Practicing in a Stressful Environment

This 71-minute dharma talk in the Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall takes place on Sunday, February 8, 2004. The monastic and lay community are practicing together during the 2004 Rainy Season Retreat from January 4 to March 14 at Deer Park Monastery. Both audio and video versions are available with this post.

Thay has received many letters from those participating in the retreat. Some contain joy and some contain their difficulties. We begin with a review of some of these letters and picks three questions. 

If nothing is created and nothing dies, where is the beginning? What are the elements that form the beginning?

Continuing the teaching on the sixteen exercises of mindful breathing in the recent weeks. The last four are about perceptions, and this question is about our perceptions. A contemplation on the nature of reality. The objects of our perception, and look deeply, in order to touch the ultimate dimension. 

I often feel I have no reason to continue to live. If there is no birth, no death then I feel ready to live. 

This question too has to do with the ultimate dimension. This too is a good object of meditation. We can inquire about our body and our mind. We can water the seeds of love and understanding. This question is very important. 

For 15-years I have been working as a medical doctor with two other doctors in a health center. We provide care for immigrants, refugees and people who are destitute. The more patients who come, the more it costs the health center because the government only pays for a few per year. This leads to many long days, house calls, and financial challenges. Personally, I am tired and stressed out. 

We can have compassion and willingness to help, but this can lead to burnout. We cannot continue like this. Thay shares a story of the congressman who practices walking meditation in the capitol. 

How do we respond? The first thing is to look at how do we organize our day. We have to know how to preserve ourselves in order to continue. We do this with our practice – eating, walking, etc. Do we allow time for this? Can we incorporate into our daily life? The next step is to call upon others to help. We don’t need to do this alone. We could learn how to setup a Sangha to nourish our practice – an island and refuge for us. 

Thich Nhat Hanh

Last time we spoke about how to take care of our feelings. The four exercises in the realm of feelings are about knowing how to bring the feeling of joy and happiness. 

Five Kinds of Energy or the Five Powers 

  1. Faith (or confidence/trust) 
  2. Diligence
  3. Mindfulness
  4. Concentration
  5. Insight 

We begin to learn about store consciousness and the seeds contained therein. Followed by our mind consciousness and selective watering. Appropriate attention. Positive and negative seeds. 

Let us use the five power to create the source of happiness. And we can add “letting go” as the sixth power. 

Now we come to the 7th exercise – recognition of the mental formation. That feeling or emotion has its base in store consciousness as a seed (bija). The first function of mindfulness is to be aware, to recognize. It is a practice of love. 

  1. Recognize
  2. Embrace
  3. Relief
  4. Transformation 

In the seventh exercise, we are only doing the first step above. 

If you appreciate this teaching, please consider making a donation to support the ongoing efforts of the online monastery. Please make a note with your donation that it was because of this talk.


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Mindfulness is There to Recognize

October 21, 2012. 57-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is enjoying the Autumn Retreat and this is a Day of Mindfulness.

Thay continues teaching on working with our suffering. The practice of mindfulness has four objects of practice:

  • Body
  • Feelings
  • Mind
  • Mental formations

Taught in the context of Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing.

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Mindfulness is a Source of Happiness

May 2, 2012. 94-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet in Plum Village during the 12th annual Francophone Retreat. The talk is given in French with English translation. This is the third dharma talk.

Continuing with the idea of practice as the cultivation of our mind. We need to now how our mind operates to practice well. In Buddhist psychology we talk about seeds in our consciousness. We learn of our store consciousness and our mind consciousness.

The first role of mindfulness is simple recognition. If it is anger arising, we recognize the manifestation of anger. Secondly, we embrace the emotion non-violently.

Right Diligence. There are four aspects of right diligence. First, we organize things so the negative seeds don’t have the opportunity to be watered. Second, if negative seeds do arise then do something right away to invite good seeds to manifest. The third aspect is helping the good seeds to manifest. And the fourth is to try keeping good seeds present as long as possible.

More teaching on mind consciousness. Manas.

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Dharma Talk Francophone Day 4 from Plum Village Online Monastery on Vimeo.

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Miracles of Reconciliation

August 11, 2011. 60-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from War Memorial Gym at University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this the third talk of the retreat.

Today we continue with the Noble Eightfold Path. Right Speech. Deep listening. The purpose of deep listening is to allow the other person, or group of people, to have a chance to speak out. Maybe nobody has listened to them and you may be the first person. They can empty their heart. Compassion can protect you, even if the other person is full of accusations, bitterness, and wrong perceptions. When we sit down and listen, we can follow our in breath and out breath to help the other person suffer less. The is the role of a bodhissatva. Every one of us has the seed of compassion inside. We can all benefit from this discipline of deep listening – we all have the seeds of compassion and understanding.

The dharma talk comes from the living experience of the teacher. The best way to listen to a dharma talk is not with your intellect – send your intellect on vacation and allow the dharma rain to penetrate the soil and it will water the best of the seeds in us. One of those seeds is awakening; enlightenment.

Right Diligence has four aspects. We need a little understanding of our mind in order to practice  true diligence. The mind has two layers: store consciousness and mind consciousness. The practice of diligence is to not allow those negative seeds inside of our store consciousness to manifest. In Buddhist psychology, there are 51 varieties of seeds. A seed can manifest as a mental formation.

The talk is available below.

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Miracle of Being Alive: The Greatest of All Miracles

July 15, 2011. 86-minute dharma talk from Stillwater Meditation Hall in Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, France with Thich Nhat Hanh. The sangha is in the annual Summer Opening Retreat and it is the second week.

Thay continues the teaching on mindfulness of breathing, summarizing the first eight steps of the Sutra on Mindful Breathing (he spoke of it during the July 13 dharma talk). The first four help us take care of our body. With the fifth, we touch the realm of feelings.

He teaches on dealing with difficult emotions, including how we can help those loved ones who feel they need to commit suicide because of an emotion. Belly breathing. Focus on your in breath and out breath, following the rise of abdomen. We should remember that emotions are impermanent. We have can peace, solidity, and freedom.

From the realm of body and feelings, we come to the ninth exercise which is the realm of the mental formations. Formation – samskara – is a technical term. The flower is a formation because it is made of non-flower elements. In the Buddhist tradition, there are 51 mental formations. We learn the relationship between mind consciousness and store consciousness and the concept of seeds (bija). We can practice selective watering. In a relationship, we can use a Peace Treaty. He tells the story of a couple whose love is revitalized by the practice of watering good seeds. The ninth exercise is about gladdening the mind.

At the end of the talk Thay shares about the four practices of Right Diligence. It means we should continue our practice. Don’t allow the negative seeds to become a mental formation. If a negative seed becomes a mental formation, we shouldn’t allow it to stay too long, but not by way of suppressing. When you recognize a good seed, try to touch it and bring up. Finally, try to keep the good seeds present as long as you can.

The talk was given in English and is available below. There is a video version available too.

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