The Miracle of Being Happy

By Brother Phap Dang Many miracles happened during our recent North America trip such as being happy, smiling, breathing, seeing our families, comtemplating the full moon. The greatest miracle was the joyful and happy energy of the delegation of Plum Village's monks and nuns. We felt like a warm and intimate family. There were twelve of us in the delegation: Thay, Sisters Chan Khong, Jina, Trung Chinh, Quan Nghiem, Thoai Nghiem, Dinh Nghiem, Tue Nghiem, and Brothers Nguyen Hai, Phap Dung, Phap Ung, and I. We were very happy to have two great bodhisattvas, Arnie and Therese, joining us during the trip. They were the key people who organized the trip beautifully.

Being in a strong Sangha, I was embraced with the energy of love, joy, and happiness. I felt that I did not need to struggle at all to practice mindfulness though I felt strongly in mindfulness. My joy and happiness were extremely strong which radiated from within. My half-smile kept blooming on my lips all the time. My smile nourished my heart and touched other people in the retreats. My smile reflected and triggered their smile, and their smiles were my smile. This is the nature of interbeing. If you think that you have lost your smile, I still have it. Somewhere within your heart, your smile is still present. We, the Sangha, created a smiling atmosphere everywhere we went. I benefited so much in that atmosphere where my peace, joy, and happiness were watered. I had a lot of energy to be with people in the retreats. Everywhere I went, I offered my smile and my flower so easily. The more smiles and flowers my heart offered, the more I had to give. I participated in all activities of the retreats and always enjoyed the practice of breathing and smiling. With a joyful and happy heart, my thinking, perceptions, and feelings had a positive effect on my heart and on other people. Everything I touched became lights and wonders. I found that people were kind and friendly; I felt close to them. My heart had opened up so wide that I enjoyed the people and nature very much.

Every evening, I had about ten minutes before dinner for myself. I usually offered my self the practice of mindful breathing and hugging the tree in the redwood grove next to the dining hall. One day, I found a young woman sitting on a bench in the redwood grove. She was crying. I respected her feeling and silently went to the tree to practice hugging the tree. I have always been fond of the trees and nature, so being with beautiful redwoods gave me a lot of joy. Since the day I became a monk, I have been in love with every little thing in nature like trees, flowers, the air, and the sky. I practiced hugging the tree with my conscious breathing for a few minutes, and then turned to the young woman and asked her, "Would you like to hug the tree?" She had already stopped crying and looked at me. She nodded her head and hugged the other tree next to mine. However, she cried again after a few breaths. I continued the practice to sustain my calm, peace, and Many miracles happened during our recent North America trip such as being happy, smiling, breathing, seeing our families, comtemplating the full moon. The greatest miracle was the joyful and happy energy of the delegation of Plum Village's monks and nuns. We felt like a warm and intimate family. There were twelve of us in the delegation: Thay, Sisters Chan Khong, Jina, Trung Chinh, Quan Nghiem, Thoai Nghiem, Dinh Nghiem, Tue Nghiem, and Brothers Nguyen Hai, Phap Dung, Phap Ung, and I. We were very happy to have two great bodhisattvas, Arnie and Therese, joining us during the trip. They were the key people who organized the trip beautifully.

Being in a strong Sangha, I was embraced with the energy of love, joy, and happiness. I felt that I did not need to struggle at all to practice mindfulness though I felt strongly in mindfulness. My joy and happiness were extremely strong which radiated from within. My half-smile kept blooming on my lips all the time. My smile nourished my heart and touched other people in the retreats. My smile reflected and triggered their smile, and their smiles were my smile. This is the nature of interbeing. If you think that you have lost your smile, I still have it. Somewhere within your heart, your smile is still present. We, the Sangha, created a smiling atmosphere everywhere we went. I benefited so much in that atmosphere where my peace, joy, and happiness were watered. I had a lot of energy to be with people in the retreats. Everywhere I went, I offered my smile and my flower so easily. The more smiles and flowers my heart offered, the more I had to give. I participated in all activities of the retreats and always enjoyed the practice of breathing and smiling. With a joyful and happy heart, my thinking, perceptions, and feelings had a positive effect on my heart and on other people. Everything I touched became lights and wonders. I found that people were kind and friendly; I felt close to them. My heart had opened up so wide that I enjoyed the people and nature very much.

Every evening, I had about ten minutes before dinner for myself. I usually offered my self the practice of mindful breathing and hugging the tree in the redwood grove next to the dining hall. One day, I found a young woman sitting on a bench in the redwood grove. She was crying. I respected her feeling and silently went to the tree to practice hugging the tree. I have always been fond of the trees and nature, so being with beautiful redwoods gave me a lot of joy. Since the day I became a monk, I have been in love with every little thing in nature like trees, flowers, the air, and the sky. I practiced hugging the tree with my conscious breathing for a few minutes, and then turned to the young woman and asked her, "Would you like to hug the tree?" She had already stopped crying and looked at me. She nodded her head and hugged the other tree next to mine. However, she cried again after a few breaths. I continued the practice to sustain my calm, peace, and happiness. Suddenly, she began to talk to me. She told me that her brother was in big trouble. I asked her what happened to him. She cried and said, " I can't tell anybody." I continued practicing hugging the tree and shared the practice with her. I said, "When embracing the tree we breathe mindfully, focusing our attention on the contact between our abdomen and the bark of a tree, and we feel the freshness, coolness and calmness of the tree." After practicing like this for only a few minutes, she looked much happier. Her emotion had calmed down. At last I asked her to go to supper with me.

Thanks to the wonderful practice of mindful breathing and tree hugging meditation, my friend could embrace her pain and go through the most difficult moment of a strong emotion. From this incident, I have learned that healing a pain does not necessarily mean touching the pain. Practicing conscious breathing and hugging a tree is enough to heal. Many people believe that they have to express or to ventilate the pain in order to heal. But during the experience at the redwood grove, we did not have to do anything. We just enjoyed breathing, smiling, and being with the trees.

When we suffer, we usually get caught in it. Our mind keeps circulating and grasping the pain, and we are stuck with our suffering. The more we think about it, the more we suffer, because we add more energy to it. The practice at the redwood grove drew the young woman's mind out of her pain. She was struck by the energy of mindfulness, the trees, and my presence. With conscious breathing and embracing the trees, her attention had been channeled from her suffering to the freshness of the trees and the calmness of her conscious breathing. Eventually, she could smile again.

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In Plum Village, we practice conscious breathing most of the day in all activities, and the breath becomes our very close friend. When we get caught in a strong emotion, we know that it is best to practice mindful breathing. But it is not so easy if we do not have a habit of mindful breathing.

Mindfulness is the energy of healing, calming, and transforming. The most basic practice of mindfulness is mindful breathing, which was the practice that nourished me so much during the trip. I would like to share it with you. "Breathing in, I am aware of my in-breath. Breathing out, I am aware of my out-breath." Please practice with me for a few breaths.

Brother Phap Dang is a monk at Plum Village.

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