The Way Out Is In / Brother Phap Huu and Jo Confino Answer Questions from Listeners (Episode #39)

Br Pháp Hữu, Jo Confino


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Welcome to episode 39 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.

For the first time, the presenters, Zen Buddhist monk Brother Phap Huu and journalist Jo Confino, haven’t picked a topic – instead, they are responding to questions from you, the listeners! 

In the spirit of Plum Village and its Zen tradition of public Q and A sessions, the two presenters encounter a wide range of topics, from light-hearted ones, like an appreciation of Vietnamese soup, watching the World Cup in the monastery, and other joyful moments in the community, to heavier ones such as anger; honoring grief; transformation; vulnerability; the fear of losing somebody precious and the preciousness of time; changing the narrative about happiness; interbeing; practicing mindfulness in schools; and the aspiration of love. 

Their responses include practical examples and draw on both personal experiences and wisdom from the Buddhist Sutras and Thay’s teachings, like the Five Remembrances and the Four Noble Truths.  

To give you a taste of this episode, here are some of the questions covered: How do monks and nuns remain mindful while taking care of many children during the summer retreat? How can we cope with people we find difficult? How can we practice forgiveness when we have been badly hurt? Does anger have a purpose? Do Zen monks engage in any forms of entertainment, or is life a big stage with lay people as the entertainment? How can we be compassionate, forgiving, and open to people while also protecting ourselves? 

Oh, and any ideas why monastics shave their hair?

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

The Happy Farm
https://thehappyfarm.org/ 

The Plum Village hamlets
https://plumvillage.org/about/plum-village/hamlet/ 

Sister Chan Khong
https://plumvillage.org/about/sister-chan-khong/ 

Rains Retreat
https://plumvillage.org/retreats/info/rains-retreat-2022/ 

Karuṇā
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karu%E1%B9%87%C4%81 

Sutras: ‘Discourse on the 5 Ways of Putting an End to Anger’
https://plumvillage.org/library/sutras/discourse-on-the-five-ways-of-putting-an-end-to-anger/ 

The Way Out Is In: ‘Meditating on Death (Episode #26)’
https://plumvillage.org/podcast/meditating-on-death-episode-26/ 

Śāriputra
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%9A%C4%81riputra 

Dharma Talks: ‘True Love and the Four Noble Truths’
https://plumvillage.org/library/dharma-talks/true-love-and-the-four-noble-truths/ 


Quotes

“Present moment, precious moment.” 

“The very fact of awareness is the start of change.” 

“Be mindful of your capacity. How much can you love? How much suffering can you handle? And how ready are you to face that difficulty? And it’s not about neglecting, it’s about identifying and then making sure that we are developing our stability to continue to generate the energy of love and compassion. So the beauty that I hear in all of these questions is the aspiration to love.” 

“We have to be mindful of our grief. Grief is an expression of vulnerability also. And what I’ve learned from the passing of my own teacher is that vulnerability and grief is also an expression of love. We feel loss, and we feel empty, and we feel such sadness because there was true love in that relationship.”

“Whenever I’m with the children, I have to shift gears; I have to tap into their energy and tap into who they are. And that is your practice. Your mindfulness is the mindfulness of the children. So remove your expectation that they have to sit in stillness.”

“Compassion is a very powerful energy. But to have compassion, we have to have understanding. So we have to see the person suffering and understand why they behave in such a way, even though it is so, so bitter.” 

“I want to recognize the suffering, see the root of the suffering, and then transform the suffering. And that clarity can offer kindness. So anger is an emotion that, in Buddhism, we see as a hindrance to our liberation; it’s not just negative, but that energy provides more wrong action than right action.”

“If we recognize – and I love this in the teachings about this continuation – that, actually, our life doesn’t end when life ends, that the people we love are still in us, that their actions in their life, their kindness, what they’ve developed, what they’ve built, what they’ve cared about, are still with us. And to recognize that it doesn’t end; it continues and the reverberations of one person’s life go forward in so many ways. We can see and embrace that.” 

“I see you’re angry; let’s look at that anger. Can we identify why we’re angry? And then can we work on that situation, rather than working on that anger? Because sometimes when we’re angry, we don’t even know why. And so mindfulness is to become aware of the source of our anger and then to work at the source.” 

“We know that everything is impermanent. So our face will change, our skin tones will change. Our bodily form will also change. But what we can always keep alive is the love that we have, the freshness that we generate, the stability that we can offer to ourselves and to the ones that we love, as well as our calmness and stillness. And that is a beauty that you cannot buy. That’s a beauty that you can only generate through practice.” 

“The moment of meditation is actually giving us a chance to stop, feel our body, feel what is happening. Maybe we can even say we feel the emotions from all of our thinking, from all of our procrastination. And it’s different from looking deeply.”

00:00:00

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

00:00:21

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 tradition of Plum Village.

00:00:34

And today, brother, we are going to democratize this podcast because normally we just choose, normally on the day or the day before… What should we talk about today? But we are following another Plum Village tradition, which is the question and answer session, where we get to ask our listeners what is it that’s on their mind and how can we support them very directly.

00:01:03

The way out is in.

00:01:16

Welcome back, everyone. I am Jo Confino.

00:01:19

And I am Brother Phap Huu.

00:01:21

And Phap Huu, today we are going to do a question and answer session and this isn’t out of the blue because actually this has been a real tradition of Plum Village. So do you want to just give us a bit of a background as to why question and answers?

00:01:35

So in the Zen tradition, we always have an opportunity to ask our teacher or our mentor a question that has to do with our daily practice, our daily life. Sometimes we may be practicing and we meet an obstacle and we need some clarity or we just need another perspective. So to help us open our minds. And in Plum Village, every retreat that we offer, our teacher always has a day called question and answers. So he allows people to come up one by one to ask the questions from the heart. So Thay always says a good question doesn’t have to be long. And a good question has to do with your suffering, your practice, and your growth as a person. And we try not to be so intellectual in this because we’re not debating about philosophy, but it’s a question of the practice.

00:02:29

One of my favorites that always sticks in my mind was… Because what was sometimes the most profound questions came from the children. And I always remember one of the children asking Thay sort of, why do monastics shave their hair? And Thay looked at him very intently and said, to save on the shampoo. The kid was really happy because actually that was a much more fun answer than probably the real answer.

00:03:03

Yeah, yeah.

00:03:04

So, brother, what I’m going to do is we did a call-out on Instagram just saying, you know, what’s on your mind? What would you like to ask? So I’ve got a list of questions here. You haven’t studied them. So this is going to be sort of on the hoof, as they say. So I’m going to ask you a couple just to warm you up, brother. Get you in the mood. So, are you ready?

00:03:24

I’m ready.

00:03:25

Okay, here we go. First one. Dear brothers, one question is always on my mind for years. Why is it that monks don’t treat their body well and eat healthily? Fried things or cheese are often served. I really don’t understand it, but no one answers this question. Fried food and cheese, brother, is this true?

00:03:48

Which monastery is this friend referring to? Because in Upper Hamlet we don’t have fried food. Sometimes I crave French fries and nobody would make French fries for the community. So I think it seems like it’s talking about another tradition because in Plum Village, all of the food that we serve is vegan. So we don’t have cheese. Fried food is a delicacy. So I think for those he’s referring to, he must have been at a temple or a monastery or he or she who asked this question, and probably saw a lot of fried food. But, you know, if you really have a question, you have to go directly to the monastic of that community and just ask, hey, what’s, what’s up with all the fried food? Are we taking good care of our body? Do we know how much fried food we are taking in and how that will impact our daily life? But for us here, we don’t have enough fried food. From time to time it’s good to treat yourself, not to be too rigid on our own diets. But here, in Plum Village, we do have a motto which is, healthy organic food. It’s not always 100%, sometimes things are too expensive, but in the recent ten years or so, we have Happy Farms that we’ve been growing a lot of our own vegetables. And when it comes to food, we do always have to consider we have protein for the community, we have enough greens, enough grains. So we do kind of have a quick checklist, but also not to be so attached to that also is important. Like we should have the mentality to be healthy and we know that whatever we intake has an effect on our body and mind. But from time to time, you know, we do have to take care of our happiness, which sometimes is like a cookie of childhood. And for some it’s like a dessert. Right? It is a vegan brownie or something like that. So we do try not to be so rigid also in our diet. So we have a middle way.

00:06:18

And also, brother, I think it is also true there is a bit of a hierarchy in Plum Village in terms of food, because…

00:06:23

What does that mean?

00:06:24

Well, what that means is that New Hamlet serves, the nunnery of New Hamlet, serves, I think, the best food. Then I think Lower Hamlet, the other nunnery, comes in second and sort of trailing in slightly behind are the monks of Upper Hamlet, brother. Especially when it comes to the evening meal, which is sometimes sort of leftovers, which of course is wonderful because it uses all the food. But I think that the monks definitely could learn a few tricks from the sisters. Anyway, let’s not get stuck on that point.

00:06:57

Tread carefully, Jo. You are in the Upper Hamlet.

00:06:59

I know. That’s lunch gone for me. And brother, the second one, very quick one. But what is your favorite vegan meal served in Plum Village?

00:07:10

I love Vietnamese food. We have a traditional sweet and sour soup from the southern province of Vietnam, so it’s like, it’s a lot of greens, they have pineapple in there, and it’s also using tamarind. So like there is like sweet and sour and that hits the spot for me.

00:07:33

Yeah, me too. Good Vietnamese soup.

00:07:37

Yeah.

00:07:37

You can’t beat it.

00:07:38

Yeah.

00:07:39

Good, thank you. So last one on the sort of more lighthearted.

00:07:43

There we go.

00:07:44

Is: Do zen monks intentionally engage in any forms of entertainment or is life a big stage as we, lay people, are your entertainment?

00:07:57

Well, sometimes…

00:07:58

It’s like watching lay people, it’s like going to the zoo and watching the lay people.

00:08:02

You know what? Sometimes the monastics, ourself, are entertainment.

00:08:06

I live in a… We live in a very diverse community in Plum Village, many nationalities, many different cultures. So we get to see a lot. So we do watch movies and we do watch documentaries. We are selective in our consumption. So normally, like we would have a monastic retreat and a treat for the community would be to do a cinema night. So it is like the lazy evening leading to the lazy day. So we would choose films that are nourishing for the community. And there are many good films out there that are entertaining as well as educational. And it touches the heart. And one fun fact is we love sport here. So the brothers and sisters, we love to watch the World Cup when it comes around every four years. And our teacher Thay also would come and join us in the finals for a few minutes, and he would come to watch us. He would watch the monastics to see our excitement, to see where we’re leaning towards. Because if we’re to practice nondiscrimination, we should be there just to support both teams. But we are still human, we are still practicing, we do have bias, especially if it’s our own national country that is in the World Cup, especially in the finals we get very emotionally involved. And we have a very sweet brother, Brother Phap […] and he’s a wonderful Dharma teacher, mentor for so many of us and he loves football. And whenever it comes to the World Cup, he always sits at the bell. So when the energy is too exciting, he will invite the bell for all of us to just come back to our breath. Or when they say the penalties, he would make a joke and… Everybody come back to your breathing. And you just hear everyone laugh and then we get intense again. So we do have these joyful moments in the community.

00:10:19

And, brother, let’s not forget that you are a bit of a rap star in Plum Village. So I mean, music also is a big thing here. There’s some extraordinarily accomplished classical and other musicians here. And, you know, singing is a big tradition in Plum Village. And you are a rapper, brother. Come on, fess up.

00:10:39

Yeah, I do love rapping. I do love to offer songs. We do have a tradition in Plum Village to offer music in the direction of the Dharma. So a lot of Thay’s poetry has been put into music by our own monastic brothers and sisters. And we would write raps to them or we would have artists to help us in completing the song.

00:11:08

Great. Okay, so that’s the fun over, brother. And you warmed up enough?

00:11:14

Yes, sir.

00:11:16

So let’s slowly head into other waters. So here’s one. I’m interested in how monks and nuns keep being mindful while taking care of many children during the summer retreat. I find it difficult to do this with my four children aged between 2 to 7. There’s always something going on, some argument, crying or need. Also, rest is rare. What do you recommend to staying mindful, anyway? Thank you. Double exclamation mark. Because, of course, brother, this is, of course, the best questions are questions that are relevant to more than just the person asking the question. And, you know, it is very, very difficult to stay patient and centered with young children when with all the manic behaviors going on, the busyness of food preparation and nappies, if they’re very young, or entertainment or taking them to this… You know, it can fill people’s lives and people can often sort of feel overwhelmed. So how do you work with the children in the summer retreat to… When they’re manic, when they’re argumentative, etc., etc., where they’re throwing a tantrum, and how can that be relevant to other people?

00:12:30

I’m going to share my part. And then I think I want to come back to you because you’re a father, too. So it’s better to ask parents that than monastics because we only have them for a month a year, which is a very different time, it’s a very different experience. But I have been in the children program for a few years, in my younger years as a monk. I think the first thing we have to understand is mindfulness it doesn’t particularly mean sitting still, being calm, being quiet, walking slowly. Mindfulness is the energy of awareness, it’s to know what is happening inside of us and around us and how to have mindful action to take care of the situation. So whenever I’m with the children, I have to shift gear, I have to tap into their energy and tap into who they are. And that is your practice. Your mindfulness is the mindfulness of the children. So remove your expectation that they have to sit in stillness. They have to eat quietly, they have to drink tea, you know, like give them juice, give them soda. Be flexible and then learn to… What I learned from them is that they are actually very mindful already, children. Especially the young ones, and they are so curious and that curiosity can become your own energy. You say, Oh, what is that child so curious about? Tune into their energy, tune into their eyes what they are curious about, and then from their lead and be one with them. And I think the practice that I always come back to is just being present for them and then being open. Don’t have expectation because the more expectations you have then you want them to be a particular way. But of course that doesn’t mean you can’t guide them, you can offer them insight, input. And I see that whenever I’m very present for the children, then the children also become more attentive to you because they also learn by experience, by what they see in front of them. Sometimes your bodily action has a bigger impact than what you say, and then the practice always comes back to… I always come back to like if I get upset at a child, if I am angry, is to see how do I want to share something to the child, but not be aggressive and not be angry and just be reminded of how you wanted to be taught when you were a child. Right? So sometimes I know, like I remember growing up and saying, I never want to yell like the way my dad yelled at me, for example. And then in that particular moment, your practice is recognizing are you becoming the father, the mother that you didn’t want to become? So they are a mirror, they are a reflection. So I see that the children are our practice. They are already quite mindful in their daily activity. Remove a little bit of our expectations, our idea of being still, and then, on the other hand, is having space and time to make it really your recharge moment. Right? Like, let’s say you are preparing food for your child. You know, for us, meditation is everyday life, it doesn’t particularly mean sitting on a cushion, closing our eyes, following our breath. But while you are folding the clothes of your child, that can be a practice. You can do it with mindfulness. You can also come back to your body in that moment. You can rest while you are doing. It is a very advanced practice, I have to say. And then what I realize is that having a community is so important. And I wish that our culture and society can come back to community and supporting each other in caring for each other’s children, as well as having the trust be developed. And I see that how we are able to take care of hundreds of kids during the summer is having a team that supports each other and know how to tap in when we see our brother or sister, our colleagues, our volunteers are being overwhelmed. And we just naturally say, let me take care of this moment. And I feel today the individualism is so strong. And I think we also don’t allow children to have experience with people outside of their immediate family. And I say this, of course, we have to create a safe environment, a safe community. But I see that the community aspect has been lost a lot. So I think one of the magic in our retreat is that there’s that community sense and even the children, they feel safe.

00:18:36

Great. Thank you, brother, so much for that. And, you know, I recognize that when my family with my two kids, we moved out of London to rural Sussex, it was a real transformation in our lives because the children were much more part of the community. But also, as you say, they felt safe, they were in the countryside. They were able to have a… to have much more freedom but within a safe border. And I think one of the things people are always looking for is sort of space, you know, whether you’re a kid or not, everyone needs space. So I think the more we try to control our kids, or coerce them, or have our secret wish for that we want them to be a lawyer or a doctor or that we live vicariously through their success, that if they learn to play the violin it through, that shows we’re good people, I think is be very aware of our expectations. I know that… I think one of the problems, only age has changed these days, in terms of age people have kids, but I had kids quite young and I wish, in a sense, life, of course, was the other way round that we came into life being wise and then grew less wise over time. Because actually I realized looking back, that I wasn’t really very aware of myself when I had kids. And I think, you know, there’s that phrase, you know, oh, kids, they really know how to press my buttons.

00:20:02

Right.

00:20:02

As though is the kid’s problem, whereas actually they’re my buttons. So I think one of the things that’s most helpful when we’re with our kids is that if they’re pressing our buttons, is to recognize they are our buttons and to look at what is it they’re pressing and to take responsibility rather than blaming the kids. And I think one thing, brother, in one of the actually the climate leaders retreat over the summer, people were, some of the participants were saying, well, actually, when I’m with my kids, I’m actually thinking of a work project I’ve got to do or thinking of other things I want to do. And a lot of people made a commitment at the end that when they’re with their kids to really, I know you’ve mentioned this already, to be present with their kids, to be fully, give them your full attention. Because if you’re giving someone your full attention, you’re more likely to get that back. Whereas actually, if you’re not present and you’re not really listening, then actually your kids will know that and they’ll start to lose that sort of sense of respect or if I come to you, I’m going to be listened to. And, actually, what we all crave for is to be listened to.

00:21:36

Okay, brother, next. And we’ve got a couple of questions dealing with death and grief. So the first question actually comes from a very old friend of mine who I haven’t spoken to for years, but I saw she’d put this question in the chat. She said, My darling husband died last month and I’m struggling to cope with it all. And I think there’s so much, of course, wrapped up in that. And then the other question that’s related says, I understand the nature of impermanence and feel my father in me, all I do and all of nature. Yet, even before he has passed, I grieve deeply, feeling such sadness. Not sure what my question is. How does belief become faith maybe? So brother, I mean, both those questions are someone who’s lost someone, someone who fears losing someone. But the question is, in a sense, the same, isn’t it? Which is that when we lose someone or fear losing someone close to us, we feel bereft, we feel lost, we feel that that person has gone forever and that our lives are empty without them. And of course, Thay’s teachings are extremely relevant in helping people to deal with this sense of loss and to recognize that actually those in us, or those we love are still present in us. But brother, do you want to, with these two people, just help them to understand how do you cope with it all?

00:23:14

We have to be mindful of our grief. Grief is an expression of also vulnerability. And what I’ve learned from the passing of my own teacher is that vulnerability and grief is also an expression of love. We feel loss, and we feel empty, and we feel such sadness is because there was true love in that relationship. So first, I want to point out that the sadness is also coating the love that we have and to honor that love. And that means that that connection was very real for us. And to allow ourselves to feel sad is important. It’s just the practice of mindfulness. Like whenever we encourage people to recognize the goodness inside of them, the freshness that is alive in them is also so important to recognize the sadness that we’re feeling and honor it and not suppress it. And then to hold it instead of with intense sorrow, to remember all of the wonderful experience that we’ve had with that person. And that can become a process of letting go. When we lose someone, it’s going to take time for us to see them in us, even though intellectually we have the Buddha’s insight of Interbeing, which is like we are their continuation because they were so connected to us that we carry their elements in us, their experience that they’ve offered to us, our experience that we had with them. We continue to carry that in us. But sometimes it takes it just takes time to really feel and see them in our daily life. But don’t be too hard on oneself in pushing ourself to get over this. Because I know that’s the norm mentality is like we have one day to mourn and then we’re done. And that is so not reality like that. That’s just an idea that we have created. But the reality is that we need time to heal, we need time to honor, to be mindful of the loss. And in our tradition, we have an altar in order to honor that person. And for our friends who have lost someone, I would like to introduce this. It’s a beautiful way of remembering them and expressing our love, because grief is a way of showing that we want to express our love. And every day, before sitting meditation in our meditation halls in Plum Village, a monk or a nun would light an incense and place it at Thay’s picture. And that is a way of just remembering. And in that moment of lighting that incense, or we can light a candle. Right? We can be remembered of all of the wonderful experience that we’ve had. We can be grateful for the teachings that we’ve received. And then we can also see that because we are alive, they continue through us. So we embrace the three times in that very moment: the past, the present, and the moving forward, which is the future. So we would have this practice in order to see that even though they’re not here, they are still a part of our life. And then you would want to select a very beautiful image of that person and create a table, have their picture there. And that can be a practice that can support you in grieving. So that is something very practical that we do. And we would also put a flower that our loved one really loved, like we’re entering into autumn here in Plum Village, and Thay love chrysanthemums. So I’m sure once that’s available, we are going to buy a pot and put on Thay’s altar as a way to express our love. So grief is love. So to see it, to see the sadness as not a weakness, but an expression. And day by day, as we move forward, there’s going to be moments when you’re just going to remember them. And if you have such emotions that are going to manifest, be mindful of it. Let it manifest and embrace it. And then tell yourself, because I’m alive, I will let them now see through my eyes. Let them eat through my mouth, my taste is their taste. And, you know, very recently, Sister Chan Khong just came back to Plum Village. And this is her first Rains Retreat after 2014, after Thay’s stroke. And I’m very mindful that it’s much harder for Sister Chan Khong than most of us, because her experience with Thay goes so deep and the profound relationship that they had through the peace activists work that they’ve done through the war. And then she followed Thay to the U.S.. And then during the refugee crisis, being with Thay in Singapore, renting boats to rescue people, and then the creation of Plum Village, and all of this. So everywhere that Sister Chan Khong walks in Plum Village reminds her of Thay. And to ask for support when you need. And we were in a day of mindfulness in Lower Hamlet and Sister Chan Khong was definitely feeling a lot of emotion. And what she did was she opened herself and allow others to help. She said, My brothers and sisters, and she was speaking to the monastics, she said, I missed Thay so much, can you help me embrace this moment? And it was such a tender moment and Sister Chan Khong cried. And I saw others holding her hands. And sometimes is not to say anything and just to feel it and allow that to be. And you have the process, we call that transformation. And so to honor it like that.

00:30:46

Beautifully said, brother. And it’s, you know, to those, to the person who’s asked question about the fear of losing somebody precious and, you know, there’s something around turning that round to the preciousness of time, isn’t it?

00:31:01

Yeah.

00:31:01

That actually, you know, we are all going to lose. I mean, there’s the five remembrances which is sort of spoken of every, I think every day, and the monastics are asks us to chant that, which is, you know, we have the nature to grow old, we have the nature to be sick, we have the nature to die, we have the nature to be separated from everyone and everything that’s precious to us. And all we can stand on is our actions and thoughts and speech. So, you know, if we know that time is running out, that is the time to actually recognize how precious things are and to make every moment count.

00:31:39

Exactly.

00:31:40

Rather than fear it, embrace it, because it comes to us all. And I think this is so difficult in our Western society and it’s different in Vietnam, but in a lot of Western societies, this idea that we’re going to live forever and then suddenly death becomes this sort of shock. Whereas actually if we recognize, and I love this in the teachings about this continuation, as you’ve talked about, that actually our life doesn’t end when life ends, that the people we love are still in us, that their actions in their life, their kindness, what they’ve developed, what they’ve built, what they’ve cared about are still with us. And to recognize that it doesn’t end and it continues and the reverberations of one person’s life go forward in so many ways. And we can see and embrace that.

00:32:28

Yeah, this was my mantra after Thay’s stroke and taking care of Thay was present moment, precious moment.

00:32:37

So a couple of questions, which I think also speak to what a lot of people find difficult is the sense of, you know, where in Buddhist philosophy there’s a sense of interbeing, we’re in everybody, everyone is in us, that actually we shouldn’t discriminate. And that can be very difficult for people because especially when it comes to difficulties or difficult relationships or people who have faced difficult times, is how do you sort of practice this idea of interbeing, we’re all the same and we should love and be compassionate. And then also, how do we cope with people we find difficult? So I’m just going to read out a couple of questions that deal with that, brother, because I think it’s an important topic. So the first one is: How can I open my heart to everyone? I observed in myself that whenever I see someone who is quite different from me, for example, maybe they have some difficulties or that they look unfriendly, angry, etc.. I close my heart right away and don’t want to talk to them. I think that is just the way that I want to protect myself from what does not nourish me. But I think like, how can I help other people who are suffering? And then another one: How do you not harbor any negativity towards people whose views and actions are built upon making others suffer? And there’s one other, brother, which I think is very relevant. Can I ask, how do you advise practicing forgiveness when you have been badly hurt? So I think all those all those questions in a sense are around the same topic as how can we be compassionate and forgiving and be open to people when actually there’s also a need to protect ourselves?

00:34:27

When I hear this question, I see myself in it too. I think the aspiration to love all is like our ultimate aspiration. But when we land to our two feet and our present moment, we can identify our limits also. And we should honor our capacity. So in the in our training as a monastic, we always say, be mindful of your capacity. How much can you love? How much can you handle suffering? And how much are you ready to face that difficulty? And it’s not about neglecting, but it’s like identifying and then making sure that we are developing our stability to continue to generate the energy of love and compassion. So the beauty in all of these question was I hear the aspiration to love. Let’s focus there right now. When I hear that we know that love, there’s four elements in love, that is loving kindness, having a kind heart, compassion. Compassion is a very powerful energy. But for us to have compassion, we have to have understanding. So we have to see the person suffering and have understanding to why they behave in such a way, even though it is so, so bitter. But when you recognize that their whole life, they’ve never been loved, their whole life they may have been bullied, their whole life they have only been taught how to hate. So suddenly when you have that understanding, your mind has a cultivation of, Oh, that’s why they’re like that. And you start to have some understanding. Then your heart has a nectar of compassion, and you can see that they are not just their words or their action, but they are what they have experience. And then the other element is joy, right? If they are so angry and so is because they have no joy in their life. So you can be compassionate about that. And the last element of true love is developing our inclusiveness. That’s a really hard one, but we have that seed in us. And so what I want to focus on and share towards this answer is sometimes we just have to accept that we don’t have the ability to love that person yet, but we’re on the path to growing our love. At the beginning our heart may only be able to accept so much, but the more we practice, the more understanding we have, understanding ourselves and understanding others, our love will grow and our capacity will grow. And we call this the fruit of the practice. So we hear the teachings of interbeing and love, and we’re like, yes, I’m going to be exactly that energy. But then once you go out and you meet a situation and you are exactly the opposite of what you want to be, smile to that and then say, Ah, I still have to grow in my practice. I have to grow in my understanding. And the Buddha gives this image of this teaching of like at the beginning, our heart may be just like a little cup of water, and if you put salt in it, you can taste the salt right away. But the more you love your love is like a great river ocean. No matter how much salt is put in, you will never become salty. But you’re able to see and to recognize and just to embrace. And sometimes we have to see that the person we want to help, they’re not yet there. And sometimes they’re not willing to be helped also. And so our practice is not to fix everyone, but our practice is to learn to love oneself and then love others. And maybe one day that person will recognize that every time they were a particular way, but our way of still caring for them and embracing them, will wake them up and say, how did you do that? Why were you so kind to me? And every moment that I was so bitter. And so our action can also be a mirror to them. My dharma name means Dharma Friend. And friendship is also, is talked about kindness, karuna. And mitra. Mitra is love. And in friendship there has to be love. And I was very ambitious to be everyone’s friend, and I realized that not everybody wants to be my friend. And sometimes that is the reality. And you also have to accept that. And I remember one time, in one of my relationship with a brother, at the beginning was very beautiful. And then one day he just didn’t like me. And every time I entered into the room, he would leave. And we would sit in the circle, he would not look at me. And I was like, Wow, what happened? And honestly, like I did so many meditations, I went back a few weeks, a few months, a few years, and I just couldn’t understand what happened. And to today, honestly, I still don’t know. But our relationship has developed and I am able to say hello and we’re able to have a conversation. But there’s still a part of me where I’m still finding the courage to ask him, Hey, what happened back then? And maybe my only sense is that when I became abbott, I think I shifted a little bit and maybe what I represented and maybe it was power was something that didn’t resonate with him and he didn’t want to be associated to me. And that’s just life sometimes. Like, sometimes you just have to accept it. And I still… The practice at that moment for me was not to hate him because he doesn’t like me, but it’s to still see him as a wonderful person. There’s a very wonderful sutra which was like it still is my compass in relationship. It is the Five Ways of Putting an End to Anger. So please, you can find this on our website, you can find us in the Buddhist Sutras. And it’s from Sariputra, one of the Buddha’s most senior students. And it’s very simple, but it goes like this, something like this, when some… If you’re angry with someone and it’s because his words are not kind, but his actions are still kind, and in his heart there is still kindness, pay more attention to his kind action and his heart because he’s still unmindful of his speech. And if you pay attention to his other goodness, your hatred, your heart won’t become so bitter towards that person and you still are able to embrace. And then another example is if his words, if his actions are like kind, but then his heart is kind, and his speech is kind, then you pay attention to that. So in the sutra, is like, you still, we still know that all of us, we have our goodness and our bad habits. And then the last one, which is like, if they have no, if their hearts are not kind, their actions are not kind, and their speech is not kind, if anything, we should be more compassionate, we should pity because nobody helps them, and they have no friends, or all their friends are not true friends. Because if you behave in such way and nobody is telling you, then you’re very unfortunate. Nobody is showing you how to love. And if they are lucky, someone will be courageous and compassionate enough to say, Hey, you suffer and you make a lot of people suffer. Are you aware of that? And do you want to transform? Do you want to change? Are you lonely? And maybe we can be that person to someone who is suffering immensely. So recognized your capacity of love. Know that love is organic and it can grow. It’s an energy that will continue to grow through our own development of our understanding. And sometimes just know your limits. When you’re very tired, your capacity of love is less, so you start… In the practice of mindfulness, you start to know your own habits, know when to step out, when to not engage, when to engage, and so on. And not have the idea that we have to be embracing and accepting all at the same time. Our love is like the Northern Star, and we want to walk towards there. And the more we walk towards that path, we are embarking on the path of a Bodhisattva to love all beings. Yeah.

00:45:11

Brother, wow, there’s so much in that answer, so thank you. And I just want to sort of go and tease out just a couple of things, because, and give it just another sort of dimension, especially to that one about capacity, because I think what often happens is that people think they should be more compassionate. And then if they find that unable in that moment to be compassionate, they use that to berate themselves and beat themselves up to say, Oh, I’m no good, I’m a bad person. So that capacity is… When you recognize your capacity and you say smile to it, and I just want to highlight that point about, you know, smiling to your capacity means recognizing where you are, not blaming yourself or feeling that you’re a bad person because otherwise you use that actually to self-attack yourself and actually use that to beat yourself with the stick rather than the other person. And I remember when I was living in the States and Donald Trump had become president and he was doing all what he was doing. And people said, well, you know, you need to learn to love him and appreciate, you know, he’s a narcissist and he’s obviously had a terrible childhood and all that. And that was all true. But it is really, really hard when you see people who are doing such, what you consider to be to do great harm in the world, to really, even when you know the circumstances, to recognize that it is hard. It’s not just saying, Oh, yes, and, you know, I’m going to love him and I’m going to forgive him for everything. And it’s all good. It’s like we find compassionate, but it we also have to recognize the harm that is being done.

00:46:49

And that is love too.

00:46:50

And that is love too. And I think especially for people, if they’re in danger, so if they’re dealing with someone who is doing harm to them or abusing them is recognize there’s also a limit. And, you know, it’s not about sometimes not about saying, oh, well, I need to open up more, I need to be more compassionate, say sometimes I need to get out of here. I need to actually create a distance. Because actually we do also need to be safe. And we can’t just love everyone, regardless of wha their actions are.

00:47:21

And sometimes love can be very strong. We sometimes we call fierce compassion. As an abbott, I had to ask people to leave the monastery because they weren’t living in harmony with the community. Their way of life, their actions, their speech was very negative. It was bringing the energy of the community down. It was very disruptive. They didn’t want to practice the Dharma that we were offering. They didn’t want to follow. They wanted to be their own teacher. And then in one retreat we had someone like was telling the retreatants don’t listen to the monks and nuns, I have practiced longer, I have more insight. I’m older than most of them they’re teaching now. And so many people were confused. And then so many people were also complaining to us about their experience of the retreat. And we came and we had to talk to this person. And at the end of it, you know, this person was searching for love, searching for validation. But the harm that that person has done, the energy that that person has offered, wasn’t supportive. And we did have to ask that person to leave. And so sometimes we have to see also the bigger picture, and that is also protecting. Protection is also love. And we one time had to also ask a monastic to leave the community because they can’t grow and they’re not, they are not willing to be trained anymore. And everything that they were going through, their words, their daily bodily action wasn’t according to our training, wasn’t according to our precepts and mindful manners, and it was very disruptive. And it was bringing the energy of the community so down and so many people were giving energy. And we kind of created a timeframe, like, if you don’t transform within, if you don’t even show us in six months that you want to change and you’re opening yourself up to the community again. And we asked that person to leave because we also have to know our capacity. Because if we’re just tunneling all of our energy to one person, 365 days, then we don’t have time for our other brothers and sisters. So as we grow and in father, mother, leaders, elder brothers and sisters, you know, I had to learn this a lot. Like, how much love do I have to offer to one person? But if that person is not willing to change, I also have to accept my limitation. And sometimes I felt like a failure. I felt like I couldn’t help that person. And I went through all the emotions. I’m like, maybe my virtue was not good enough that they can’t see my words as a guiding energy for them to change. But sometimes that’s just what it is maybe. And just learn from this experience. And then I also recognize that sometimes if there’s a rotten grape, you know, and it’s touching the other grapes, and if you let it continue, the other grape will also be rotten. And so to love is to identify the sickness and you have to remove. And sometimes is very painful, but it’s the right action for the body.

00:51:05

Yeah. So compassion can be a sword. And also what I’ve tended to notice is if people are acting in that way, often they are suffering in that situation and actually by releasing them in whatever way that can actually benefit them. It’s not that the compassion is more than just trying to help that person in that moment, if that person’s deeply unhappy in the place they’re in, and they’re not willing to change, they’re going to continue to be really unhappy apart from infecting the people around them. It’s not actually healthy for them either. Okay, brother, you mentioned about the sutra on anger, so I just want to come back to that topic because that is something it’s an issue I’ve had in my life, short temper, and it’s an issue many people have, which is around what is anger? Does anger have a purpose? You know, and there’s a question that particularly asked that. So I just want to focus on that. So I’m just going to ask the question. A friend asked me about the place of anger in the world. He says anger has an important role in progressing social issues, and I struggle to explain how anger is not the key. How would you respond? And that is such an important question because sometimes it’s only when we see something is wrong and that energy comes up and that we’re prepared to face it and then summon up the courage and anger is an energy that does can sometimes provide that sort of sense of righteousness. And I’m not going to stand for this anymore, I’m going to take action. And we’ve seen that, you know, in the climate movement, for instance, people taking direct action. But also there’s a problem with anger. Isn’t that, brother, that anger tends to also generate anger. That if you’re angry towards someone, that they’re more likely to then raise that anger back to you. So actually, anger can look on the surface as though it’s getting the energy going and giving you the sort of strength to act, but often it builds more anger and actually we end up in a worse place. So is there a place for anger? Or if there isn’t, what is another energy that could provide the same sort of in a sense, support for action, but actually maybe is more generative or regenerative rather than creating more problems?

00:53:32

Anger is an energy and it’s an emotion that we all have. And sometimes I can see anger as a bell of mindfulness. It’s like, Oh, why do I feel so angry? It can help me reflect things. But our training, because we know that anger is an energy and 90% of the time is very destructive. Anger makes us say things that are very unkind. Anger makes us behave in such a way that offers more hate. So our training is when you’re angry, to embrace the anger, recognize the anger, and take care of the anger, and transfer that energy of anger into another energy to take care of the situation. Because most of the time, anger, when you’re angry, you’re not very clear. Because that anger becomes a layer that makes your judgment more angry, your speech more angry, your actions more angry. And, like you said, anger also generates more anger. So anger, I would say we can recognize it and see it as a bell of mindfulness and reflect, why am I angry? And then from the why am I angry, we identify. And it can be because an injustice has happened. And to now use our energy of mindfulness to identify the unjust and call the unjust by its name, without the energy of hatred, but the energy of compassion and love, of wanting to help this situation. So compassion is another energy. Our teacher usually encourages us to take care of situation with compassion. But with that example that we just shared about love, compassion doesn’t mean soft and embracing and accepting all, but compassion has clarity in it because there’s understanding. And sometimes you need to take actions that put someone in prison because that’s the right thing to do. But that is out of compassion. And most of the times when we’re angry, we just want to punish. Anger has a strong energy of wanting to punish. And so seeing that anger, it also drains us. If you’ve experienced that, like, when I act on my anger, it drains me more than giving me energy, where people have also shared that anger gives you energy. But take that anger and transform it to another energy such as compassion or such as just the energy of goodness. I want to do something that helps prevent the suffering. And now have the lens of the Four Noble Truths that suffering is present. I want to recognize the suffering, see the root of the suffering, and then transform the suffering. And that clarity can offer kindness. So anger is an emotion that in Buddhism we see it as a hindrance to our liberation, because we’re not saying that it’s just negative, but because that energy provides more wrong action than right action. And so just to share with our friends, I see you’re angry, let’s look at that anger. And can we identify why we’re angry? And then can we work on that situation rather than working on that anger? Because we’re angry of something and sometimes we’re angry, we don’t even know why we’re angry. And so mindfulness is to become aware of the source of our anger and then to work at the source.

00:57:37

So we know, brother, that the best advice that Thay gave about anger is Don’t act on it.

00:57:44

Exactly.

00:57:44

It’s the classic thing that someone says something, you get an email blaming you for something, and you immediately write that email back saying, da da da da. And the advice is always, don’t send that email straight away, sleep on it, look in the morning. And whenever I’ve done that, I’ve looked in the monitor, Oh my God, I’m not sending that because it’s just creating a fight. And it’s like when you hit people head on, people are going to… it’s like two rams jutting against each other, they’re just going to keep on fighting. And I think that if we sit back and be mindful and, as you say, be aware of where the anger is coming from, what it represents, and be mindful and take time, then actually, as you say, we get the clarity because anger is like a fog, isn’t it? It’s like you just lash out because you’re trying to protect yourself. But actually it is not an effective strategy for getting even what you want. And I know that Thay has, you know, talked a lot about don’t be an angry activist, because actually, that’s just going to generate more of the same. It’s not going to solve the problem. But actually, what the anger, as you say, is if you recognize the injustice in a situation, is just recognize the injustice and see how can you act? How can you come alongside people and support them in moving direction because you’re never going to do it in a fight.

00:59:15

Yeah.

00:59:40

So, brother, let’s have a look at something else. Yes, brother, this is one that I think also touches so many people’s lives, and it’s around sort of consumption and our Western lifestyle. So let me just read it out. I’d appreciate an insight into how one can shift from a traditional modern Western lifestyle to a more simple and less reliant lifestyle. It feels impossible at times as if the mindset I have been raised with, monetary gain and status are the priority, will forever be a part of me. And I think that that reaches so many people now, who have been brought up in a individualistic Western life that we need to amass things, that our status and who we are is determined by what we own or what we look like, that people feel they need to keep buying things in order to hide their pain and suffering that we actually, Western societies, built on avoiding suffering and thinking we need to be perfect. And therefore the best way to do that is buy, buy, buy, buy cosmetics or whatever, the best car, a bigger house, all this stuff. It’s so ingrained in Western society, because from when we’re born, we’re taught that is success, that is what we’re aiming for. And yet we also know deep down that our happiness isn’t there, that actually, it’s in the simple things. That we find out true happiness in time, friendship, walking in nature, that it’s not actually in products. But, brother, what’s your, in a sense, your insight about what this person… Also an insight into how we can shift. What would be an insight, and how do we make that move from more to Thay’s perfect description of You have more than enough. And again, you know, I’ve never mentioned this previously but we’re sitting in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Sitting Still hut, his modest hut, and looking through the window I can see his coat still hanging on the hook. And he was always one for… He never wanted to replace a coat. He never wanted to replace his robe. He lived, in a sense, the ultimate in simplicity.

01:02:13

I think we can change the narrative of what happiness is. That’s the start. It’s because we have a view and in the teachings of Buddhism, we learn to reflect on the views we have, and it has to always be something. So this is like the view of happiness or the view of having enough. And I grew up in Canada and I had that mentality. I remember in school, it’s like, oh, I want a job just to make a lot of money so I can have, have and have. And because that was what was taught to me, that that is your freedom. That is your success. And then when we become a monastic, there’s a precept, when you become a novice, on jewelry and cosmetics. So we are not allowed to wear cosmetics and not allowed to wear jewelry. And the reason is because true beauty is not found in that. True beauty is found in stability and freshness and freedom. And we were taught this training, and so our teacher, like, broke it down. And what really stuck out to me in my mentor’s sharing was, you know, cosmetics are just an out of form, it’s just a mask. And we know that everything is impermanent. So our face will have to change, our skin tones will change. Our bodily form will also change. But what we can always keep alive is the love that we have, the freshness that we generate, the stability that we can offer to ourselves and to the ones that we love, as well as our calmness and stillness. And that is a beauty that you cannot buy. That’s a beauty that you can only practice to generate. And that really stayed with me, because that is what I felt when I saw Thay and the monastics. And what drew me into becoming a monk was this stability and this freedom. And like you shared, like I think Thay is a very beautiful person. The brown robe and the brown OI jacket is very simple, there’s no brand. But it’s not the jacket that creates it, but it’s his inner work, his inner transformation that has offered this sense of present, which is beautiful. And when he walks, you know, he’s not in a hurry. His face is very relaxed. When he looks at you, he looks at you with kindness. And sometimes he looks at you with wisdom, or he looks at you like he’s like seeing through your soul. And that is all like something that you have to develop in our practice of understanding and right view. And if we practically, you know, that’s like the teaching aspect. And practically, you know, Thay wrote this calligraphy is You have enough. That mantra right there can be a support for all of us who is going on a shopping spree. And then moderation of what we’re seeing. We know advertisement is done very well to attract us. And we know that that is desire. And a lot of desire is a bait. There’s always a hook. So if you can see beyond the bait, like, what’s the hook? Right? If you want more, that means you have to work more. You sacrifice more time and energy.

01:06:23

And you fear losing it.

01:06:24

And you fear losing it. And then once you… Then you’re chasing after it. And after you get that, the next year, the new iPhone comes out. When is enough? And if we actually want to help shift the narrative we can start to be that change. Don’t wait for others. And because we are so collective, we call this the collective consciousness. So if others are wanting, we will want too. So be mindful of that and try to practice in a way to not judge others, but to bring it back to oneself. Are you sure? Do I need this? If I have this, will it really make me happy? You know, these are very simple questions, but they can be koans, like mantras for us to reflect on. And be mindful of how much advertisement you’re watching because it’s really good. And, you know, this is a big practice for me too.

01:07:31

And one of the wonderful things about being somewhere like Plum Village and in this area of France is that you don’t see adverts and you’re in nature and so you don’t actually want to buy anything.

01:07:42

And the city’s far.

01:07:44

The city’s far. And I know that as soon as I go into a city, you know, it’s like it’s hard because we’re surrounded. But it’s interesting because the person who asked this question said, you know, how do I change? But this person is already aware of the wish to change. And I think so many people in the world don’t even recognize they are caught up in this web. So the very fact of awareness is the start of change.

01:08:12

And we can practice to learn to give when you learn to offer, like give things to charity, that also offers us a lot of happiness. And we see that possession it doesn’t equal happiness, but even giving can generate a lot of happiness in us.

01:08:32

And also I find impermanence helps as well, brother. So sometimes if I’ll see something, and because so much of our mind is grabbing, so I’ll see something and I want to grab it. And rather than buy it straight away, I will note it and then, the next day, have I remembered it? Do I still really want something? And 95% of the time, I kind of remember what it was. And so I think there’s that sense also of standing back from things and recognizing that our mind does grab.

01:09:06

Yeah.

01:09:07

And actually just what we’re saying a lot actually in this podcast is stop, slow down, be mindful, step back.

01:09:16

Yeah.

01:09:16

And because so often we’re acting in that moment and in that moment is not the present moment actually, because that’s coming from a different place.

01:09:25

And we can even go deeper seeing where is this energy of craving coming from? And because if we want, it means there’s a source. And sometimes it is ancestral. Sometimes this energy of not having enough comes from the suffering of our parents and our ancestors. And it has been passed down to us. And so now that we may have much more condition than our parents, much more conditions than our ancestors. And you still ask yourself, I do have one TV. I do have a laptop. I do have food to eat. I have a chair. I have many rooms, not just one room. I have a living room. I have a computer room, etc., etc.. And then you can just ask yourself, where is this energy coming from? And you can smile, Ah, this is the seed of poverty that my ancestors went through and just saying, let me transform that in my lifetime.

01:10:36

Thank you, brother. Just to finish off. There’s also some questions about the practice, about how people can practice more intentionally and more creatively. So let me ask you a couple of questions from here. The first one says, if one has to just focus on their breath while meditating and try to be here in the here and now at all times, when can they reflect on their suffering? It’s such a classic, right? Isn’t it? It’s sort of like if you’re supposed to be in the present moment, how could you deal with your suffering?

01:11:12

Where? Who is actually able to always focus on their breath for a good 30 to 45 minutes because I want to know that person.

01:11:19

Yeah, bring them in, bring them in.

01:11:25

So we have to understand that mindful breathing is an anchor that helps us return to the body, return to the present moment, because most of the time we’re not living in the present moment and we are living in our thoughts, we’re living in our perceptions, we’re living in our stories, we are living in our worries, etc., etc.. So the moment of meditation is actually giving us a chance to stop, feel our body, feel what is happening. Maybe we can even say feel the emotions from all of our thinking, all of our procrastination. And it’s different than looking deeply. Right? So we always want to arrive on the cushion, arrive on our chair, arrive in a posture where we want to enter into stillness meditation. The first establishment of mindfulness is the body, just learning to be one with the body. It sounds simpler than done. You may sit on a cushion, but you’re very tense. Do you recognize, is your back upright? Is your spine aligned with your neck and head? Is your face relaxed? Can you offer yourself a smile? Are your eyebrows and your forehead frowning because of your thinking? Are just shoulders relaxed? So the first practice that we all are taught, when you sit on the cushion, is to feel the body. And then, from there, you start… It’s like a fan. You’re like a fan that is running 24 hours and suddenly, this moment, you want to slow the fan down. For some experienced practitioner, one breath allows them to be in the present moment. But for some of us, we need these steps, like the body after relaxing, noticing tension, and then coming to the breath. So the breath is not just in and out, because the breath is life. And by mindful breathing our inbreath and outbreath can accompany our deep looking. So in the exercises of mindful breathing there’s 16 of them. It asks us to also look at impermanence. So is the breath and the thought, are they two separate thing? Or actually the breath can accompany the deep looking? And we will have the tendency to deep look, to reflect, but then our thinking will overtake us. It’s very natural, is a natural pattern, is our habit. And so when you find yourself overthinking and lost in your thought, you come back to your breathing, so that you don’t lose yourself in the mind of the stories that you are creating. But yes, in the meditation, sometimes you can bring up a subject to look at, but then you can also be lost in looking at that subject. So your mindful breathing guides you back. My own experience is that now I’m more busier than some brothers and sisters in the community, and most of the time I am looking deeply at the planning, and difficulties that are manifesting in the community. I use my time to sit, to talk, to reflect on how to resolve the situation or what’s the best way to plan for the next year, etc., etc.. So I find that this sitting meditation is the moment to just let my mind have a break, because we know that when the body can rest, we can do more. So if you can allow your mind to rest, you can also be more productive in your deep looking. And we know that even with these questions, we’re trying to attain something. Sitting meditation sometimes can be as simple as just sit and enjoy sitting, because in our society we’re doing more than being still and to look deeply. So looking deeply is an art and we don’t want to also be lost in the looking deeply. And most of the time we’re already living outside of our body because we’re thinking and we’re procrastinating. We’re anxious, all these emotions, all this energy, we’re judging. So to come back to the present moment with the breath and just a feel the breath, and to allow yourself to be neutral, not have even feeling happy or feeling sad, sometimes we can be attached also to our happiness, our joy, our excitement, right? So even to the peace, like I want to be like, how I was ten days ago. But the practice of sitting meditation is accepting ourself in the here and now.

01:17:08

Yeah. Beautifully spoken, brother. Thank you. So I’m going to ask you one final question because I’ve put you through the mangle. I mean, it’s quite hard. I mean, you’re used to it, but normally we pick one subject, go deep in it. This is like we’re jumping around and of course it’s all connected, but I recognize that it’s a lot to go through. So one final question. I teach architectural design to high school students. Do you have any suggestions on how to weave mindfulness principles into a classroom environment? Which is a great question because of course, Thay did a lot of, and the community, have done a lot of work with teachers and with bringing sort of mindfulness practices into school. So what would be your recommendation on how to weave? So what is that the sort of way that people could introduce this into the classroom in a way that doesn’t create people either to think, Oh, I’m not doing that, or to think, oh, this is religion. What is a skillful way to bring this into a teaching environment?

01:18:23

Well, first of all, thank you for being a teacher. We know that a happy teacher can change the world. And that is a very beautiful insight that Thay had, because a lot of people we may encounter may come from broken families or a situation where there’s not enough love. So a teacher can be a second chance to offer love, to offer care, offer attention. The practice, first of all, has to be done with the individual. If we want to offer something, we also have to cultivate it for ourself. Be skillful, be attentive to how much emphasis we want to put into the class and not to come out as…

01:19:19

Preaching.

01:19:19

Preaching, exactly. Nobody likes a preacher, but we like to see examples. I always say if you’re a happy teacher, they will see your stability, your presenc, and they would say, Hmm, it’s more, I’m learning more than just the technique that he’s teaching me. I’m learning how he’s presenting. I’m learning how the teacher is showing up. Sometimes teaching is just showing up. How do you show up? So that’s like the inner development that I wanted to make sure I talk about because I’m now a teacher too. So I know if I don’t develop these practices in myself, then I won’t have anything to offer. So another way of looking at it is what I want to offer, I need to learn how can I offer it to myself so that I can offer it to others. So by becoming a teacher, I’ve learned to become a better student, I study it more. Practically, I have friends that are teachers and they have used some of the experience that they had at the retreat and they brought it into their classroom and it has really worked. So I was a guest speaker for the art… What was it? It was a university in San Francisco, and I was a guest speaker. And the way that he change his space, how he started his class was before they start, he took in this element from the walking meditation, you know, before we start the walk, everybody is gathering. So in Plum Village we would sing mindful songs, we would sing songs. And sometimes, you know, the awkward silence make people very uncomfortable. So mindful singing was a way to allow people to ease into this collectiveness. So what he did was each class, because it was only once a week, he would ask one student to select a playlist and to play that playlist as students are arriving. And then they would all, when they all arrived, they would stand in the circle and he would guide them through three deep inbreath and outbreath. And then slowly he would introduce, yes, I did learn this from a meditation center, because if we want to learn, we have to be present. And why not say that, right? That allows people to enter into a space of presence. And then he would ask that student to share with us just in a few lines what this playlist meant for them? Why were these songs important to them? And that allows them to share about what they’re going through. So it’s a skillfulness that you can add into the classroom. And then because his class was, I think an hour and a half, so like every 45 minutes they would take a break and they would all stand up from sitting they would all stand up and come back to the breath, feel the body, and then go again. And that, he said, that really shifted the energy of the class. And everybody waited for that moment to just all stand up together. It wasn’t awkward. It wasn’t religious at all. It was just a moment to rest and to feel where we’re at. And then, sometimes, you can ask, you can create some questions to talk, to ask something different than the classroom, than what’s being presented in the classroom. So I think that was something I experienced that was very unique when I was a guest speaker. So I joined in, well, they had a monk, so I led some of it and it was very unique and many I saw… It’s like the mindfulness bell that we have in our app. Every 45 minutes or 30 minutes, that bell can ring. And then it just tells us to stop and come back to ourself, not lose ourselves, and then continue. And we see that the learning, we need energy, we need to be present, to learn. So I think that is something that we can skillfully introduce to the class. Some other teachers are even more brave now. Buddhism is becoming more popular and mindfulness is becoming more popular, so they even introduced the bell to the classroom. So every 30 minutes they would invite the sound of the bell, and everybody would just come back to the breath and then continue on. And that allows the teacher to also have a moment to just take care of themselves. And then I think on the personal side, it’s just, as a teacher, you’re offering more than just the knowledge, but you can also offer the care of seeing someone, if a student, if they’re going through something difficult instead of being angry and […] wanting school, ask them How how are you doing? How’s your heart? Is there any way that I can support you? You know, and I think these questions to students are very valuable. It shows that we are here for you. I want to support you. I want to not just teach you philosophy or ideas, but I want to show up. And when you show up like this, they’re being taught of how to love.

01:25:35

Beautiful, brother. Thank you. So, brother, I feel this has been like a Dharmic quiz show.

01:25:41

Yeah.

01:25:41

Because I’d be like rapid fire. Because normally in Plum Village, in between each question, there is an invitation for the bell and to breathe every time. And so, in a sense, you’ve… It’s been very quick-fire because we haven’t had that. And so thank you particularly for this episode actually for going across such a range of topics and speaking about each one so beautifully.

01:26:09

And this is fun. I think we should do this more.

01:26:11

Yeah, well, I think we will. I mean, we got through quite a lot of the questions, actually, but I’m sure there’ll be many more in the future. And so, brother, I know we normally finish with just slowing it all back down and coming back to our center, being present in this moment, and for you to offer us a short meditation to help us just let go of all the words, hold onto the meaning that’s infused in us. And then just to be here right now.

01:26:44

Thank you. Hello, friends. I invite you to stop whatever you may be doing, unless you’re driving. Please continue to drive. You may be walking, going for a jog, cleaning your house, or just sitting on the bus at a commute or in the train. Just allow yourself to be still. Feel your two feet on the ground, feel your buttocks on the chair, or on a cushion, or if you’re laying down, you can just feel your whole body touching the earth. And just give yourself some moments to just sink into the body. Feel the weight of the body. If there’s any tension on your face, on your head, just offer a smile. If there’s tension in the shoulders, in the arm, in the back, just release it. Let Mother Earth embrace the tension. This is also self-love. And so now I would like to invite you to be attentive to your inbreath. As I breathe in, I know this is an inbreath. As I breathe out, I know this is an outbreath. Just feel the inbreath coming through our nostril. Feel the outbreath coming out of our nostril. In. Out. As I breathe in, my breath becomes deeper. As I breathe out, my breath is slower, more gentle. I allow myself to have a deep inbreath. And I allow myself to have a calm and gentle outbreath. It is deep. It is slow. Breathing in, I’m in touch with the stillness in me. Breathing out. I enjoy this stillness. Breathing in. I allow this air to freshen my day. Breathing out. I smile through life inside of me and around me. In. Fresh. Out. Smile. Breathing in, I’m grateful to this inbreath. Thank you to the inbreath for life. Breathing out, I am grateful to the outbreath. In, grateful to the breathing. Out, grateful to the outbreath.

01:30:58

Thank you, dear friends for practicing and for being a part of our journey.

01:31:04

Yeah. Thank you, Phap Huu. That was a really wonderful meditation. So, dear listeners, I feel all calm now. Our voices sort of going quieter. So, dear listeners, if you have enjoyed this episode and you can hear many others. We are on Spotify, on Apple Podcasts, on other platforms that carry podcasts and on our own special Plum Village App. Particular thanks to our friend and long-term lay practitioner Maarten, who is here today at short notice to record it. Without Maarten there would be no podcast today. So, thank you. And also to co-producers of Global Optimism.

01:31:47

This podcast was brought to you by the generous donors of the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation. If you would like to support future episodes of the podcast and the work of the international Plum Village community, please visit www.TNHF.org/donate.

01:32:04

The way out is in.


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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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