A Rose for Your Pocket

A Rose for Your Pocket

Our parents play an important role in our lives. Whether they are still alive or have passed away, whether we have a good relationship with them, difficult relationship with them, or no relationship at all, strengthening our relationship with the people who gave us life can be a nourishing and healing practice. 

In order to help us cultivate our understanding, love, and gratitude for our mothers, our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh wrote A Rose for Your Pocket. In recognition of Mother's day, we hope this writing will lead you to a new and deeper appreciation of your mother whether she is still alive or has passed away. For those of us who have a challenging relationship with our mother, we may instead use this reflection to develop a deeper appreciation for our father, a teacher, or another loved one who has been a positive figure in our life.

Mindful Plant-Based Potlucks

Mindful Plant-Based Potlucks

When we met for our first Mindful Cooking potluck, we never imagined we were starting a practice that would continue for nine years and beyond.  Apparently, we have evolved a format that meets a need and keeps people coming.

We began as a small group of sangha members who were inspired by Thay's 2007 call to move to a plant-based diet for the sake of the Earth.  After several months of e-mailing recipes to each other, we met for a potluck in my garden. We gathered around the food table and read the Five Contemplations together.  When our plates were filled, we settled ourselves in a circle and took turns telling our food stories, going around the circle, and being sure to hear from everyone. The result was a fascinating, surprisingly deep conversation.  

Practice Being an Earth Holder

Practice Being an Earth Holder

To be alive with this awareness is to practice being an Earth Holder. Breathing in, I am aware of all the trees and plants that offer me oxygen.  Breathing out, I am aware that I offer the gift of carbon dioxide to the trees and plants as well. We interare. In fact, it is not possible to be separate.

A single breath can bring me to the realization of interbeing. As Thay teaches us, it only takes one breath to come back to ourselves.  In this case, the first breath helps me be aware that I am a part of the Great Bodhisattva Earth. In the next breath, I can ask myself, “What will I do with this precious moment, this day, or this life to support my Mother Earth?”

My Life is My Message

My Life is My Message

The role of an OI member is to build Sangha. But you don’t have to be an OI member to start building a Sangha.  How do we build Sangha? The manuals for Sangha building say that we need a bell, a vase of flowers, cushions and chairs, the Five Mindfulness Trainings, and some of Thay’s books. We learn how to give simple instructions on mindful breathing, sitting and walking meditation. But when we get caught in form, structure and guidelines, the practice can’t be as fresh, gentle and alive. We are unable to create safe space for nurturing brotherhood and sisterhood, which is the essence of a true Sangha. When we build Sangha, we build a new culture – the culture of mindfulness and love.

Breathe, Remember, Return

Breathe, Remember, Return

Many of you remember to come back to Plum Village, so this is wonderful. Plum village is like a spiritual family, and I see a lot of familiar faces every year. We all need a spiritual home. This is something lacking in our society, something very important in our life as a human being. We’re not just going around “eating” and trying to make a living, get a car, a house, and so on. There is another dimension that involves the spirit. It is the same stuff that makes us cry, that makes us joyful and happy. There is something more than just running around.

Help Heal the Wounds of Discrimination

Help Heal the Wounds of Discrimination

ARISE (Awakening through Race, Intersectionality, and Social Equity) is a group of mindfulness practitioners and monastics in the Plum Village tradition who have come together with the aspiration to use the energy of compassion, understanding, and love in order to heal the wounds of discrimination and social inequity within ourselves and our society. In 2015, due to the racial violence and unrest occurring in the nation, members of the Plum Village community, together with other Buddhist communities, participated in national discussions on racial and social inequities. From these gatherings, ARISE emerged with the desire to use mindfulness as the vehicle to alleviate suffering wherever it existed, knowing that the suffering of one person was the suffering of us all.

Happy 91st Birthday to Thich Nhat Hanh!

Happy 91st Birthday to Thich Nhat Hanh!

What Gift Do You Give a Zen Master?

On Wednesday, October 11, 2017, it will be Thich Nhat Hanh's 91st birthday –or as our beloved teacher likes to call it, his Continuation Day! You may wonder, “What kind of gift can I give a Zen master? A person who already practices to have all the conditions of happiness? What would be meaningful for Thay?” We would like to offer this response: We can give Thay the gift of compassion.

Thay Returns to Vietnam

Thay Returns to Vietnam

We are very happy to confirm that earlier today, 29th August 2017, at 12h35 local time, our dear Teacher landed safely at Đà Nẵng airport in Vietnam. This is his first visit to Vietnam since 2008.

In recent weeks Thay has expressed a strong wish to visit his home country once more, and the sangha is delighted to have been able to realise his wish. Thay’s trip will include a visit to Plum Village’s Root Temple, Chùa Từ Hiếu, in Huế, where Thay began his monastic training in 1942.

How My Seven-Year-Old Came to Take the Precepts

How My Seven-Year-Old Came to Take the Precepts

When my daughter was around four or five years old, she began to be intrigued by the altar, my sacred little haven of refuge. She’d go over when I was not there, pick up, and study the various adornments and sometimes even sit on the cushion, clearly mimicking me. She’d sit still for a minute at most, and then she’d run off again. Though some part of me wanted to protect my private space from the intrusion of children, later I’d be glad that I’d not discouraged her from spending time there.

On Motherhood: Lessons from a Three-Legged Doe

On Motherhood: Lessons from a Three-Legged Doe

She imparted the first Dharma lesson to me in the summer of 2009, in the midst of an especially trying day. Looking back now, I am not sure what set me off, only that the morning’s Dharma discussion had dredged up within me a deep melancholy that I hadn’t felt before. At its core was my frustration at the choices I was making as a parent. At the time, my daughters were eight and twelve. One was on the brink of teenagerdom, while the other was prone to regular temper tantrums. To put it simply, I was at my wit’s end and at some point that late morning, I had lost my temper with either one or both of my children.  In any event, I was now teeming with guilt.  I felt hopeless, tired, and very alone, as my husband (my better, calmer half), had not joined us on this particular retreat.  And so, with a heavy heart I left my children crying in the dorm for a walk in the woods. Perhaps with a bit of breathing and alone time I could cool off and find my bearings.

Together We Are One

Together We Are One

I had the opportunity to teach at a teen retreat recently, and a number of us staff were concerned about one of the youngest teens who seemed to have difficulty integrating into the larger group. The teen was shy and withdrawn, and didn’t come to activities. When they did, they would read a book rather than participate. We tried talking and listening to them and encouraging them to join in. When this met with some resistance, we simply accepted the teen and did our best to let them know they were welcome to be part of the group as they were. Other teens also reached out in different ways to help this teen feel connected.

As the week went on, the teen seemed to feel more comfortable joining in some activities and seemed to be less isolated in the big group. Then at the closing ceremony of the retreat, teens were invited to stand up, come into the center of the circle, and share something with the group. This teen, who at the beginning of the retreat appeared quite awkward and ill at ease, walked slowly to the center of our circle and shared very clearly and with great dignity that the retreat had helped them a great deal, they had learned important things, and they would be taking all of us with them after it ended. Then even more surprisingly, after the closing circle, this teen - who had spoken very little to others that whole week - stood at the door offering free hugs to anyone who wanted them!

The power of a group of people practicing sincerely together is enormous. Things that have not been possible for us up until then become possible.

Walk With Me: An Alternative Response

Walk With Me: An Alternative Response

Commercializing mindfulness is not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes we overuse the word or misunderstand it. It’s sort of like the word “love.” We overuse it. “I love this, I love that.” We lose sight that love is really something different, something larger and deeper than “I love pizza. I love Coca Cola.” I think this film can go a long way to inform people about something other than the commercial aspect of mindfulness.

It’s more than just a fad. It’s something that’s been around for thousands of years, and it is deeply grounded in the historical lineage, going back to the Buddha and other spiritual teachers. Now, it can be presented in a way that is more contemporary and much more accessible.