A Day of Mindfulness with Thich Nhat Hanh

As strange as it seems, one of the largest American Buddhist Monastery’s is in Batesville, Mississippi called Magnolia Grove Monastery and Meditation Center. Yes- Batesville, MISSIPPI (did you just spell it in your head?!). I know you may need a moment to locate it on a map because it truly is in the middle of rural earth. The Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh has three in the United States; New York, California and Mississippi. Thich Nhat Hanh (called Thay) was nominated for a nobel peace prize during the 1960’s when the civil rights movement was at its height. He worked along side Martin Luther King, Jr. to promote peace here, as well as, his home country of Vietnam. Because of his activism, he was exiled from his own country and lives most often in Plum Village, a monastery in France. With the south the heart center of the civil rights movement and continued with racial divisiveness today, it is so fitting for a place of peace to be born there.

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My spouse has been a practitioner of Zen Buddhism for many years and when Thich Nhat Hanh came to the monastery for the first time two years ago, he went for a week long retreat and returned a changed man. My daughter and I joined him for our first Day of Mindfulness and was blown by the silent wind of the monks, nuns and fellow practitioners. More importantly, it was so beautiful to remember how the simple act of centering myself allowed me to wake up my mind from distractions. By creating space to stop and breathe allowed my senses to heighten and experienced such joy and gratitude in re-remembering that my feet are touching the earth. It is so easy to use the television, the computer, the phone to numb out to our life. I believe sometimes we cannot stand to be with ourselves simply because we fear what we may find out.

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This year, a beautiful Meditation Hall was completed, called the Rising Tide Meditation Hall along with The Great Bell. During free time, the bell would sound calling us to stop and breathe in, breathe out. Breathe In. Breathe Out. Breathe In. Breathe Out.

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Thay told a wonderful story about how we can use a bell to carve out sacred space at home. He suggested that the use of a bell can allow the entire family to invite each other to sit together and share space………to call us back to our breath, our home that resides within.

 

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Most days of the retreat lunch was silent, however, on the Day of Mindfulness, we are able to meet people that have come to visit from all over the country. I saw license plates from Virginia to Arizona! We had the pleasure of sitting with a family that lives in Batesville. She told me she works for the local paper, so I asked about the climate of local people in response to the monastery’s presence. She told me that like anything new, people were suspicious and worried there was going to be a sweeping push of conversion. She has continued to report on the monastery through out its progress and although some struggled with fear due to a lack of knowledge, the local Baptist church became involved in building the meditation hall!

What is true of the Buddhists is there would actually be discouragement in leaving your religion of origin. A buddhist practice does not diminish a persons faith, but instead gives us all the opportunity to wake up to our life and grow our relationship within our own religion. A meditation practice calls us home. While I absorbed myself into the meditation hall, I forgot about everything except what was right in front of me. I am taking a step. I am listening. We are one.

A sense of peace washes over me and I want to retreat from the world, maybe live like the monks who spend their lives cultivating peace from within. But I have to remember that I CAN live this way at any time I chose. I can return to my true home within.
Just take a breath. Breathe In. Breathe Out.

Repeat after me this simple prayer as you breathe – I am beloved. I am home.

You ARE Beloved. You ARE Home.

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To Learn more about the manifestation of the Magnolia Grove Monastery and this Beloved Community, check out the link below:

http://faithinmemphis.com/2013/09/30/nhat-hanh-brings-dharma-to-delta/

 

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Miss Judgy Pants Needs a Life Line

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I have committed most of my adult life to my growing edges. Despite the painful realizations that come with learning about an area that needs growth, I am eventually grateful after much kicking, screaming and (possibly) a few self loathing, angry rants. Needless to say, the growing edge I am about to share with you – is far from being done with me. It may never end. Blech! is all that comes to my mind.

 Many months ago I spent a day out with my friend and at the end of the day I saw that she posted on FaceBook (Yes- it really is the devil sometimes) that she felt she needed to be more positive and stop focusing on saying so many negative things. Of course, I was concerned I may have been playing a part in speaking from a negative place and frankly felt it was right. But- of course, I didn’t really want to listen and allowed myself to get distracted by the next pretty FaceBook picture.

Then, another event. A few weeks ago I was hanging out with other friends. I made many different judgements about the game, what the band and others were wearing and told several personal stories about how other people were not self aware whileI, obviously was. My friends laughed at my “jokes” and agreed with me on the problems that other people had. More than half way through the evening it just hit me. I can’t say if it was the way my friends acted towards me- maybe they grew weary of my complaining and acting like I had all the answers. Maybe I could hear myself for the first time and all I heard was an egotistical whine that started making my head hurt. What ever it was, I quickly dove into a positive story of how a local waitress, who recognized me from my TV interviews, tried to pay for my lunch after she asked me a personal question. I simply encouraged her to listen to her intuition. But, was my happy-happy story just trying to ice a cake made out of mud?

Holy Shit! What kind of person do I think I am?? REALLY? I think I am SOOOOO special that I can call out- by name– other people and judge them? I was reeling from this realization and worse, out came the shame. I told no one for a week. I typically sustain my shame resilience by talking to my inner circle just as soon as possible. It had been a long time since I had considered growing shame by silence.

To give myself some credit, I have grown in this area immensely. Before waking up to my life and growing from victim to survivor, I was asleep. Hhuuucchheewww……HHhhuuuccchhheewwww…..I lived my life without clarity, compassion or connection. I wallowed in negativity and I was my own worst target. I participated in a level of self hatred that resembled an inner demon. Judgement was my middle name. I was an ugly person.

Here is how things tend to go now:

I have an interaction with a person or a system and it does not meet my expectations. I become angry and sometimes even enraged. I find someone that is safe, someone who has earned the right to know my story and then, I emotionally throw up all over them. I hop up and down believing those initial moments of anger give me the right to be judgmental. Judge. Judge. Judgy Pants. Whew! I can get on a roll if I let myself.

But I never stay there long. I work hard at watering my empathy and compassion. I put emphasis on expressing gratitude and like any good therapist, I reframe what has happened, seeking out the nugget of goodness that always exists. The struggle lies in that I have been such a strong believer that bottling up the frustration and anger is not in my best interest. But seriously, if you heard me, I sound like a self-righteous bitch. The truth is I am not better and the more I judge, the more I act like I am separate from others.

Finally, the week passes and I tell my spouse my revelation. And like much of the good wisdom I learn in life, he called me back to some of the Buddhist principles he actively works on himself. He told me that when I talked about what I was experiencing that to maintain what the buddhists call “right speech” and “right relationship” I would speak what I was feeling- what I was experiencing. It could relieve that struggle and keep me away from judging others. For example, someone does not follow through with an agreement. I can talk about feeling disappointed and hurt, even angry, but that every statement I made about what I perceived was true about them (and inevitably negative) was just an assumption. The only thing true is what I am feeling. Everything else is me ranting with my judgy pants on.

 I am shaken. NOW WHAT DO I SAY? I thought my bestest friends were suppose to hear me bitch and moan. How do I successfully relinquish my feelings without judgement? I can’t keep acting like I am separate. Because the truth is I am separate from nothing and at any time, I could be that person that made that awful mistake. I have been that person that someone else is hopping up and down about to their best friend.

 So I need a life line. I have studied and read and studied Brene Brown’s work. But if I could call her up and ask her to help me understand how she successfully gives up judgement, I would be a happy girl. Give me the formula (or better yet, an elixir)!

Among my favorite phrase’s of the beloved Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is, “NO MUD, NO LOTUS.” So today, I might be making mud cake, but perhaps one day a lotus will bloom and I will experience more success in practicing loving kindness rather than judgement. 

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