In the first paragraph of Being Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh explains that for a practitioner, suffering is not enough:
Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby. To suffer is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They are within us and all around us, everywhere, any time.
This Thursday evening I have been invited to lead the Still Water Sangha in Silver Spring (just outside Washington DC). After our sitting, we will explore together how we can be happy while acknowledging the pain that is in us and around us.
At the close of the annual teen retreat this week at Deer Park Monastery, I had the opportunity to talk with a 13-year old boy. He asked, “What does it mean to be happy?” He followed up with another question, “How do you be happy when a friend brings up an experience from the past that is difficult and still is painful?”
I am writing with a request; a request to reflect about friends and family in your life who may benefit more from the practice.
For the past 6-8 years, the monastery at Deer Park has offered two retreats in the summer – one for teens only (ages 13-17) and another for families. I have attended both these retreats and have found them very nourishing and joyful. The family retreat is particularly diverse, and brings together people from many walks of life and with a wide variety of experience with the practice. The teen retreat is less diverse, but those who attend have reported a life changing experience, and often return the following year bringing more friends. For the teen retreat, no parents are allowed and the teens camp together for the entire retreat. It really is a blast!
If you are in a sangha, I encourage you to share about these retreats in your sangha. Think about people in your life who may benefit from such a retreat, even those who are not regular practitioners, and then invite them to attend. I think teens would particularly benefit. Each year these retreats grow and they are, in my opinion, the best retreats offered by Deer Park.
In the years our family has attended the Family Retreat, I have watched my children and the children of others grow from toddlers to young children and into early teens. Wow! And now, starting in the last year or so many of these families are starting to come to Deer Park at other times during the year. It is a real community.
Though the family retreat has many children in attendance (40-50 kids!), other types of family units also attend and participate. One year, a family came together with four generations! Another time an adult son came with his mom to spend time together on the mountain
Next month the iPad will be unleashed on the world and I want one. First question, how can I justify the cost against a household with a fixed budget. Second, balancing the desire to reduce consumption and the need to stay current with technology. Third, the balance of ubiquitous computing and family harmony. Finally, the environmental cost of technology.
When is enough enough?
Though I definitely don’t own a great deal of gadget technology compared to many others, it still feels like quite a bit. Specifically, I own a 2004 iPod Click Wheel, a 2008 iPhone 3G, a 2009 Flip HD, and a 2009 MacBook Pro. What does adding an iPad to the mix create?
Each piece of technology comes with its own environmental impact in the production, ongoing use, and ultimate disposal. Aware that I am only one consumer, collectively we consume and waste a great deal. It seems that we often consume without thought or awareness and we easily succumb to desire through marketing and possibly an underlying unhappiness. Continue reading →
Tet is the Lunar New Year for the Vietnamese community. Our family is very close to the Vietnamese because our Teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, is Vietnamese. We came to Deer Park Monastery in Escondido to celebrate Tet with out brothers and sisters.
Dragon and lion dances. Firecrackers. Drumming. Laughter. Lisi (red envelopes with money). Generosity.
Today is the second day of the new year. It is the only day in the year that lay people (non-monastic) may visit the quarters of the monks and nuns. What joy!
As we travel from room to room, carrying our glasses, we share tea, cider, snacks, and songs. Interspersed with visits by drums and dragon for us to offer up oranges and snacks to the beast.
The monastics live in simple quarters. Some sleep on the floor, others on thin mats. A few books, some clothes, and an altar are usually in each room. They share their space and their tea.
It is a lesson in simplicity. It is a lesson in friendship. It is a lesson in generosity.
May your tiger year be healthy and may your life be long.
(posting from iPhone; links and pix may arrive later)
Do you believe in religious freedom? It is something we almost take for granted in our nation and in our world. However, there are places where religious freedom is a precious gift that must be struggled for to make a reality. This is the case in Vietnam.
For 39 years Nobel Prize Nominee and Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) has lived in exile in France because he challenged the status quo of violence in his Motherland. Even after the “American War” ended, Thay was not allowed to return. That all changed in 2005 when he returned home to tour the country and give talks and share the dharma. He returned again in 2007 and 2008. I was honored to be a part of the initial delegation in 2005 and experienced the elation and joy of the Vietnamese people and the apparent opening up of the nation to new ideas and newfound religious freedom.
Dear friends: the situation at Bat Nha Monastery in Vietnam (also known as Prajna Temple) has become very critical. There are about 400 young monastics currently being evicted from the monastery by the Vietnamese government and local police. You can learn a bit more from a recent New York Times article called Tensions Rise as Police Question Monk’s Followers – the “monk” in this case is Thich Nhat Hanh.
These young monastics (mostly under age 25) have been living here since 2005 at the invitation of the local Abbott. However, they were asked to leave earlier this year. It is not so simple for monastics to simply disperse and go live alone or at home and that is why finding a suitable new location for 400 people is challenging. All the monastics are Vietnamese citizens and are practicing in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, the exiled Vietnamese Zen Master based in France.
If you want to learn more about the situation, please visit Help Bat Nha.
If you would like to help, please do any of the following:
Send a postcard to the President of Vietnam in support of the 400 monks and nuns at Bat Nha. The postcard was first introduced at the Deer Park retreat in early September with Thich Nhat Hanh. The pdf files linked above can be double-side copied on card stock (text on one side, address on the other) and then cut in half (two post cards per sheet). A 98 cent stamp will ensure Air Mail delivery to Vietnam. Please consider copying them and taking postcards to your next Sangha meeting. You might offer to collect the cards and mail them yourself, asking perhaps for a donation for the stamp.
Contacting U.S. Senators and Congresspersons, asking that they send a letter of concern about the situation of the monastics to the government of Vietnam. If you choose instead to write a letter, email will be the quickest option. Any letters addressed to Senators and Representatives’ Washington D.C. offices are inspected for security reasons and take an extra three weeks or so to reach their offices.
Contacting Senators and Representatives on the Foreign Relations Committees. This file gives names and contact information for Senators and Representatives on Foreign Relations Committee subcommittees that would have interest in the situation at Bat Nha. If you live in their state or district, please call with your concern and request immediately.
Thank you for reading and for the support.
Update: You may wish to call members of the Vietnamese government. Mr. Le Thanh Phong- 091.386.5000, Mr. Troung Van Thu – 091.386.5294, and Mr. Ho Ba Thang 091.393.4718 are local members of the Vietnam government.
I have been using the book Touching the Earth by Thich Nhat Hanh for several years as part of my morning meditation practice. It is a wonderful book that provides a framework to have a “conversation” with the Buddha and look deeply at our relationship with the Earth, others, ourselves, and the Ultimate Dimension. The monastic practice with this book is to listen to a chapter read while touching the earth. This can prove difficult if you practice alone, so that is the purpose of this blog series. I am recording the chapters to listening to them at a later time and want others to benefit from this effort.
Over the coming weeks/months, I will record chapters from the book and then post them here to share. You may download from this site or use iTunes to receive the podcast [iTunes Podcast].
If you want to use this material in your meditation practice, my recommendation is to start the recording and then touch the earth with you head, elbows, and knees in prostration. After the primary reading is complete, you will hear the full sound of the bell. Upon hearing a small tap on the bell, then stand up and prostrate again on the next sound of the full bell. This will happen one more time to end the meditation.
As the introduction of the book states,
When we touch the Earth, we take refuge in it. We receive its solid and inclusive energy. The Earth embraces us and helps us transform our ignorance, suffering, and despair. Wherever we are, we can be in touch with the Earth. Wherever we are, we can bow down to receive its energy of stability and fearlessness. As we touch the Earth, we can follow our breathing. We release all our instability, fear, anxiety, disease, and anger. We know the Earth can absorb our negativity without reacting to us or judging us. In this way, we are able to transform what is painful and difficult to accept within us. We are able to strengthen our capacity to look, speak, and act with understanding and compassion towards ourselves, our loved ones, and all members of society. Touching the Earth communicates our gratitude, joy, and acceptance to our Mother Earth. With this practice, we cultivate a relationship with the Earth and, in doing so, we restore our balance, our wholeness, and our peace.
It has been eight years since the last time I fasted – it was in late 2001 – and for that fast I practiced in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters by fasting from sunrise to sunset for a couple of weeks.
Recently I was sharing about a personal relationship issue with a monastic friend and teacher and he suggested I start with a period of fasting. I was not completely clear on how this could help or be related, but I trust my friend and know that fasting is a common practice in the monastery. The intention here is not a detox fast, but one of a more spiritual nature. I started practicing with the fast for a 1-2 weeks by fasting for dinner. It wasn’t too difficult to eat two meals a day, the most difficult time being late afternoon. This did raise my confidence and understanding in fasting.
I typically am not a huge fan of exercise. However, while staying at the Deer Park Monastery I usually get more than my fair share due to the size of the property and the hills. In addition, we frequently have a time of recreational exercise including volleyball (my favorite) and basketball. Check this out from the recent visit. A very peaceful, fun, and non-competitive basketball game with my monastic friends.
It is a sweet opportunity and gift from my lovely wife and partner. Thank you. Every time I plan and attend a retreat, a few questions arise from friends. Where are you going? What is it like? Is it silent?
I leave Friday morning for Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, a Buddhist monastery in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. The monastery sits on about 300 acres of open land next to another preserve. Very beautiful. I typically spend 4-6 weeks per year at the monastery as an ordained member of the Order of Interbeing (we’re asked to do 60 Days of Mindfulness per year). This particular visit is different because the first 19 days will be without my family. We usually go as a family but Leslie suggested some time for myself and they will come at the end for the Family Camp Annual Retreat.