October 10, 2007

10/10/07 Plum Village France

Upper Hamlet

Woke up to more rain today. Paddy thought it was raining more here than in his native Ireland. [smile]

This morning's meditation was a little different. Every week, all the monks and lay people recite the Five Mindfulness Trainings and the Heart Sutra. There were a lot of prostrations, then, as the lay people left to do our own meditation, the monks stayed to recite their vows.

Such peaceful gardens

After breakfast, all the lay people met for another discussion group, this time on the Five Mindfulness Trainings that we recited at the morning meditation. In the Tibetan tradition they are called the Lay Ordination Vows. Using a 'ten commandments' form, they are no killing, no lying, no sexual misconduct, no stealing and no intoxicants. But in the Buddhist form, they are broader in scope, more of a guideline for better daily living. The version they use here at Plum Village is Thich Naht Hanh's rendition. The Five Mindfulness Trainings are written for the modern world, taking into consideration the complexities of the 21st Century. Today's discussion was on:

The Fourth Mindfulness Training
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am determined to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy and hope. I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain and will not criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I am determined to make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

John, a Canadian considering a monastic life, confided in me later that he really appreciated my input during the discussion. Sometimes it's hard for me to accept compliments. That's one f the great things about being here, everyone is so open and non-threatening that we can learn to trust each other and ourselves.

Walking meditation took place despite the rain. People were given the option not to walk but it seemed that almost everyone was there. By the middle of the walk, the sun was trying to come out and most of us had put away our umbrellas.

Still a peaceful walk despite the rain

After a lunch rest period, we had working meditation. Before we got started, the monks always want to sing songs. Part of me thinks they are corny, but in the last few days I've been joining in anyway. The words and music sound a bit like the flower children of the 60s, but deep down it hits a chord in your heart.

Can you sing along?

After out sing-along, it was time to get our work assignments. I have to admit it, when they were asking for volunteers to clean the 'Happy Room' (men's bathroom), I kept my hand down. Instead, Paddy and I joined a few of the Brothers working on the new greenhouse.

Why is it, when you find the perfect place to plant a garden, it's usually in the rockiest place. Our job was to break the ground and remove at least some of the big rocks, in which there were plenty. I figure the very spot we were digging was where the stone masons and tile roofers worked when they built the house. And the recent rain didn't make it any easier to remove the most stubborn pieces.

Diggin' in the dirt

During the evening meditation, one of the monastery cats sauntered in, and planted himself between two monks and promptly fell asleep. Ah, the life of a monastery cat!

Dominique gave me part two of my Thai massage tonight. It was wonderful but I kept trying to figure out what he was doing so I could learn how to do it. Just might have to 'really' study this in the future.