Dear Thay, dear Sangha, “Each of us has to discover for himself or herself the cause of ill-being,” says Thay in his Dharma talk at the retreat in Hanoi. I am sitting on my couch furiously scribbling as I transcribe Thay’s words from the DVD. (Our invaluable volunteer Greg Sever transcribed most of the two talks that are excerpted in this issue, but then I decided I wanted to include Thay’s teachings on the Four Noble Truths.) The sun is shining outside my home in Colorado, the grass needs mowing, I’m way behind my ideal schedule for getting the Mindfulness Bell articles to Sister Annabel for review.
With a compassionate calm smile, Thay continues, “Suppose we speak about our hectic life — we have so much to do, so much to achieve. As a politician, a businessman, even an artist, we want to do more and more and more.” I just have to laugh. What irony! Like many people I know, I’m juggling so many different responsibilities, tasks, and fun projects that I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.
Thay goes on: “We crave success. We do not have the capacity to live deeply each moment of our daily life. We don’t give our body a chance to relax and to heal.” Finally I get it. I pause the DVD, put down my pad and pencil, and take a few breaths. I realize I need a break so I go outside and water a few plants, pull a few weeds, pet the dog.
A month later I take a real break and attend the Healing Self, Healing Earth retreat at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park — ﬁve days of peace, healing, insight, and new friendships.
In addition to enlightening Dharma talks and mindful hikes in the Rocky Mountains, one of the blessings for me when I go on retreat is the opportunity to speak with readers of the Mindfulness Bell. It’s heartening to hear that people enjoy the magazine, read it on the plane, keep it by their bedside, savor old issues. In this issue we also print letters from prison inmates who beneﬁt from the Mindfulness Bell. Thank you all for sharing your kind thoughts with me, and do continue to share your writings, art, and photos. In particular, I would love to hear from practitioners on the subject of mindfulness in the workplace.
Another way that our journal touches people is when articles get reprinted; this year we’ve had Dharma talks and essays picked up by Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly; Intersein, the German Sangha magazine; The Lotus Bud newsletter in Sydney, Australia; the new Sangha newsletter in Thailand; and Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge. And we earned a complimentary review in Utne Reader’s online newsletter.
In addition, we’ll have another piece in Shambhala’s prestigious anthology, Best Buddhist Writing 2008. Here’s what editor Melvin McLeod wrote to me: “It’s perhaps a surprising choice: young Cameron Barnett’s description of his retreat at Plum Village, and how it helped him after he returned to school… This piece will be included with authors who include the Dalai Lama, Natalie Goldberg, Sylvia Boorstein, and of course Thich Nhat Hanh himself. I felt that it told such a sincere story of how the practice can be applied that it deserved to be in such august company… I’d also like to say how much I admire and enjoy the Mindfulness Bell. Of course I have the greatest respect for Thay and all his historic work, and the Mindfulness Bell is a reﬂection of this great teacher.”
To me, the Mindfulness Bell is also a reﬂection of our four-fold Sangha — an ever-inspiring kaleidoscope of wisdom, compassion, and beauty in the world.
Blessings to you all,