(written on June 20th, 2012)
Today we went to New Hamlet for the dharma talk followed by another 30 year Plum Village celebration day.
The following are some notes I took during Thay’s dharma talk on June 20th:
“Cultivate the seed of understanding and compassion so they can become stronger. Happiness is made of understanding and compassion. I am capable of understanding, we need to remind ourselves, this is not wishful thinking. I am capable of compassion. We can always think in a way that produces compassion. We can react with compassion. We take time to respond especially when we encounter something unpleasant. We do not want to do automatically. There are many ways to respond, not just one way. When I see something unpleasant I will take the time to respond. One breath can bring understanding. We create a new habit. We are not angry at our habit energy, we recognize it, we smile to it. True happiness is made of understanding and compassion. Thinking most of the time is useless. We should not be possessed by our thinking. I think therefore I am lost :)
Four fruits of practice: 1.) Feeling comfortable where we are. Many of us are like frogs, always hopping around. We stand on one mountain thinking another mountain is more beautiful. We don’t know our body is a wonder already. When we are happy with ourselves we are beautiful. 2.) I have arrived, I am home (referring to arriving in the present moment, our true home). We don’t feel we need more conditions to be happy, we see all of the conditions (that are already) present to be happy. We don’t run anymore. 3.) Interbeing. We look at everything with the insight of interbeing. In the beginning we may see that the tiny flower is outside of us. If we lose our smile, the tiny flower will give it back to us. 4.) No birth, no death. You touch the ultimate dimension. True nature is no birth, no death, free from the notion of being and non-being.
Our body is not static, it is a river flowing of cells. Everything is a river. You are a stream. Feelings is a river, perception is a river, body is a river. We must learn to look at everything as a stream. Look into yourself and see you are not a separate self. You are a continuation.”
After outdoor walking meditation, where everyone admired and snapped pictures of the first lotus flowers in bloom on the pond, one of Thay’s poems was read on a loud speaker set up outside and some of the sisters did a dance inspired by the reading. I sat with Clara for the performance and from where we were we could see Thay and Sister Chan Khong’s face alight with joy. From time to time bird calls would randomly sound over the music playing on the speakers and Clara soon pointed out that there was a toy bird by a microphone sitting next to Thay that he pushed to make the noises (click on the picture below to enlarge and see the bird). Some of the sisters wore flower rings as they danced, others held thin branches of leaves to symbolize trees or fluttered around as a bird or butterfly in their adorned monastic robe.
After lunch there were extremely delicious and professionally prepared cupcakes in different flavors topped with artistically crafted chocolates along with an exhibit which featured many of Thay’s books, teaching aids, and gifts given to him on teaching tours by princesses, heads of government, and religious leaders encased in glass boxes on display. In one of the displays sat an old typewriter that Thay used back in the day when he printed, hand corrected and bound his own books.
Later, while waiting for a presentation by Sister Chan Khong to begin, Mike said something that watered deep seeds of sadness in me. I was sharing about some irritations that I had been experiencing over the last day or so and about how I was working through them and practicing to look deeper and he mentioned trying to figure out how to handle my frustrations. I felt I had been sharing my honest thoughts in a healthy, un-stressful way but I guess he felt differently. This is a subject we come back to over and over again throughout our relationship. I try to communicate frustrations and then I wind up feeling squelched because he doesn’t know how to respond and gets overwhelmed when really all I am looking for is to be listened to. We parted ways on our separate buses on uneven ground. A weight of sadness still sits with me now four hours later. My emotions heighten when I am tired and my pain increases when I am either emotional or tired and even more so if I am experiencing both. It has been a long day and when I came back to lower hamlet I showered before dinner and then hit a wall of exhaustion. I ate very quickly and then excused myself from my family to return to my bunk to lie down.
I am mostly all packed. I need to bring my things with me on the morning shuttle to upper hamlet tomorrow in order to leave for the train station from there after the dharma talk. Usually after a retreat I am nervous about returning back into the fray of daily life but not this time.
I have not learned much that is brand new but I have found that many familiar teachings have penetrated deeper. I look forward to practicing with fresh insights and excitement.