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Questions and Answers Retreats

Toxic Inputs

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We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this fifth post, we hear two questions.

The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness.

1. How can we influence other members of our family, especially other adults, who want to avoid toxic inputs such as television shows, alcohol, etc. often they are not interested in changing their lifestyle or the practice. How can handle this in our home.

2. What should you do if someone feels bad and you want to make them feel better.

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Questions and Answers Retreats

Aware of Suffering Surrounding Death

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We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this fourth post, we hear one question.

The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness.

  1. Aware of the suffering surrounding death. Are we forced to see our friends and loved ones as impersonal parts that will manifest in other ways or are we able to take comfort in the idea or notion that their energy will live on and are we attaching to them as a notion to much?
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Questions and Answers Retreats

Living with all the Madness

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We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this second post, we hear one question from a teen and another from an adult.

The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness.

  1. Why are some children born handicapped? 
  2. With all the madness in the world today, how do you keep from losing faith and giving up on humanity all together? 
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Questions and Answers Retreats

I Have a Big Family

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We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this second post, we hear three questions from children.

The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness.

  1. What do you do when someone is annoying you?
  2. Do you see your family much?
  3. How often do you travel in a year?
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Questions and Answers Retreats

How Can I Control my Temper?

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We are beginning a series of posts with questions and answers. In this first post, we hear three questions from children.

The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness.

  1. Why is the bell so important?
  2. What do you do when you are angry or scared?
  3. How can I control my temper?
Thich Nhat Hanh answering a question from a child.
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Retreats

Sitting on our Portable Lotus Flower

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In this 95-minute talk we learn how to sit, how to practice with the love mantras, and how to practice insight in order to transform our suffering. The talk takes place on August 14, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness and this is the second dharma talk of the retreat. We begin with the monastics chanting The Four Recollections.

Sitting on our Portable Lotus Flower

9:25 Thay leads us in a short guided meditation. To be alive is the greatest of all miracles. Please sit like a Buddha. Thay teaches us about the lotus (or half-lotus) position. Feeling solid and stable. This way of sitting influences the mind. We are sitting like a mountain. The solidity of the body has something to do with the solidity of the mind. It is like sitting on a lotus flower. What does this mean? 

16:15 A story of the time Thay visited a prison in Maryland. Sitting with a few hundred inmates, we learned how to sit like a Buddha on a lotus flower. How to keep our back upright and to release tension. We also learned how to practice a mindful meal. This visit later became a book called Be Free Where You Are

19:25 We describe the Buddha as an artist. Sitting on the lotus flower. As a friend of the buddha, it is nice to know how to sit like him. The Buddha is not a God. He was a human being. He did become a free, happy, enlightened person. The word Buddha is a title, not a name. Anyone can become a Buddha. Do you have a capacity to sit like a Buddha? What are the challenges we experience as students of the Buddha. 

21:57 When Mr. Nelson Mandela came to visit France, he was asked what he’d like to do the most. He responded by saying, to sit down. To rest. Thay said we need some training in order to sit well. To do nothing. To be a Buddha is to allow freshness, solidity and peace to manifest in us. Sometimes we are very close to this. Almost a Buddha. 

Love Mantras

25:13 When you love someone, the best thing you can offer them is your Buddhahood. To have a little Buddha as a present for our loved ones. In this moment, Thay is teaching this to the children present at the talk. The best kind of present is your beautiful presence. Our mindful sitting and walking can improve our presence. It just takes some practice. 

29:02 In Buddhism, we sometimes practice a mantra. It is something that can help transform a situation.

“Darling, I am here for you”

You can practice with this. To love is to offer your fresh presence. And when you are truly there, you may notice something else is there – your beloved one, and the world. This mantra is the first step. Then you can say,

“Darling, I know you are there and it makes me happy.”

To acknowledge the presence of your loved one. To be loved is to be recognized. We are reminded that you don’t need to go to the meditation hall in order to practice. No matter how old you are, you can still practice these two mantras. Without love, happiness is not possible. 

What would it be like to have a million dollars? Would this make me happy? Allow me to do more? Would it bring happiness? What Thay has is mindfulness, and this can bring us a lot of happiness. When we have enough insight, we are not caught up in difficult situations anymore. This comes from our mindfulness and concentration. We come to this retreat to learn how to do things with mindfulness. To create love, understanding, and insight. This is the gift of the Buddha. 

Contemplating the Body

38:59 In the previous talk, we were trying to learn just one thing – releasing the tension. The Buddha has much to teach us on healing. Every step we take can help us release the tension. Every breath that we take can help us release the tension. When we allow our body to relax, our body begins to have the capacity for healing itself. There are many ways to do this, such as deep relaxation practice. In the sutra on the contemplation of the body, the Buddha uses an example of farmer who went into the cellar and opened a bag of seeds. Thay teaches us this practice of scanning our body with a ray of mindfulness. How do use this practice? This practice will bring relieve. And if we know how to go a little bit further, into our ill-being, we may discover the roots of our ill-being. Looking deeply with concentration. What is the source of our ill-being. 

47:18 In Buddhism, we teach the Four Noble Truths. And the first is ill-being, and we have to call it by its true name. Sickness, anger, fear, depressions, etc. To recognize it and to name it. From that we can see the second noble truth; the roots of that ill-being. We look at this truth in terms of nutriments. Nothing can survive without food. If we have fear or depression, it is because we have been feeding them. Just practicing this, you are already on the path of healing. If depression is there, perhaps we have lived in such a way to make that possible, we ask what did we consume? What kind of contact did we have? We look at the second noble truth in terms of nutriments. How do we practice with this in order to transform the depression? The fourth noble truth cannot be seen unless we first see the second noble truth. Do not run away from suffering so we can begin to see the path of healing in the fourth noble truth. 

The Buddha is a Human Being

54:30 The second noble truth is the path leading to ill-being. The path of consumption. The Buddha spoke of four kinds of nutriments: edible food, sensory impressions. What is the importance practicing mindful consumption? How can we do this in our daily lives? Why do we consume when we don’t need to consume? 

1:01:04 Continuing from the previous talk, we look again at store and mind consciousness. When the seed of anxiety, fear, or confusion come up to our mind consciousness level then we feel uneasy. It makes us suffer. That is why we want to occupy the mind with another object (such as a film or a book). But this is a way to repress the feeling of uneasiness. To coverup the feeling of emptiness. We want to forget our suffering. The practice recommended by the Buddha, you should not try to suppress it with consumption, but invite the energy of mindfulness to manifest by mindful walking or mindful breathing. This can help take care of that energy that makes you suffer. We strengthen the seed of mindfulness through our daily practice so we can more easily apply it when we are suffering from fear, sorrow, despair. It is recognizing and embracing our suffering. The energy of mindfulness is something that can continue to grow inside of us. The Buddha is inside of you and you are capable of holding your pain, sorrow, and fear. We don’t need to practice consumption without mindfulness. We need to stop consuming toxins. We practice mindfulness to recognize and hold the pain and sorrow. That is the Buddha at work inside of you. The Buddha is a human being. 

1:12:23 Those who of us who don’t practice, we practice repressing our fear and anger. We cause bad circulation of our psyche because we suppress the negative feelings. With this bad circulation, symptoms of mental illness appear. The practice is to allow the pain to emerge. And if we are equipped with mindfulness, then we are no longer afraid. If we are still young in the practice, we can ask for help from the sangha to help restore the circulation of our psyche. With some months of practice, we can do this on our own. To use our mindfulness and concentration to look into the nature of our ill-being. The path leading to the cessation of ill-being is also the path leading to well-being. This is third noble truth. The existence of well-being. 

1:17:10 The beginning of well-being. This path is a noble path. Mindfulness always carry the energy of concentration. And if you live mindfully, then you can see through to the true nature of our suffering. This is insight meditation. It has the power to liberate. With this you can liberate yourself and you can help liberate other people. 

1:20:09 Remembering the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia. All of us suffer. We ask why did this happen and why did so many people die? We want to know why. Thay also suffered, but by practicing looking deeply to see that we too have died with them also. And we discover they died for us and that we should live for them. How are we living today so their death will have a meaning? This is interbeing. This is insight. We are all of the nature to die. We are all of the nature to get sick. We need courage to have the strength of our mindfulness. How do we die with peacefulness? Nothing is born and nothing dies. There is no birth and no death. This insight can remove fear and true happiness is possible. 

With our practice, we bring the element of non-fear. Thay teaches in light of climate change and the use of technology. 

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Retreats

Breathing Begins Transformation

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In this 2-hour dharma talk, Thich Nhat Hanh teaches how important our breathing is for transformation. The talk takes place on August 13, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness and this is the first dharma talk of the retreat.

Eating Breakfast

We begin with a brief reflection on Lazy Day at Son Ha Temple in Plum Village. Being lazy can be difficult for some people. In Plum Village it means to take your time in every moment. Whether we are brushing our teeth or eating our breakfast. Each moment is a moment of joy, of peace, of freedom. Thay has discovered that he loves french toast, but he’s been unable to find french toast in France. I eat breakfast because I like breakfast. In the Buddhist practice, we take time to enjoy our breakfast. We don’t eat in a hurry. During this retreat, we also eat in silence. This is known as noble silence. We practice being mindful of every morsel of food we eat and also mindful of the people around you. The same is when we drink tea – to be truly present in the here and the now. True life is there in the present moment. Drinking mindfully I can see the cloud in my tea. Many of us are running after something, such as a diploma. When we are running, we missed the opportunity to be in the present moment. To stay with my breakfast or with my tea. This is called mindful eating. 

Walking Meditation

14:25 – Today, we started with walking meditation early this morning. The purpose of walking meditation to arrive in every moment. To arrive in the here and the now. There is always something in the here and the now. Our habit of running causes us to missing what is happening in the present moment. I have arrived. I am home. When you have arrived, happiness becomes a real thing. We arrive in every moment. This is called mindful walking. 

Lazy Day

18:43 – Mindful breathing is also enjoyable. We need some training. In the beginning, we may still feel the energy of running. To do things quickly. Stop running and learn to breathe. Thay uses the example of brushing our teeth. We enjoy every moment of the day, whether we are washing or sitting or walking. And on the other days, not the lazy day, you simply follow the schedule. And you profit from the collective energy of the sangha. You can cherish every moment of your lazy day. Are you lazy enough today? Nowhere to go, nothing to do. There is a tendency in every one of us to run. A kind of energy that is pushing us to run after something. The practice of Buddhist meditation is to be aware of this tendency and be able to stop. Stopping is a very important practice. We can stop running. I have arrived. I am home. 

Slow Walking Meditation

27:28 – When you are alone and you have 5-10 minutes, you may like to practice slow walking meditation. You breathe in, and you make one step. Bring attention to the sole of your foot. Become aware of the contact between your foot and the ground. And say silently, I have arrived. Invest 100% of your body and your mind into the step. The running has become a habit in our body, our mind, and our consciousness. We can create another habit, of arriving and stopping, to counter that habit of running. This practice of slow walking meditation is one of the methods to form a new habit. Stay in that first step until you have fully arrived in the moment. 

With this practice, we can begin to heal. The practice of stopping. It is a training. We need to allow our body to do the healing. Resting. Our body and mind have the capacity to heal itself by allowing our body and mind to rest. 

Mindful Breathing

39:08 – In the “Sutra of Mindful Breathing,” the Buddha offers a method to release the tension in our body. To allow our body and mind to rest. Breathing in, I am aware of my body. This is one exercise described by the buddha. When you breathe in, you bring your mind to your body. This is a basic practice. Breathing in, I release all tension in my body. Whether in a sitting or lying position, it is possible to release all the tensions in our body. These should become a daily exercise. During the time we sit, walk or eat, it is possible for us to practice this. 

We can also release the tensions in our feelings and emotions. Breathing in, I am aware of my feeling. That feeling may be a pleasant feeling, or a painful feeling, or a neutral feeling. We come home to recognize and embrace the feeling. 

Mindfulness, Concentration, Insight

47:35 – Practicing Buddhist meditation, we generate three kinds of energies: Mindfulness, Concentration, Insight. Our insight has the capacity to liberate us from fear, anger and anxiety. It is born from the energy of concentration and mindfulness. Mindfulness is what we generate while walking, sitting, driving, cooking, etc. We usually begin with our in breath and our out breath. Breathing in, I know this is my in-breath. Breathing out, I know this is my out-breath. We can become so attentive to our breathing that we can become our breathing.  

In out, deep slow, calm, ease, smile, release, present moment, wonderful moment.  This gatha can be our guide. 

Thay offers additional instruction on how to calm and release the tensions in our body. 

Sangha Energy

58:58 – Collective energy of the sangha. It is much more powerful than the individual energy of mindfulness. The energy of the sangha can transport you and the practice becomes much easier. It’s like a formation of birds. We flow like a river. This is why we practice taking refuge in the sangha. We can profit from the energy of the sangha, especially when we are suffering individually. It is possible for us to hold our pain, our fear. This is why we practice with the sangha. 

Consciousness and Happiness

1:05:04 – Thay teaches on the leaf. Everyone can see it is a leaf. We can recognize and distinguish what is not. A leaf is a leaf. And when we look into the leaf, we can see many things. It is made of non-leaf elements. The same is with our body. The body is not separate or independent of the mind. In Buddhism, we have Interbeing. In this teaching, we have something called store consciousness and mind consciousness. We can survive with only store, but then we are only on automatic pilot. We want to evolve the mind consciousness so we are not on auto pilot all the time. We can discover many things. Insight. 

Store consciousness has something called manas. This is pleasure seeking. If we ignore the goodness of suffering, that is manas. But we can learn a lot from suffering. Understanding suffering we can generate compassion and love. We learn from suffering. Manas does not know this. Meditation helps us to transfer to store and help us transform. 

The wisdom of moderation. The practice of meditation helps us see this wisdom and help it to grow. Understanding and compassion. The Pure Land of the Buddha is not a place where there is no suffering. We need the mud in order to have the lotus. The mud plays a very vital role. Suffering brings understanding and compassion. Holding the suffering and learning from it. 

Transformation at the Base

1:33:25 – When the seed of fear comes up from the store consciousness to the level of mind consciousness, the practice is to allow the seed of mindfulness to come up as well. It is the energy of mindfulness that is recognizing and embracing the energy of fear. Mindfulness is not there to help us run away, but it is there to help us recognize. At first, we may not have enough energy to hold our pain and so we rely upon the collective energy of the sangha. And eventually we can have the power to do this on our own. And when we have enough mindfulness and concentration, then we can have the insight. This is the practice of meditation. Transformation at the base. 

Taking Refuge in the Buddha

1:37:40 – Taking refuge in the Buddha. Not as a person outside of ourself. But the energy of mindfulness, concentration, and insight within us. To trust our capacity of understanding and to be compassionate. 

A story from Thay’s visit to Seoul, South Korea when Thay asked the Buddha to walk for him. And the Buddha did it for Thay. Let the Buddha breathe, let the Buddha walk. The Buddha is inside of you. 

New Gathas

1:42:50 – Thay has written a few new Gathas and he shares them now with the sangha. 

Let the Buddha breathe. 

Let the Buddha walk. 

I don’t need to breathe. 

I don’t need to walk. 

The Buddha is breathing. 

The Buddha is walking. 

I enjoy the breathing. 

I enjoy the walking. 

Buddha is the breathing. 

Buddha is the walking. 

I am the breathing. 

I am the walking. 

There is only the breathing. 

There is only the walking. 

There is no breather. 

There is no walker. 

Peace while breathing. 

Happiness, joy while walking. 

Peace is the breath. 

Happiness, joy is the walking. 

Through these practices, we discover the reality of no-self. 

Recording Quality: Excellent

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Retreats

Ultimate Dimension of Ourself

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The 2007 United States Tour began in August at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts. In this 57-minute recording, we begin with Sr. Chan Khong offering a lovely orientation to the basic practice. Sister Chan Khong is one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s most senior student having met Thay in 1959 and then became one of the first members (the “Six Cedars”) of the Order of Interbeing. Following the sharing by Sr. Chan Khong, we continue with Brother Phap Tri. 

The date is August 12, 2007

Sister Chan Khong

Introduction

During this retreat we want to learn the way the young man Siddhartha discovered the ultimate dimension of himself. If we can put this into practice, we can take the ultimate dimension within ourselves. How can everyone can touch that deep dimension of ourself? To help us to love. 

Our body is here, but our mind is somewhere else. Our mind is not in the present moment. That is why we don’t see the ultimate dimension. The training he discovered is our breathing. This can bring our mind back to our body. That breathing is the link. During this week, we learn this training. Be aware of your in-breath and your out-breath. 

The first part of Buddhist practice is samatha. Stopping. Doing this we can see deeply. We then use vipassana. If you look deeply, then it is very interesting. We can see the wonderful nature of the present moment. During our retreat, when we hear the bell then we stop and come back to the present moment. 

Breathing 

The practice is to be happy. Even if we have 30% of bad things, we also have 70% of good things. With our practice, we go back to the present moment all the time. In the present moment, we go deep into the positive things. Even our cell phone can be our bell of mindfulness. Sr. Chan Khong relates a story of a retreat at the Ojai Foundation that occurred during a fire. Many people were so upset by the helicopters and Thay reminded everyone that this too can be a bell of mindfulness. We come back to the present moment by following our breathing – this is not so easy, but we work toward stopping our thinking. Even when we are irritated. Any unfriendly noise can be transformed by following our breathing. 

Sitting 

Sitting meditation. How can we sit on the cushion, or the bench, or the chair? Chrysanthemum position – whatever position is most comfortable for you. The key is to sit in a stable position. What can we do with pain we experience during sitting meditation? If you are in pain, then you may be trying too hard. It is okay to change position. And we pay attention to our breathing as it goes in and out of our body. In the book, Blooming of the Lotus, there are simple exercises for following our breathing that build and expand upon the Buddha’s teachings on the Sixteen Exercises of Mindful Breathing. 

Sister Chan Khong offers us one of these short exercises through a song. In. Out. Deep. Slow. Calm. Ease. Smile. Release. Present moment. Wonderful moment. We can use this song while practicing walking meditation. 

By dwelling deeply in the present moment, we can all become enlightened during this retreat.