A Drastic Lesson

During my sitting meditation this morning, I tried to remember the serenity and peace of last summer at Plum Village, to give me strength for the day. On the whole, I feel much happier and calmer, more in touch with reality. I'm not so fearful. Much has happened--things terrifying and exciting. In October, an earthquake rocked Stanford and the Bay Area. My house, with me in it, moved six inches off its foundation. Everybody in my house was immediately dislocated. For the next two weeks, we had to sleep on the lawn, or on the floor in the house next door. It was a very hard time for me. I felt a profound sense of disorientation and loneliness. It was a drastic lesson in impermanence. In fifteen seconds, I lost everything. The university initially told us that we would not be able to retrieve our belongings. The experience helped me understand what my mother and countless other Vietnamese experienced-not knowing where to go; wanting someone to take care of you, but knowing there was no one; looking on in anger and anguish while other people's lives seemed normal.

The first night, I didn't have any blankets and borrowed one from a friend who lived down the street. Walking back, with my head down and my blanket under my arm, I heard someone scream, "Look. There goes a refugee." It was like a bell, causing me to reflect about the much greater suffering of my people. It helped to breathe and think about my mother.

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I firmly believe that if l hadn't gone to Plum Village, I wouldn't have been able to deal with the post-earthquake stress. Nine friends and l finally found a house off-campus to rent, and it has been very good. We cook vegetarian food together. And we have a lovely garden in the backyard .

Elan Nguyen Stanford, California

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