Three years ago, I went to Plum Village for the first time. There I met some friends who helped me in the practice of breathing: trees, flowers, pebbles, clouds, and a smiling child--all members of the sangha. I also met Thay Nhat Hanh, who taught me how to live in peace; to look deeply into my feelings and transform the unwholesome seeds into good ones; to observe others in order to understand them. "Breathing in, I calm. Breathing out, I smile." This mindfulness practice helps me transform my anger into compassion for the people who contribute to my anger. Of course, I don't succeed every day. But, over time, I have discovered many things that help bring me back to where I really am, the present moment. Sometimes the "bell of mindfulness" is a horn blowing in the street, or a phone ringing, or the sound of rain. The examples are numerous, and I am sure you have your own "friends" who can help you as well. When I came back home after the summer session at Plum Village, my family noticed a difference in me--more calm and serene--and it influenced their behavior. What shined in me "inter-was" and supported their states of mind. My mother, who had been the most skeptical and reserved about spending my summer holidays in a Buddhist center, started coming into my room to discuss how she should respond in various situations.
For a long time now, my mother has taken care of her mother and handicapped brother who live together. It's not always easy and can create tension in the "family's heart." When the anxiety and tension arise, I try to breathe and smile to restore peace in the home. One evening, Mother returned from Grandma's flat with a certain heaviness about her eyes, as though she was in deep suffering. "Your grand-mother may have cancer. I will meet with a specialist tomorrow, and he will tell me the details," she said and cried.
I stayed a long time with my mother to comfort her. "Mother," I said, "tomorrow, while you wait your tum in the doctor's office, breathe deeply. Feel the air fill your chest. Be aware of each inhalation and each exhalation, and you will experience the miracle of calm being born in you."
When my mother came back from the doctor's, she thanked me a lot: "I practiced breathing as you suggested, and when my tum came, I felt so peaceful, the doctor could have told me anything and I would have accepted it....Even if he told me that my mother had just one year to live."
At this moment, my grandmother is still alive. My mother takes care of her and my uncle. My father has stopped drinking wine during lunch. Harmony in the family is real. I experience it every day!
Jean-Marc Maquin Rheims, France