Poem: The Woman, Planting

by her conical
palm leaf hat,
she squats beside the road,
oblivious to traffic
and me,
digging the dry dirt
with bare hands—
no shovel, no spade,
no tool of any kind
in evidence—
just skin and fingernails
and fierce determination.
I pass her,
aware of my incongruity—
a red-haired American Buddhist
in Hanoi,
dressed in traditional
temple robe,
placing each step mindfully
on the rutted path,
alert to maniacal motorcyclists
emerging from morning mist.
No smile,
no glance
flickers between us,
each intent
on our appointed tasks.
mb41-TheWoman2How then to explain
or describe
the shock of recognition,
the explosion of insight?
I do not see her
as someone like me,
or myself
as someone like her.
I see her AS me.
We merge into one.
Showing no outer indication
of the cataclysmic event,
I walk on,
by my palm leaf hat,
save for deft hands
and the determined vow
to plant
a garden of peace
in the war-torn country
of my heart.

Emily Whittle

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Poem: Discourse on True Contentment

By Sister Dang Nghiem


I heard these words of Thay one time when he was living in the vicinity of Escondido at the Deer Park Monastery in the Oak Grove. Late at night, a group of coyotes appeared, whose passionate howls made the whole Oak Grove tremble joyfully. After paying respects to Thay with the right front paw pointing in the direction of the moon, the elder coyote asked him a question in the form of a verse:

“People, animals, plants, and minerals are eager to know
what are the conditions
which bring about true contentment.
Please, Thay, will you teach us?”

(This is Thay’s answer:)

“To live in a Sangha,
to have brothers and sisters working in harmony,
to serve peoples of all nations ––
this is the true contentment.

“To have a chance to practice and transform,
to see yourself becoming more accepting and more solid,
to recognize that others also blossom ––
this is the true contentment.

“To be able to recognize and forgive,
to nurture gratitude to your blood family and spiritual family,
to express love through loving speech and deep listening ––
this is the true contentment.

“To have time to sit peacefully for your ancestors,
to touch the Earth tenderly with each step,
to eat in union with the whole cosmos ––
this is the true contentment.

“To create practice centers and hold regular retreats,
to turn gymnasiums and theatres into Dharma halls,
to bring the Dharma rain into ghettos and prisons ––
this is the true contentment.

“To witness police officers, business people, legislators,
scientists, and war veterans enjoying the Pure Land
with their mindful breaths and mindful steps ––
this is the true contentment.

“To provide a joyful environment for young people,
to help them reconnect with their families and society,
to show them that there is a beautiful path ––
this is the true contentment.

“To practice, work, study, and play together,
to realize the beauties and hardships of your brothers and sisters,
to cherish and protect them as your own marrow ––
this is the true contentment.

“To live a life simple and uncompetitive,
to come back to your breath as your soul food,
to rejoice in the music of the bell, wind songs, and laughter ––
this is the true contentment.

“To avoid speaking and reacting in anger,
not caught by your ideas and judgments,
and to be diligent in doing beginning anew ––
this is the true contentment.

“To savor the freedom in non-waiting,
to transform the grasping mind into that of true love,
to be a kind continuation of your spiritual ancestors ––
that is the true contentment.

“To see all life forms as your brothers and sisters,
to enjoy simply being together,
to actively build a beautiful past with your true presence ––
this is the true contentment.

“To rise in the morning with a smile,
to retire each night with peace, content to let go of all,
to know that you have loved and have been loved deeply ––
that is the true contentment.

“To live in the world
with your heart open to impermanence and change,
to progress stably on your true path, free of fear and worry ––
this is the true contentment.

“For he or she who accomplishes this,
arriving and at home wherever she goes,
always he is peaceful and happy ––
true contentment is in the moment one lives.”

Thay had finished the teaching. The coyotes were extremely delighted at what they had heard. At once, they stood up with posture erect and gave rise to another harmonious and joyful howl. The moon smiled contentedly from above, as she floated freely in the immense space.

Sister Dang Nghiem lives at Deer Park.

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Poem: Gratitude to the Sangha


I remember your feet that April day—
Barefoot, sandaled—
Slowly, tenderly touching that sweet portion of prairie.
Someone said later that we must have kissed
A hundred varieties of sprouting grasses
And tiny blooms, and clover, and colorful weeds that day—
Kissed the prairie with our feet.

The wind blew hard that day, too—remember?
It wore us out and charged us up all at the same time.
We came inside breathless and needing to settle,
And we did.
We breathed, feeling a quiet prairie wind move through our bones.

Gratitude to the Sangha.
I remember bits and pieces of that day
And many other days and nights—
Sweet walks inside on the mat of the dojo.
And I remember your faces—
Animated in sharing, tranquil in meditation.

Gratitude to the Sangha.
You are always here—when I see you and when I don’t.
You are my groundedness in place and time,
My home, my boat in flood waters.

And the most wondrous thing about you
Is that you are growing.
You now include the sky, the wind, the water,
Beings large and small, beautiful and ugly,
Healthy and suffering.
Something in your generosity opens my heart.
I can embrace more. I see the same in you.

Gratitude to the Sangha.
Each of you has something to teach me—
Learnings so treasured, so useful.
Gratitude to the Sangha.
The Eternal Mystery has given us to each other—rare gift.
And in our gratitude we give this gift again and again
Wherever we show up in the world.
The gift multiplies and the sum is past figuring.
Its power is beyond measure.
Every human needs this kind of community.
So, our joy-filled work will never end.
There will be no unemployment for the Sangha.

And even on those days
When we might feel our role is small
Or our efforts feeble,
We can always stop, breathe,
Watch our feet touch prairie grass,
Feel prairie wind move through our bones,
And say with a whole heart
“Gratitude to the Sangha.”

Pat Webb, True Mountain of Action

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Poem: I Ate the Cosmos for Lunch


I ate the cosmos for lunch
And then again for dinner
What will I tell my friends?

I noticed that I am bigger now too—
More to me than I thought.

Not only is my Mom inside me,
And that would be enough.
I also have my Dad, blood ancestors and
Spiritual ancestors.
The Sangha, mindfulness trainings,
Thay and the Buddha.

There’s more too.

Like the Forest I lived in for five years,
Walking home on a dirt road in the moonlight,
Or moonless night, to a ring of redwoods
Where I made my home.

And freight trains, as they creak and groan
Like monsters waking up,
As they start moving down the tracks,
Taking my friends and me on adventures across the country.

And my feline friend who started sleeping over on his own
And stayed with me for four years.

The list is quite endless.

But let me get this straight—I’m empty,
Yet I have the entire cosmos inside me.

I’m sure my friends will notice this,
And how much bigger I’ve become.
More solid, more joyous.
More compassionate and loving.

More able to live how I truly want—
Joyfully working for the care, respect
And dignity of all beings.

And my friends will want to know my secret.
I guess I’ll start with:
Breathing in, and
Breathing out…

—Caroline Nicola

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Poem: Why Not Meditate All the Time?

Since mindful awareness,
One-point concentration,
Daily sitting meditation,
Businesslessness seem impossible,
Most often always,
Why not meditate on the breath
All the time every moment?
Yes, just this in-breath,
Or this out-breath.
Nothing more, less, else.
So I am in my body
And not mind thinking
More useless thoughts.

Oh, how wonderful!
I’m meditating!

Bill Menza,
True Shore of Understanding

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Poem: The Oneness of Eternal Water


Hokusai’s wave
Stands still in time,
Each tiny drop perceived,
Its foamy edges clear,
Far off Mt. Fuji
Fixing its location,
That single wave
That certain day.

Hokusai’s wave
Has been around the world
One hundred thousand million times
And touched the shores
Of every land with bordered shores.
From beginningless time
Hokusai’s wave’s been drawn to heaven
And joined the procession
Of clouds that drift and sail
Across deserts, mountains, valleys.

Fallen to earth
On one hundred thousand million journeys
To join the bodies
Of rivers and seas.
Fallen as snow
On frozen steppes in uncountable winters.
Penetrated the skins of tropical trees
In hurricanes that bear human names.

I bow to Hokusai who chanced to catch the wave
As it came together for an instant
Before rejoining the oneness of eternal water.

Jan McMillan lives in Westport, Washington, a small fishing village at the mouth of Grays Harbor.

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Reflections from the Dutch Retreat

May 1-4, 2006


The Food!
We had to eat in silence – I wasn’t expecting that!
It was vegetarian food but sometimes you wouldn’t have guessed it.
The Vietnamese springrolls were especially yummy. Every morning we had muesli or cornflakes which was really yummy.

The Kids program!
We played games and lots of football in the kids program.
Extra information:
My wrist got really hurt during football!!!

The feeling you get!
I felt really calm

—Yoram, age 10

I enjoyed the retreat very much. The children had their own children’s program and that was quite nice. We were also allowed to join the meditations, I did that twice. Once at half past six in the morning. The other was ‘total relaxation’ or something like that. There I fell asleep.

There were also four monks and nuns who assisted the children’s program. Their names are Monkey, Grape, Shiny and Chadder. I had expected that if you would run or talk, they would say: “Hush shut up, don’t run.” But they didn’t do that.

I learned that in Buddhism everyone does everything with mindfulness: eating and walking mindfully and pay attention to your breathing. We also did that. Me and my brother enjoyed it so much that we have said to our parents that we want to go to Plum Village next year.

—Bente, age 11

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Poem: No Windows

Are there still beautiful birds of various kinds,
Whose song and colorful display delights the mind?
Is the spacious sky still a magnificent blue,
A colossal canvas of awesome art that
Stirs the spiritual within you?
Do the numerous rivers still rush and flow
Throughout mountains and ravines,
Slicing the deserts and softly
Murmuring alongside lush meadows?
Is the moon still a magical lamp,
A comforting light amidst the dark of night,
Setting the mood for stories told at camp?
Are the flowers still infinite,
Decorating the landscapes and perfuming
Homesteads with their lovely scent?
Is the precious grass still green,
A thick and soft carpet so perfect
For picnics and daydreams?
Is the rain still refreshing,
That cool downpour or sprinkle,
Watering and waking the land,
Giving the barren a blessing?
Are the stars, on a moonless night,
So conceited in their constellations,
Spectacular to the sight?
Do cool breezes caress weary souls,
When workers are bone-tired and
Field laborers feel a hundred years old?
Are the snowcapped mountains majestic,
And the ocean waves that crash upon
Sandy beaches ever so fantastic?
Is that wondrous world still out there?
Please tell me that it is,
There are no windows in solitary confinement.

Malachi Ephraim
Arizona State Prison
Florence, Arizona

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Poem: Wisdom of the Elders

Old growth Douglas Firs,
their roots near a meander
of the Little Blackfoot,
know not that Dharma’s
being taught
in the old lodge
of  woodpeckered walls
a quarter mile away.

Their special transmission
is outside scripture,
with no dependence on words.

Wide trunks fissured and charred
from fires of centuries,
they practice Upright Being
with mute profundity,
keeping the beat
of countless seasons,
a timbered symphony
of earth, water, sun, and sky,
two hundred feet high,
and a chorus
of myriad smaller beings
teaching the Dharma of Just This
to the ten thousand things.

Jonathan Matthews
Peaceful Mountain of the Source


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Poems: Haiku from Vietnam Trip

By Patricia Garci


Hotel Room
Lizard on the wall
You hide behind the curtain
But your feet still show

Hot Water
Thinking of calling
Room service, there is a knock
On the hotel door

Grandfather spirits
Walked arm in arm yesterday
On the temple grounds

In another place
Someone is loading a gun
We sit here in peace

No Car Day
Please use the car less
Walking to work I saw a
Flock of green parrots

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Poem: Rising Steam

mb46-Rising1Steam rises from the water
On a cold winter day.
The past is past,
But always in the present.
This moment contains:
My grandfather mining for coal,
My father in the War,
My son’s life,
My son’s death,
The birth of Jesus.
And yet I am just breathing
And sitting here.
This moment contains the future
From now on
Determining its way.
And yet I am just breathing
And walking here.
As I breathe
The steam,
Once the snow,
Once the ocean,
Rises, now on its way
On a cold winter day.

—Stan Voreyer

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Poem: God of the Silences



As the young vine, after the frost
Reaches up its whitened arms to the sun
So my soul reaches out to you
God of the silences

As the frozen ground
Stretches itself out for the sun’s warmth
So my soul offers itself to you
God of the silences

As the small bird flies with delight
From thawing branch to thawing branch
So my soul sings at your approach
God of the silences

As the trees raise their branches to the bluing sky
In adoration of the returning sun
So my soul rises singing from my fragile body
To you God of the silences

Out of the frozen winter of unknowing
Into the paths of fellowship I go
Thanks be to you
God of the great and small silences

See the little flowers, the little yellow and white flowers
That have come out after the frost
See the little birds
That fly for joy in the air

As life begins again
After the frozen embrace of midwinter
My soul laughs and sings in your warmth
God of the silences

—Kate Evans York, United Kingdom

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Poem: Midwinter 2006


Though the seasons have gone awry
And we are out of sync with nature

Though glaciers and ice fields melt
And drought cuts swaths across Africa
Though waters rise in Bangla Desh

And obliterate Pacific islands
We lucky ones can still live on our sweet earth
And celebrate midwinter

Though we should buy less
And we are buying more

Though we should drive less
And the roads grow ever longer
We have begun to realize

The limits of our planet home
We have begun the huge turning

Back to a sustainable life

We have begun to find pleasure
Back in the simple things

The rosiness of dawn
The preciousness of bird song
The need for fertile soil

And seas teeming with diversity
The need to touch earth

And be around growing things


And so this winter
As humanity hovers at decision point As we, ourselves,
Pause between the old year and the new
We can make it a turning point
To commit to our sweet Mother Earth
Our time, energy and love

In actions that will give us
and our children’s children
a future.

—Kate Evans

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Poem: Zen Garden

These five beach stones
from Nova Scotia,
in a sea of sand;
no two alike
in shape or hue
but polished
to a liquid glow,
glisten as if
unlike the smooth
white ball of quartz,
(a turtle’s egg you
might well think)
set on a bench,
as if observing,
without thought,
that nothing’s
what it seems
to be, and yet
there is this
woven web
connecting ocean,
bone, blood,

—Sarah Rossiter


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Poem: Meditation

mb47-Meditation1It doesn’t matter if
there are no fish,
in streams or rivers
that I pass.
I often stop,
and stare awhile,
where they might lie,
behind which rock,
or run or riffle.
Sometimes I think
I almost see them,
even though
they don’t exist.

It doesn’t matter if
there’s only this
one breath breathing
in and out.
With each breath,
I often stop,
what lies ahead,
or else behind,
not fish, but fears,
tails flashing.
Sometimes I almost
think I see them,
even though
they don’t exist.

—Sarah Rossiter

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Poem: Question


Marine, why are you in my country?
You tell me you are here to save me.
I don’t believe you.
Marine, you are not listening to me.
I don’t hate you and your eyes tell me you don’t hate me.
Marine, why are you in my country?
Open your eyes. What keeps my words
from reaching your heart?
Why did you kill me?
Why did I kill you?
I died before you knew me.
You died before you understood.
Come to me – open your heart.
I will hold you and you will know me
and understand.

— Paul Davis

Paul Davis, Authentic Connection of  the Heart, read this poem last year at the retreat in Stonehill. He explains: “In 1965, as a nineteen-year-old Marine, I went to Vietnam knowing little about life and nothing about the Vietnamese people and culture. My belief system, developed as a child in rural America in the 1950s, sheltered me from seeing the reality of that war. However, at a deeper level my experiences in Vietnam were being stored. Later, as my desire to look deeply grew and as my heart opened, I was able to re-examine my experience. Several years ago while on retreat with Thay and the Sangha, I wrote this poem. It was inspired by a question a young Vietnamese girl asked me in 1966 and I wrote it in her voice.”

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Poem: The First Precept


In Lhasa, sitting in a dim café, soft cave of quiet,
I hold a chipped white porcelain mug and sip jasmine tea,
its flavor like warm spring flowers on my tongue.

I watch the woman bend low to slowly sweep
the old wooden floor with her worn nub of a broom.
She moves like a mallard floating on an evening lake:
this is life; there is no thought of finishing this motion.

Her dark face is weathered by wind and sun, both harsh at this altitude.
With lined brow she looks gnome-like, a mysterious little witch
dressed all in deep blue: blouse, apron, skirt to her ankles
same outfit every day this past week.

A small spider moves almost crab-like across the floor
in fast starts it scuttles, stops suddenly,
then hurries along again, edging ever closer.

She sees the spider and lays down the broom.
Like a dreaming dance or sleepy stretch
she bows even lower and scoops
the eight legged creature into her hand.

With themb48-TheFirst2 same slow pace she heads to the open door
one foot in front of the other, a silent march of patience.
She stoops again, places the spider on the ground
outside, a new home of rock and weeds.

Reentering the room, she looks like a little girl now
her step lighter and quicker
bright smile stretches across her mouth
twinkles in her eyes like a secret joke:
sunlight shines silver
on a spider web after the rain.

— Julie Hungiville LeMay

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Poem: Paint a Portrait of Me

mb48-Paint1First paint a book, pages filled
with endless hope
Describing rides down an
endless slope
In thick, long strokes
Paint the words of a song
floating, flying
In a way to stop all crying
Then center a sunset giving
new light
And the clouds of color in their
Draw the trees, softly calling
Draw the leaves, gently falling.
Paint me singing
With nature’s voice ringing
In the book, through the pages
Song singing through the ages
Once you’ve completed your
you can sign your name and
get some eats.

— Brooke Mitchell, age 11
Carlsbad, California

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Poem: Walking Meditation with Anh-Huong

mb65-Walking1I felt the silence of the wind
as we walked through woods
where autumn leaves fell—
as I wish to fall––gently.
Golden, brown and fire red
cleansing air, breath and me.
I walked with her, held her hand––
gently, like a leaf
I hugged my teacher and she shined
through October’s roiling clouds.
The trees bowed like Buddhist monks
and her smile sang itself into my heart.
More leaves slipped their moorings
and floated into my sadness,
fluttered, tickling the soul, and
I smiled, leaves like butterflies in my heart.

-Garrett Phelan

mb65-Walking2Garrett Phelan, True Shining Heart, practices with the Mindfulness Practice Center of Fairfax (MPCF) under Anh-Huong and Thu Nguyen. Garrett is the editor of the quarterly newsletter ofthe MPCF, “Along the Path.” A former high school principal and
longtime teacher, he is currently a teaching artist in the Washington, D.C., area.

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Poem: The Guest

This being human is a guest house


I threw open wide the door and every window
Hung out a sign: “Guest House. All Are
And they came in unbroken procession,
Tapping my shoulder, hoping for a
Or at least a glance, a nod of recognition.
I did not speak, though well acquainted with
them all.
I watched the door, waiting for the guest of
I sat and waited, waited only for you.

You arrive as one coming home, familiar with
this place
No fanfare, no red carpet, you simply take a seat
Across the table from the place where I have waited.
And I look, over the flowers I gathered for you
And see myself, looking at the flowers I gathered for me.

I build another door that all the guests might
come and freely go
But I remain, in this house, the guest of

— India Taylor

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Poems by Bill Menza

Sisterhood and Brotherhood
Everyone is my teacher.
Everything is the Dharma.
Look for the miracles,
The magic words,
Of understanding and love.
Make friends with yourself,
Speak from your heart,
Practice limitless non-self interbeing.
Your only career is the realization of  perfect understanding,
Imperfections accepted.


So Just Be
Your hopes and desires,
Your expectations
Bring tension and stress.
There is no peace.
You look for happiness
With old thinking
So it cannot arrive.
You want one thing,
And the world
Gives you something else,
Thus your present moment wonders
Are taken away.
So just be
With your out-breath.

Bill Menza Sarasota, Florida

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Buddhist Enough Haiku



Sangha/No Sangha haiku
Are we a Sangha
or just a group of friends? Such
questions: words, mere words!

Sangha haiku
Sangha is where you
find it: music, books, the woods,
communing together.

Suchness haiku 2
No gurus, chants, rites,
no lineage. We touch the
earth: free-range Buddhas

Kill the Buddha haiku
A letter comes back:
Sorry, these haiku are just
not Buddhist enough.

— Charles Suhor

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Poem – Map of a Garden: You Are Here


I float above my personal atlas to
Find a new garden.

I draw contour lines and color fields
Let them fill in like growth rings
The way I imagine the
Landscape of a poem and make
A poem-map, compass rose
Pointing inward and out.

From toothbrush to bedtime story is
The map of a lucky child’s day
The map of “Smoke Maker” has
Six directions, a veil and a blindfold…

Saffron page after saffron
Page of projections
Territories common and rugged
As stones foliate and fade

I lay pins on the new
Map of the new garden:
A pin for sun
A pin for grapes
A pin for lilacs
A pin for ladybugs

You Are Here

The map of my garden
On this private meridian
Has a pavilion with cushions
A fountain with peacock-green tiles
A path from one to the other

Three pins for honeysuckle and pleasure
I am here at the intersection of
Here and Now

Where golden rose and jasmine
Replace the noxious
Weeds of disturbed places
Where clarity of sky
Prevents its falling.

— Esther Kamkar

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Poem: Bees in Lavender


What perfect immediacy:
the intense concentration of bees
in lavender.
How like pendulums entrained
they refuse distraction,
yellow monks draped in
purple robes, flyig zazen,
their circle of wings
forgetting all attachments,
no words to disconnect
them from the world.

–Alexis Roberts, Awakened Sound of the Heart

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Poem: Mom’s Haiku


Death spoke softly
Brushing her cheek
With a white feather.
Mother said

Tears flow
The river carries leaves
Touched by
Lengthening shadows.

A bright quarter moon
Rises over the palm trees.
My mother’s smile

I was very fortunate to be fully present for my mom as she was making her transition into death in March, 2008. After she died, these haiku came to me. Mom continues to be present with me.

Sheila Klein, Flower of True Emptiness

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Poem: For My Kilt-Wearing Lover (Fragment)

By Janelle Combelic


It is the first day of October
in a golden year.
Under Colorado sunshine
the abbot Thay Tinh Man –
your basketball-playing monk –
told us to practice love
as we walked together
among the pine trees.
Send the Four Immeasurables he said
loving friendliness
to the earth.
She needs your love.
We amble in procession behind him
at Compassionate Dharma Cloud
Monastery, all forty of us.
Love flows through the soles of my feet
down deep into the earth
and miraculously flows back from
our original mother.

I step surrounded by sangha.
I see the green and golden aspen.
I smell the end of summer.
I breathe.
I try not to think of you.
I sink into this body
made of dust and ashes and miracles.
I am nothing.

But the mind will have its way.
In the brief bliss of emptiness
grief crashes in
like one of the trucks roaring up
Highway 285
like waves crashing on the beach.
How can I leave
my loved ones behind –
family friends church sangha?
How can I leave house and home?

A silent cry wells into tears
and I gaze at the impossibly blue
mountain sky, the foam of clouds,
the green lace of oak leaves.
What can I do but turn to God?
Beauty grief gratitude joy
wrench my heart open wider wider
and I know there is room for all.

Just as I hold you here inside me
I shall as I cross the ocean
hold all my loves
inside me.
I am big enough.
My pain and my happiness
dance together,
weave a tartan on my heart,
a perfect pattern of wholeness.
I take a friend’s hand.
We walk under the ponderosas
where not an hour ago
while we sang songs in a circle
two mule deer bucks
not watching
then scampered off
into the sun-drenched woods.

mb56-ForMy2Janelle Combelic, True Lotus Meditation, practiced with Lotus Blossom Sangha in Longmont, Colorado and at Compassionate Dharma Cloud Monastery in Evergreen. She recently moved to Scotland to play with the Northern Lights Sangha at Findhorn.

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Poem: The Marching Band


For the longest time now
I’ve tried to march to my own drum,
Attempted to make music
From a lonely bumbumbum.
The sound was very timid,
Most days I forgot to play,
And there were even moments I thought,
“Sure I’ll throw this drum away…”

Until I met a wise man, he
Knowing more than I could understand,
Who said “Pick up your own drum there
And join the marching band.”
And in this band I found a sound
I’d never heard before—
The harmony of playing with
A hundred drummers more.
The peace of hearing a friend’s song
On days I forgot to sing,
The joy of finding music
In everyone and everything.
And I can keep my own tip tap
Still hear my bumbumbums,
But oh! The strength, the power, the love
Of a hundred thousand drums!

—Dairíne Bennett

mb64-TheMarchingBand2Dairíne Bennett, twenty-two years old, is from Dublin, Ireland, and has just completed her degree in English literature in Trinity College Dublin. She is currently working in The Irish Landmark Trust and hopes to be a writer. Through a series of wonderful coincidences, she came across Thich Nhat Hanh two years ago, and his teachings on mindfulness are having the most wonderful effect on her life. 

Editors’ note: This poem was sent to the Mindfulness Bell by Brandon Rennels, Wake Up Coordinator, who wrote: “I wanted to send along a poem that one of the Wake Up participants wrote during our weekend retreat in Ireland. Dairíne shared it during the tea ceremony at the end of the retreat. We all felt it summed up our experience quite well.”

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Poem: At the Appointed Time

By Julie Ryan 


When I cannot be with you
my feet begin to search
for a wide, quiet space
to silently circle
just as yours are doing now,
for the gentle rhythm of
left foot, right foot
in breath, out breath
treading our way
into silence.

At the appointed time
when I cannot be with you
this body finds a cushion
to rest on, knees
touching earth,
hands cupping peace
breathing the air
of our one sky.

In the space of no-thoughts
the well of Being
sends up its purest, refreshing
springs, and you,
and you, and you
and I
can drink.

We feel ourselves lifted,
an unnamable buoyancy.
The tug of some fine, thin
thread connects us
each silent prayer
a golden web fine
as spider silk, invisible
as air. On it we can throw
the entire
of our lives.

It is here I rest
wherever I am
when I cannot be with you
and it is the appointed time.

mb58-Appointed2Julie Ryan practices with the Awakening Heart Sangha in Dallas, Texas.

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Traveling in Thailand

The retreat is over, traveling again.

At a guest house in Nong Khai
I start to talk about my travels with this guy from Georgia

When he finds out why I’m here
and between gulps of beer he almost shouts,
“so what’s it like to be Buddhist?”

No chance to answer before more beer arrives at the table
and the conversation changes to women
young Thai women

These older foreign men are on a quest
one laments the loss of his young girlfriend
one says to another
“did you find a woman yet?”

I can’t hear his angry answer

The Georgia man, with sadness in his voice,
recounts his three weeks in a Cambodian jail
arrested for begging at a tourist beach
The conversation gets louder: women, sex,
lack of money, where to go next
beer flows, cigarettes flare

I slip away to a quiet spot by the river
away from that table of angry men
reclaiming my island of mindfulness I smile

Stopping, no more talking

Through the bamboo leaning over the water
I see a brilliant blue sky
and with great clarity
I see that our practice is where we are
with what is, with understanding

This is it and I am one with these men
Their suffering is my suffering

And with immense gratitude for the practice
I walk slowly along the trail
my compassion flowing like the massive Mekong a few feet away

— David Percival, True Wonderful Roots
Albuquerque, New Mexico

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I Have Arrived, I Am Home

By Thich Nhat Hanh


Dear Ancestors, der Father, dear Mother, dear Buddha, dear Patriarchs, dear Teacher, dear Friends, I have arrived. I am home. While I am still making steps, I have already arrived, I am already home. I have stopped wandering. This is the teaching and the practice of Plum Village, the Dharma Seal of Plum Village.(1)

I have arrived in the Pure Land, a real home where I can get in touch with both my ancestors and my descendants. I can touch the paradise of my childhood and all the wonders of life. I am no longer concerned with being and nonbeing, coming and going, being born or dying. In my true home I have no fear, no anxiety. I have peace and liberation. My true home is in the here and the now. I have found true happiness.

During so many lifetimes I have been a wanderer, searching for peace and happiness. On my path of seeking I have fallen into the abyss of mistakes, bitterness, and despair. There were so many times that I thought I would die before I would find what I was seeking. Dear Buddha, you have helped me, you have saved me. You have shown me that what I was looking for is within myself and can be found in the present moment.

The project of building is the project of ten thousand lifetimes.
But looking deeply, we see it has already been realized.
The wonderful wheel of transformation is always leading us ahead.
Take my hand and you will see that we have been present together for a long time in this wonderful existence.

mb60-IHaveArrived2Our wonderful existence includes both happiness and suffering. How can happiness be possible without suffering? When we are able to see that suffering is the element that can be used to make happiness, we suddenly stop suffering. With this understanding, my happiness becomes immense and is able to embrace all the suffering. I no longer need to search or run after anything. I have stopped.

I am no longer a wanderer because I have a path and I don’t have to worry anymore. My path is the path of stopping, the path of enjoying the present moment. It is a path where every step brings me back to my true home. It is a path that leads nowhere. I am on my way home. I arrive at every step. I am taking my steps with leisure because I don’t have to hurry. That is my life; that is my practice.

The wind is still circulating. Don’t you know that my child?
While the faraway rain is approaching the nearby cloud,
drops of sunshine from above are falling down
helping Earth to see the blue sky.

I am still moving around with ease, freely,
not bound by the idea of being and nonbeing.
Therefore my child, on your way home,
make peaceful and leisurely steps,
because there is only one moon,
there is no waxing, there is no waning.

The Dharma Seal of Plum Village is “I have arrived, I am home.” It means happiness is possible. Freedom is possible. Right now. Right here.

Reprinted from I Have Arrived, I Am Home (2003) by Thich Nhat Hanh with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California, www.parallax.org.

1. The Buddha taught that there are Three Dharma Seals which are the marks of the authentic Dharma: impermanence, non-self, and nirvana. If we don’t recognize these Three Dharma Seals in a Buddhist teaching, then it is not an authentic teaching of the Buddha.

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Dear Sister Annabel and everyone in the editorial board,

I belong to Joyfully Together Sangha, and Gentle Waves Sangha in Malaysia, as well as to Joyful Garden Sangha in Singapore. I have just received my first issue [of the MB]. Thank you very much with all my heart to everyone who has made Thay’s precious teachings available to us, even those dwelling far away.

I am going through a lot of personal challenges in order to understand that things, events, people we meet, and the paths we have tread were all meant for a higher purpose and that is to awaken the Buddha nature in all of us. Many times when we are going through the darkness we might not see any light, but if we persevere on, we realize the value and meaning behind all these struggles and challenges. I would like to share with you this poem about my experiences in my childhood and for many years of my life:

I wanted world peace so badly because I had no inner peace.
I wanted world peace so badly, that’s why I had no inner peace.
Only if there is inner peace in the hearts of all living beings can world peace be possible.

May all sentient beings arrive in the Buddha’s Pure Lands in the Here and Now every moment of their lives.

With much love and prayers,
Yeshe Dolma
Ipoh, Malaysia


I am very impressed [by the Winter/Spring 2012 issue], not just seeing the photo I sent, but seeing the story you chose to place it with. In fact, the magazine addresses issues that concern me personally. I come from a Catholic family and some articles included were very helpful in the process I am going through now related to my Christian roots, my family, and the beautiful road that has opened for me the encounter with Buddhism. I am grateful for your allowing me to collaborate on this issue. I thank Thay and the whole community, in the present, past, and future, that works from love to help in awakening and true human liberation. I wish peace, love, and understanding for you and all the Sangha.

A lotus for you
Carlos Javier Vazquez
Puerto Rico

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Beginning to Dance

By Miriam Goldbergmb60-Beginning1

Of Grief

And of grief,
carry it not as a burden
Though you are bent
to breaking, and beyond
do not carry it as a burden.

Instead, bow down to it
on your knotted hands
cracked elbows, scarred knees
Bow down in it
as deep as you can go.

Fall past the tearing
at your own soul
through the loss that calls you
to leave everything behind
and join
with what has gone.

Sink into that –
until you know
the whole universe has changed,
that nothing will be the same
ever again

until you know this so deeply
that you understand
nothing ever was the same,
ever, ever, ever . . .

The bewildered, anguished
weeping of your flesh
that so delighted in and feared change
now trembles and shakes.

Meet this utter loss.
Meet it. And bear witness
while it is stripped of everything
but its helplessness –
no skin, no bones, no face,
yet looks you straight in the eye
while it crumbles.
And becomes something
it didn’t know existed,

something that knows
grief is the resonant echo
of life sounding
the depths of change,

and carries grief
not as a burden, but as a truth,
a gossamer extension of life,
light, delicate filaments,
illuminating infinity,

in which it bows
and begins to dance.

The first time I visited Plum Village I stepped out of the transport van into the small courtyard of New Hamlet. A timeless welcome flowed through the old shutters lining the thick walls around me. I was told to put my bags down, register inside, find my room, and then come back into the dining area for a little more orientation. My way wound through narrow hallways to the barrack style beds in the dorm room. The feel of old stones and something quiet made my body smile.

Free from my luggage, I returned to the courtyard, walked back up the few stairs of the entryway, and turned right towards the dining room. As I stepped over the threshold, a gentle tidal wave of energy washed over and through me. Astonished, and in awe, I couldn’t move, nor did I want to. I stood there in awakened gratitude, feeling the magic and reality of longing fulfilled, as every cell in me was bathed in the experience of Well-Being. My feet felt fully connected to the earth. Everything was open. Everything was here. I had arrived.

In each subsequent retreat at Plum Village, I felt the fruit of practice alive in the air. It was all around: a deeply nourishing presence my whole body received. But even as I recognized it, I did not experience it residing in me or easily accessible through my breath. Inside, I was more aware of a lingering sense of dismay and searching. My breath would slow into something other than peace, a tension or fear, or a deep and almost motionless hiding.

Through the years, the collective presence of the Plum Village Sangha offered me steady solidity and cradled my mind, heart, and body energies. This deep Sangha support allowed and called layers of distress to arise in repeated attempts to be seen and tended by mindfulness, often accompanied by a helplessness and despair that held hostage my suffering and eclipsed love. Even though I felt I was swimming upstream, I knew I was steeping in something as precious as anything I had known: a key to the end of suffering.

I slowly learned which images, concentration, and inner mantras brought me ease. The solidity of earth that supports me as I sit and as I walk, the sun that warms us wherever we are, and gradually, an unwinding of tension into restfulness. My metta meditation became: “May I know that in me which is always peaceful. May I know that in me which is always safe. May I know that in me which is always happy,” and so on. The extended verse followed the forms: “May you know that in you” and “May we know that in us.” The certainty affirmed in this practice kept my rudder set on the truth.

Over many years, and much exploration and perseverance, the “personal contact, images, and sounds,” to which the Fourth Mindfulness Training (Awareness of Suffering) alludes, brought a solid remembrance of Presence I could trust. With right diligence, I felt the fruits of practice offer me increasing nourishment. And gradually, my breath began to harmonize with the eternal Presence of Well-Being until it found its own rhythm and opened its wings into freedom. The loveliness of life began to walk hand in hand with the suffering.

The two poems, “Of Grief ” and “This Life,” describe some treasures I found while walking the Plum Village path. I offer them with gratitude for the Sangha, the Dharma, the Buddha, and Thay.

This Life

What is this life?
if not a great lifting of wings

from earth to the heavens,
the whole universe opening
with the dive
into deep space.

Stars’ delighted twinklings welcome us
into an exquisitely infinite smile
melting our hearts to eternal love.

Here, a gentle knowing whispers us on feather soft wings
to that very point
where our toes touch unto earth and into our lives.

Our roots
sink deep, endlessly renewing.

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Poem: A Wild Thing

By Larry Ward

The bones of our ancestors still dance
At ease in the field of magic stardust

An ounce of poetry from long ago
The crane says, “I never saw a wild thing feel sorry for itself. A tiny bird will drop dead, frozen, from a bough of a tree without having once felt sorry for itself”. *

In the thick jungles of Costa Rica I was told mother
My mother had passed away
Through the veil of no coming and no going she went
Heart broken I wandered for days
Walking jungle trails
Going no where but sorrow
Trapped in a cloud of sadness.

The cry of an unknown bird cracked open the moment
Ripe! Ripe! Ripe it was! For something, for anything, to heal my savaged soul.

Music of my roots rose up from the earth,
Like a rainbow bridge supporting every step as I climbed grief’s holy mountain
A path wet with the salt of bitter tears.

Sometimes I forget music’s vibrations can touch and quake places
The Mind dares not go, kneading, holding, inviting
With notes of wonder and surprise,
Healing pain, the pain of the second sorrow, created by an arrow fashioned by my own hands

Plucked from my own quiver and shot with my own bow,
Into my own heart.

Picked up on the dusty road of wounded souls
The sacred carriage of music lifted me up from the edge of grief’s deep pit
On the wings of sound I rode to the mysteries of grace and peace
Moment! By moment! By moment!

The music says, “Take up your rightful residence in your Hale Mana, your spiritual house.”
The music says, “Come on in, come on in, come on in,
Enter the clear light of sweet music.”

The music says,
“Take your stand on the back of the fearless dragon of wisdom and compassion
Let go of the gossamer threads of regret
Still attached to your beating heart.
Now catch your precious breath
Right now! Right now! Right now!”

Music is a wild thing
Music is a wild thing
Music is a wild thing

*    A reference to the D.H. Lawrence poem titled “Self-Pity” from Pansies (London: Martin Secker, 1929)

mb62-AWildThing1Larry Ward,True Great Sound, is the director of the Lotus Institute, an adjunct faculty member at Claremont Graduate Universityand University of the West, and a Ph.D. student in Religious Studies.With Peggy Rowe-Ward,he co-authored Love’s Garden: A Guide to Mindful Relationships. He received Dharma teacher transmission in 2000 from Thich Nhat Hanh.

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Dear Thay, dear Sangha,

I was introduced to mindfulness during a training course at work several years ago and I have found that it has helped to transform my life. I am an artist and an art therapist and I now use mindfulness meditation a great deal with my patients. Often I begin with a mindfulness meditation and then I encourage the patient to draw their observations.

I read your story, “A Peaceful River” (Summer 2012), as the clouds were rolling past my small studio window. I became absorbed in the sky and the clouds as I reflected on your words and felt inspired to paint. My painting shows my orange mug, full of tea reflecting the clouds as they float past. Underneath the blue sky I have pasted small pieces of torn-up newspaper which were from an article that troubled me. It was about the environment and the loss of trees through constant development in England where I live. I visualised the issue attaching itself to the clouds and knew that this too, like the clouds, would pass.

Thank you for your inspiring story and for the other encouraging stories in the Mindfulness Bell.
Withnewfound peace and joy,
Michelle Edinburgh
Solihull, England

mb61-LetterToEditor Dear Mindfulness Bell friends:

I recently received my first issue and am thrilled to be brought into the circulation of your mindful readership. Keeping a mindful awareness and positive perspective here in prison is difficult but with the inspiration and support of works by Thich Nhat Hanh, IT CAN BE DONE one breath at a time. Enclosed is a compilation/composition of mine that was recently inspired by my meditation on the depths of “aimlessness.” Thanks for all you do for all of us and please know how we in prison already have the elements for happiness within us but we need frequent reminders not to try too hard. 

Trying Too Hard

Consider the lilies of the field: How they grow.
They neither toil nor spin.
The Tao abides in non-doing.
Yet nothing is left undone.
Buddha taught that there is no need to
Struggle to be free.
The absence of struggle is itself freedom.
Be Still and Know that I Am God.
How hard could it be?

Blessings & Peace,
Rob Becker
Danville, Illinois, U.S.A.


I wanted to pass on my appreciation for a recent story in the Summer 2012 issue of the Mindfulness Bell. In June 2012 I became a new mom. In the early weeks I struggled with my role as a mom. Then I read Sister Trang Moi Len’s “Mama, Today Is a Special Day.” Through my tears that is. Her words helped me reconnect to Thay’s teachings and find the strength and courage to love my baby daughter. Thank you for such a wonderful publication and for the reminder to find our true selves. 

Warm regards
Chirgwin Massachusetts, U.S.A

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Poem: Celebration

(for the ten-year anniversary of Plum Village, 1992)

By Svein Myreng

I want to celebrate chaos.
I want to celebrate old worn-out cars,
Broken tiles, ever-shifting
Schedules, misplaced letters,
And nettles next to flower-beds;
To celebrate toilets out of order,
As well as friends who will remind me
That mistakes are good, failures a success,
And that a pure heart may prevail
In the non-end.
I want to celebrate being left alone,
Or assailed by talkers
(Or, disturbing others’ quiet).
I want to celebrate gentle smiles,
Good intentions, and especially,
One step after the other.
“If arrow number 100 hits the target,
How can you say the first 99 were failures?”

mb61-Celebration1Svein Myreng, True Door, lived in Oslo, Norway. Svein was ordained a Dharma teacher in 1994. He wrote Plum Poems and A Handbook of Meditation, and translated two of Thay’s books into Norwegian. He passed away in 2007.

From Plum Poems, Parallax Press, 1999. Reprinted from I Have Arrived, I am Home (2003) by Thich Nhat Hanh with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California, www.parallax.org.

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