In early 2004, Thich Nhat Hanh and two hundred monastics came to Southern California to spend several months at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, California. The monastic community is practicing during the Rainy Season Retreat from January 4 to March 14 with the lay community. This 80-minute dharma talk takes place on Sunday, January 11, 2004 at the beginning of the second week. We are in the recently opened Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall. Both audio and video versions are available with this post.
We begin with an overview of how to begin the day in the monastery — the bell, walking meditation, sitting meditation, and chanting. How much time should we allow for these activities? Do we need to wait to begin meditation? When you hear the bell announcing sitting meditation, you begin right away with your walking. What is our practice when we are walking? What is our practice when we arrive at the mediation hall? Thay shares and outlines the Plum Village practice.
What can the dharma teacher do to contribute to the practice? The dharma teachers have a responsibility to be present for the orientation. To help support those who have newly arrived. The dharma teachers can help assure that people practice in the practice center (so we don’t become a “non-practice” practice center!).
A reporter recently asked Thay, what happens after we die? The question is kind of a trap. What happens in the present moment? The answer to both these questions is the same. And if we can answer the second question, then there is no need to answer the previous question. What is our practice to be fully present in the here and now — to become a free person. And with our practice, we can then free our ancestors.
What is the role of the sangha in helping with your practice of sitting meditation? Practicing with the wonders of life in the practice center with the support of the sangha. Thay reflects on the meaning of the kingdom of God. Transforming our homes, sanghas, and practice centers into a pure land. A place of refuge where we can experience brotherhood and sisterhood. To enjoy deeply every moment of our daily life.
The practice of walking, sitting, and chanting is for the care of the present moment. It is not for the future. There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way. There is no way to enlightenment, enlightenment is the way. We don’t sit for anything and do not expect anything. Just be present in the here and now. That is good enough. Don’t be caught by the idea of the Buddha that is outside of you — you are already a Buddha.
Living and working in harmony with nature, plants and animals, at Deer Park Monastery. Even though we are many hundreds, we can walk in the pure land in harmony with nature. How do we practice walking meditation?
I have arrived.
I am home.
I am solid.
I am free.
In the ultimate I dwell.
The Sangha is gathered together at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during the 2011 US Teaching Tour with the theme Cultivating the Mind of Love. Both the audio and video are available in this post.
In this 42-minute introduction, Thich Nhat Hanh begins with a teaching on Mindfulness, breathing, and the energy of mindfulness. It can be generated by our practice. And it is always mindfulness of something. We receive a teaching on breathing, sitting, and walking. How to arrive.
Sangha body. We are all a cell in the sangha body. And we can breathe together as one Sangha body. With just 3-seconds of breathing, we can make ourselves available to life and life is available to us. That is the miracle of mindfulness. We release the past and release the future.
Do we have the time to get in touch with the miracle of mindfulness? When we bring our mind and body together, we have a chance to touch this miracle through the practice of mindfulness of breathing and mindfulness of walking.
The cells in our body have the capacity to generate energy. And we can listen as one sangha body. And we can become a real and true sangha in that moment. And with this we can gain insight. Thay teaches how the practice of walking allow us to touch the wonders of life in the here and now.
I have arrived. I am home.
Every in breath and every out breath allow us to remain in the here and the now. And we are supported by many other practitioners.
As with walking, sitting meditation is the same. We can enjoy in a relaxing manner. It can be a delight! We have our Sangha and our breathing. We don’t need to suffer.
I have arrived. I am home.
This is not a declaration!
During this retreat, we will learn to practice and be the living Buddha, the living Dharma, and the living Sangha.
At 23:45 into the recording, Thay invites Sister Pine and Br. Phap Dung to offer a few words on how to enjoy our practice more – how can we enjoy our life?
One of the practices is called Noble Silence — what does this mean? How do we practice with noble silence? Another practice we offer and teach is Working Meditation — an opportunity and a training to come back to our body and our breathing. In a retreat, we can slow down and enjoy our capacity to stop, be present, and perhaps gain insight. Br. Phap Dung shares a story of eating salad without the dressing. We can remove the dressing in our lives. Cultivate the ability to generate your own bell of mindfulness.
In our tradition, the practice and the non-practice are interweaved. It’s hard to tell where the meditation begins. Try to pay attention to the non-practice. The non-effort.
We begin this Public Talk at the World Forum Theatre in The Netherlands, dated April 28, 2006, with a 5-minute introduction on how we can listen to the monastics invoking the name of Avalokiteshvara. Listening can bring peace and well-being into ourselves. We can listen deeply with compassion to relieve suffering. Following the brief introduction, the monastics begin the chant.
Walking meditation is a way to move between one place and another. With Mindful walking we can enjoy every step and bring peace. It is an easy and effective way to learn how to live deeply in every moment of our daily lives. Even the children can enjoy this practice. Taking refuge in the Sangha through the collective energy of mindfulness through our mindful breathing. Walking meditation is a time when we can behave as one organism and we can feel the energy of this collective effort.
I have arrived.
I am home.
With one in-breath, you touch the earth with your step. Established in the present moment. I have arrived. This means I don’t want to run anymore. With one out-breath, you arrive in your true home. Right here in the present moment. We arrive in the here and the now. We can live deeply in our daily life. Happiness is possible.
We all have many conditions of happiness if we look for them. We don’t have to run around looking for our happiness. We can touch the pure land of the Buddha, the kingdom of God in each step. Touching the many wonders of life.
Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. And we can be mindful all day long. It is the kind of energy the allows us to be present in the here and the now. Anyone can generate this energy. It is the energy of the Buddha, and so any one of us can be a Buddha. Even if it’s a part-time Buddha.
Our spiritual leaders should offer the kind of teaching that helps us to enjoy the kingdom of God. Then many could possibly return to the church. Especially for our young people.
Freedom from our anger, fear, violence and despair. Our teachers should teach us how to handle these emotions. To be able to embrace and transform them. Peace should be cultivated in our daily life while we sit, while we drive, while we cook, while we wash the dishes. This only needs some training.
Compassionate listening. To have the capacity to listen with compassion. Avalokiteshvara is such a person. She can teach us how to listen in order to provide relief from suffering.
The art of mindful breathing is a method to cultivate this compassionate listening. To listen without blaming or judging. We can also use the techniques of loving speech. These tools help us reestablish communication. During a five-day retreat, we teach people how to do this work. Thay offers a very concrete example how we can do this in our family.
During this process, we may observe many wrong perceptions. What can we do? What techniques can we use to better practice loving speech and deep listening. Wrong perceptions are the foundation of fear, anger, and violence. We should know how to remove wrong perceptions. Even our own wrong perceptions. This practice is effective for individuals, groups, and even nations. Peace can become possible.
Why do young people who want to blow themselves up? What can we do? Do we blame them for the violence, hate, and despair? They need our compassion. A community of practice makes this effort much easier.
Thay answers a few questions from the audience.
If you don’t have time to listen, especially to someone who is angry, then what can we do?
Anger can be a very good energy. Can you explain more about this and transforming the energy?
Can you say more about loving speech? Where can I learn more?
Su Co Chan Không concludes the evening with a song.
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In this December 10, 2006 dharma talk from Lower Hamlet, Thay reflects on the 2005 trip to Vietnam followed by a teaching on mindfulness of walking and eating. The sangha is in the Annual Winter Retreat and the talk is 77-minutes.
It was a warm winter at Plum Village in 2006 and Thay reflects on walking meditation on the grass and the leaves. We can enjoy every step we make on this planet. When a novice monk at the root temple in Vietnam, Thay did not know the practice of walking meditation. As a you don’t no Dharma Teacher, Thay still did not find the time for waking meditation. But when he returned to the root temple in 2005, it was wonderful to practice walking meditation on the hills with over 900 monastics. What is important, there is no need to make any effort and the practice is perfect. Only you can produce this step in mindfulness and concentration. Thay shares of returning to Vietnam and of bringing the monastic sangha together in harmony. The happiness and the joy of they incorporating some of the Plum Village practices, such as practicing as a fourfold sangha and gender equity.
Mindfulness is a mental formation – one of the fifty mental formations. When we are inhabited by the energy of mindfulness, we can have the eyes of the Buddha and the feet of the Buddha. We know how to generate the energy of mindfulness from our seed of mindfulness. Walking like a Buddha can happen right now. We don’t have to force ourselves. It is a pleasure.
Walking meditation is not a practice, it is an enjoyment. The best reason to do walking meditation is, because I like it! The same is true of sitting meditation. We don’t force it, but we enjoy it. It is an act of love.
Getting in touch with the food and our ancestors through eating meditation. Thay recalls his mothers cooking. A meal is a time to know who we are – through what we are eating and how we are eating. Eating can nourish our compassion. We can get in touch with the nature of reality. Are we eating in a way to nourish our compassion? We can get enlightenment just by eating. It should be a relaxing time, to eat as a sangha. To allow more time. For sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Plum Village tradition, eating is a deep practice. How?
Mindfulness is the kind of energy that has the power of knowing what is going on. Mindfulness is a miracle. It is like a light that allows us to see things, and everyone has this light of mindfulness. Mindfulness is mere recognition; we don’t try to grasp it. When mindfulness is there, everything will be different. Including your joy and your pain. And it is always for the better. When mindfulness is there, the Buddha is there.
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The 53-minute dharma talk offered by Thich Nhat Hanh took place at the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village on November 3, 2005. The audio is linked below and video will be available for our donors on Patreon.
What does it mean, “I take refuge in the Buddha.” Buddha is the one who is mindful, awake, enlightened. Taking refuge is not believing in a God or deity. We all have a seed of mindfulness, understanding, and love. We can become a person who is fully awake, enlightened, just like the Buddha. Taking refuge is confirming the fact that you can be enlightened. You are a Buddha. This is not a declaration of faith, but a commitment to practice. In every breath we are taking refuge. In every mindful step we are taking refuge.
The way in is also the way out. Our spiritual life should be established in that vision – being truly ourselves. Practicing to bring a spiritual dimension into your life. Through drinking our tea, preparing our breakfast, or brushing our teeth. These are spiritual acts. Not being caught by the future or the past. This is being a Buddha.
Going home to ourselves. How is this act accomplished? Practicing in a community like Plum Village, everyone is supported by the sangha. This is taking refuge in the sangha. We have faith in the community. Helping to build this refuge for others.
Story of when the Buddha was about 80-years old and how he offered the teaching on taking refuge in the island of yourself. Here we can encounter the foundation of ourselves – the island includes the Buddha, dharma, and sangha. This is the practice of Plum Village also.
How do we respond when we are lonely, not feeling like ourselves? Our feelings of fear? Do we know how to practice going home to ourselves? Walking meditation is a method. Can we walk like a Buddha? Enjoying every step. This is a miracle.
The Buddha-nature is within you and through mindfulness, concentration, and insight it is you that is performing a miracle.
It is a practice of enjoyment.
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From the Assembly of Stars Meditation Hall at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. This is the fourth week of the annual Summer Opening retreat at Plum Village. This short 45-minute talk on July 27, 2014 is in English with a focus on using the practice of walking meditation in order to be free. Both the audio and the video are available below.
There is the habit energy of running in all of us. We’re not comfortable in the here and now. Many are caught in regret and sorrow concerning the past. The mark of suffering is very deep. How can we get out of that prison of the last? The same can be said about the future. Life is only available in the here and now. In the present moment. The practice of mindfulness can help us live in freedom.
The practice of mindful walking can be very helpful. We can learn how to combine the breathing and walking together. We learn the practice. I have arrived. I am home. Teaching on the Kingdom of God as it relates to walking. Are you able to experience the wonder of life? In the here. In the now. If you know how to stop running, then you can heal yourself. I am solid. I am free. Each step made like this will cultivate more solidity and stability. These words of the mantra are not just wishful thinking. To be a Buddha is possible and to enjoy every step. In the ultimate, I dwell. What is the ultimate? Teaching of the wave.
Learn the art of walking. Walk like a Buddha. Don’t walk like a sleepwalker.
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.
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?
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.
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.
16:38-28:50 The practice of walking meditation
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.
September 1, 2013. 118-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 a public Day of Mindfulness when approximately 1400 people came to Blue Cliff to learn about the practice.