Having had time to reread two books by Thich Nhat Hanh, my relationship to my immediate and extended worlds will never be the same. I have adapted several gathas from Present Moment Wonderful Moment. I am also, at his encouragement, gathering my own gathas. My cell block of more than 100 inmates is on the fourth floor. So I have developed a gatha for ascending and descending the stairs, aimed at renewing awareness, and encouraging understanding, acceptance, and compassion. A few days ago I started up the stairs taking each step thankful for my health and the fact that I could climb the steps comfortably, and mindful of the many other things I have to be thankful for in each moment. Next, I admonished myself to be aware of the pain and the joy in others, understanding and making their feelings my own. Finally, as I neared the top of the stairs, I promised to accept and love each person I came in contact with. Making the last turn, I found myself face to face with two huge, sweaty, disgustingly ugly, tattooed, smelly, decidedly unlovable and dangerous gentlemen who commenced, in their loudest voices, to hurl profanities at each other, systematically degrading every possible relation to the other's family, past, present, and future. Changing their postures to better effect less than kind physical contact, they began threatening one another, adding the other's sudden, unpleasant demise to an already alarmingly extensive resume of promised atrocities. For some reason, I remembered something I must have dropped at the bottom of the stairs and beat a retreat that was considerably more purposeful than my so recently aborted ascent On the way down, I could not help but laugh at what a good little bodhisattva I had thought I was becoming. After waiting at the bottom of the passageway, I again engaged the steps and my gatha with a little more understanding, honesty, and humility.
For some combination of reasons, including your community's compassion, I have started to be sensitive to the truth of the Dharma. Sometimes it is difficult to accept that I have been allowed to see a bright avenue, yet am unable to explain to those around me what I have seen. Many of us carry anger and real sadness which we fight to control with gallant tales of the past and brave plans for the future. We feel we need to turn aside a better path, even if it leads towards what we want because to walk on the path requires truthfulness, mindfulness, and compassion. It seems we illogically have a need to justify being wrong, even if we know it is wrong. I think it takes courage and a good self-image to step outside of oneself to find the strength to be at peace in the whole world in this moment To practice patiently giving encouragement and consistent support may not be as exciting as being assertive and flamboyant, but I bow to you for your patient practice, your example, and encouragement, and I sit beside you mindful of my peace and thanksgiving in the moment.
P.O. Box 215
Maury, NC 28554
I've found Thay's teachings to be especially inspiring in articulating the spirit and importance of Sangha. I seek to connect with members of the larger Community of Mindful Living who share this passion for a full, land-based community life, who are moved to build a spiritual homeland. This has been stirring in my heart with increasing urgency. It's an impulse to create a living, breathing, sweating, working Sangha, a community of people integrating livelihood, ecological stewardship, play, tears, and laughter all in a context of cultivating mindfulness/heartfulness.
Thank you for producing such a lovely edition of The Mindfulness Bell on "Mindfulness in the Workplace." I read it cover to cover in one sitting! It's good to know that there are other people out there who share similar problems—and that there are ways to work with those difficulties. I found it very helpful. While I was studying in Australia, I came across books by Thich Nhat Hanh. I was amazed at the practicality and clarity of his teachings and was inspired to practice mindfulness as best as I can. I hope to be able to participate in a retreat although I've never been to one.
Pooi Ming Lum
With Thay and the whole Sangha as constant reminders, I experienced for the first time the joy of working together with the shared intent of breathing and smiling when I was at the Winter Retreat at Plum Village. Now when I look through the many photos I took during those days I see everyone smiling and it reminds me to return to my true self.
Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin