October 11, 2007

10/11/07 Plum Village France

Lower Hamlet

This morning I especially wanted to get up early so I could be at the big bell went they rang it. But I guess my body had other ideas. I lay in bed wondering why the alarm hadn't gone off. Finally, I turned on the light only to discover it was 7:05 and breakfast had started at 6:45. Good thing Stephan wasn't mad as I was to wake him up too. Manuel later told me it was an especially great morning because the clouds were gone and it was a moonless morning so the entire sky was covered with brilliant stars.

The reason for the early breakfast is that we are going to Lower Hamlet for the day, maybe a thirty minute walk. As we got closer, we could see the plum trees. One of the brothers said they picked ten tons of plums this season. They sold nine tons and kept one ton for themselves in the form of jams and dried fruit.

A nice walk down to Lower Hamlet

This morning in Lower Hamlet, we listened to a DVD dharma talk Thich Nhat Hanh had given before on the idea of 'no self'. One part that really struck me was the idea that Buddhism, and really any type of spirituality is more a practice than philosophy or religion. No matter how much we study, if we don't put it into practice, it's just a bunch of words.

Our walking meditation was different in that as we walked through a nearby wood, we passed the home of a falconer who lived in the trees with his birds. We silently passed his home so as not to disturb him or his wish to be alone away from people. I think it was a powerful example of suffering like isolation, alienation, loneliness, to those of us basking in the friendship of our dharma brothers and sisters.

The sun came out as we finished our walking meditation

Lunch was a wonderful affair, informal this time. It was such a nice day, everyone ate outside spread everywhere you could find sunlight. And much to my surprise, there was dessert. Now, I know you aren't going to believe me, our dessert looked alot like rice pudding but was really a milky tofu. I wouldn't have turned down a second bowl if it had been offered. [smile]

Most of us took our lunch outside

The dharma discussion group was led by Brother Phap Man, a young guy from California. He had a way to introduce ourselves that made us all relax no matter how silly we looked. Another good amount of deep reflection on our practice. One woman said she realized that when a loved one is hurting, there will always be suffering with all involved. So, the only way to lesson the suffering in herself is to help lessen the pain in her sister and between themselves. The other good point raised is how everyone and everything is a part of us. One girl from England said that her family were very unhappy with her choice to become a nun at Plum Village. But instead of being mad at them for this, she is now seeing her parents in everything she does here. So, even in their pain, she knows how much they love her and how much she loves them.

Tonight I have mixed emotions. I have had a wonderful time here at Plum Village, and met some great folks that I hope will continue to be friends for long years to come. And I think my practice has become richer because of the experience too. But now, just as I get comfortable, I am jetting off to another place. I wish I could stay here a bit longer but I also want to see my family and friends while I am still here in Europe. I guess that means I need to come back. [smile]