Life in Plum Village
“The energy of mindfulness is the kind of energy that can heal and transform. Buddhas and boddhisatvas are beings that have that kind of energy. Practicing mindfulness, we generate the kind of energy that can touch suffering and can touch the wonders of life. When we touch the wonders of life in the present moment we get nourished by these wonders of life.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hahn recently recovered from a stroke and several weeks in a coma. The doctors are amazed he woke up and is speaking again. They are calling him an enigma. He just celebrated his 90th birthday, or day of his continuation. Students call him Thay, Vietnamese for teacher.
Thay’s teachings transformed my life, or at least planted many seeds. Just over 15 years ago, I was fortunate to spend 6 weeks on retreat in Plum Village studying Engaged Buddhism. We spent 3-4 hours every day listening to Thay’s dharma talks. We fell asleep sometimes. Thay said falling asleep was an important part of healing our exhausted parasympathetic nervous systems as the rains of the dharma fell gently upon us. In time we were able to stay fully awake and present for those three hours a day. My notes sound like poems, that is just the way he talks. (a few are posted below)
About halfway through, I hit a wall and tried to leave; this happened to many of us. Mostly, I remember the summer drenched with enchantment, meditations at dawn & dusk, learning to meditate outside of the meditation hall – in the kitchen, in the gardens, and volleyball with monks who could meditate while playing volleyball – killer volleyball that is.
In the bookstore one day, a group of children found the meditation bells for sale and began ringing them. It was our practice to breathe mindfully 3 times at the sound of the bell. The children would ring a bell again at the end of each round of 3 breaths. We were all trapped there for some time until a nun intervened.
The last week I found an abandoned treehouse and slept there with my mosquito netting and sleeping bag the rest of the time. After sleeping in a small tent for 5 weeks, my heart sang under the stars at night. I will never forget those times.
“Only in paradise is the sky blue.”
Thich Nhat Hanh / Upper Hamlet, August 1997
– Jen Taylor