Category Archives: Walking

What is Man?

From the Assembly of Stars Meditation Hall at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. This is the third week of the annual Summer Opening retreat at Plum Village. This short 45-minute talk on July 20, 2014 is in English with a focus on our action. Both the audio and the video are available below.

What is man? What Sartre said is very close to Buddhist teachings. Action. Karma. There are three aspects. (1) Thinking. Your thought is an action. It is an energy. We practice in such a way so to produce good thoughts. (2) Speaking. This is the second form of action. Words can kill and destroy or bring beauty and full of non discrimination, understanding, and forgiveness. We should produce speech that can heal. (3) Body action. Acting. With our body we can help with our efforts. How we consume. Are the totality of our thoughts, speech, and action.

Mindfulness can shed light on our action. When we walk with the sangha, we are using these three aspects. We can be fully concentrated in our steps with these three aspects to arrive fully in the here and now. I have arrived. And we see we have enough conditions to be happy? Arriving 100% in the here and the now with concentration. How do we enjoy life in the present moment? With our next step we can say “I am home.”

I have arrived.
I am home.
I am solid.
I am free.
In the ultimate I dwell.

I Have Arrived. I am Home.

From the Assembly of Stars Meditation Hall at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. This is the second week of the annual Summer Opening retreat at Plum Village. This short 47-minute talk is in English with a focus on arriving in the present moment with walking meditation. Both the audio and the video are available below.

I have arrive. I am home. We have spent so much of our time running and looking for something. We can learn to stop and see the wonders of life in the present moment.  We may miss our appointment with life. Mindfulness helps us enjoy the present moment.  The purpose of the practice is to always go home to the here and now. If you live like that, you can have peace and joy.

Teaching on the practice of the “waking up” gatha. Other verses are mentioned, including a “walking” gatha. Arriving in your true home. With each step we have solidity and freedom.

Stepping into Freedom

From the Assembly of Stars Meditation Hall at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. This is a day of mindfulness between the close of the 21-Day Retreat and the Summer Opening. The sangha is preparing for an ordination ceremony for monastic novices on July 2 followed by summer opening on July 4. This 80-minute dharma talk is dated June 29, 2014. The focus of the talk is on the monastic life. Both the audio and the video are available below.

Where can we focus our attention when starting to breath mindfully? The tip of the nose versus the abdomen. We stop our thinking and are fully aware. No thinking is a secret of success. We can enjoy being alive in the here and now.

What is the object of our mindfulness when we walk? How can we touch reality? Thay tells the story of a 13th century king in Vietnam who practiced very well as a lay person. How can we practice everyday? Touching the ground of reality with every step and not lose ourselves by daily life.This kind of walking can be very healing.

The triple training is mindfulness, concentration, and insight. These three work together. These are three of the eight elements of the noble path – the Noble Eightfold Path. They also exist in the Five Powers (the other two are faith and diligence). This is the heart of Buddhist practice. The practice of mindfulness can also be seen concretely in the practice of the precepts and that is why we usually use the words “mindfulness” trainings. The precepts are the 5 trainings for the lay students (and the 14 for the Order members), the 10 precepts for novice monastics, 250 precepts for monks, and 380 for nuns (Some may ask why the nuns practice more? Is that not discrimination? The nuns created their own precepts). Each precept guarantees a zone of freedom. The precepts are seeking freedom. But we need to live mindfully. Thay recently wrote a new calligraphy. “Each Precept Guarantees a Zone of Freedom”.

There is joy in practicing and reciting the precepts. The manual we use for training the novices is called “Stepping into Freedom” (and is available from Parallax Press). The practice of the precepts is also the practice of mindfulness and is connected with mindful manners (outlined in the manual). “Be beautiful. Practice the Precepts.” Thay discusses some of the mindful manners for monastics.

The manual has four parts. The first part is a set of verses – the essential of the daily vinaya practice. The second part is the ten novice precepts. The third section is mindful manners – many chapters on this. The fourth part is a beautiful text to remind monastics why they are a monk or a nun. The book was originally in Chinese from more than 400 years ago. It has been updated by Plum Village. In the Christian monastic tradition, they have some of the same precepts.

Thay shares further of the big commitment to become a monastic. It is like a marriage. You are part of a sangha and you can realize your dream of helping people. To practice as a monk or nun is easier than a lay student because you have the support of the sangha.

This is a happy and beautiful moment.

Four Energies and Mindful Educators

Thich Nhat Hanh along with the monks and nuns of Plum Village are on their first tour of Spain this month. An Educators Retreat at the University of Barcelona and this is the first talk providing an orientation to the practice taught by Thay. The date of the recording is May 9, 2014. The audio and the video are both available below.

We begin with an introduction to the practice of breathing and the role it plays in mindfulness practice.There is an energy of mindfulness that is born during the time we are breathing. Life is available in the present moment because the past is already gone the future has not yet come. To go home to the present moment is easy…breath in mindfully. We can get in touch with our body when we are breathing mindfully. Our body is the first wonder of life. Maybe when we get in touch with our body, we may notice tension in our body. If we notice this tension while breathing, we can release this tension while breathing out. If we learn to do this well, then we can learn to transmit this to our students. There is another energy of the practice called concentration. This energy is born from the energy of mindfulness. It let’s us focus. (Editor’s Note: short skip in the recording here) The third energy is insight. Insight arises from concentration and mindfulness. The French novelist Camus spoke of this through the story of the prisoner. Breathing in, I know I am alive. This is already an insight and it is a true miracle. Mindfulness allows us to live deeply each moment we are alive and has the power to liberate us.

Conditions of happiness. Can we see all the conditions of happiness right here in this moment? We can begin with mindfulness of our eyes. A good practitioner of mindfulness should be able to create a feeling of joy and a feeling of happiness at any moment. The practice of walking is another method to discover a moment of happiness. I have arrived.

True happiness is made of mindfulness, concentration and insight. And this will bring compassion, love, and joy.  This is the art of living. With this practice, you can also handle a painful feeling or emotion. Many of us consume in order to not encounter our suffering. We are afraid of our own suffering. Mindfulness can help you know how to suffer. How do we do this? We can use mindfulness to not be overwhelmed by the pain inside. We can recognize and embrace the pain. Once we learn this practice, we can do the same for our students and help our students to suffer less as well.

Understanding will always bring about compassion. Compassion is the fourth kind of energy and has the power to heal and transform anger. Once we know our own suffering transformed, how can we help another person to suffer less.

Thay draws a circle representing the school teacher. How do we work with difficult aspects in our school environments. We can start with our loved ones, then our colleagues, and finally our students. The first thing to do is going home to ourselves through the practice of mindful breathing and mindful walking. We can do this with the support of co-practitioners.

Instruction on walking meditation, mindful eating, and listening to the bell.

Happiness is Possible Now

This talk from the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Sunday, March 16, 2014. The talk on this day is in English and begins with Thay reflecting on the statement “How do you do?” followed by a teaching on the first four exercises of mindful breathing and the practices of total relaxation and walking meditation.

0:00 How do you do?
10:15 Restlessness
17:08 Third Exercise of Mindful Breathing
23:10 Fourth Exercise of Mindful Breathing
27:40 First Exercise of Mindful Breathing
35:15 Second Exercise of Mindful Breathing
37:00 Total Relaxation
47:10 Walking Mediation

How do you do? What does this mean? How do you feel in your body, your feelings, and your perceptions. The human is made of five elements. The body. Are you tired? Are you stressed? The feelings. Do you have pleasant or unpleasant feelings? The perceptions. How do you see the world? Most of our perceptions are incorrect. Then we have mental formations. Anger, fear, despair, jealously, hope, etc. The final element is consciousness. Your mind. Are you light or overloaded? This is what I mean when asked how do you do? Not just business – this is only just a small part. To practice Buddhism and mindfulness is to take care of our five elements so that we’ll being can become a reality. You can bring joy and peace. When anger is manifesting, so you know how to handle your anger? The Buddha taught us to handle our anger. The Buddha taught two things: How to bring peace and happiness. And secondly, how to handle the suffering when it comes up.

Today, Thay will talk about one mental formation called restlessness. We don’t feel peace and don’t know what to do. Restlessness is the lack of peace. How do new deal with this mental formation? If parents and teachers know how to handle restlessness they can help our children. How do we learn? First, we start with our body. In Plum Village we have many ways to work with the body. For example, total relaxation. In the Sutra of Mindful Breathing the Buddha proposed sixteen exercises. These are concrete.

The third exercise is “breathing in, I am aware of my body.” You do not think of anything else. When the mind is not with the body you are not totally alive. This is called the oneness of body and mind. Your body is a wonder of life. Happiness can be found in your body. Aware of body.

The Buddha then proposed the fourth exercise, “breathing in, I release the tension in my body.” This is very important for us today to help us suffer less. When you heat the bell, you can stop your thing and breath in mindfully and bring your mind back to your body. Release the tension in body.

The first exercise of mindful breathing is very simple and powerful. Breathing in, I know am breathing out. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out. Awareness of breath. Very simple. We can touch the fact that you are alive and this is the greatest of all miracles. It is wonderful. This can make you a free person and can make good decisions.

The second exercise is following your in breath all the way through. We become very concentrated on your breath. Our concentration becomes deeper. We stop our thinking and we enjoy. When we sit in the lotus position, we can allow ourselves to release the tension and this is one of the methods to work with restlessness. We have many practices to help us work with our breathing. Gathas and songs to release the tensions and enjoy our body.

The practice of lying down and total relaxation of body is practical and relevant. In the Sutra of the Contemplations of the Body we learn how to identify different parts of the body. We can all learn and practice total relaxation.

Another method to release the tension is walking meditation. The present moment. Happiness is possible now. We don’t need to go into the future to find happiness. Walking meditation is a training to help us stop running. Life is only available in the here and the now. It is the practice of stopping. Stop the running and enjoy every step. How do we practice walking meditation?

Editor’s Note: The video is included below for you but the time stamps listed above apply to the audio recording only.

The Joy of the Dharma

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Thursday, February 6, 2014 and is the twenty third talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. This is an English translation, available below, by Sr. Tue Nghiem. In this teaching we have a great review of basic practices that bring joy and peace followed by a teaching on 3 verses from the 30-verses of Vasubandhu text.

0:00 Chanting
7:18 Vitality
27:50 The Three Energies
41:30 Walking Meditation
55:00 Eating Meditation
1:06:33 Thirty Verses Study

There is a mental formation called vitality.  Life. In Theravada tradition there are two types of life. The name and the form (material aspect). Even with the fetus, there is already the form and the vitality of the fetus is intermingled with the vitality of the mother. They are not two separate things. The child and mother are one. We can see vitality even in an inanimate object, such as a grain of rice. Quantum physics see this now in the subatomic particles. In the grain of corn there is vitality and in the speck of dust. There are no borders between animate and inanimate objects. We learn this in the Diamond Sutra.

We have to live our life deeply. Matter and energy – their nature is no birth and no death. We use our breathing to bring peace to our breath. We can become light like a cloud and let go of all our anxiety. We train to breathe like this.

We can generate the energy of mindfulness. Concentration is one-pointed mind. At that moment, we are truly present. A free person. These are mindfulness and concentration. We can generate this with our breathing.  In this case the breathing is the object of our mindfulness. Then, with these two we generate the third energy – insight. This is a training. We are here at Plum Village to learn how to do this because it had the capacity to heal and to nourish. To feel the joy of breathing in and breathing out. The joy of the dharma. The joy of the practice is our daily food. We are consuming food that nourishes and heals us. We have to live deeply in our breathing to generate peace and joy. Then we let go of anxiety and tension.

Walking with peace and joy. What is slow walking meditation? How and why do we practice walking? Legendary steps.

While we sit, we need to calm our breathing. We allow our body to rest, sitting upright, to harmonize the body. This too can generate joy and happiness.

The same can be done with eating. While we wait together, we can immediately begin generating joy and happiness. And we can practice this at home. In a meal, we pay attention to two things: to each morsel of food and our friends who are sitting around us. Mindfulness of food and mindfulness of sangha. This food is the gift of the whole universe. Learning how to stop our mental discourse.

We are learning verse #5-7 from the 30 Verses we’ve been studying this week. These three verses talk about manas. We begin with manifestation. Store consciousness was the first manifestor and the second is manas. Manas relies on the store consciousness to manifest. It grasps onto store consciousness and relies on it and returns to it. Manas has a distorted perception.

Inferiority, superiority, and equality complexes. Manas also goes along with the four kinds of afflictions. And the five universal mental formations.

It is also undetermined – neither wholesome or unwholesome. The five views of manas. Wisdom of discrimination.

Being #1 and/or Being Happy

This talk by Thich Nhat Hanh is from the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village and is dated Sunday, December 22, 2013. It is the eleventh talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. In this talk we use the practice of walking meditation to explore themes of enlightenment, secularization of mindfulness, technology, schools, and the corporation. Both the audio recording and the video are available in this post.

02:22-12:18 Chanting
16:38-28:50 The practice of walking meditation
28:50-32:30 Enlightenment
32:30-40:01 Reflection on our Life in 2013
40:01-53:50 Coming Home to Ourselves and the Corporation
53:50-61:01 Secularization of Mindfulness and Being #1
1:01-1:06 Making Good Use of Technology
1:07-1:15 Intentions for Year 2014 – Walking Meditation
1:15-1:19 Mindfulness and a Sangha
1:19-1:32 UNESCO, Wake Up Schools, and Politics

Today during our Touching the Earth practice, we promised to the Buddha that we would enjoy the practice of walking meditation in our daily life. Every breath and step can generate a feeling of joy and a feeling of peace. Our body is a wonder. We don’t need to be in a hurry, looking for something. In Plum Village we practice walking mediation. Why do we practice walking meditation? The same question is asked of sitting meditation. How does Thay practice mindful movements? Why does Thay practice mindful movements? It is not only for better health. It tells Thay that he is alive and strong enough to do the movements. Thay shares about those astronauts who return to the earth and walk again – how long do they maintain this awareness? Mindfulness of being alive and walking on the earth is a wonderful thing. To enjoy walking meditation is not difficult.

Everyone can have mindfulness of breathing. Enlightenment can arise in a few seconds with awareness of our breath and that we are alive and we have a body. Buddhism is not exactly a religion but it is a way of living. You don’t need to be a Buddhist to practice mindfulness. We can even generate this while we brush our teeth.

Many of us have searched for material comforts and many of us do have many material comforts but we may still not be happy. Time is something we should treasure. When we wake up in the morning, we can breathe and be aware that we have 24-hours to live. Thay teaches the waking up gatha. With the end of the year, it may help us to think about the way we live our life. How did we spend 2013? What have we done with our life? Can we live with more joy?

This year we had the opportunity to visit Google and spend a whole day practicing with the employees. We noticed the people there practiced whole-heartedly – they did walking, sitting, and eating mediation. A company like that wants to succeed and be #1 but there is also so much suffering. They do not have the time to take care of their body, feelings, emotions, families, etc. They see a need for a spiritual practice so they can suffer less. Time is no longer money. Time is peace. Time is life. Thay shares further about the visit to Google and how we can suffer less through our practice. Going home to ourselves. We are running away from ourselves and we do not take the time to take care of ourselves. If we cannot take care of ourselves, how can we take care of the person we love? Is technology helping us run away from ourselves? Thay sees a struggle within corporate culture – they have stress, guilt, etc. They want to learn ways to deal with these issues.

Is it possible to be #1 and be happy? This is the dilemma. There are people who are victims of their success, but there is nobody is a victim of their happiness. Which is #1 priority? The bottom line in the corporation is still thinking of being #1 in their area. And some practice mindfulness to become #1 and not to become happy. Are they using mindfulness to do the things to be more successful in business? Can you use mindfulness to make money? It is the same question/issue of those who teach mindfulness but don’t practice mindfulness. Thay’s answer is “don’t worry” because if you practice true mindfulness it always brings joy, happiness, and compassion. If it doesn’t bring these things then it isn’t true mindfulness. How can you teach mindfulness if you do not practice mindfulness?

Five monks and nuns spent two hours talking with engineers of Google. We proposed they think about building something to help people to learn and practice mindfulness. We can make good use of technology to help people go home and take care of ourselves without fear. Some of our monastic brothers and sisters also visited Facebook to explore new opportunities to help people to suffer less. From now until the end of the year, we can spend our time practicing walking and sitting and meditate on these teachings.

Setting an intention for the coming year. Maybe you make a promise for the year 2014 that you will practice walking meditation every day when walking from the parking lot to your work. Thay shares about a retreat in Hong Kong where he shared about walking meditation, having a connection to a teacher, and about not using the telephone and still feeling connected. Walking meditation can be your connection to Thay – as you walk, know that you are walking with your teacher and the sangha. Mindfulness practice is not difficult.

The support of a sangha can help with your intention of mindfulness. If you are not close to a sangha, you may want to get in touch with an online sangha. It is possible to change our life. If we practice well, we can handle the painful feelings and emotions inside ourselves. With mindfulness, we can listen to the other person with compassion. We can practice loving speech if we have mindful breathing and mindful walking to restore communication.

Reflection on Thay’s visit to UNESCO in 2006 where he made a proposal for an institute a training of teachers on mindfulness. Bringing this practice into schools to help young people deal with their suffering and the violence in schools. Though we weren’t able to bring this to reality with UNESCO, we have created the Wake Up Schools program and we are training teachers in the practice of mindfulness. These same ideas and teachings can be established in our political entities.

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Our Ultimate Concern

October 12, 2013. 100-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, California during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the first dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Finding Our True Home. We begin with two chants from the monastics.

This morning we heard the Sutra on Knowing a Better Way to Live Alone. What does this mean? Is this a practice of solitude? To live alone means not to have a second person in you. Maybe an object of desire or craving. To live alone is to be completely satisfied with the here and now. There is no need to run anymore. This is the practice of aimlessness.

I have arrived. Enlightenment. Happiness. Joy. They are all right here and right now. Walking meditation. What prevents us from arriving? Recognizing habit energy and why is this important. We all have habit energy that push is to do or say something. We can name it and not have to push it away using our mindfulness. We can create a new habit of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something – the object of our mindfulness. As we are mindful, concentration is born. Where there is mindfulness there is the beginning of concentration. And with these two energies, we can have insight.

We touch our true home in every moment. Touching the present moment. We can use walking meditation to learn more about touching the present moment.

The Buddha taught about four kinds of food (Nutriments) and that nothing can survive without food. Edible food is the first. We eat I’m a way to retain compassion in our heart. We can practice mindful eating to reduce the suffering in the world. The second kind is sense impressions. It’s what we “eat” with our eyes, ears, nose, and mind. We have to careful what we consume in ourselves and in our society. The third is volition – the will to act. Our deepest kind of desire and can give us a lot of energy. More of an ultimate concern for our life, something meaningful. What is our volition? This can be a good nutriment or a negative nutriment. This is a topic Thay will offer to Google and other corporate leaders next week.

Mindful Breathing. The first exercise of mindful breathing is awareness of our breathing, and the second is following our breathing. This brings concentration. The third is being aware of my body and the fourth we calm our body. With the fifth and sixth we get to the domain of feelings – joy and happiness. What are the conditions of happiness. The seventh is recognizing our suffering and the eighth is calming our suffering.

Orientation to the Practice

August 25, 2013. 108-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, New York during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the orientation talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Transformation and Healing – The Art of Suffering.

Peace, happiness, and love are skills we can learn. The art of happiness and the art of suffering. We suffer less if we learn how to suffer. With this start, we are reminded to take care of our happiness and our suffering. Following the introduction, the monastics chant the name of Avalokiteshvara.

Following the chant, Thay turns the orientation over to two senior monastics who orientate the retreatants on the practice.

Opening Mindfulness Retreat for Educators

August 11, 2013. 55-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the opening session of the 6-day retreat.

In this short talk, the focus is on the Art of Suffering and how chanting the name of Avalokiteshvara can help open us up to our suffering. In the last segment of the talk we have a teaching on walking meditation.