The 5 Powers Film

Last night, I watched the film The 5 Powers, which is based off of the comic book I’m holding in the pic above (or vice versa, I’m not sure :).

The 5 Powers film is about Thich Nhat Hanh (TNH), Sister Chan Kong, and Alfred Hassler and their involvement in the peace movement back in the 60’s. I really enjoyed it and felt they did a nice job crafting it together. I plan on showing it to the kids who will be attending our upcoming local spring family retreat, as I think they’ll also enjoy it.


If you’re looking for a mindful movie you can watch solo, with your friends, or with your kids, I’d recommend checking this one out!

You can rent the film online for $4, or digitally purchase it for $9. If you’re interested, click here.

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Meme I put together using one of my own photos

Spurred by a practice I’m doing alongside an OI aspirant I have the pleasure of mentoring – which involves spending 2 weeks reflecting on each of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings –  and an idea my good friend Rhonda had, I came up with a creative way to work more deeply with the Five Bodhisattvas in our Plum Village practice tradition. It’s an experiment I’m choosing to call: Bodhisattva Reflection Practice Group.

I emailed a number of our regular sangha members with an overview of the set up – which largely takes place over email – asking for a full commitment to the schedule below, should folks be interested in joining the group. I also explained that in large part this practice would be self-driven. I don’t intend on checking up on anyone or sending out the schedule each week. I sent one email out and encouraged everyone to save it for ongoing reference, which included a PDF of the necessary text for all Five Bodhisattvas (link to online text is included below). Including myself, we are a lovely group of 8 :)

Here’s how it works:


Monday March 4th: Read (& reflect on) Avalokiteshvara every day through Sunday.
Sunday March 10th: Send your answers to the three questions (see below) to EVERYONE on this email list.

Monday March 11th: Read (& reflect on) Manjushri every day through Sunday.
Sunday March 17th: Send your answers to the three questions to EVERYONE on this email list.

Monday March 18th: Read (& reflect on) Samantabhadra every day through Sunday.
Sunday March 24th: Send your answers to the three questions to EVERYONE on this email list.

Monday March 25th: Read (& reflect on) Ksitigarbha every day through Sunday.
Sunday March 31st: Send your answers to the three questions to EVERYONE on this email list.

Monday April 1st: Read (& reflect on) Sadaparibhuta every day through Sunday.
Sunday April 7th: IN PERSON GATHERING; answer the three questions and bring them with you to share.
Here are the three questions we will all be answering and emailing to the group each week (using the same questions each week):


1. How would you summarize this verse in your own words?

2. What do you see as being your own strengths and weaknesses in relation to the qualities of this Bodhisattva?

3. What is something you’ve gleaned by reflecting on this Bodhisattva this past week?

Bodhisattva literally means “enlightened being.” The Plum Village chant book defines it as such: One committed to enlightening oneself and others so that all may be liberated from suffering.

In our practice tradition, we are especially urged not to regard the Bodhisattva’s as external separate entities but more as qualities in which to actively cultivate within our own self, for the benefit of all beings. While the Bodhisattva’s are mentioned as actual human beings – and disciples of the Buddha – in the sutras, we are encouraged to see them as representing skill-sets and capabilities in which to hone and sharpen in our own life.

As we are amid week one in our reflection group, I’ll keep you posted as to my journaling on each of the Bodhisattvas, as well as my answers to the three questions.

If this arrangement goes well, I can see putting together other reflection group practices in the future. I really enjoy knowing that I’m practicing alongside my friends and that we can share what we’re working on with one another. We’re all in this together!

Stay tuned!

Not Giving Up

In my last post, I shared: In regards to the friendship I’m currently in heartache over, I’ve come to realize – after much processing back and forth – that there is a way for me to keep my heart open to this person while also distancing myself from them.

Shortly after writing this, I came across a well-timed article on Twitter, entitled Why You Should Never Give Up on Anybody by Lodro Rinzler. Don’t you just love when things line up?

I clicked on the link right away and set to reading the article. Here it is, if you’d like to give it a gander.

I especially appreciated this segment from the article:

In the Buddhist tradition we refer to beings willing to keep their heart open no matter what as bodhisattvas. Bodhi is a Sanskrit word which can be translated as “open” or “awake.” Sattva can be translated from Sanskrit as “being” or “warrior.” It’s a person who is incredibly brave in maintaining an open heart, no matter what comes up in their life. This experience is something we can aspire to. The Zen master Seung Sahn once said, “Being a bodhisattva means when people come, don’t cut them off; when people go, don’t cut them off.”

I was so enjoying this article – that is, until I got to the end, where Lodro shared this practice:


Pema Chödron is an American Buddhist teacher who has written extensively about the pain of a broken heart and I can’t recommend her work more highly. Below I have adapted an exercise she has recommended. It starts by taking a photo of the person you are having a hard time with and displaying it prominently in your home. This may initially cause you discomfort. So much of heartbreak is staying with our discomfort.

Every time you walk by the photo look at the being you are struggling with and simply say, “I wish you the best.” If that rings hollow to you instead say, “I know you are basically good” or “You’re not a jerk all the time.” Whatever phrase you choose, make it personal, but some version of acknowledging that they are not basically evil. Do this several times a day, whenever your gaze falls on the photo. Let your heart soften over time.


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Don’t Bite the Hook

On my recent road trip, in addition to all of the music I enjoyed listening to while driving, I brought along a set of CD’s I borrowed from our mindfulness center’s library: a 3-disc series of talks by Pema Chodron called Don’t Bite the Hook.

Here’s a description I found online:

Life has a way of provoking us with traffic jams and computer malfunctions, with emotionally distant partners and crying children—and before we know it, we’re upset. We feel terrible, and then we end up saying and doing things that only make matters worse. But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Pema Chödrön. It is possible to relate constructively to the inevitable shocks, losses, and frustrations of life so that we can find true happiness. The key, Pema explains, is not biting the “hook” of our habitual responses. In this recorded weekend retreat, Pema draws on Buddhist teachings from The Way of the Bodhisattva to reveal how we can:

• stay centered in the midst of difficulty
• improve stressful relationships
• step out of the downward spiral of self-hatred
• awaken compassion for ourselves and others

I can’t say enough good things about this series. It was so chock full of insight and wisdom that I found I could only listen in 15-20 minute segments which fortunately, with how this series is set up, is very easy to do.

Here are some things I penned down whilst driving and listening (note: if it has quotation marks around it, then it’s something she said verbatim – if it doesn’t, it’s something I paraphrased, infusing my own understanding/practice into what I heard):

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Daily Practice, Day 3


Day 3 – I’m finding that blogging each day has been helpful in keeping me accountable to my intention to sit everyday.  My hope is that over time I will be able to transform my need to be accountable in order to sit and have it become part of my daily routine.  I am confident that it will happen if I continue to be diligent in this early stage.

After my sit this morning I read: Invoking the Bodhisattvas Names, the first 6 of the 14 Mindfulness Trainings and another passage in the Discourse on Knowing the Better Way to Catch a Snake.  Here’s a passage from Invoking the Bodhisattvas Names:

“We invoke your name, Manjushri, We aspire to learn your way, which is to be still and to look deeply into the heart of things and into the hearts of people.  We will look with all our attention and open-heartedness.  We will look with unprejudiced eyes.  We will look without judging or reacting.  We will look deeply so that we will be able to see and understand the roots of suffering, through the impermanent and selfless nature of all that is.  We will practice your way of using the sword of understanding to cut through the bonds of suffering, thus freeing ourselves and other species.”

The last sentence spoke to me.  In thinking about using the sword of understanding to cut through the bonds of suffering I see clearly how often we cause ourselves to suffer based on a simple misunderstanding.  It is easy to think that our perceptions are accurate and true – and not only that, but real and concrete, something permanent.  Seldom do we clearly see things as they are, people as they are.  And without clear sight we cannot have understanding.  And without understanding compassion cannot be born.

Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) teaches us to ask ourselves, “Am I Sure?”  When I encounter someone who is being rude to me and I immediately think of what a jerk that person is, am I sure that I know what is actually going on for that person?  When we can stop and ask ourselves, “Am I Sure?” our situation has the power to change right away.  Looking deeply I can see that I cannot possibly know what is going of for another person on every level.  When I get in touch with the nature of interbeing it is easy to see that we are each a lifetime of experiences, relationships and emotions.  Much life have we each led that has created this moment in time.  It is a deep practice to not be so sure.


Week 7 – Online Winter Retreat

Week 7 – Online winter retreat, presented by Deer Park Monastery.  To follow along copy and paste this in your browser, there are talks, questions and readings posted every week:


My notes from Brother Phap Hai’s talk:

There is no way home, home is the way.

“I walk for you,” Thay.

The 4 great buddhist archetypes (to cultivate in our own mind of bodhicitta): Manjushri: great understanding, Samantabhadra: great action, Avalokiteshvara: great compassion, Khistigarba: great vow.

The 6 crossings over (paramitas): generosity (material, dharma, non-fear), mindfulness trainings (three cumulative pure precepts: refraining from harmful actions of body, speech and mind, cultivating wholesome seeds in self and others, benefit all beings), inclusiveness (open heart, present with conditions as they are – to be patient with anyone regardless of their situation), diligence, meditation (quality of mind that embraces all and excludes none – our meditation is our daily life, not just on the cushion), and insight (seeing things as they really all – the mother of all the buddhas).  The paramitas are the petals of a flower – when we cultivate one we cultivate the others.  We can chose to make them the framework of our raft.

Reflection Questions

1) Do I notice any “flower” moments this week?  What are some situations where I am called to a deeper understanding, a widening of my heart?

As described in the talk offered by Brother Phap Hai a flower moment is one where the true nature of something is revealed.  I noticed many flower moments this week.  I am currently visiting my family on the east coast where I was born and raised.  In the past when I’ve come home to visit it has been a little stressful trying to see as many people as possible in a short amount of time, always feeling like I’m not spending enough time with this person or that person, getting swept away by the fast paced culture here, and getting wrapped up in my stories and judgements of a myriad of things.  This visit has been different.  I feel much more relaxed.  I’ve been practicing deeply to simply go with the flow, to release my judgements and to embrace.  Embrace myself, my surroundings (whatever they are), my family and all of the energies that are floating, whizzing or rocketing around.  Seeing my old stomping grounds as a beautiful and deep part of myself has helped to transform the relationship I have with this area, which up until now was quite strained.

I am called to a deeper understanding and widening of the heart when it comes to stepping out of my comfort zone.  I very much enjoy seeing the transformation of a once awkward or challenging situation into a comfortable one with joy and ease.

2) Reflecting on the paramitas – which one(s) are most present for me in my practice and daily life at this time?

Inclusiveness is alive for me right now and has been in the past week.  Being with situations as they are, being with people as they are.  One of the great fruits of the practice is the cultivation of ease and comfort in a variety of situations.  And I’ve been enjoying seeing this process unfold.

3) Take some time, just as mentioned in the podcast to reflect concretely on the interconnectedness of the paramitas and how they manifest themselves in your practice.. e.g. How is generosity a part of the mindfulness trainings, how is inclusiveness part of the trainings etc, until you have looked at all of them and their different manifestations. This is a really interesting reflection and you are going to discover many aspects to your practice and motivation that you hadn’t touched until now!  Enjoy!

4) What does compassion mean to me? How does compassion manifest in my life?

Compassion is how I relate to others in a way that expresses my care, understanding and support.  I practice to stay in touch with both the joys and suffering that exist, to look at things deeply and keep an open mind.  Compassion is cultivated through my mindfulness and meditation practice and manifests through my relationships to both myself and my surroundings.

5) In the Discourse on the Eight Realizations of Great Beings, what does “to suffer with all beings” mean to me?

To me this means to stay in touch with suffering, to not turn away from it.  It means to practice looking deeply to see the causes and conditions of suffering and to embrace it fully as a part of life.  It also means to offer support and care to those who suffer, to help show them how to transform their suffering to become light and free and joyful.

Suggested Practices

Create space and time this week for walking meditation. Space set aside, and also a natural practice of embodied walking as you move through your day. Notice times and spaces where you feel relaxed and unhurried, and situations where you feel rushed and “pressed.”