one body

A Magical Wedding in Plum Village

By Peggy Rowe Ward and Larry Ward The Vows I made to Peggy:

I promise you Peggy that I will: Practice peace, I will honor you, listen to you and communicate wholeheartedly with you. Nurture and celebrate the treasured memories of John, Kathy, Steve and Viola as special ancestors of our new family. Look at you every day and smile with eyes of love and a heart full of trust. Express with my own voice my dreams, emotions, difficulties and wonders. Support and encourage you to live your spiritual and professional dreams. Give you the space and time that you need to come home to your deepest self. Water your flower every day, so it may grow in our marriage, the flower of your intellect, the flower of your real compassion, the flower of your beauty, the flower of your generosity, and the flower of your originality. Become more and more at ease and at home with myself in our relationship, to grow beyond my habits of distance and seriousness and become more full of light and laughter. Water my own flower through taking care of myself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually so that I can bring vitality and charm to the wonderful mystery of our marriage. Sing, dance and make meny and take great joy in the simple things that make us whole.

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The Vows I made to Larry:

I promise to say "I love you" every day. I promise to not go to bed angry, that we will kiss each other in peace each evening. I promise to love and accept you, even though I don 't always understand you. I promise through kind communication to increase in understanding you, knowing that compassionate dialogue is a key to growing in love. I promise that our journey together will be juicy, to sow seeds of laughter, adventure and joy and be your bride of amazement. I prom ise to honor the fool in you and in myself, so that we can begin anew and maintain freshness and wonder. I suggest an annual ceremony to throw out that which is stale in ourselves and in our relationship. I promise to take good care of myself - body, soul, spirit, and emotions. I know one thing that I do that I would like to change. I know that when I feel distant and disconnected from you, I have internal formations that arise where I'll feel hurt, fear, sadness and anger. Then I have the habit energy where I will bug you with sharp communication or criticism. I ask your help in helping me to transform this habit energy and this internal formation. This reminds me ofthe blind witch in Hansel and Gretel who poked at the children with her bony finger. My preference would be to be like the crafty boy and girl child who figured their way out of the kettle in the kitchen.

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Two Moons

The moon lit up the early morning sky. Wearing all white in the moon light, I felt more like a fairy or a small girl in a church play than a bride. I was the first to arrive in the zendo. So earl y, so nervous, I hadn 't slept well. The Lower Hamlet guests and residents slowly assembled. It was 6 a.m. and there was a thick, rich fog that added density to the stillness. Half sleepy, half mesmerized by beauty, we waited as people gathered. It was time. We walked mindful steps on the stone paths leading to the country road. I was glad for the presence of Susan and John, my friend Elizabeth, my West Hamlet family. I held a small bouquet of orange and white wild flowers lovingly presented to me by Helga.

The thick fog turned the rising sun into a second moon. The sun joined the moon that still hung in the western sky. This morning, there were two moons. Magic was afoot! We moved as one body on the road, walking in mindfulness, the bride and her family, step by step. No cars, a moving body, two moons, step by step, moving toward my beloved.

We rounded a bend in the road and figures and a sp lash of color appeared through the fog. Larry was in fro nt of a group of people, carrying a tray with brightly wrapped packages in red paper. He was wearing an African tunic and ceremonial hat in black and gold. He looked like an African king, so solid, so regal. Next to him were two young Vietnamese men wearing long lapis blue silk tunics, so lovely. Caught by such beauty, my mind jumped for a second . Where am l? Who am I? What year is this? In this magical space, it could have been any time in hi story, I could have been any bride, but it was August 1994 on the road outside the Lower Hamlet. The groom fol lowed by the groom's family. My beloveds.

Step by step, the two fami lies continued to walk toward each other under the two moons. Two bodies, step by step, until we met, and like two streams, we became one river. In one fluid motion we turned and walked together to the Lower Hamlet zendo. Flowing like a river, one body, one fam il y, my famil y.

Peggy, True Original Vow, and Larry, True Great Voice, live at the Clear View Residential Lay Practice Center in Santa Barbara, California.

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Soymilk Sangha

by Susan Hadler mb37-Soymilk1

After dinner I walk to the kitchen to check on the soymilk we’ve made today. It should be cooling by now. Later, after evening meditation we’ll put it in the refrigerator, so we can have fresh soymilk for breakfast. The clean-up crew fills the kitchen with activity carrying racks of dishes, washing pots, and mopping the floor. I am surprised to see my soymilk teammate Gary standing at the stove spooning okara, the thick soybean residue, from the huge pot of soymilk into a basin. Normally the okara is filtered out by a machine. What happened to the soymilk?

Phap Do taught the seven of us on the soymilk team how to make soymilk for the 350 retreatants of Solidity Hamlet. Making soymilk is a day-long process that reminds me a little of taking care of a baby. After supper we measure fifteen cups of soybeans into a large plastic tub. We wash the beans three times and soak them overnight. The next morning during working meditation the little round beans are mixed with water and ground between two stones in the grinding machine. After that we pour the thick white liquid into the mouth of another machine we affectionately named “The Great Silver Dragon” whose belly is a filter bag. The machine whirls the soymilk, filtering out the okara, until milk runs out of the spout into a big stainless steel pot. Several times during the filtering process we empty the soft foamy okara from the filter bag into a basin. The okara is mainly used for compost. Later in the afternoon we cook the soymilk for two hours in huge pots double boiler style. When it is cool, we return to the kitchen and tuck it away for the night in the refrigerator.

Soon after learning how to make soymilk, I begin to identify with the little soybeans. We are both seeds in the womb of Mother Earth, constantly changing. I too, am soaking, soaking in the collective mindful energy of the retreat. My tough outer shell softens, my heart opens. I don’t need to protect and defend myself here. I feel safe.

Like the soybean, I am ground up together with the other retreatants and we slowly become a community. My protective edges wear away in the room I share with five other women as we bump up against each other and learn to live together in this intimate space. The aloneness I brought with me loosens and dissolves when I am helped over a rough spot by new friends. I feel supported by the people here and I give what I can. We live and work together mindfully day after day. We walk as one body during walking meditation. We eat our silent meals. We sit in the Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall in the morning and in the evening. We harmonize our voices to sing and to chant. We walk slowly up and down the mountain without speaking. Separateness is ground away until we become a Sangha river flowing in the Great Hidden Mountain.

Next we are filtered and refined. We let go of suffering, noticing obstacles to happiness, changing old habits. With Thay’s help I see that I’ve carry my beloved grandmother’s despair inside of me for all these years. Her despair is part of my mind. I take Granny for a walk in the hills and she enjoys it so much, the hills, the flowering trees, the birds and the sunshine. She is content now and so am I. I see something else; the way I try to save everyone and end up losing myself, a painful old habit that leads to exhaustion and feelings of imprisonment. It is thick and heavy like the okara we filter out of the soymilk. I see this when our soymilk team runs into trouble.

The seven of us meet with Thay Phap Do. For the first time I realize that my overactive sense of responsibility affects my friends adversely. It let go of every notion and experience great joy! I find out that he is right when I experience a deep wordless connection with this mountain, with the rabbits and squirrels, with the full moon, with the Sangha. There is enough time and space to enjoy every moment.

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Gary answers my question as I walk over to the stove. “The filter bag leaked and okara filled the milk. It was too thick to drink and wouldn’t be very tasty.” My first thought is, Why did the filter bag leak? My second thought is, What about tomorrow when we make soymilk again?

Thay Phap Do comes into the kitchen, looks around, and suggests that we use the metal colander and a big pot. He brings forth a nylon curtain to use as a strainer. I watch him line the colander with the curtain and then I speak. “Phap Do, I think I know what happened to the filter bag.” He doesn’t respond. Then I ask, “Will we have to strain the milk this way every day?” This time Phap Do answers. “Just do it now. Use this curtain to filter the milk now.” I feel a little embarrassed and rebuked, having wanted to impress him by figuring out why the filter bag leaked. I walk

is my habit to arrive early on the days we make soymilk and begin to set up the equipment. I run around the kitchen collecting spoons and pots and basins, thinking how nice it will be for my friends to arrive and have everything already set up. But wait, something is changing. Thay is teaching us to become businessless. I notice that my ancestors’ “businessfulness” appears in me. During our meeting several of my teammates express feeling rushed and left out. My heart thumps in my chest and my breath races. I have never before realized that when I act in that extra-responsible-businessful way I take up my teammates’ space and obstruct us from experiencing the ease and leisure that makes deep connection possible and enjoyable. I happily leave my businessfulness in the filter bag. At the end of our meeting Thay Phap Do asks each of us, “What does a cow say?” “A cow?” “Yes. A cow. You know the cow that gives milk. What does a cow say?” Each of us replies and then Phap Do asks us to repeat the sound all together. “Mooooo!” we bellow and laugh. We’re becoming nourishment for the Sangha, light enough to flow freely like a delicious stream of soymilk. We begin our working meditation now with a cup of tea and a long “Moooooo,” the joyful sound of the soymilk team.

And then we cook. We cook the soymilk in the afternoon and the Sangha cooks slowly and continuously in the pot of mindfulness. I feel myself growing more fresh and wholesome as I listen to Thay’s Dharma talks. He tells us that we can find happiness at any moment. He teaches us to transform our suffering and he shows us that we can into the hall behind the kitchen and feel tears spring into my eyes. And then I smile. Oh! I get it. No past. No future. Only now! No blame. No right. No wrong. No theories or notions. Only now!

I walk back into the kitchen and feel so happy as Gary and I strain the soymilk heavy with okara through the curtain. We pour the fresh soymilk into giant pots and store it for breakfast. Friends from the clean-up crew offer to help carry the pots and mop the floor. Just as we’re finishing up, Phap Do reappears and places a new filter bag on the table.

One morning I sit in the dining room that overlooks the temple and the blue hills. I eat breakfast in silence, concentrating on the oatmeal and the soymilk. Gary sits across the table. I hear a rhythmic sound and look up. Gary points to a red-headed woodpecker in the tree outside the window. We sit silently and watch. Phap Do appears on the path beneath the window. His body is completely still as he stands gazing at the tree and the bird. After several minutes he looks in the window and smiles a Buddha smile. Everything is all right. I no longer need to worry about food or cold or anyone or anything. This moment is enough. I am alive. I am here.

Susan Hadler, Transformational Light of the Heart, lives in Washington, D.C. where she practices with the Washington Mindfulness Community.

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Letter From the Editor

mb46-Editor1Dear Thay, dear Sangha, We sit on the dew-covered grass, watching the light of dawn reveal the towering mountains all around us. Thay sits like a rock, like a tree, like a Buddha, in front of several hundred sleepy retreatants. It is six a.m. on the first day of the retreat at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado.

After a while Thay invites the little bell and we rise to walk as one to the meditation hall. In the half-light our mass of peaceful mindful people lumbers up the hill. That’s when I see for an instant through the present moment into a potential future. I see not a few hundred people but thousands, millions, walking in silence. I see people descending into the streets of towns and cities all over the world, walking together, and with our breathing bodies, with our hearts joined in love, saying no — no to war, to injustice, to poverty and exploitation — no to the powers that be.

I remember Princess Diana’s funeral, when over a million people lined the streets of London standing for hours in silence, united in their grief and their love. Even more amazing, all major U.S. television channels broadcast her funeral live, one of them broadcasting the silence as well as the images. Around the world as many as 2.5 billion people watched at the same time. So imagine, imagine what power we have — to say yes to life, to love, to paradise here on earth.

In his Dharma talks at the retreat Thay reminded us that we are all cells in one body, part of a single organism. I have heard Thay say that the next Buddha to be born will be a collective. This is what I see awakening all over the planet: the Cosmic Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, the Buddha to be. It is happening now. (Read magazines like Yes!, Ode, and Utne Reader for positive developments worldwide.)

Thay’s own happiness is his best teaching — after all he has seen and suffered and accomplished in this life, he radiates peace and joy. When he says that there is no birth and no death, that our only continuation is our actions, he is the living proof.

Thay’s joy — and that of the ninety monastics traveling with him on the U.S. tour — touched the nearly one thousand lay people at the retreat. We sang, laughed, sat, cried, walked, ate, talked mindfully together for six glorious days in the majestic Rocky Mountains.

And we shared the Mindfulness Bell — a joint creation of monks, nuns, and lay people. After one of the Dharma talks, four of us, including Sister Chan Khong, made a presentation about the Mindfulness Bell to the sangha. I was thrilled at the response from the retreatants. We sold every single magazine we had and collected many subscriptions and donations. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all!

As Sister Chan Khong said, when you support the Mindfulness Bell you are doing more than just purchasing a magazine, which hopefully inspires you. You are helping Thay to spread the Dharma and build sangha around the world. Consider renewing your subscription for two or three or even fi years. And don’t forget that subscriptions make wonderful holiday gifts!

May our sangha flow like a river, each step in power and beauty. May the turning of the seasons and the year bring peace into all aspects of your life. Breathe on!

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