Category Archives: Children

The Breathing Room

This talk from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Thursday, March 27, 2014. The talk on this day is in English.

14:44 The Breathing Room
22:54 Inviting the Bell
33:10 Conditions of Happiness
43:30 Mindfulness of Suffering

Thich Nhat Hanh begins with a recollection of a retreat for children. During walking meditation, we proposed they use “yes, yes” and “thanks, thanks” for each of their steps. We can say yes and feel thankful. There are so many things we can say yes to. We can appreciate these things – our body, our eyes, etc. With our eyes we can see the blue sky and the mountains. The practice is breathing in, I am aware of my eyes and am grateful they are in good condition. We do the same with other parts of our body. Like our heart. With this awareness, we can take better care of our body and allow it to be restored. In the “Sutra on the Contemplations of the Body” the Buddha taught us how to look at all the parts of the body. We use mindfulness to project light onto every part of our body. This can bring us happiness, love, and compassion. Thay provides more instruction on this practice.

If you are a leader of a corporation, you may wish to incorporate and offer a session of total relaxation. This is not a loss of time. The same can be done by a school teacher for the students. Parents too, if they know the practice, can offer a session for the family. In a civilized society this can be very good. We can also create a tiny meditation hall in the home; a space where the bell can be located and we can practice in a safe space. Every time you feel restless or confused or irritated, we can walk to that place – the breathing room – and stop all the thinking and calm our body and mind. Thay recalls a story of how to open/close the door when he was a young novice that he then relayed to Thomas Merton.

In our small breathing room, we should also have a bell. This is a territory of mindfulness. There are four lines to learn when inviting the bell after we breath in and out three times before Inviting the Bell. Thay teaches us how to invite the bell and why mindful breathing is so important.

There are many conditions of happiness. In Buddhism, we have many versus to help us practice mindfulness. For example, for when turning on the water faucet. Are you aware of your conditions of happiness? Teaching continues on how this related to the breathing room and why it’s important for the family. This is the art of happiness.

This is part of the 7th & 8th mindfulness exercises in the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Mindful Breathing. We should not run away from our suffering. We can learn from our suffering. This ties right into the Four Noble Truths. We can learn to listen to our suffering without fear without running away through consumption. With mindfulness we have the energy to take care of our suffering.

The practice of looking and listening deeply. Meditation is the time to look and listen to understand our suffering. This brings about understanding and compassion. If you know how to suffer, you suffer much less. You cannot take happiness out of suffering and cannot take suffering out of happiness.

Will Thay Sing us a Song?

August 15, 2013. 102-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 fourth dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Happy Teachers will Change the World. We begin with two chants from the monastics followed by a session of questions and answers.

Children

  1. Will you tell us of a struggle you’ve had and how meditation and the bell helped you to overcome it?
  2. Recalling the dream in an earlier talk this week, how did it make you feel when the secretary said yes to you and not to the other person?
  3. Will Thay sing us a song?
  4. What made you want to become a zen master?

Teens

  1. What is the difference between joy and happiness?
  2. My father causes much suffering and doesn’t practice right view. I have lots of resentment I am fearful. How do I transform my suffering to peace and joy when he has hurt me so much?
  3. How did mindfulness help you in your life?
  4. How can I bring the practice to life for the ones I love without forcing it on them, especially those who have sexual misconduct or doing drugs?

Adults

  1. A question about engaged Buddhism.
  2. In the list of 51 mental formations, shame is identified as a wholesome formation. Can you explain this?
  3. A question about hope. Fear and anger in society and future of human race and the planet.
  4. Another question on the future. With favorable climatic conditions ending, how do we balance kindness/mindfulness for future generations and with present people?
  5. A question about ending a relationship. What do you do when there isn’t an ability to leave a toxic relationship? How do we transform if we’re not strong enough in our practice? Also concerns about financial stability beyond the relationship.
  6. A question from a person who can’t overcome her suffering. The pain seems insurmountable. The question comes with some question on how to continue living.

Offering Beauty and Freshness

July 9, 2013. 103-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet of Plum Village during the 2013 Summer Opening. This is the second talk of the summer and this is an English translation from the French. The recording begins with two chants followed by a talk for the children (ends at 12-minutes) and then the main talk begins (begins at 33:40-minutes).

What does it mean to say I love you? What is the most precious gift? We can offer beauty and freshness. Meditation can help; the meditation on flower/fresh. How do we cultivate stability?

Peace in the body. Peace in the feelings. Peace in the perceptions. This is possible. Joy and happiness too. The practitioner should know how to generate these. What does it mean to cultivate? We need energy, and the first is mindfulness. The next energy, and linked to mindfulness, is concentration. And if these two are strong enough, we can bring about insight. There are 16-exercises of mindful breathing that can help is cultivate these three energies.

  • Recognizing breath is the first exercise.
  • Following breath is the second exercise. 
  • The third is recognizing your body. 
  • Calming the body is the fourth. 

With the next set of exercises we move from body to the realm of feelings.

  • Generating joy
  • Generating happiness 
  • Recognizing a painful feeling
  • Calm the painful feeling

Discussion and explanation of habit energy.

We now move to the realm of perceptions. The five universal mental formations: contact, attention, feeling, perception, volition. What are mental formations? Mind and store consciousness along with the manifestation of seeds. Buddhist psychology. Along with five universals are the five particulars: intention, determination, mindfulness, concentration, insight.

Happy Teachers will Change the World

April 5, 2013. 120-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Mahachulalungkornrajavidyalaya University in Bangkok, Thailand. The sangha is in the 5-Day Applied Ethics Retreat as part of the spring Asian Tour. The talk is given in English with simultaneous translation into Thai. This is the first talk.

The Buddha was a happy teacher and that’s how he was able to help others. If we are not happy teachers then it will be difficult to help out students. How can we offer happiness? Do you have happiness to offer? Do you have happiness and love in yourself? What is the best thing we can offer a person we love? The first mantra is “Darling, I am here for you.”

That shares about people meditation and how the sangha has used it for teaching children about the practice. Flower | Fresh. Mountain | Solid. Water | Reflecting. Space | Freedom.

The practice of Buddhism can be seen in two aspects. First, we learn how to suffer. If you know how to suffer then you suffer much less by making good use of your suffering. Happiness is made of non-happiness elements. Suffering is a non-happiness element.  The second aspect of the practice is learning how to create moments of happiness. With this we can transform our anger and fear. A good school teacher should know how to take care of themselves.

Teachers taking care of themselves and is comprised of five elements (Skandhas): Body. Feelings. Perceptions. Mental formations. Consciousness.  We can learn to improve the quality of these five elements. How do we do this?  We begin with the body and the feelings.

A school teacher can then create a moment of happiness for her students. How we can identify and cultivate moments of happiness for our students? How can we help the young person who is suffering?

Why do I sometimes cry for no reason?

July 11, 2012. 115-minute recording given at Upper Hamlet, Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the fourth dharma talk of the Summer Opening. We begin with chanting and this is a session of Questions and Answers.

Children’s Questions

  1. How are you?
  2. Why is everyone against him?
  3. Why do I sometimes cry for no reason?
  4. How can we let go of anger? (question from Oprah magazine)
  5. What do you do when your teacher makes fun of you and everyone laughs?
  6. Why do I sometimes feel a heavy ball on my heart?

Teens and Adults

  1. Can you say some words about Interbeing of Catholic and Buddhist?
  2. Have you ever been able to calm down a person in rage and angry at you?
  3. I feel a lot of anger sometimes and I don’t want to let it come out, try to control, but sometimes I just explode and hurt the other person.
  4. How do I listen and respect myself versus letting me do whatever I want? Freedom versus discipline.
  5. Question about bi-polar disorder. How can we respond in a more loving and supportive methods than drugs?
  6. How can I trust myself!

Conditions of Happiness

July 8, 2012. 68-minute recording given at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the second dharma talk of the Summer Opening and it was originally given in French. This is an English translation.

Peace. Freshness. Solidity. We all have these elements in the form of seeds. We can learn how to water these seeds. We all have a Buddha-nature in us. With meditation, we can offer this to ourselves and others. We can use pebble meditation and inviting the bell.

Discovering conditions of happiness. Being the mind back to the body. Established in the present moment.  Mindfulness, the first energy, is the heart of meditation. The second energy is concentration. And the third energy is insight. The practice of walking and sitting should bring pleasure. These three energies allow you to identify the conditions of happiness. Meditation is possible all day long.

I have arrived, I am home.

Being a Better Christian through Mindfulness

April 13, 2012. 99-minute recording given at Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney, Ireland by Thich Nhat Hanh. The sangha is on the UK and Ireland Tour and this is the first dharma talk for the Mindful Living Today retreat.

We begin with a teaching for the children on pepple meditation and inviting the bell.

We have the seed for the kingdom of God.

We need to learn how to make good use of our suffering. Happiness and suffering. We should not be afraid of suffering.

We need to recognize the kingdom of god in the here and now. The practice of mindfulness will help.

Finally, we can rediscover Jesus as a spiritual teacher. Learn to live like Jesus by using Buddhist meditation. The teaching of here and now is also in the gospel.

Working with strong emotions using your breath. We have sixteen exercises of mindful breathing. That teaches on the first 8-exercises.

Being a Better Christian through Mindfulness

April 13, 2012. 99-minute recording given at Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney, Ireland by Thich Nhat Hanh. The sangha is on the UK and Ireland Tour and this is the first dharma talk for the Mindful Living Today retreat.

We begin with a teaching for the children on pepple meditation and inviting the bell.

We have the seed for the kingdom of God.

We need to learn how to make good use of our suffering. Happiness and suffering. We should not be afraid of suffering.

We need to recognize the kingdom of god in the here and now. The practice of mindfulness will help.

Finally, we can rediscover Jesus as a spiritual teacher. Learn to live like Jesus by using Buddhist meditation. The teaching of here and now is also in the gospel.

Working with strong emotions using your breath. We have sixteen exercises of mindful breathing. That teaches on the first 8-exercises.

Nottingham Retreat: Question & Answer Session

April 9, 2012. 118-minute recording given at The University of Nottingham by Thich Nhat Hanh. The sangha is on the UK and Ireland Tour and this is the question and answer session for the Cultivating Happiness Family Retreat. After the monastics do chanting, the questions begin about 12-minutes into the recording. A good question can help many people, so we should ask a question of the heart.

Questions from the children

If feels as if my mother treats my brother better than me; how can I make it feel fair?
Have you ever hurt someone on purpose?
Where do get ideas for your books?
When you started learning meditation, did you suffer?
What is it like in Plum Village?
From your point of view, why is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?

Questions from teens and adults.

Do you have a special object?
What are the benefits of being a monk?
What are your views on assisted suicide?
Is there a difference between engaged Buddhism and applied Buddhism?
What is consciousness? Mind?
How can I build confidence without external substances?
How do I help a family with four children whose father committed suicide?
What is the importance of dreams?
What is the role of competition within mindfulness?
How can we be free in our thinking?

Nottingham Retreat: Question & Answer Session from Plum Village Online Monastery on Vimeo.

Repairing the Past

April 8, 2012. 115-minute recording given at The University of Nottingham by Thich Nhat Hanh. The sangha is on the UK and Ireland Tour and this is third dharma talk for the Cultivating Happiness Family Retreat. We begin with Br. Phap Trien singing with the children, Sr. Chan Khong sharing about the Thich Nhat Hanh Continuation Fund (UK Donation, US Donation), monks and nuns chanting “From the Depths of Understanding” and then a short talk for the children on people meditation and the first mantra. The main talk begins at 55-minutes into the recording.

With the three kinds of energies – mindfulness, concentration, and insight – we can produce Right View, Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Action (karma), Right Livelihood, and Right Diligence. The Noble Eightfold Path.

What if yesterday I have produced a thought of hate, and I had the intention to punish? Is it too late, because I produced that thought yesterday, you may ask? It’s not good to produce such a thought. Because it is going on now. It is your continuation. And that is not a beautiful continuation. You don’t want to be continued like that. So today, looking back, I regret that I have produced such a thought of anger, hate, and what should I do? So the practice is to sit down and breathe and produce a thought of the opposite nature, a thought of non-discrimination, a thought of compassion, understanding, and as soon as the new thought is produced, full of understanding and love, that thought will catch up very easily with the other thought, and neutralise it. Right away. Because the nature of our thought is nonlocal. It doesn’t have to travel much, it can catch up the thought of yesterday very easily, and you can neutralise it. Everything comes from the mind. So it is possible to repair the past. The past is still available. And if you are established in the here and the now, you have the opportunity to repair the past. Even if our parents have done something regrettable, even if our ancestors had done something regrettable, the past is still there, and we continue to suffer, and our ancestors continue in us to suffer. So with the Dharma, with the practice, we sit down and we embrace that, and produce the kind of thought, of compassion, understanding, that can neutralise what was wrong, wrongly done in the past. It is possible. It liberates us, and liberates our parents and ancestors. This is possible. Our ancestors expect us to do that. It is nice to encounter the teaching and the practice, and with that practice, we can change the past. And of course, change the future.

Repairing the Past from Plum Village Online Monastery on Vimeo.