Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ripened Plums Harvest

Ripe Plums Harvest 2
Originally uploaded by d nelson
I was privileged to attend the last 2 weeks of the summer retreat in Plum Village. A special time to visit with friends; some from Europe, others from Asia, and a few from America. We all came to practice mindfulness. I and I believe others were moved by Thich Nhat Hanh 's gentle guidance and enthusiastic modeling powerful methods of transformation. If there's a chance to hear this summer's dharma talk recordings, I recommend them. The practice is so simple; yet we forget it and need to be reminded again and again. Pay attention when we breathe; know we are breathing. Come back to our appointment with life. Come back to the present moment. Forgive ourselves, forgive others. Stop and see the blue sky, the plums ripe in the trees. Taste one, or two.

Thay reminded me, again, of the 3 doors of liberation: emptiness, everything is empty of a separate self, but full of the cosmos; signlessness, things are often not as we perceive, but most certainly they're impermanent and continuations; and aimlessness, we are already what we seek -enlightened, in the Pure Land, in the Kingdom of God. Stop running. Be peace.

Thich Nhat Hanh left us with the instruction that these teachings are just guiding means and should be used skillfully to gain insight. A practice of non-practice. An awareness of what is going on inside and around us, with an intention of creating joy, harmony, reconciliation and healing. The practice is to gain insight and liberation, not to be caught in the form of practice. I still have a long way to go, yet it's nice knowing that I'm already here, in the ultimate dimension. A wave sometimes remembering he's water. Occasionally tasting the fruit of mindfulness practice. For a moment it tasted like a plum.

Friday, July 18, 2008

True Love in Action

Hanoi Peace Steps 5
Originally uploaded by d nelson

During the recent Hanoi retreat on Engaged Buddhism and UN Day of Vesak conference many friends shared with me personal experiences of practicing being mindful. As Thich Nhat Hanh describes the practice; it is to be aware of, and respond to what is happening in the here and now.

After weeks of staring at a laptop I am pleased the video editing is finished and the inspring lessons and experiences, shared from the heart, are available; for a limited time. A "mindful trailer" of just some of the excerpts of this 100 minute video can be seen at

A bow of gratitude for all who shared, and helped me in this production; especially Sisters Chan Khong and Dang Nghiem, and Brother Phap Do.

If you would like a copy of "True Love in Action: Engaged Buddhism with Thich Nhat Hanh and friends" please leave a comment at the video above.

Resting my eyes I get ready for the train to Plum Village.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hanoi Peace Steps 6

Hanoi Peace Steps 6
Originally uploaded by d nelson
Over the past few weeks Thich Nhat Hanh has offered compassionate lessons and presence to Vietnamese and Westerners alike in Hanoi and other locations in his homeland. A week long retreat on mindfulness was offered in English. The following week Thay and the sangha attended and presented at the international UNESCO Vesak conference in Hanoi. It has been quite moving, and at the moment I'm without a lot of words to describe it. At the moment I'm relaxing in Halong Bay. You can see the rest of my fotos and descriptions from the trip by clicking on the foto and being linked to my site.

Within a couple of months I should have a video produced on Engaged Buddhism, with the stories of many in the sangha who are successfully transforming themselves and others with their compassionate practice.

Wishing you smiles.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

As Mind Goes Round

young mindful movements
Originally uploaded by d nelson

Misty fog greets these Plum Village, winter retreat days, freshly moistening me and everything else outside. My heart beats joyfully, walking from Upper to Lower Hamlet in this star-lit, early morning darkness. The Assembly of Stars meditation hall is set up with purple mats and cushions arranged in rows, facing forward towards the alter and large stained glass colorfully depicting the Buddha, his father, and the buffalo boy. Translation boxes for French and English are available for our mini jacks. We are treated to inspiring, poetic and profound teachings by Thich Nhat Hanh, today in Vietnamese. For more images click on the one above.

A series of talks is given to the monastic and lay sangha on the Golden Lion lesson from the Avatamsaka Sutra; a fascinating Buddhist scripture depicting the path of the Bodhisattva and a mystical vision of Reality. The essence of these talks is Inter-being, emptiness, the one contains the all, and, eternity is present in each moment. The five teachings from ten schools of Buddhism are skillfully compared. We sit in gratitude as Thay convincingly details the argument that the mind is like a painter, creating the images and colors of our individual and collective consciousness. Whether we see heaven or hell is up to us; we can paint it beautifully or ugly.

Comparing the Buddhist and Christian perspectives on the purpose of our existence was also inspiring. Thay detailed how in western thinking God created humans and the rest of the universe from nothing, with the aim of doing His will. There will be a judgement, and an end. While in the eastern perspective we come from a beginning-less beginning, where time and space are simply constructs of the mind, and there is no end, only continuation. Our purpose is karma, the continuation of actions. We have actions of body, speech and mind. Our mind action is motivated by intention, and the history of our intention is now our way of looking. So often what we see is a misperception. “Are you sure?” That is why the first way out of suffering is right view. Recognizing our nature of inter-being. Choosing the Kingdom of God, in this moment, rather than the hell realms. We are already what we seek. I can come back to my state of happiness, well-being and peace, and not keep looking for these things somewhere in the future. I can have hope that those I know, and those who I don’t know, can also find peace in themselves, and in the world, now, and not in another life.

Many precious walking meditation opportunities with Thay and the sangha, weekly, even in the rain, over brown and grey oak leaves, which had been green, majestically held up to the sky when I was last here in August. We kept fit with mindful movements, stretching and strengthening. The winter retreat each week had formal and informal lunches, which ended with compassionate prayers and chanting the three refuges for the sick and the dead. Quite a privilege for me to be refreshed in France with so many friends. Thay will be in Hanoi this May; another chance to visit with happy friends.