Paramita #4: Diligence

Here is the verse our local paramita practice group has been reading & reflecting on daily this past week, which I took and pieced together from the section focusing on the Fourth Paramita (diligence) from Thay’s book The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings:

The Buddha said that in the depth of our store consciousness, there are all kinds of positive and negative seeds (anger, delusion, understanding, forgiveness…). Many of these seeds have been transmitted to us by our ancestors. We should learn to recognize every one of these seeds in us in order to practice diligence. The practice is to:

– refrain from watering the negative seeds in us and in the people we love. We also try to recognize the positive seeds that are in us and to live our daily life in a way that we can touch them and help them manifest in the upper level of our consciousness.
– “change the peg”; if you have a mental formation arising that you consider to be unwholesome, invite another mental formation to replace it.
– invite only pleasant seeds to come up and sit in the living room of your consciousness. Never invite a guest who brings your sorrow and affliction.
– keep a wholesome seed as long as possible once it has manifested.

If mindfulness is maintained for 15-minutes, the seed of mindfulness will be strengthened, and the next time you need the energy of mindfulness, it will be easier to bring up.

Gosh, I’ve really been enjoying this paramita reflection group. If you didn’t read the first post in this paramita series, I am part of a small group of 6 people and we’ve been a group now for 4-weeks, with 2 more left to go, centered around the Six Paramitas.

On Monday of each week we start with a different paramita and read a verse each day for the week associated with it. Then on Sunday, each member of our group offers a short check-in about their reflections and practice with the paramita on a shared Google doc. Originally, our group was slated to meet once in person at the end of our 6-weeks, however, we will likely now be meeting on Zoom instead.

For me, the benefit of knowing I have a group of friends I’m practicing with and holding myself accountable to while also having it be largely self-propelled and online works really well as a format. It’s just enough structure without too much structure and leaves a lot of open room for creativity and personalization.

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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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Right &…Regular? (part 2 of 2)

Image credit: I copied this from a talk I watched on Youtube by Sister Dieu Nghiem; she included this chart on a whiteboard. 

In continuance of the thread I started in part 1 of this post topic, I wanted to share a little bit more about right and regular.

Sister Dieu Nghiem mapped out this chart (image above) in a talk she gave back in October at Plum Village. Simply put, this chart represents the equation of what it means to have and develop right diligence. Right diligence involves: not watering the unwholesome seeds that lie in our consciousness, stopping to water the unwholesome seeds once they rise up and become a mental formation (or active state of mind), watering the wholesome seeds that lie in our consciousness, and continuing to water the wholesome seeds once they rise up and become a mental formation.

So, what then is regular diligence? Let’s say that someone has been meditating for a long time – we’ll say 5 years. And for those 5 years, they’ve been sitting every single day in the morning for 20-minutes. This equates to this person having sat a total of 36,500 minutes in meditation. However, despite the fact that they’ve been diligent in sitting every day for 20-minutes, they don’t really feel as though they’ve benefited very much at all from their practice (and neither do their loved ones, by the way). They are still just as restless, agitated, stressed out, overwhelmed at work, and short-tempered with their partner as they were when they were driven to starting a daily habit of meditation in the first place, 5 years ago. Yes, this person has been diligent in sitting but we couldn’t – and shouldn’t – consider this to be right diligence because it hasn’t increased this person’s ability to transform and heal.

As a recap from part 1: I recently watched a talk by Sister Dieu Nghiem on Youtube and she described wholesome habit energies as leading us in the direction of transformation and healing and unwholesome habit energies as that which leads us in the direction of suffering. And I think this explanation applies here, with the word wholesome equating to the word right. So we could say that right stands in accordance with a thought/word/action that propels us in the direction of transformation and healing.

In the Discourse on Youth and Happiness, it states:

Beings produce wrong perceptions concerning objects of desire. That is why they are caught in desire. Because they do not know what desire really is.

For our purposes here, I would translate this as there being an important difference between regular desire and right desire. In consulting with my old pal, desire is defined as such: to wish or long for; crave; want. In our current and modern time, I would define regular desire as incorporating the energetic components of craving, grasping, and attachment and right desire as incorporating such things as being realistically driven by determined will and being governed and propelled into action by a sovereign foundation rooted in solidity and ease. I regard right desire as enfolding the premise of what this meme offers, which I recently shared in a post a few days ago and is serving as my newly held encouraging anthem:

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On Diligence

From the blog post of:

Excerpt from a Dharma Talk by Thich Nhat Hanh, June 11, 2009.

I prefer the term right diligence rather than right effort. Making efforts can make you tired, but when you are diligent, you don’t need to be tired.

I don’t want intensive practice, I want regular practice, diligent practice. There are those of us who practice very intensively for a few weeks and then after that abandon the practice. But there are those of us who practice regularly, not intensive but continuously, that will bring good results. That is why I prefer the word diligence.

Why do you continue to do it? Because I like it. That is a good answer. Because I enjoy doing that. That applies to the practice. If you don’t enjoy the practice you have to make an effort, you get tired, and finally you abandon the practice.

You continue to do it because you like it. It is not because you have to do it. Why did you practice sitting meditation. The best answer is: because I like it. Why do you practice walking meditation? Because I like it. . . .

That is true diligence, right diligence. We know that right diligence brings well-being. The practices of mindful walking, mindful breathing, smiling, bring well-being, happiness.


There’s a very good reason as to why the quality of diligence is included in the Eightfold Path, the Five Powers, the Six Paramitas, AND the Seven Factors of Awakening in Buddhism. It speaks to the power of its incredible importance. Diligence is a critical component of developing a strong spiritual practice (whatever spiritual practice/religion we resonate with). And not just any kind of diligence, right diligence.

This morning, I was listening to a talk online by Sister Hoi Nghiem in our Plum Village tradition. She spoke about spiritual bypassing and described it as such: spiritual bypassing means that we think that we are practicing but actually we are not. She went on to say that if continue to run away from our suffering that we will never learn how to understand it, which is what is necessary in order to transform it.

The Sister is talking about right diligence. If we consider ourselves to be a practitioner in the Plum Village mindfulness tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh (TNH), we must cultivate right diligence in our daily lives, on a number of levels.

As the founder and program director of a weekly sangha, Be Here Now, since 2002, I have had the pleasure and fortune of being in continuous contact and relationship with many folks over our 16+ years of operation. One thing that has become clear to me is that the usage of the word diligence makes people shutter and scrunch their foreheads in mild to wild pangs of disapproval. Diligence is NOT sexy. If people are asking for suggestions or advice in relation to their practice and I use the word diligence at any point, the chances are good that they will mentally gloss right over that word and not allow it to penetrate and absorb. Or worse, they might just high-tail it to some other tradition or practice that doesn’t put emphasis on that quality all together.

As an aspiring Dharma-teacher-in-training, I am invested in finding creative approaches to such common obstacles and dilemmas. I am forever investigating for myself how to go about offering teachings in such a way that won’t send people off in an agitated huffy state of mind, body, and heartspace. Words matter. And I am interested in finding ways to talk about such things as diligence in modern ways and vernacular that maximizes approachability and minimizes the scare-factor.

As a student of Thay’s (aka TNH), I especially look to his teachings on this subject matter, to help inform me in the unfolding process of finding my own voice as a budding teacher:

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Deer Park: Day 26

(Helpful Info & Terminology: This is part of a series of blog posts written during my recent retreat stay at Deer Park Monastery, located in southern California, in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. Due to not having had Internet access I will be posting two days worth of my writing each day from while I was there on retreat.

Laypeople: Also called lay friends or laymen and laywomen, are all of us who come here to practice but are not monks or nuns.
Monastics: The collective group of both monks and nuns.
Clarity Hamlet: Where the nuns, also called Sisters, reside. Laywomen stay here as well.
Solidity Hamlet: Where the monks, also called Brothers, reside. Laymen and couples/families stay here as well. (Clarity and Solidity are just a short 10-15 minute walk in distance from each other).
Thay: Refers to Thich Nhat Hanh, meaning teacher in Vietnamese)


Day Twenty-Six:
Wednesday February 10th, 2016


Today is not only Lazy Day but, due to the late evening for the Sisters last night, we only have two meals scheduled as well, as opposed to having three as usual. Brunch will be at 10:30am and dinner will be served earlier than usual, at 5:00pm. In an attempt to get back on track with my normal daily schedule that I keep at home I’ve been trying to sleep in a little bit in the morning and not get up until 4:00am (which is 5:00am mountain time, the normal hour I wake up). The last couple of mornings I’ve been continuing to wake up around 3:00am, proceeded by an hour’s worth of fitful tossing and turning, due to the fact that my body is ready to get up. Since I go to bed around 8:00pm it’s quite easy to wake up so early. Interestingly it didn’t occur to me until just now that if I want to wake up a little later I should be going to bed a little later too!  Perhaps I’ll give that a shot tonight.

I’ve been getting filled with the inspiration to give certain teaching talks since I’ve been here. Oftentimes in the morning a flood of ideas for a certain talk I’d like to give come rolling in. This is a rather new experience for me. It’s been an exciting process to undergo, especially considering the voice of self-doubt is very small. As I’ve been advancing in my practice, beginning to teach meditation classes, and placed on the track of dharma teacher in-training the voice of self-doubt has been a strong force to be reckoned with. It’s caused me to lack confidence in my own abilities and practice experience and rattled my feelings of worthiness to help guide and teach others. Self-doubt is not a helpful friend along the path, it’s a roadblock that hinders progress. I’ve spent a long time being caught between the difference of self-confidence, which I consider beneficial, and ego, which I consider largely un-beneficial. It has taken me a while to discern one from the other, as the line that separates them is gray and pale. I think ultimately that as a human being it’s not realistic for me to strive to be completely without an ego but it is possible to quiet it down by keeping it well in sight. The more I further my understanding of my own inner workings the better able I am to see which is propelling me in any given moment: self-confidence or ego. I know when self-confidence is running the show, so to speak, and I know when ego is trying to take over the spotlight. And as they often overlap one another, tripping over each other on stage, this level of self-discovery is not one that ever fades into non-existence but remains an ongoing practice everyday.

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Everyday Mindfulness

to do

To cultivate mindfulness in our daily activities is to re-engage with the present moment.  To wake up to what is going on within and around us in the here and now.  The practice of mindfulness allows us to switch off auto-pilot and turn on conscious living.  There are many ways to integrate mindfulness into our day-to-day schedule – here are some of the ones I personally enjoy:

1. Sitting Meditation.  Soon after I wake up in the morning I practice sitting meditation for 20 minutes.  I find that starting off my morning with meditation enables me to have a strong foundation for the unfolding of the rest of the day.

2. Bowing to the Earth.  I end my sitting meditation with three bows to the earth.  I consider these to be a practice in offering gratitude.  In my first bow I always say the same thing: I bow to the earth in gratitude for this one precious life.  My second and third bows vary from day to day.  Sometimes I offer gratitude to my parents and ancestors, my friends and community, or my husband and son.  Sometimes I offer gratitude for joy, abundance, the luxuries of electricity, housing, food, or clean water.  And sometimes I offer gratitude for the earth, sky, waters, air, sun, and moon.  Offering gratitude is important.  And I find bowing to be important as well.  While kneeling I bend over and prostrate to the earth, resting my forehead down on my meditation cushion, with my hands on the floor, palms facing upwards.  Prostrating to the earth is a practice of humbling oneself, of letting go of the ego, of connecting, and of offering reverence.

3. Meal Gratitude.  Before each meal I take a moment to stop and connect with the food in front of me and the many conditions present that brought it to my plate I and say a few words of gratitude.  If I’m eating with my family at home we take turns saying them aloud but when that isn’t the case (which is much of the time) I simply say them to myself silently.  I have a long and short version that I often recite.

Short version: This food is the gift of the whole universe, the earth, the sky, and much hard work.

Long version: This food is the gift of the whole universe, the earth, the sky, and much hard work.  May I keep my compassion alive by remembering that there are many people who don’t have enough food to eat or access to clean water, who will die of starvation and malnutrition today.  I accept this food with gratitude and reverence for the life I am afforded.

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