Letters from the Editors

True Spiritual Communication Dear Friends,

This is the fourth issue of the Mindfulness Bell that has been produced by the current editorial team. We are learning and developing our skills as we go, and we hope that each new issue is more inspiring and informative for our readers. Towards this end, we have decided to discontinue announcing themes for issues in advance, after the next issue, which will focus on education. Instead, we have adopted the policy of presenting the most current and relevant teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh, and forming the issue's theme around that teaching. We encourage you to continue to offer the fruits of your practice in whatever area of life they manifest. We will do our best to compile the offerings we receive in a comprehensive and intelligent form.

Thay's teaching in this issue is taken from three Dharma talks given at the Hand of the Buddha Retreat last June at Plum Village. It is a deep and beautiful piece on Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of deep listening.

When I first became acquainted with the practice of compassionate listening, I felt a deep desire to develop my own skill and to share it with others. Recently I realized that the anger that has come up in me all my life arises when I don't feel acknowledged or understood, or free to express myself. My core difficulty in life seems to be the feelings that come from the experience of not being heard.

Several years ago I offered a compassionate listening skills training program in my community. We met for two-hour sessions, and mostly practiced listening in pairs or small groups. By far the most meaningful exercise we did was in groups of four, where one person spoke and the others listened -- one to the story line, one to the emotions being expressed, and one to the underlying values. When the speaker was finished, the listeners shared what they had heard. In each case, it was hearing his or her values reflected back accurately that gave the speaker the deep relief and comfort of feeling truly heard. I offer you this practice: try going beyond the story and the feelings next time you listen to someone, and listen for the values the person is trying to convey. I believe that this is a way to find commonality and to begin healing the vast differences that sometimes seem to overwhelm us.

I would be happy to share my outline of the listening course I developed. My vision is for us to gather in small groups, all over the world, connecting with our hearts while we offer the gift of truly being present for one another.

The sound of morning bird song, the sound of a deep lake, the sound of a heart opening in love,

Barbara Casey                  barbaracasey@sbcglobal.net

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Dear Friends,

Today is a clear beautiful day in Plum Village.  The sky is blue.  The poplar leaves shimmer and quake in the light wind reminding us of the Sutra on the Land of Great Happiness where each tree is made of precious jewels emitting wonderful music. During walking meditation this morning we stopped and rested in the plum orchard. In the shade of each tree there were two or three or four sisters and brothers simply enjoying being together with each other and with the world.   One sister offered me a small glass of hot water from her thermos.  She sang me two songs that bring her joy.   I listened to my sister's voice like I listen to the quaking of the leaves.

At the beginning of the walking meditation I removed my shoes, as the grass was soft and inviting. The earth beneath the plum trees was hard and cracked. I enjoyed walking on both surfaces. To me this is an example of True Spiritual Communication. We communicate with our voices and we also communicate with our bodies and our minds.  My feet communicate with the earth and the earth communicates with my feet. My eyes communicate with the colors and forms surrounding me and the colors and forms communicate with my eyes. There is communication between my sister and me, between my brother and me as we walk silently through the orchard. And why is this communication spiritual? To me it is the communication that wakes me up, that brings me into contact with reality, that nourishes my awareness and my capacity to understand and to love.

When I am attentive I can hear many things in the quaking leaves. I can hear stories and poems, songs and sutras. I can hear lullabies and I can hear the musical voice of my teacher barely whispering yet penetrating and deep, sharing the true teachings of love and understanding.

While Thay and a delegation have been on a two-month teaching tour in North America, those of us remaining in Plum Village have been enjoying our Fall Retreat. We enjoy every day as a Day of Mindfulness, a day to practice, and a day to be present. Along with the fruits of our practice we have been enjoying harvesting many fruits of earth and sky as well walnuts and hazelnuts, peaches and apples, figs and pears, and of course plums!

Please enter this issue of the Mindfulness Bell as you would an orchard in the late autumn sun. There are a variety of appealing fruits to enjoy, in the form of articles, images and poetry. There is also the warm companionship and inspiration of many friends and teachers offering their insights and experiences on the path of practice. Taste, taste and see for yourself the sweetness, the sharpness, and the richness of the living Dharma.

Enjoy!                 Sister Steadiness

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