Walk With Me: An Alternative Response

Sister Peace

The following is adapted from an interview with monastic Sr. An Nghiem (Sr. Peace), who practices at Plum Village Monastery and is featured in the upcoming film, “Walk With Me,” premiering this March at SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX. She shares her thoughts about the documentary. 

An Alternative Response

The filmmakers, Max Pugh and Marc J. Francis, have often said how grateful they were for the  intimate access and exposure to us. But because we knew them well, we felt a lot of trust, and we felt that whatever finished product they created would certainly enable people to have a deeper appreciation about what it’s like to be a monastic, particularly following Thich Nhat Hanh in the Plum Village tradition.

Since the making of the film, so much as happened. So many of us have been deeply affected by the climate of social engagement, especially in politics, and it’s really nice that this film will allow people to witness an alternative response. An alternative response, compared to what the norm is today, is really healthy for our society, and I think the world is really looking towards America right now. Hopefully, it could give people a “cause to pause.”

I think the beautiful thing about the film is that it unfolds in such a way that is quite natural. It doesn’t proselytize; there aren’t long excerpts of Dharma talks or ceremonies. We are actually living and embodying what we have discovered to be the practice for each of us. We can play, we can study, we can chant, we can do all of these things in such a way that brings peace and happiness. And we do that with mindfulness.

More Than Just a Fad

Fortunately, in today’s climate, when you hear the word “Zen” or “mindfulness,” people no longer respond with, “Huh?” There is a social consciousness; mindfulness, the Buddha, and Zen have even made its way to Bed Bath and Beyond.

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.

We All Can Walk This Path

Hopefully when people walk away from the film, they’ll have a broader and deeper view of what mindfulness means, and if they are so moved, they may go and find a monastery, mindfulness practice center, or sangha (local meditation group). Especially in these times when we need to go forward with a lot of calm and a lot of tranquility.

The film shows different people in different situations, and for me, that’s one of the mostprofound aspects of the practice. We see monastics and friends of different ages and races from countries around the globe, and it shows that no matter who you are, you can walk on this path. This is a very special message in this time of segregation, discrimination, and racism. It’s not directly said at all in the film but people will be able to infer that this path has many streams. All of us are finding our own way but we are all walking it together.

Inspired to help make a positive change?

Click here to learn more about "Walk With Me", watch the trailer, and support the film in order to "send" Thich Nhat Hanh on a global tour.