’s difficulty at facing its collective fears. So I think it’s really important in all this work to keep on going between the individual and the collective and to recognize the patterns in each. And also, I think, brother, your suggestions are actually really relevant in the collective as well. So one of the things you said was don’t try and change everything, focus on one thing. And that was very much Thay’s sort of advice as well, which was saying if you try and change everything, you know, just end up feeling despair and you’ll end up feeling powerless and you’ll end up just giving up and burning out, which a lot of people do because they think, they take the whole world on their shoulders, their individual responsibility to effect this change, and when they then don’t effect that change, they then lose faith, which is in a sense what we’ve been talking about in the personal realm as well. And you talked about, as I say, choose one thing, because if you choose one thing of focus, but trust that everyone else is doing their one thing, then it’s much more likely that change will happen and we empower ourselves, we feel that actually with that focus, we can actually start to reframe the problem, to actually go deep into it, to recognize how we can start to transform it and to start transforming. And if everyone does that, their one thing, then society will change because the Buddha said, you know, with our thoughts, we create the world. So if we change our thoughts, the world changes. So I just wondered if you had any reflection on that sense of, you know, and we’ve discussed it in other podcast episodes, but it’s such a powerful force in the society now about this choice between despair and giving up and just saying, well, nothing’s going to change. And also this sense of empowering, that if we change ourselves, we change the world. If we focus on one thing in ourselves, we start to change that outside of ourselves. And just that interplay between the personal and the collective.

01:19:39

Yeah, there’s an insight there that we should speak about is also mirroring each other’s transformation of habits. Like when I see someone transform a habit, I get so much joy from that. And somehow I also change too. I used to cuss a lot. Like, I guess among teenagers, like that was like the F-word would be part of like every two lines that we say. And when I come to a community like Plum Village where nobody is saying it, I don’t do it. So we also influence each other by our transmission of habits. I love soda, I think I was addicted to soda.

01:20:36

What was your one of choice, brother?

01:20:37

A coke a day. Right. Like, I even remember, oh, my god, I’m going to say this in a podcast. I lived with a lot of cousins and uncles growing up, so one time we had no more soda in the house, but I wanted that sparkling sensation and there was only beer, and I pop the can of beer and I took like a few sips and I was like, yes, this feeling. So, you know, that was a habit that I just gain by being in society and just having this kind of access to these drinks. But coming to Plum Village, collective consciousness, collective habits have an impact on all of us. And what I want to come back to is like, if I’ve transformed one habit, and, Jo, you transformed one habit. Cata, you transformed one habit, collectively, we are shifting something as a society together. But if I am angry and then you’re more violent, and Cata, you’re more jealous, then we’re only offering more of this negativity. But if all of us take care of one, that will have a shift, because then we will also start to mirror each other. Right? Whenever I look at the children that come through Plum Village, we don’t teach like the way we teach adults. We can’t. Their attention span is not for an hour. It’s literally like 15 minutes, or like 10 minutes, or sometimes 3 minutes. But what they mirror is our daily action, our energy of our mind. Like, are we compassionate? Are we understanding? And so we’re always transmitting habits also. So all of us, if we can truly do one, it will have an impact. And all of this transformation, with mindfulness, it is leading to a collective awakening, because when we truly come to the base of it, we will all recognize that we do want to be more aware of our actions that we are giving, and our actions have impact. And if we are walking right mindfulness, a path of right mindfulness, it will embody understanding, it will embody compassion, it will embody courage, it will embody change. And so in the one there is the many. And I know that I’m not perfect and I will never be perfect, but in this stream of community, there is much goodness that is here, and none of us is 100% perfect. But collectively we are forests that have leaves, some trees offer flowers, some trees offer fruits. But a lot of us, we offer shade together. So this image of a sangha, sometime we call it a forest. So don’t be so focused on just one tree. One tree may not be so strong and may not change the world, but one whole forest is a different story. And this image is very powerful for me. And that’s how I also keep my inspiration by being in community. I’m not going to sit here and say like, I never thought of like leaving the Sangha and wanting to be an individual because we all have ego, we all have pride. That is a habit. But when I think about the refuge for the animals, where do they always return to? It’s the forests. And for me, in our times, there’s so much going on and it can be so overwhelming, and to have a forest, a refuge, is a true gift that is that happiness that I want to continue to nourish. I want to continue to be a part of. And I am very much devoted to nourishing this route in this forest.

01:25:13

Brother, thank you so much for that. That was really, there was something really… I felt the atmosphere change in this room as you spoke because this is a place to stop because actually, we don’t need to say anything more. You know, in the one we find the collective and if we focus on what we can do, we empower others, we, you know, we are the change we want to see. So this is a good place to stop and reflect. So thank you, brother. That was habits. There we go. That was quite a beautiful conversation. Thank you very much, Brother Phap Huu. And as is our tradition, because that is also a habit, we tend to finish, although we don’t always do it, but we tend to finish the podcast with a short guided meditation. So if you still have the energy and the zippiness, if you could help us bring us back to this present moment.

01:26:23

Of course. Dear friends, wherever you may be, if you are sitting on an airplane, sitting on a train, on a bus, in a car, going for a walk, going for a jog, cleaning your home, or even studying, if you allow yourself to take a moment to pause, to feel your body, if you can sit on a bench or stay seated, or to stand firmly with your two feet on the ground. And if you even have more space, you can even lay down. And as you breathe in, just feel the inbreath. As you breathe out, feel the outbreath. Breathing in. Breathing out. As you breathe in, you can feel your abdomen rising. As you breathe out, you can feel your abdomen falling. And just feel the in, the rising, and feel the out, the falling. I’m breathing in, I’m bringing my awareness to my body. Thank you, body, for being there. And as I breathe out, I smile to my body. I accept my body. Breathing in, aware of body. Breathing out, I smile with acceptance. Breathing in, aware of body. Breathing out, I relax my body, offering it my love, my attention. In, aware of body. Out, I relax my body. Breathing in, I smile to my actions of body, speech and mind. Breathing out, I aspire to have mindfulness in my action of body, speech, and mind. In, aware of action. Out, mindfulness accompanying action. I cultivate this aspiration in the here and now. Breathing in, I’m in touch with life inside of me and around me. Breathing out, I have gratitude to life inside of me and all around me. Aware of life, breathing in. Gratitude, breathing out.

01:31:12

Thank you, dear friends, for practicing with us.

01:31:16

Thank you, Brother Phap Huu. Beautiful. Yes, everyone. So dear friends, you can find all previous episodes of our podcast on the Plum Village App and also on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and all other podcast platforms. If you like what we’re doing, please subscribe to The Way Out Is In podcast on the platform of your choice. And please leave a review if you so desire, so that others can discover this podcast.

01:31:47

The podcast is co-produced by Global Optimism and the Plum Village App with the support from our friends at the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation. If you feel inspired to support the podcast as well as the international Plum Village community moving forward, please go and visit www.TNHF.org/donate. And we want to thank our friends and collaborators Clay, a.k.a. The Podfather. The Podfather. I agree. He is our co-producer…

01:32:24

We all bow before Clay.

01:32:24

We all bow. Joe, another Joe, our audio editing. Anca, our friend who helps with the show notes and publishing. And Jasmine and Cyndee, social media guardian angels. Thank you, everyone. And we see you next time.

01:33:00

The way out is in.


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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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