curricula

Education for the Present

Transforming a University Class with Mindfulness

Jana  Brooks,  Michelle  Leduc, Angeline  Timmerman

We, the students of Honors course 407, Exploring the Art of Mindful Living, included a football player, biologists, a newlywed, future teachers, a skeptic, a shaman, a comedian, Christians, a cancer survivor, mothers, a vegetarian, a future physician and a ballet dancer. To our surprise, as class began desks gave way to meditation cushions, shoes were given a rest from their owner’s harried strides, and an array of bells beckoned discussions rather than the voice of a professor demanding attention. Term papers were assigned with a twist: each student was to incorporate how mindfulness applied to his or her area of study. The usual PowerPoint presentations and scantrons were abandoned in favor of practicing mindful eating, tea ceremonies, guided meditations, and depicting the concept of interbeing through art. The traditional architecture of the classroom was abolished as we spilled out onto the lawn to practice walking meditation. As our class wound through the yard, our soft footprints became the trails of our transformation.

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Through mindfulness we have begun to learn that we can change harmful emotions such as anger and frustration into positive energies. With the awareness that we possess these feelings, we can embrace them and know that emotions do not possess us. We can choose not to water harmful seeds and instead water the seeds that are positive and compassionate. Recognizing we can choose to do the work to transform our negative feelings, we have also become aware that while we were suffering, we failed to enjoy the pleasures life offers at this very moment.

Realizing that happiness exists in the present moment, our definition of “time” began to take a new form: “time” is simply moments that come and go, but it is what we chose to do with these moments that count. For example, one of the mothers in our class said: “I have two children, ages eleven and two, and through this practice I have realized that my children teach me about being in the moment. When walking to get the mail with my children, they both walk with a meditative stride, studying all that there is to see under their feet. Without their slow pace beside me, I would not have taken the time to stop, breathe, and notice that moss has begun to grow under the red leaves that have fallen from the trees.” One classmate pointed out, “By watering positive seeds in young minds, children will learn to think positively, and those seeds cannot be over-watered in today’s society.” Making the most of the moments that come and go in our lives, we discover the pleasures that exist in the here and the now.

The textbook for the class, Essential Writings of Thich Nhat Hanh, introduced us to the concept of “historical dimension” and “ultimate dimension.” We learned that the historical dimension contains our daily stressors: course load, work schedule, and family commitments. By learning to deeply touch our stressors in the present moment, we became aware of the possibility of touching the ultimate dimension.  The awareness of liberation that came with this understanding was one of most meaningful lessons we took from the class.

The pre-med student in our class said, “My mindful practices of breathing, eating and walking have been my remedies for stressful days. It wasn’t until I began to look deeply that I realized these methods are a means of stress prevention.” When students learn that success in life is not about where they are going, it is about how they are getting there, it is the experiences that we have along the way that become important. With the study of the historical and ultimate dimensions, we have begun to realize that by living fully and deeply in the historical, one is able to make contact with the ultimate dimension.

Challenging the typical course offerings that provide students with an education solely for the future, our professor has focused on education for the present. He has given us the opportunity to be heard, exuded the quality of compassion, and shared the concepts every college student needs in order to enjoy the path of life, not the destination.

Enrolling in a Mindfulness course provides an opportunity to find community or as we now call some of ourselves, “Sangha Sisters.” A foundation of intimacy needed for building relationships can quickly be developed when students come to realize that by listening to each other instead of merely the professor, they are able to bond in ways that are not typical in a university setting. Students truly realize the nature of “interbeing” and recognize that their choices and behaviors affect the entire community. Our search for happiness and success that was previously satisfied by achieving an end, has been transformed by the recognition that “happiness is in the here and now.” At the start of the term, our professor led a group of individuals down a single path guided by mindfulness. Now that the term has ended, our single path has diverged into many. What began as a random group of students transformed into an interconnected community unified through the Art of Mindful Living. We breathe, realizing that this is a wonderful moment!

The Art of Mindful Living was an experimental course developed specifically for the Honors Program at Western Oregon University, where Dharma teacher Jerry Braza is a professor of Health Education. Twenty students from various disciplines attended the class, which met twice a week for ten weeks. The course will now be offered regularly within the Health Education curriculum.

The course’s theme was the integration of mindfulness into daily life. Each session began with sitting practice, followed by exploration of such practices as walking, eating, and tea meditation. Students read and shared insights from the book, Essential Writings of Thich Nhat Hanh, discussing how mindfulness can be applied to education, sports, medicine, and psychology. A journal assignment required students to reflect on how their “moment by moment” actions impacted themselves, family, friends, and the planet. For additional information on mindfulness and a copy of the course outline see: http://www.wou.edu/mindful

Jana Brooks, Michelle Leduc, and Angeline Timmerman are students at Western Oregon University where they recently completed an Honor’s Course on Mindfulness taught by Jerry Braza, Professor of Health Education at Western Oregon University. Jerry Braza, True Great Response, is also an Order of Interbeing member and Dharma teacher.

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Sangha News

mb55-SanghaNews1 mb55-SanghaNews2No Worries Report from the European Institute of Applied Buddhism

By Sister Annabel

The European Institute of Applied Buddhism, also known as the Ashoka Institute, will celebrate its second anniversary on September 10, 2010. We are enjoying ourselves very much in Germany, where we have favorable conditions for the practice: the support of the local people, the teachings of Thay, fresh air, and a daily practice timetable.

mb55-SanghaNews3The Ashoka Institute and neighboring Great Compassion Monastery have the taste and fragrance of the practice since monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen have been practicing there for at least eighteen months. When guests arrive, they are welcomed into the ambience of mindfulness practice. There is a feeling of being at home when we help with cutting vegetables or cleaning toilets during a retreat or course. It is possible to apply what we study straightaway when we live with others who are practicing. Thay was with us in June for German and Dutch retreats. Every day we did walking meditation in the park that lies directly in front of the Ashoka Institute. Our campus became very alive with six to seven hundred people. Almost the whole of the Plum Village monastic community, 120 monks and nuns, came by bus and van from France. The monks and nuns did all the cooking in a temporary kitchen set up in the garden of the Great Compassion Monastery (formerly Zivildienstschule, or civil service school).

mb55-SanghaNews4During these two retreats many of our guests camped in the orchard, and some stayed in pensions and hotels. The fact is that we have received permission to live in only one fifth of our large building and in the monastery. We have held courses and conducted all other activities in the monastery over the past year, since most of the Ashoka Institute is still a building site. This year, Great Compassion Monastery is being looked after by a group of six nuns, while the monks and the remaining nine nuns live in one fifth of the Ashoka Institute building. The monastery has enough space for eighty people to stay, and the habitable part of the Ashoka Institute enough space for about one hundred. Now we really want to make the rest of the building habitable so we can host as many people as want to come.

The courses offered this year have had a wide range of topics, such as bereavement, terminal illness, fear, love, and parent-child relationships. While most courses are led by resident monks and nuns, some are taught by visiting lay Dharma teachers, such as a course for business people and a course for mothers on child-raising. If you are a lay Dharma teacher and would like to lead a course here, please let us know.

In spite of ups and downs with construction regulations and financial difficulties, we enjoy the practice with our friends who stay with us. Most of our visitors are German, but many come from other European countries, especially Holland. We also have a few guests from the U.S. and Southeast Asia.

We are confident that the Ashoka Institute will grow and survive. The initial stages may be difficult, but we do not need to worry. After all, the name of the Institute, Ashoka, means “no worries.” If you live in the U.S. and would like to help financially, please send donations to EIAB Fundraising Committee, c/o Deer Park Monastery, 2499 Melru Lane, Escondido, CA 92026. Checks should be made payable to “Unified Buddhist Church” with a memo: “Funding for EIAB.” If ever you are in Europe, please do not forget to visit us for a week-long course, a weekend course, or a longer stay. Our website is www.eiab.eu and next year’s prospectus will be available online in November.

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mb55-SanghaNews5Historic Visit to Southeast Asia

Thich Nhat Hanh and the brothers and sisters of Plum Village will make a historic visit to Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Hong Kong, from September 8 to November 14, 2010. Due to recent events at Bat Nha Monastery, our brothers and sisters in Vietnam who were ordained with Thay are now dispersed. The majority of the young monastics found refuge in a small, simple center in Thailand. During this trip to Southeast Asia, Thay will inaugurate this center in order to support the young monastics who went through traumatic experiences in Vietnam. Thay and the Plum Village monastics will also lead retreats, days of mindfulness, and public talks for the local people. In Indonesia, Thay will offer two retreats as well as public talks and days of mindfulness in Jakarta, Bogor, and Yogjakarta. The community will visit the historical site of Borobudur, one of the wonders of the world.

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mb55-SanghaNews6True Freedom: Prison Dharma Pen Pal Practice

The Community of Mindful Living receives many letters from incarcerated friends, asking for complementary subscriptions to the Mindfulness Bell, books, and other resources in their life of practice. In response to the needs of incarcerated practitioners, a group of monastic and lay friends has formed a pen pal program, True Freedom: Prison Dharma Sharing. Peter Kuhn, a member of the World Beat Sangha in San Diego and the Still Ripening Sangha at Deer Park Monastery, has volunteered to help coordinate the pen pal program.

Peter writes: “There is a reason Buddhists frequently do prison and hospice work. These are the shunned, neglected, hidden, locked up members of our society. Most of us have fear about encountering them and aversion to dealing with these challenging dynamics. What I love about this work is that by opening my heart to the disenfranchised people in our world, I also open my heart to the disenfranchised parts of myself. As I learn to truly show up and care for these populations I learn to be present and attend to the parts of myself that are scorned, shunned, feared, and silenced.”

True Freedom: Prison Dharma Sharing needs writers for pen pal correspondence with inmates looking to nourish their practice in the Plum Village tradition. The program especially needs male writers, since most letters come from male inmates. Writer privacy is protected as all mail is routed through the CML address.

Contact Peter at peterkuhnxx@gmail.com or (619) 890-1832 for more information on how you can be of service.

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mb55-SanghaNews7Dharma Teachers Caretaking Council

In March 2010, a Sangha of North American Dharma Teachers gathered at Deer Park Monastery to consider ways we might support each other, the North American Order of Interbeing, and the North American Sangha. During the retreat, we manifested a Dharma Teachers Caretaking Council to nourish and support our practice. Before sharing news of this endeavor,

we offered it to our teacher, so that he might provide guidance and insight. Thay has now reviewed and embraced the fruit of our gathering. Therefore, we joyfully share this news with the larger Sangha. Here is the document from the Dharma Teachers Sangha, manifesting the caretaking council and calling certain Dharma teachers to form the first council. The DT Caretaking Council can be reached by email at dtc@tiephien.org.

Deer Park Monastery — 20 March 2010

We recognize and embrace one another as a North American fourfold Order of Interbeing Dharma Teachers Sangha. Participation in the Dharma Teachers Sangha is voluntary and open to all North American Dharma Teachers who have received Lamp Transmission in the lineage of the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh and who actively practice in the Plum Village tradition.

As a Dharma Teachers Sangha, we manifest a Caretaking Council representing the fourfold Sangha and grounded in the practice of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. We encourage the Council to receive input from the Dharma Teachers Sangha. With gratitude, the Sangha calls the following Dharma Teachers to serve as the initial Council:

Sister Huong Nghiem Brother Phap Tri Brother Phap Hai Brother Phap Dung Sister Dang Nghiem Anh-Huong Nguyen Eileen Kiera Jack Lawlor Joanne Friday Lyn Fine Mitchell Ratner Peggy Rowe Ward

We entrust and empower the Council to develop ways for its continuation and inclusive representation. The Council may create committees from the wider Dharma Teachers Sangha. We commit to support the Council wholeheartedly and energetically.

We expect the Council to communicate regularly with the Dharma Teachers Sangha and our Root Teacher. We trust this Caretaking Council to function harmoniously and manifest the spirit and practice of the Order of Interbeing.

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Sangha News

mb64-SanghaNews1 Sharing the Dharma

By Lorri Houston

Let us take those grenades out of our hearts, our motherland, humankind. Let us stand. Let us stand, side by side. --Thich Nhat Hanh

Robert could only look at the floor as he talked about harming an old and frail homeless man. He spoke softly, almost in a whisper, as he recalled hitting the man in the face until he bled, kicking him, and then throwing the frightened man to the ground while laughing and mocking him.

This, as you can imagine, was a hard story to hear. But our monastic brothers and sisters were there to help incarcerated youth find freedom through the power of meditation. NBC TV New York filmed the Day of Mindfulness trainings and teachings. The teens told the reporter how much they appreciated the lessons and hoped to apply them to their lives when they left detention. In its news story, NBC reported:

One 15-year-old boy described his bad decisions, which he says were driven by greed. He says if…[he had known] some of these tools before, he might not have ended up here in the first place. “You gotta be mindful of your movements,” he said. “Think before you act.”

Anyone who has experienced Thay’s loving teachings knows that his practice is changing individual lives and our world. Thay’s worldwide Sangha is engaged in many Dharma education and outreach programs to transform suffering, and this has led to life-affirming changes for thousands of people around the planet— including many people who committed violent acts and have now given up violence forever.

The Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation* is honored to support the efforts of Thay’s Sangha to bring the Dharma to additional thousands of people each year. Of the general support gifts received by the foundation, ten percent is allocated for the following Dharma sharing programs:

Nourishing Individual Sanghas

Thay has taught us that without Sangha, there is no Buddha and there is no Dharma. Participation in a Sangha is essential to our practice. To help nourish and develop Sanghas, the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation offers a “Sangha in a Box” resource kit with an instructional guide, a DVD, a CD of chanting, books, and a bell. North American Sanghas also may submit applications for grants to bring Dharma teachers to their communities to lead public Days of Mindfulness. Currently, donors enable the foundation to designate$10,000 a year to the Sangha Building Project Fund.

Offering the Dharma Online

Many people who have heard Thay speak have started on their own paths of practicing compassion and understanding. Many are taking their new awareness to their families, workplaces, and schools—transforming communities by planting seeds of mindfulness. The monasteries and practice centers offer many free online Dharma teachings and courses so that people can watch or listen live, or enjoy past retreats and Dharma talks from the comfort of their own homes. Donations to the foundation fund online services and fees for these offerings. With continuing support, the Sangha can work toward an aspiration to create a complete digital audio and video library of all of Thay’s talks to preserve and share with future generations.

Planting Seeds with Youth

Wake Up tours bring the practice of mindfulness to young adults and are tailored to meet their physical, emotional, and financial needs. A tour team consists of monastics and lay practitioners who travel to school campuses and colleges to host Days of Mindfulness, “flash mob” public meditation gatherings, and public talks. Wake Up events are free and easily accessible, thanks to donated practice spaces, free housing offered by friends, and the use of low-cost travel modes. A sixteen-day Wake Up tour, which typically coordinates fifteen to twenty events, only costs about $9,000.

Bringing Mindfulness to Schools

Mindfulness is increasingly recognized as an important tool for teachers, students, school administrators, and parents. Plum Village’s “Wake Up Schools” initiative is currently focused on three main areas to develop mindfulness in schools, including:1) Teacher and Administrator Training; 2) Developing Classroom Content; and 3) Community Building. This year, foundation gifts are helping sponsor the Educators’ Retreat at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, to help retreatants learn mindfulness practices to use in schools.

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Dana (generosity) for Dharma-sharing programs is greatly appreciated and will support the many ways our community makes Thay’s teachings and practice accessible to all. To donate, or for more information and links to our community’s Dharma-sharing programs, please visit the Resource section of our website at ThichNhatHanhFoundation.org.

Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation 2499 Melru Lane, Escondido, CA 92026 Ph: 760-291-1003 ext. 104 Email: Info@ThichNhatHanhFoundation.org

* The Thich Nhat Hanh Continuation and Legacy Fund, started in 2011, has been renamed the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation.

mb64-SanghaNews3Lorri Houston, Sweetest Words of the Heart, practices with the Really Beneficial Sangha in Escondido. She is an Order of Interbeing aspirant and provides joyful service as the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation’s full-time community liaison. Before joining the foundation staff, Lorri founded and developed the first rescue shelters in the U.S. for farm animals.

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mb64-SanghaNews4Joyfully Together in Viet Nam

Building on the success of our first “Mindful and Mobile Retreat in Viet Nam” in March 2013, a small group of friends will have two opportunities in the coming months to have a uniquely beautiful experience. “Going like a river,” we will travel as a Sangha throughout the land of our spiritual ancestors of the Truc Lam (Bamboo Forest) lineage.

Whether we are sitting or standing, walking or riding, floating on Ha Long Bay or climbing sacred Yen Tu Mountain, eating vegetarian meals or biking in the countryside around Hoi An, our breath will be our anchor throughout each day. Both trips will include a Day of Mindfulness in the Root Temple in Hue and frequent periods of sitting meditation and Dharma sharing.

Joyfully Together in Viet Nam Travel with Dharma Teacher Chan Huy December 22, 2013 January 4, 2014 For information and to register, contact Chan Huy: vietnam@mindfulcoachingclinic.com http://www.mindfulcoachingclinic.com/vietnam.html

Travel with Dharma Teacher Chan An Dinh (Trish Thompson) March 15 29, 2014 For information and to register, contact Chan An Dinh: trish_tour_vietnam@me.com http://www.trishthompsonasia.com

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