Arrived, Home

After 2 weeks and a couple of days traveling with the international Plum Village Sangha in Japan, I have arrived back in the hidden valley of Deer Park Monastery. This makes me very happy. To have time and place to do exercise and to eat homemade vegan meals are two conditions of happiness. The trip was also a precious treasures: monastic siblings coming together from all over the world, practicing together with a international lay Plum Village delegation and hundreds of friends in Japan. So much nourishment and opportunity to grow. Whenever I am away from my normal life situation, including environment, activities, food, people and place to sleep, I have a chance to see myself more clearly. Staying in a temple in Tokyo and a resort at the foot of Mount Fuji, I had to make an extra effort to be outside in nature. The temple was situated on the first floor of a sky scraper and all the activities during the retreat was accessible from the hallways of the resort. The times I was outside roaming around, away from cars and crowds I noticed that I could breathe more deeply, be more relaxed and feeling more alive. Here at Deer Park it is so easy for me to spend much time outside, but for many of us we have to make a little more effort to make ourselves available to the soothing embrace of nature. It is very important that we do create conditions for free time in nature. This is a concrete practice and life style issue, which has show to increase well being (physical and psychological) as well as promote learning.

Reflecting on the situation of our planet today during the travels the Three Dharma Seals of Plum Village kept coming back to me. The Buddha offered the Dharma Seals of impermanence, non-self and nirvana. If a teaching and practice does not go along with these seals it cannot be called a teaching of the Buddha. Our Teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) offer us three seals of Plum Village practice, not instead of the ones the Buddha offered, but as appropriate medicine for us in the 21st century. The seals of Plum Village are I have arrived, I am home, Go as a River; and Interbeing.

I would like to offer an overview of how I practice the Plum Village Seals, particularly in regard to climate change. In following posts I’ll go deeper into each seal and offer concrete practices.

I have arrived, I am home: Walking on the streets of Tokyo to dwell in each step is not the practice of the majority. The drive in peoples step and the slightly forward leaning posture remind me of living and working in Stockholm. When I started practicing walking meditation, especially on the uneven forest paths in Plum Village, I realized that I was so used to going forward that my sense of balance in each step was quite weak. Over the years my posture and footsteps have transformed and now I feel very happy and stable on my feet as I walk. The spirit of this seal can be touched in each step, no longer rushing to get somewhere. When I return to the present moment and my body in this way, life can flow through me, my cravings lessen and I can more easily realize that I already have more then enough conditions to be happy. When I life and practice like this it is easy to consume less, living simply is a great contribution to our planet.

Go as a River: The last activity for the Day of Mindfulness with 200 business people downtown Tokyo was walking meditation. In front a group of half dozen monastics lead the way, step by step. Another 20 monastics and 15 Order of Interbeing members supported the collective energy all through out the group. We walked on the side walk and through a park. People stopped to look, bicycles swerved around us, car shooting by on the street. The collective energy was very peaceful. As we stopped by some blossoming flower beds, the laughter of children and touch of the breeze enhanced the wellbeing I was already experiencing. To touch life so deeply and to offer such powerful energy of peace to people around us would not have been possible on a walk by myself. We invested all our attention into our steps and our breathing. We followed along, but clearly participated, a school of people walking together, just to enjoy walking. When we come together so many things are possible. To offer the world examples of loving community is a potent anti-dote for the individualistic and competitive lifestyle that ravage our planet. 

Interbeing: Breathing in and out, I allow the teaching of interbeing to shine light on the connection between the in and out breath. What would happen to the out breath if the in breath would not be there? When I walk I let the teaching of interbeing shine light on the contact between my feet and the Earth. Where do I end and the Earth begin? Moving around upright, walking on the Earth, breathing in the air of the Sky, trees all around. How could I be here alone, on my own? In the Q&A session with children during the retreat in Japan Brother Stream questioned a child about where her food comes from. Does it come from the refrigerator? and before that? and before that? is there any sun and rain in your food? To protect our sense of self over countess generations we have created an illusory separation between ourselves and others, between ourselves and our environment. When we are able to stop and look deeply into our lives, we can clearly see that this is because that is. Our actions have countless effects, so let’s apply ourselves wholeheartedly to act with kindness and peace. This goes along with our nature and our whole being thrive on it.

Thank you for your deep listening while reading. In joy and gratitude – Brother Protection (Phap Ho)