(written on June 6th, 2012)
Last night our evening program (yes, it was apparently lazy day not lazy night yesterday) was a mindfulness training panel (if you’d like to read the trainings please go to: http://www.plumvillage.org/mindfulness-trainings/3-the-five-mindfulness-trainings.html). It was quite wonderful. One of the panelists is a beautiful girl in her 30’s with long flowing brown hair. She’s an american but lives in Liberia doing humanitarian work in a post civil war ravished country. I’ve seen her around. And I don’t like her. I’ve never spoken with her, I don’t know anything about her. It’s interesting how we, as a human collective, can automatically not like a person, the energy exchange somehow off balance. I watch my mind tell stories about her and I know they are just that, stories. Her talk was very good, she seems very nice, and she is doing incredibly important and difficult work. I see clearly that my judgements are rooted in feelings of inferiority and my fear of women.
I’ve just eaten breakfast and am waiting for the shuttle to take me to upper hamlet for the dharma talk. Our daily schedule is: 5:30am wake up, 6:00am sitting meditation, 7:00am breakfast, 9:30am dharma talk, 11:30am walking meditation, 1:00pm lunch, 3:00pm working meditation, 4:30pm dharma discussion group, 6:15pm dinner, 8:00pm evening program. I am grateful for deciding to stay apart from Mike. It has already given me much needed space and time. It is easy to lose myself a bit in him, to forget about my own wants and needs. This way I can find my two feet solid on the ground.
The following are some of the notes I took during Thay’s talk on June 6th:
“We walk in such a way where peace and joy is present. We do not have to go to the dharma hall to practice. Dharma is a living dharma, not written or spoken. The world is in need of the living dharma. The buddha is not something outside of you. When you invite the buddha to sit with you he will sit beautifully, you don’t need to do anything, he will do it for you.
You have to bring harmony to your body. Harmonizing the breath, the body, the mind. Releasing tension. We should not be too eager to control the breath, body and mind. Let them be as they are. The energy of mindfulness will naturally harmonize the breath. Continue to breathe and smile at your breathing. When the mind is restless let it be, not to punish or suppress, embrace it gently with mindfulness. When you are aware of restlessness as it happens there is already a change.
Sit in such a way you are sitting as a lotus flower and not a heap of burning charcoal.
Put yourself in a stable position when experiencing a strong emotion, belly breathing, so it doesn’t carry you away. Stop the thinking – no thinking is the secret. Focus 100% on your in breath and out breath. Emotions are impermanent. Don’t wait until a strong emotion arises to practice. Like with lousy music playing we should push a button and change the music. We can make use of our positive seeds, invite one to come up.”
After the talk Mike took me to his place of lodging in Son Ha, a 10 minute walk through the woods from upper hamlet. On the way we came across a few large black buddha statues sitting in the grass like a little, slightly creepy because of their coloring, family. Mike told me about his adventures through the french countryside on the full moon night when he didn’t find me at the tent and had to trek back to Son Ha. He wound up crossing paths with a wild boar and what we now believe to be a badger in the woods – both were very benign animal encounters and he emerged unscathed, with a story for the annals of our Plum Village journey. Son Ha was quite beautiful, with old stone walls, stained glass windows in the monastics meditation room, drying gourds posing in the sunlight and shadow and wall outcoves with lanterns.
I took some lunch to my upper bunk in Cherry House but was too tired and sore to sit up and eat much so I napped instead. Napping is such a luxury and I’ve really been looking forward to and appreciating them. Then I woke up for working meditation and picked some lemon balm for tea, followed by discussion group where I simply listened and did not share. I skipped dinner and took a warm shower in the Cherry Barn. Tomorrow we venture the 20 minutes bus ride to new hamlet.
It is refreshing to see my irritations and not get carried away by them, not be consumed by them like I used to be on retreats. I see this as a stepping stone to transformation. My reality is what I make of it.
For not having a Here’s What To Bring list for this retreat I think I’ve done pretty well packing. Crucial items so far have been ear plugs!, an umbrella and a book light. I’m off to bed now with a craving for more nobel silence.