By Au-Ha Doan In the spirit of the holidays, I wish upon the glittering stars that all my friends' days be filled with much happiness and your nights be peaceful. The Christmas atmosphere has been a mindfulness bell for me, making me much more appreciative of the quality of my life, silently thanking many, many people who have enriched it. The warmth it brings to me lasts well into the New Year and is further nourished by interacting and sharing with visiting practitioners from afar. I hope that many of you find yourselves completely refreshed to take on the New Year with gusto!
My stay at Plum Village in the past two years has helped me greatly in understanding, appreciating, and accepting myself, which in turn has helped me to understand, appreciate, and accept other people. My experience with the practice of looking deeply has strengthened my faith and confidence in the teachings of the Buddha and the presence of a practicing community. The contentment I find with my lifestyle and its present course is much more fulfilled. A basic, much-needed prerequisite to the practice of looking deeply is the willingness to stop. Stop what? Stop the urge to beat time; stop the tendency to focus on the future and forget the intermediate milestones; stop the habit of letting worries and sorrows overtake my life; stop in order to take a breather, to reconsider my needs and re-focus my energies, directing them more appropriately.
Coming to Plum Village was my action of stopping, to give myself some time to look at my past, to take an inventory of my needs, weaknesses, and strengths, and to redirect the course of my life toward something more meaningful and beneficial. My first three months were like living in a fantasy land with few worries and much, much freedom. Many beautiful memories of daily activities such as learning to make tofu, to cook (take my word ... disastrous moments were plentiful!), or times when we had to re-locate the snails and slugs from our vegetable gardens to the deep woods, or quiet times watching the little kittens grow up, play with each other, explore their new terrain. I was pleasantly surprised to find that in strengthening my interactions with people in Plum Village, I had indirectly nourished my family roots. I can now understand each of my family members better. I can see the love and care they have deserved and have been giving me all these years. This newly discovered confidence has grounded me, enabling me to take control of my life with more clarity.
The practice of looking deeply helps me in dealing with sorrows that run deep. I find that this practice is much more effective if I look deeply into little irritations and small anxieties each day. I know how my mind can trick me into blaming things on external conditions or other people. By looking deeply, I personally know that not everything taught by the Buddha or Thay can be implemented exactly the same way for everyone in all circumstances!
The practice of looking deeply has helped me appreciate the beautiful, nourishing parts of my life. It has also helped me work on "recycling" internal difficulties into more beneficial energy. I find myself starting to truly enjoy each moment of practice (although it is still not continuous), truly appreciating the gifts of nature and the presence of a practicing community. I took these for granted in the past, and now I find that I have much more to be happy about, much more to live for, much more just to be!
Thank you for this opportunity to share my experience in the practice with you. This was in itself an exercise in looking deeply in order to be able to convey the fruits of my practice to you.
Au Ha Doan, True Perfume Adornment, is a permanent resident at Plum Village. She was recently ordained as a novice nun.