#15 Winter 1995

Prison Moment, Wonderful Moment

By Sister Chan Khong Dear David, I wish to be your friend because I know that you are a good person caught in a difficult situation. When we are in a bad situation, we tend to believe that we are the only one who is unfortunate. In fact, everyone has difficulties . Only we may never hear about them. Please remember that being caught in a bad situation is normal. Everyone has to face this. The question is, how can we cope with our difficult situation in beauty and peace? When caught in a bad situation, I too was as unhappy as you are. But I have learned how to be unhappy for only several minutes or a few hours. During that time, I use the art of mindful living to be resurrected and to look deeper in order to see many positive things. Then I discover that, thanks to a bad situation, I have many good opportunities.

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There is a bodhisattva, an enlightened person, named Ksitigarbha, who goes to living beings in the worst situations and tries his best to cheer them up, to give them inspiration to live, to smile, and to help them get out of their bad situations. Ksitigarbha vows that, "If there is still one living being caught in a hellish situation, I will stay there with him or her until he or she is set free." I am sure that Ksitigarbha is there with you, like a gentle guard who listens carefully to what you say and kindly helps you in your time of need. Ksitigarbha could be a prisoner himself, but not like other prisoners. While the others live without responsibility, without care, the prisoner Ksitigarbha is the one who lives mindfully, beautifullypeaceful and loving with everyone in the jail. Ksitigarbha could be a social worker—one who really loves, cares, and works overtime out of love, not for salary. Ksitigarbha could be a lawyer, devoted to his client's cause, really wishing to help, to relieve the suffering of the victims, not for money, but for being helpful and relieving suffering. Ksitigarbha could be yourself when you are peaceful, light, serene, and full of love and care for those around you.

All situations, even desperate ones, change. If we know how to handle our moments in prison with mindfulness, with a very deep look, with the loving heart and the compassionate eyes of Ksitigarbha, we will treasure every moment. People suffer because they do not know that everything changes. The weather is sometimes sunny, sometimes rainy, sometimes foggy, sometimes snowy. We must learn the art of enjoying the sunshine when it is sunny, the rain when it is rainy, the fog when it is foggy. We must learn the art of mindfully enjoying our time. When we play tennis, we play with 100% of our being; when we are with our beloved ones, we enjoy our beloved ones 100%; when we are in jail, we enjoy our time in jail 100%. You must know that this time in jail is an invaluable time for learning if you can be mindful, and look deeply at everything that is happening.

In the past, Thay had an American student who was a devoted peace activist. One day, Thay gave him a tangerine. He ate the tangerine, but his mind was involved with many projects. While eating, he told Thay about them. Suddenly Thay said, "Jim, eat your tangerine!" Jim realized he was not eating his tangerine, but only his projects. He bowed to Thay and then ate slowly, mindfully, enjoying the fragrance and taste of the fruit. My dear David, please live mindfully every moment of your life in jail. Eat and enjoy what you are eating. Don't let your mind carry you away to sorrow, frustration, and anger.

When you go home, you will enjoy deeply the presence of your beloved mother, father, and sisters, and enjoy every moment being with them. And you will enjoy your own liberty. Many people only regret the absence of their beloved ones when they pass away or are forced to live far away. Often, we live with our beloved ones, but we are carried away by our career, fame, money, and interests. We never have time to really be with him or her, to look into her eyes, her feelings, joys, and pains. We rarely have time to enjoy their wonderful presence.

Later, Jim was imprisoned for burning his draft card. Thay sent him a short note, exactly as he did for you recently, "Jim, your tangerine is still there. I hope you can enjoy your tangerine properly." After being released, Jim flew to France to thank Thay. He told us, "Thanks to your words, which woke me up, I lived my days in jail deeply. I was no longer frustrated, angered at everything like in the past." So, dear David, being released today is good, but being released next month is also good, and if they release you next year, it is fine too. Being in jail every day you have a chance to sit still, to look deeply into your feelings, your past experiences, and the roots of your past experiences that led you to this place, so that you can see your future clearly. You can also see and help many people around you. When you are released, you will know how to enjoy the presence of your wonderful family, and your liberty. Then you will certainly be able to go to a retreat with Thay to learn the art of mindful living. But for now, please enjoy your tangerine.

Dharma teacher Sister Chan Khong, True Emptiness, has been Thick Nhat Hanh 's colleague since 1959. She wrote this letter to a prisoner in California.

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The Reward Is Tremendous

By Richard Brady & Audrey Russek When I first read The Miracle of Mindfulness in the spring of 1988, none of my friends was involved with meditation. It turned out that Chris, a twelfth grade student at the Quaker high school where I teach, became my first Dharma teacher.

Chris had spent his three-week senior project time at a local Zen center. In a presentation to the school, Chris said that he and a classmate had been reading Eastern philosophy and religion since seventh grade. When he had learned of a Zen center nearby, he decided to "put his body where his mind was." After his presentation, a student in the audience asked whether his meditation had had any effect on his life outside the zendo. Chris responded that many of the effects were subtle and difficult to put into words. "However," he continued, "I can say that I am less angry as a result." I was very moved by Chris' presentation and told him so, going on to say that he had inspired me to try out meditation practice.

In September, I shared this story with students at an assembly where I led the school in a two-minute sitting meditation, presented slides of the monks and nuns in Plum Village, and talked about my experiences during the Winter Retreat there earlier in the year. Several days later, Audrey, a twelfth-grader, shared this story at our all-school worship meeting:

"I've been thinking about the fact that the main change Mr. Brady' s student noticed in himself after he had been meditating on a regular basis was that he was less angry. Lately, I've been so angry myself because I've had all this resentment building up inside over responsibilities that I have to fulfill. I really want to let it all go, but I can't. This makes me even more resentful and angry. The other night I was sitting at my desk around 12:30 a.m. completely stressing because I had so much work to do. I was on the verge of breaking. But I just closed my eyes and took in ten deep breaths, concentrating on my inhaling and exhaling the whole time. When I opened my eyes, I was so relaxed. If any of you are feeling stressed out or angry, just take ten seconds to close your eyes and breathe. The action is so little, but the reward is tremendous."

Richard Brady, True Dharma Bridge, teaches high school in Washington, D.C. Audrey Russek is a high school student.

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I just finished reading Thich Nhat Hanh's book, Peace Is Every Step, and it truly moved me. I feel a lot better because I practice mindfulness and breathing. I think this practice is really wonderful. I now wear something that looks like a ball-bearing on a chain around my neck, and it sounds like a chime when I move too fast. When I hear it, it reminds me to slow down and breathe. Beth Syre Hill, Age 11 Salada, Texas

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Joyful Dishwashing

By Shuko Maseda One day my mother gave me the book, Peace Is Every Step. After reading about 30 pages, I found myself reading deeply, as if I were absorbing with my eyes every passage, word, and letter. What was written on the pages had not been taught by anyone, but they were all things being taken for granted in our daily life. My everyday life was so restless and fidgety that I could not even become aware of such daily wonders. When my heart calmed down, I realized I was smiling unconsciously.

It was a Saturday evening, and dishwashing was to fall on me or my younger sister. We usually decide who will wash the dishes by tossing a token. I don't usually like to wash dishes, but that evening, everything was different. I had read the part "Washing Dishes," and these lines swept away my dull ideas about dishwashing. "The idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you are not doing them." This first line astonished me. I said to myself, "This is true! I know I feel tired when I start dishwashing, but soon it changes into fun."

The further I read on, the more deeply I thought. The author said the reason for dishwashing is not only to have clean dishes, but also just to do the dishes, to live fully in each moment while washing them. If we wash dishes lazily, thinking about other things, we lose and spoil the time. But if we wash dishes wholeheartedly, we can get the deep satisfaction that is equal to cleaning the whole house.

That evening I practiced washing—plate by plate—deliberately, concentrating on my breath, letting go of thoughts that came up. I was not annoyed by the noisy sounds from the television. Lastly, after washing away the detergent, I put three pairs of chopsticks into the dish drier and pushed the drier button with great happiness, feeling inexpressibly refreshed. It made me feel as if my feet were made of down, floating lightly in the air. I felt so refreshed that I also did the laundry!

That day I was able to practice mindfulness by engaging in two household chores which gave me a deep satisfaction. Since that day, Thich Nhat Hanh and Peace Is Every Step have been a tremendous and profound influence on me. After reading this book, my heart has become stable and calm. I realize how the author is aspiring to world peace. It is my greatest joy and happiness to have known the master Thich Nhat Hanh through this book.

Shuku Maseda, age 16, lives in Kyushu, Japan. This piece was translated and sent to us by Hisayo Ikeda, the translator of the Japanese edition of Peace Is Every Step.

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I Love You, Mama Bea

By Lee Klinger Lesser Mama Bea was my daddy's mother and my grandma. When she got sick, the doctors said they thought she was going to die. So she left her home in Florida, and came to live in our house in California. My mommy and daddy said we were going to take care of her, and either help her get well or be with her as she died. I was scared. I didn't want Mama Bea to die.

I helped my mommy clean the room and get it ready for Mama Bea. We picked some fresh flowers and put them in the room. We also brought in pictures of my grandpa. I never knew him because he died before I was born.

Mama Bea came on the airplane by herself and my daddy met her at the airport with a wheelchair. She couldn' t walk very far. I was glad to see her when she came home, but I felt a little shy. I didn't know how she would be. We gave each other a big hug. Daddy helped her walk up the stairs.

Mama Bea was tired. She rested in her room. As the days went by, I could see that Mama Bea was not getting better. It was harder and harder for her to walk. She was weak, and she limped, and held onto things as she went by. Her breathing sounded funny. I kept watching Mama Bea. And I kept watching daddy and mommy helping her. I tried to help her sometimes, too, but I wasn't strong enough for her to lean on.

One day my ankle started hurting me. It was hard for me to walk and I had to limp. When I went to school, I told my teachers that I couldn' t do music or P.E. because my ankle hurt. Mommy and daddy thought it would go away, but it didn't. It kept hurting me for lots of days. Mommy and daddy thought I was making it up. My teachers got angry with me.

One night just as it was getting dark outside, mommy said she wanted to talk with me. I sat in her lap on my bed. It was quiet and cozy. Mommy said that she thought I had feelings that were stuck in my ankle, and that they were making it hurt. She said that when someone we love is hurt, or sick, or dying, it is natural to be really, really angry, and scared, and sad. Mommy hugged me close and said, "Dying is part of living. All we can do is love Mama Bea, take care of her, and take very good care of ourselves, too. We can try to see our own feelings and not let them get stuck anywhere." Then mommy said she bet I could help my ankle be all better, and that she didn't think the feelings were stuck down there anymore. She bet I could stand up and my ankle wouldn't hurt anymore. She even bet I could do a little dance and my ankle wouldn't hurt me. I tried it, and I could!

But Mama Bea wasn't getting better. Each day she seemed to be feeling worse. Sometimes I'd read a book to her on the couch. Mama Bea liked that. So did I. Sometimes we'd snuggle and watch television. I'd bring her a drink with a straw when she was thirsty. Her breathing sounded loud and funny.

One day daddy took Mama Bea to a special doctor to look at her lungs. When daddy came back from the doctor, daddy and mommy, and Mama Bea were all very sad. Daddy told me the doctor said that there was a big sickness in Mama Bea's lungs, and that the doctor couldn't help MamaBea get well. He said Mama Bea was probably going to die very soon, maybe even in a few days.

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I felt very sad. Mama Bea was lying down in her bed. I went and lay down with her. We snuggled and didn't say anything. In a little while, daddy came in and he lay down with us, too. Later, mommy and my brother came in, and sat down on the bed. I was glad we were all together.

When Mama Bea woke up the next morning, she was much more tired. She didn't want to eat any more food. All she wanted sometimes was a popsicle. I liked to bring her popsicles. Daddy pushed Mama Bea in the wheelchair to the living room and she lay down on the couch. I stood behind the couch and looked down at Mama Bea. Mama Bea looked up at me and smiled. She reached up with her hand and said, "I love you, Carol." I reached out my hand and held hers and said, "I love you, too, Mama Bea."

Daddy asked Mama Bea if she was hungry. She said, "No!" Then she said, "All I want to do is die!" She said it over and over again, and she said she wanted to die as fast as she could. I didn't understand, and I didn't like it. I said, "But, Mama Bea, I don't want you to die at all!" Mommy was there and she said, "Carol, nobody wants Mama Bea to die, but when it is time to die, there is no other choice, it is time to die. Mama Bea knows she can't get well and she feels ready to die." I still didn't understand and I still didn't like it.

Later in the day, a hospice nurse named Jenny came to talk with us. We all liked talking with her, even Mama Bea. She said we were lucky to be with Mama Bea and to help her while she was dying. She said it's a very special time. Jenny gave me some special sticks with a sponge on the end of them, and she showed me how to wet it and rub it gently in Mama Bea's mouth when she was thirsty. It was getting hard for Mama Bea to drink. The sticks smelled like mint and Mama Bea liked them. I liked to help Mama Bea.

Then Jenny told me about one of the most special ways I could be with Mama Bea. She said that as Mama Bea got closer to dying, she wouldn't be able to talk to me anymore. She said that Mama Bea would still be able to hear me, though, and I could talk to Mama Bea, and sit and breathe with her. Jenny told me first I should sit down next to Mama Bea and imagine one-hundred golden suns moving right through the middle of me—up and down, from the top of my head all the way into my belly, and back up again. Then she said I should listen to Mama Bea's breathing, and be real quiet, and try to breathe the same way Mama Bea was breathing. Jenny said this was a way to be really close to Mama Bea, and to let her feel how I loved her.

That night, Mama Bea didn't want to go back to her bed anymore. She wanted to stay on the couch. We gave her a pillow and soft, warm blankets and kissed her good night.

When I went in to see her in the morning, Mama Bea didn't answer me when I talked to her. Her breathing was very loud. It seemed hard for her to take every breath. I called her name again, "Mama Bea! Mama Bea!" I felt hurt and scared, and I told mommy that Mama Bea wouldn' t talk to me. Mommy held my hand and said, "Mama Bea is moving out of her body and she is too far away to talk to us now. She still loves us and she can hear you, if you talk to her." I was very sad. I sat down next to Mama Bea and I picked up her hand and held it. She didn't hold mine back. I said, "I love you, Mama Bea." Then I put her hand down and went to school.

When I came back from school, I rushed over to the couch to give Mama Bea a present I made for her at school. It was a clay box with a lid and a big round handle. I called her name and I told her I made her a present. She didn't say anything. She didn't even look at me. I tried to put her hand around the present, but she wouldn't hold it.

Mommy asked me if I wanted to breathe with Mama Bea. She said this was a very special way to be close to her. I remembered what Jenny had told me and I sat down next to Mama Bea. I pictured one-hundred golden suns moving inside of me. It made me smile and feel warm inside. Then I listened to Mama Bea. It was hard to breathe like her. Each breath was different, and kind of jumpy, and loud. I wanted to be close to her, so I got real still inside and I kept sitting there.

Later, we ate dinner and mommy and daddy told me and my brother that they thought Mama Bea was going to die during the night. From my bed, I could hear Mama Bea breathing. Mommy snuggled with me in bed and held me close.

In the morning, daddy and mommy came into my room, sat on my bed, and told me that Mama Bea had died. They were both crying. Mommy held my hand and daddy said, "Mama Bea died quietly and peacefully. Her breathing all of a sudden stopped being loud and it became very, very quiet. I was sitting next to her, holding her hand, and mommy was sitting next to me, holding my hand. We were both breathing with Mama Bea. Each breath was gentle and deeply peaceful. And then there was no next breath."

Daddy was crying when he said, "I think it was a happy way for Mama Bea to die." Daddy said that he and Mommy sat quietly with Mama Bea for a while. Then they called the hospice nurse. She came over to the house and helped mommy and daddy wash Mama Bea, and change her clothes. Daddy and mommy stayed with Mama Bea all night. I listened to them, and then I wanted to go see Mama Bea and say good-bye. I never saw anyone dead before. Mama Bea was lying on the couch. It was Mama Bea, but she looked different. I held her hand. It was very cold, and I went to get a blanket to cover her.

Later some people came to take Mama Bea's body away, and get it ready to fly to New Jersey. Mama Bea wanted to be buried next to my grandpa. We flew on the same plane with Mama Bea so we could go to her funeral.

When we got to New Jersey, I kept getting upset all the time. Mommy asked me if I wanted to make a picture for Mama Bea and write her a letter. She said even though Mama Bea was dead, I could still make her pictures and write to her. I wanted to talk to Mama Bea. I made a picture of a tree and a squirrel for Mama Bea, and I told her I loved her and I missed her.

We went to the cemetery for Mama Bea's funeral, and mommy brought my picture. Daddy talked about Mama Bea, and then mommy read my letter and showed everyone my picture. There were lots of people there. I didn't know most of them. When everyone was finished talking and we said some prayers, whoever wanted to put some dirt on a shovel into Mama Bea's grave. It made a loud sound when the dirt and rocks landed on Mama Bea's coffin. After everyone had their turns, my brother and I both picked up a shovel and kept on digging. All the grownups were talking. I felt like I was still taking care of Mama Bea and helping to bury her next to my grandpa. Then it was time to go. I left a little stone on my grandpa's grave to let him know I was there. We went back to my uncle and aunt's house with lots of people. We lit a big glass candle for Mama Bea. It was going to burn for seven days. We had one to take back to California with us too. We flew back on the airplane the next day.

It was strange to come home. I kept feeling like Mama Bea was in the house somewhere, but she wasn't. We had a big picture of Mama Bea when she was in the swimming pool. She loved the water. So do I. We put the picture next to the big glass candle and we lit the candle. In the picture, Mama Bea was wearing a necklace with a little boy and a little girl holding hands. It was me and my brother, her only grandchildren. Daddy and mommy gave me that necklace. I wear it all the time now. I feel like it brings me close to Mama Bea.

When I sit on the couch where Mama Bea died, I think of her. I remember how I read to her, and snuggled with her, and gave her popsicles. I think of how I held her hand, and breathed with her, and how daddy says she died happy. I think of how I helped Mama Bea die happy.

I wonder where Mama Bea is now. Mommy says it's a mystery. I miss Mama Bea. Mommy says I can still write to Mama Bea whenever I want to. I wrote Mama Bea a letter. I wrote "I love you!Iloveyou!I love y ou! I love y ou! I love you! I love you! I love you!" I didn't know where to send it. So mommy and I burned the letter into a bucket, and then we took the ashes and scattered them into the wind. I think the wind is taking my letter to Mama Bea.

Lee Klinger Lesser is the head teacher of the College of Marin Children's Center. She has organized Family Days of Mindfulness and retreats, and lives in Mill Valley, California. This story is adapted from a children's picture book Lee hopes to have published based on her seven-year-old daughter, Carol's, real experiences with her dying grandmother.

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Sangha Solstice Celebration

By Michel Colville & Fred Allendorf

Open Way Sangha in Montana has celebrated the Winter Solstice together for the last four years. Winter Solstice is the first day of winter and the longest night of the year. It has been an important ceremonial time for humans since the dawn of our species. Our celebration was initiated by Rolly Meinholtz to celebrate the beginning of the return of the sun in the midst of the snow—short days and long nights of a Montana winter. Solstice gives us a wonderful opportunity to give gifts of the spirit: retelling a seasonal memory, a song or instrumental music, a poem, a painting, a dance or mime, or sharing a special story; all to help celebrate the advent of winter and the return of light.

Our celebration begins Saturday night closest to the solstice with a sitting period and precept recitation. Last year our celebration fell upon the full moon. Sunday morning begins with a welcome to newcomers who did not spend the night at the lodge and a sitting period while waiting for the winter sun to rise. Our walking meditation that follows this early morning meditation is perhaps the most moving part of our solstice festival. We walk through the woods to an evergreen tree that has been selected by Rolly. The snow is deep and we often have to struggle to get to the tree. Once at the site, one of us talks of the hardships that wild animals face in the winter: the cold, the lack of food, and the many accidents that can befall them. We sing in celebration of these animals and each other. Each person then places a gift to the animals on the tree to help them survive until spring, and says a few words about what this giving means for them. Then we return to the lodge to share in a potluck that mirrors the giving of food to the animals.

In the afternoon, we come together for a formal tea ceremony and a sharing of gifts of the heart. The ceremony that Rolly has developed for this is beautiful and moving. The room is dark except for the candles on the altar. As each person comes forward to give their intangible gift, they light a candle to symbolize the return of the light that heralds the coming of spring. They then share a song, a poem, or whatever they wish that has special meaning to them.

As each person comes forward the light in the room becomes stronger, just as each day adds a small amount of light to bring us to the Spring Equinox. By the end of the ceremony, the room is quite bright as the altar blazes with many candles. We end with songs of jubilation for the wonderful season and the beautiful friends we are able to share it with.

Michel Colville and Fred Allendorf, members of the Order of Interbeing, live in Missoula, Montana.

The Sangha Our Heart

By Alberto Annicchiarico Last summer, Thich Nhat Hanh reminded us that the practice is wherever we are. "Practicing is always possible," he explained, "but one of the most important steps is to get in touch with an existing Sangha or build a small one around us. The teacher is a treasure, but without a Sangha the practice can become very difficult." In Milan, we have experienced how Sangha building can be both essential and exacting at the same time. Our group was born in September 1993 and has gone through positive times as well as negative ones. Since then new people have joined us, while others have decided to leave because they did not feel at ease. What is the secret to succeed? Relying on the practice. In his book For A Future To Be Possible, Thay writes,"If you feel unhappy in a Sangha, it is better for you to make an effort and continue. We do not need a perfect Sangha. An imperfect one is already enough. We can try our best to become the positive elements in the Sangha ourselves and encourage the rest of the group to support our efforts."

Sometimes we feel frustrated that not even the Sangha is the ideal refuge from the feverish and aggressive reality. We realize that a place of kindness, perfection, or bliss does not exist. Meditation does not make us fly or make miracles. It simply shows what is there. When we become aware that the same things happen inside and outside the Sangha, we can see that the problem depends on us, no one else. Maybe we catch ourselves judging others or pretending to be what we are not. Suddenly our companions along the path become mirrors of what we think and do. We have a chance to learn and listen more deeply. Hidden aspects of our character reveal themselves. Therefore, it is only from relying on the practice, our one and only teacher, that we can learn how to experience the Sangha in its true dimension—a matchless arena where it is possible to understand ourselves and others, to make positive changes in our lives— in our family, at work, and in our society.

In the Milan Sangha, we have really touched what is the meaning of accepting the differences—in ideas, characters, aspirations. That is the reason why we continue trying hard to understand not only with our brain, but with all our heart. Thanks to the practice, during our weekly meetings, our Days of Mindfulness, and retreats, we have experienced a fruitful phase of common growth. Some of those who had left "to think it over" have come back and shared their happiness to have felt that the Sangha was always there, available and ready to welcome them. In Plum Village, Dharma teachers suggest that we feel the Sangha as a family full of love and understanding, a community rooted in its traditions and original culture, where we can live guided by the Five Wonderful Precepts. This is what we try and put into practice in our Sangha. Having taken refuge in the Sangha has transformed our lives.

Alberto Annicchiarico is a member of the Milan Sangha.

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Veterans Visit Plum Village

By Carole Melkonian On November 21, four American veterans of the Vietnam War—Jim Janko, Ted Sexhauer, Jerry Crawford, and Dan Thompson—and Earll and Maxine Hong Kingston arrived at Plum Village. This symbolic return to a Vietnamese Buddhist village in the Dordogne region of France, was the conclusion of a three-year Mindfulness and Writing Workshop for veterans led by Maxine.

After the long train ride from Paris, on a sunny, windy autumn afternoon, the group arrived and were warmly greeted by the whole community. A small tea meditation was offered by Brother Sariputra and Sister Chan Khong. After dinner, the veterans introduced themselves to the community. Early the next morning the veterans participated in the recitation of the Five Wonderful Precepts. This ceremony gave them the opportunity to begin anew, using the precepts as guidelines for living peacefully.

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Later that day, Sr. Chan Khong, Maxine, and the veterans met to explore ways of healing the wounds from their war experience. Sr. Chan Khong recounted a story of the pain experienced during the war when she held in her arms a young child covered with blood. "Many years later, in 1993,1Iwas able to release this pain. While walking in the streets of Florence, church bells would ring from time to time helping me live fully and deeply the present moment. Slowly, my mind became concentrated. I saw the street vendors selling postcards, the pigeons, the children playing in the streets, and myself as one. There was no distinction between Italians, French, or Vietnamese, between Christians and Buddhists. When I entered a Catholic cathedral, I really felt I was home. All the discriminating concepts and notions about self and nonself, Buddhism and Christianity disappeared. Suddenly, looking at the stained-glass windows with images of angels on them, I saw that the smile on the angel's face was the smile of the dead child I held in my arms so many years ago. It was the smile of liberation. There is no birth and no death, no coming and no going. We are all here in this wonderful reality."

Moved by this story, Jerry Crawford spoke of his experience with a Vietnamese woman guerilla seriously wounded and slowly dying in front of him. He took the hammock that belonged to her back to the United States and kept it for 25 years as a constant reminder of this woman's death. In 1991, Jerry attended a retreat for veterans which Thay led at Omega Institute in upstate New York. From the many group discussions and exercises for veterans, he was able to release this pain by burning the hammock in a bonfire on the last night of the retreat as part of a "letting go ceremony," where veterans wrote down and burned what they wanted to release in order to heal the wounds they suffered from the war.

On Thanksgiving Day, Thay gave a Dharma talk on not running away from our home which only exists in the present moment. That afternoon, Thay and Sr. Chan Khong met with the veterans. Sr. Chan Khong told the story of Angulimala, a murderer who became a monk. Tea, prepared by Thay' s gentle attendant, was passed to participants, including the film crew. The interview continued with a question from Jim: "Regarding your talk this morning about not running away and returning home, before I went to Vietnam, I felt a lot of pride in the democratic process in the United States. As a medic in Vietnam, I saw indescribable suffering of both people and land. Returning to the United States, I felt stripped from my culture. I feel that no connection can nourish a relationship between me and my culture. The only good thing that came from my Vietnam War experience was that it led me to a deep spiritual home. However, that took many years. Is there anything in the American culture that can truly nourish people?—anything that is not just an advertisement, another plug for materialism?"

Sr. Chan Khong: There are hidden treasures in America. Many groups of people there have learned to respect people and the earth. There are more groups forming in America to support people who practice mindfulness, and learn of other spiritual traditions than in any other country.

Maxine: We are the product of America! One thing our country has given us is the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment of freedom of speech and freedom to assemble, I take as a precept. Practicing freedom of speech—practicing assembling— is the same as bringing the Sangha together.

Sr. Chan Khong: In countries like Vietnam or China, you do not have the liberty to assemble in large groups. You would be imprisoned.

Jim: I agree. Still, the U.S. is a powerful cause of suffering in many other parts of the world.

Thay: The American culture is an open society. It is open to other influences. It is not old yet so it can renew itself easier than other societies. Suffering is important. If we look deeply into the suffering, it will lead us to wisdom and compassion. If Americans know how to look deeply at suffering, they will understand the roots to stop suffering in America and in other countries.

There is a growing consciousness among Americans about what they are consuming. They know that certain foods cause suffering to their bodies and consciousness. Tofu is a protein that is far safer than protein from meat. It is easier to digest, and the making of tofu is less damaging to the environment. Tofu is much easier to find in America than in France. The consumption of alcohol has caused many families to be broken. Young people suffer because of this. Sexual misbehavior has destroyed many families and society, too. To protect ourselves and our families, we have to practice the third precept. We know this. We have to practice as a society, as a nation. By doing so, other nations will benefit from ourpractice. Consume less meat and alcohol, and take care of your families. All the jewels are buried in your tradition. Go back and rediscover them. You'll bring happiness to yourself and to other people.

Jerry: I have trouble being calm when chaos is going on in my head. Although I try to be mindful, I have trouble doing so. Today, during walking meditation I heard gunshots from hunters in the area and it immediately brought back memories from the war. I felt angry and afraid.

Thay: Don't try so hard to be mindful. Just be in touch with what is around you and you will be healed. Look at the people around you who are able to smile and walk calmly. If you do this you will have peace and joy. Just be yourself. Don' t try too hard. Just allow yourself to be.

Sr. Chan Khong: When fear arises, smile to it and say, "Hello, fear. The gunshots are from hunters. We are not in Vietnam anymore, we are in France. We are in Plum Village."

Ted: I have a similar problem with noises. As a medic, when I heard a loud noise I had to stay in control. Now when I hear a loud noise, I still maintain control but afterward I feel angry.

Sr. Chan Khong: Still we must say hello to the anger. We have to develop the habit of saying hello to fear or anger when it arises in order to be free from it. It may be also useful to talk to the brothers and sisters who are here with you. Sometimes being deeply heard by others can help you let go of your suffering.

Thay: Sometimes we don't need to suffer but we are attached to it. There is a garden with many beautiful trees and flowers. One of the trees is dying. You cry over that one and ignore all the others. You are unable to enjoy the beauty of the other trees. It's the same situation. You are walking with us here in Plum Village. We are supposed to be one body making peaceful steps on Mother Earth. The hunters' guns can touch seeds of suffering in you and many friends around you. But it is important to say, "I am walking with many friends in Plum Village." However, you may want to imprison yourself in the memory of the past, but sticking to your suffering is not good for yourself and is not good for humanity. Suffering is not enough. We can learn a lot from suffering, but life has many wonderful things too. Don't make the dying tree the only reality.

You are a veteran, but you are more than a veteran. All of us are veterans, both Vietnamese and Americans. We have suffered. I have to be able to not only help myself, but also my sisters, brothers, children, society. You cannot imprison yourself in your own suffering. You have to transform it.

Ted: It's true what you're saying about hanging on to suffering. Yet I believe that if I pretend that my experiences of suffering do not exist, they will come around and surface in another way. We are taught by psychotherapists to look at our suffering.

Sr. Chan Khong: Observing your fear is good to do. We cannot pretend that the fear is not in us. But to only observe the fear is not enough. Practice seeing the joy that arises in each moment, too. Today you are with Thay and many friends in Plum Village. Be aware of this, and of the fact that you are still alive, in good health, with good friends, and that you are able to be here. Maxine has spent a lot of energy on this project. Years ago, she spoke to me about this dream of bringing veterans to Plum Village. She wondered how she could realize this dream. B ei ng aware that you are here as a miracle is enough to make us all very happy.

Thay: When I talk about the garden, I recognize that the tree is dying in my garden. I also see the many nonsuffering elements that are in the garden. If you can see the entire garden, the suffering and the nonsuffering elements, your suffering will be transformed.

During the course of the interview, Thay asked Maxine to sing a song. She refused at first, laughing and denying her ability to sing. Then she reconsidered and said, "With mindful breathing, anything is possible." She then sang "Amazing Grace," with the veterans singing along in support.

Maxine: Today is Thanksgiving, and I feel thankful for you, Thay, and for Plum Village, and your welcoming us here. The first day our group arrived, one nun greeted us at the train station, saying, "Let's go home." Another nun greeted us in the Lower Hamlet saying, "Welcome home."

In America, many veterans are homeless, even the ones living in a house. I am very happy to bring these veterans to a place where they can find home both in a place and a spirit.

Order member Carole Melkonian, True Grace, is spending the winter in Plum Village. Traveling with the veterans was a BBC crew thatfilmedthe veterans' "return " to Plum Village as part of a documentary on journeys to be aired on British television in April 1996. They filmed Thdy's talks and interviewed Sr. Chan Khong about the history of Plum Village, her humanitarian work during the Vietnam War, and her work today to help people heal from the wounds of war.

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Sangha Profile

Lakeside Buddha Sangha Jack and Laurie Lawlor P.O. Box 7067 Evanston, IL 60201 USA Tel: (708) 475-0080

The Chicago-area Lakeside Buddha Sangha observed its fourth anniversary last June, marking over 200 Sunday evenings of sitting meditation, walking meditation, and Dharma discussions. "Magic!" is how Sangha member Ruth Kane often describes the three hours she spends each Sunday meeting with her Sangha in the candle-lit meditation hall that once served the community as its corner grocery store. Lakeside Buddha Sangha came upon this unusual rental space in a rather unusual way: its landlord found Lakeside! "I was hanging a poster from a stepladder during the 1991 Mondelein retreat with Thay," explains Jack Lawlor, "and a retreatant tapped me on the back and whispered, 'Would you like a zendo?' I couldn't believe it. I thought I was in a Jimmy Stewart movie and it was Christmas."

Of course it is the people, not real estate, that give life to Lakeside's manifestation of the Dharma. Approximately 80 people now attend local Sangha activities at least quarterly; last summer, an average of 27 people attended each weekly sitting. Lakeside meetings begin with an hour of sitting and walking meditation. After a break to socialize, we have a formal Dharma discussion led by a Sangha member. Sangha member Jon Frye observes, "Although our rounds of sitting and walking meditation are the heart of our practice, the hour afterwards is extremely important to me. It provides an opportunity to meet others in the Sangha in a more informal way."

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Weekly topics are announced in advance in Lakeside's monthly newsletter, and we have discussed such diverse topics as family reconciliation, mindfulness in the workplace, meditation and creativity, mindfulness and the art of counseling, and loss and bereavement. Michael and Arlene Brennan have led sessions on practicing Right Speech in the American political forum, and on the care and support of ailing family members. Demonstrations which draw upon the talents of local Sangha members have included sessions on oriental brush strokes and a spellbinding session on the art of flower arrangement led by Ilze Arajs, an instructor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Ilze and Laurie Lawlor, a children's book author, have facilitated discussions on the relationship between mindfulness and artistic expression, and Sue Tague has led sessions on the relationship between mindfulness practice and poetry.

Former Trappist Jim Jarzembowski has led many discussions on the Buddha's life based on Thay' s poetic biography of the Buddha, and Jack offers a periodic "Foundations of Mindfulness Practice Series" intended not only to introduce newcomers to the practice, but also to refresh and nourish the practice of longtime Sangha members. He has also led a series on the "Six Perfections of the Bodhisattva Way" to nourish the Sangha's study and discussion of the precepts.

Lakeside enhances its weekly activities by taking turns organizing regional retreats and Days of Mindfulness in the countryside with sister-Sanghas practicing in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh in Madison, Milwaukee, and DeKalb. In 1995, seven regional Days of Mindfulnes and retreats were held within a four-hour driving radius of Chicago, typically attracting forty to fifty participants. Sharing organizational responsibilities reduces the administrative burden on any one Sangha, and the interaction helps nourish and renew the Midwestern extended community. Each event includes abundant sitting and walking meditation, outdoor walking meditation, and silence, interspersed with Dharma talks by Jack, group Dharma discussions, bonfires, and song. Lakeside Sanghamembers also participate in the larger community in many ways. Many members are professional caregivers in the fields of social service, teaching, community organizing, medicine, psychotherapy, and home health care. Laurie Lawlor and Jon Frye are hospice volunteers.

Lakeside members participate in activities sponsored by the Chicago-area Dharma council comprised of 25 temples and centers, and are active in interfaith programs sponsored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions. Jack is serving his second term on the national Board of Directors of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and keeps local Chicago groups advised of BPF's efforts and programs.

Ed. Note: Ever since Jack and Laurie Lawlor worked closely with the Community of Mindful Living to bring Thay to Chicago in 1989, we have been impressed by their commitment to nurturing an active Sangha practice. We encourage anyone interested in studying the development of a lovely Sangha to write Jack for copies of the Lakeside Buddhist Sangha newsletters and his Sangha manual. (See page 37 for details.)

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Buddhist Prisoners in Vietnam

By Stephen Denney In the last issue of The Mindfulness Bell, we reported the trial of Venerable Thich Quang Do, age 68, and five other members of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBC) on August 15, 1995.

Ven. Quang Do, UBC Secretary General, was sentenced to five years imprisonment. Others sentenced were Ven. Thich Khong Tanh (five years), Ven. Thich Nhat Bang (four years), Ven. Thich Tri Luc (two and a half years), Nhat Thuong, a layman (three years), and Mrs. Dong Ngoc (two years, suspended sentence). They were charged with "undermining the policy of unity" between religion and state, which appears to be based on their efforts to carry out religious and social work in the name of the UBC. Ven. Thich Quang Do had also written an open letter to Vietnam's Communist Party Secretary General protesting the Party's legacy of religious and political repression. At the time they were tried, authorities indicated that UBC Executive Director Ven. Thich Huyen Quang (age 77) and Ven. Thich Tri Luc, head abbot of the famous Linh Mu Pagoda in Hue, will also be tried for their public dissent.

Ven. Thich Quang Do has been forcibly relocated to the north and his present whereabouts are unknown. Three of the other monks at the August 15 trial appealed their verdicts, but a higher court rejected the appeal on October 28. We had hoped that Ven. Thich Tue Sy and Ven. Thich Tri Sieu might be released on Vietnam's 50th National Day (the anniversary of the government established by Ho Chi Minh in 1945), but unfortunately this did not occur. The number of prisoners released that day was much lower than expected. On the other hand, government spokespersons indicated in October that Ven. Thich Huyen Quang would not be tried.

In a related development, Do Trung Hieu was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment in a trial held in November. Hieu was formerly Ho Chi Minh City's Communist Party liaison officer for religious affairs and was arrested in June 1995 for writing a document highly critical of the government's policy toward Buddhists.

The government's imprisonment of these leading UBC monks has elicited strong protests from human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch Asia, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus; as well as the United States and other governments. In August, the Community of Mindful Living sent 8,000 people a letter written by Sister Chan Khong urging that faxes be sent to Vietnam's Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet and Party leader Do Muoi protesting these latest developments. We also circulated letters to be faxed to Mr. Kiet and Mr. Muoi at Thay's lectures and retreats in the United States in September and October. We are grateful to those of you who responded to these appeals. If you would like to join in this effort, please ask the Community of Mindful Living to send you copies of the letters for you to sign and send. I recently came across this passage in a monograph written by Sister Chan Khong in 1969, entitled "Voices From the Burning House":

"In 1964 two young Buddhist monks, Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh and Ven. Thich Quang Do, worked to convince the Buddhist Church to lead the movement against the war and against the intervention of foreigners in Vietnam." 

Now, 31 years later, Ven. Thich Quang Do is serving a fiveyear sentence for protesting human rights abuses, his present whereabouts unknown. Is this not tragic? Let us continue to support him and other monks, nuns, and laypeople who have devoted their lives to peace and genuine reconciliation in Vietnam.

I would like to conclude with a note we received from Sister Chan Khong, commenting.on the government's announcement that Thich Huyen Quang will not be tried: "That is only one step back from the government's pattern of increasing  human rights violations. If the Vietnamese authorities did step back a bit, it is because we have advanced our work with tens of thousands of letters and with more pressure from international organizations. But if we are not alert and we are lazy, then they will advance their suppression. Thank you for your patience. Please continue. The process is slow but without bloodshed."

Stephen Denney is editor of Vietnam Journal and a longtime activist for human rights in Southeast Asia. To subscribe to Vietnam Journal ($8 per year), write P.O. Box 1163, Burlingame, CA 94011.

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Floods in Vietnam

By Sister Chan Khong In South Vietnam, our team has visited and helped people in Long An and Dong Thap whose lives have been devastated by the floods. Our team worked in four villages—Binh Thanh, hamlets one and two; Due Hue District, and Long An Province. In November, we provided palm leaves for each family to repair their roof ($25 each; altogether $3,000—$1,000 to help 40 families in Due Hue, and $2,000 for Moc Hoa Village). In Moc Hoa, people are extremely poor, and a number of them have deaf and blind children. We could only help with 30 families, as we also provided them with food and blankets.

Immediately after this effort, there were calls for help in Tuy Hoa, Quang Ngai, Thua Thien (Hue), Quang Tri, and Quang Binh. Sisters Nhu Minh, Dieu Dat, and Minh Tanh brought $7,800 to help Tuy Hoa and Quang Ngai. Two schools in Thua Thien collapsed in the floods. Two toddlers under our sponsorship drowned. At Sister Dieu Dat's request, $2,200 was sent to rebuild two schools in Loc Tri and An Cuu destroyed in the floods.

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Announcements

Documentary Film about Thay Peace Is Every Step, the first wide-ranging profile of Thich Nhat Hanh, is nearing completion. After five years of independent production, filmmaker Gaetano Maida is in the final stages of editing. With extensive footage from Plum Village, retreats in the U.S. and Asia, an intimate interview, and archival footage from the past 30 years, the film promises to share Thay's teachings widely.

The film is a production of Legacy Media, and the Community of Mindful Living (CML) is the project's fiscal sponsor. A recent foundation grant served as impetus for moving forward with the final editing phase, but funds totaling $40,000 are still needed to complete the film. A portion of proceeds from broadcast and video sales will be contributed directly to Plum Village. If you can help realize the completion of this work, please send a tax-deductible donation to CML, P.O. Box 7355, Berkeley, CA 94707. If you know of any foundations, corporations, or individuals to approach, please let us know, and we can follow up directly or assist you in the effort. For more information, contact Therese Fitzgerald at CML: (510) 527-3751.

Resource Manual for Sangha Building

Two years ago, while recuperating from a broken leg, Jack Lawlor wrote a manual on how to create a happy Sangha. Several groups have already been helped by using this manual to form or rejuvenate their groups. Copies of Sangha Building: Creating Buddhist Practice Community are available for $ 15.00 ($20.00 outside the U.S.) from Lakeside Buddha Sangha, P.O. Box 7067, Evanston, Illinois 60201.

Bell Instruction from Plum Leaves

We are happy to announce that the recent issue of Plum Leaves, the Plum Village newsletter, offers guidelines for inviting the bell to sound. If you would like a copy, please contact Plum Village or Community of Mindful Living.

Manzanita Raffle

A half-acre plot in the rain forest of Costa Rica will be raffled this May to support Manzanita Village in southern California. Tickets are $50 each. Please send checks payable to Ordinary Dharma, 247 Horizon Avenue, Venice, CA 90291.

New Buddhist College

Sharpham College will open in England this September integrating Buddhist studies and contemporary inquiry with community living, meditation, work on the land, and social projects. For information, contact Stephen Batchelor, The Sharpham College, Ashprington, Totnes, Devon TQ9 7UT, England. Fax (44) 1803 732 037, email 101364.537@comp.

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Sulak Wins Alternative Nobel Peace Prize

One of this year's Right Livelihood Awards was presented in Stockholm to Sulak Sivaraksa, leading Thai Buddhist activist, in honor and support of his offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today. The jury acclaimed Sulak for "his vision, activism, and spiritual commitment in the quest for a development process that is rooted in democracy, justice, and cultural integrity."

Mountain Retreat Practice

Order member Herb Walters is planning a rustic retreat in the mountains of North Carolina to share spiritual practices he has learned from Native American traditions. Contact Herb at 278 White Oak Creek Road, Burnsville, NC 28714, (704) 675-4626

Pilgrimage to Close School of the Americas

Order of Interbeing member Greg Hessel will spend this winter walking from Washington, D.C. to Fort Benning, Georgia, to gather support for stopping funding of the U.S. Army's School of the Americas, that has trained many officers from other countries in war strategy. If your Sangha would like to organize a Day of Mindfulness for those walking, please contact Greg at HC 60 Box 50, Charlestown, NH 03603, (603) 543-0568.

Prisoner Correspondence

Prisoners seek to connect with Dharma friends. Please write to: DeVoil Devane II, P.O. Box 215, Maury, NC 28554; and Stanley A. Farley, NCCI-Gardner, P.O. Box 466, Gardner, MA 01440-0466.

Passages

Lex Hixon, author, teacher, and lecturer on Buddhism and many other spiritual traditions, died in November at his home in Riverdale, New York. He was 53. Robert Sycamore Winson, Zen student and poet, died in Santa Fe in October of a colon disease. He was 33. We wish these two good friends of Buddhism in the West a steady passage and extend our heartfelt condolences to their families.

Retreat Center Update

The Community of Mindful Living, with the help of the Washington Mindfulness Community and the Charlottesville Sangha, has been searching for land to begin a residential mindfulness retreat center in the Washington, D.C. area. We are presently looking at four properties, and by mid to late spring, we expect to conclude negotiations on one of them.

Since announcing this search less than two years ago, we have received hundreds of expressions of interest that a center dedicated to the practice of mindful living as taught by Thich Nhat Hanh be established here in the U.S. For more information or if you would like to share with us your own interest in such a center, please contact the Community of Mindful Living.

The acquisition price, plus the anticipated expenditures that will be needed for improvements and operations' shortfalls will be approximately $1.5 million. To date, we have received $250,000 in contributions and pledges. Tax-deductible donations to the "Community of Mindful Living," earmarked "Residential Retreat Center," will be deeply appreciated.

Help Wanted

When Parallax Press and the Community of Mindful Living offices relocate to the retreat center property in the Washington, D.C. area, perhaps sometime this summer, we will need additional staff. If you might be interested in applying for work in our publishing or administrative offices, please write to tell us about your interest.

In addition, Parallax Press is looking for a "chief operating officer." Inquiries or applications should be sent to Arnie Kotler, Parallax Press/CML, P.O. Box 7355, Berkeley, California 94707. Experience in publishing, management, and the practice of mindful living are essential.

New Order Members

We are pleased to welcome the following friends into the Core Community of the Order of Interbeing:

Plum Village, France-August 5, 1995 Margret de Beckere Irmgard Buck Richard Buck Phan Thi Chau Jane Coatesworth Steffi Holtje Annette Landgraf Reiner Landgraf Deanna Malago Iris Nowak Bettina Schneider Dave Tester

Saratoga, California -September 22, 1995 Dewain Belgard William Chan Nanda Currant Brooke Deputy John D'Zahrt Susan Murphy Nuba Shores Hannah Wilder

Rhinebeck, New York - October 8, 1995 Bill Alexander Jeanne-Marie Anselmo Dai-En Bennage Tom Childers Cindy Cowden Susan Deakins Meg Dellenbaugh Mair Honan Monica Hoyt Patricia Hunt-Perry Patrecia Lenore Tonia Leon-Hysko Sandra Oriel Linda Parker Leslie Rawls

Oakton, Virginia - October 11, 1995 Nguyen Hoang Hai Pham Nguyen Thi Lien Nguyen Hoang Hieu Tran Kim Que Nguyen Van Vien Trinh Ngoc Dung Nguyen Khac Luan Vo Dinh Quang

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Reflections by Thay on the Order of Interbeing

These notes were taken by Therese Fitzgerald at a gathering in Virginia, following an ordination ceremony for eight new members of the Order of Interbeing Core Community. The Order of Interbeing needs minimal organization, so it can grow organically. A meeting of the general assembly should be convened in North America. The Fourteen Precepts and the Charter should be amended every three years. In particular, the Fourteen Precepts should reflect what we have learned about the need for deep listening and knowing our limits in regard to suffering. Order of Interbeing members should report on the activities of their Sangha in The Mindfulness Bell. Local Sanghas can, like the Community of Mindful Living, incorporate as a church, and sisters and brothers of the Order of Interbeing in the Core Community who are not necessarily monks and nuns can function like Protestant ministers. Once one has been in the Core Community and practices well for five years, one can become a Dharmacarya. A Dharmacarya can ordain people in his or her own name after five years. Before five years, he or she can ordain people in Thay's name, with four Order members present. Lay members are a bridge, a link between monks and nuns and the world, informing the world about monastic joys, and informing monks and nuns about the real situation of suffering in the world. While putting on his or her brown robe, an Order of Interbeing member can raise it up saying, "How beautiful is the robe of an Order of Interbeing member. It is a beautiful field of merit. I vow to wear it life after life." The jacket symbolizes the precepts.

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Letters to the Mindfulness Bell

I want to thank you for your devotion and work on The Mindfulness Bell. Following a mountain-climbing accident, I spent three years in bed, unable to walk, and five years since then healing, walking—which I am doing with great mindfulness and gratitude. I used Thich Nhat Hanh' s book, A Guide to Walking Meditation, as a primary means of beginning to walk again on this beautiful earth—against medical odds! I am so grateful to each of you who publish these simple, yet profound, works. There are many like myself whose hope stays bright, as well as our ability to learn and practice, due to your efforts. I thank you deeply and keep you daily in my heart and in my awareness of my belief that peace is every step!Kathleen Morris Mt. Shasta, California

I thoroughly enjoyed the autumn issue of The Mindfulness Bell. The article on Thay's trip to Asia was absolutely wonderful! Such detail and perspective! I feel I shared some of your footsteps. Thank you. Andrew Roberts Austin, Texas

I loved the China journey saga in The Mindfulness Bell. I've read it several times and it's always a new story for me. What a wondrous journey, wonderfully told. It is one of my dreams to journey to China, so I appreciated the rich travelogue, as I am able to experience some of China through your beautiful thick descriptions. Peggy Rowe Boise, Idaho

I got a great deal from the article on the Asia trip. It was really well done. Many thanks. Michael Kahn San Francisco, California

I was so inspired and graced by your autumn issue, that I was moved to write some poetry on my own. My extensive reading and reflection on the teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh has empowered and guided my personal journey and my professional journey as a clinical social worker, mentor, and healer of youth. Kevin Howard Dubro Warrensville, Illinois

I think we should introduce The Mindfulness Bell to people outside our community as well, because it is a practical help to people about how to practice healing their suffering and protecting their children and their family. For me, The Mindfulness Bell is very meaningful. I see Thay and the whole Sangha around the world. And I see the strong support for my daily practice. The Ha Nguyen Kitchener, Ontario Canada

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We've been involved in a very stressful environmental campaign up here. In leading three major rallies lately, I've been mindful of Thich Nhat Hanh's calm voice amid the fire in my bones. Still, there is astonishing news. In an historic vote, we saved the huge mountain forest above Vancouver. "Meditation in Action"—tell 'em it works! Trevor Carolan North Vancouver, BC Canada

I grew up during World War II and in the 1960s, I was highly critical of the U.S. government's policy toward Vietnam. I was partially sympathetic of people who served, and often at armslength with the returning survivors of that dark experience of our national life. Consequently, I did not understand the various and complex feelings Vietnam veterans and their families endured. Many of my impressions were unwarranted or false.

In response to an invitation by Vietnam veterans, I joined their group during the autumn retreat at Omega. I practiced deep listening as the veterans described their experiences, pain, and life of suffering, and I shared my stories from World War II. Together we bridged the span of years between us, and I took an unexpected step into mindful understanding. The next day, many other non-veterans joined the group. We discovered health, friendship, and sincere regard for one another. As the barriers dissolved, healing could happen.

I implore Vietnam veterans to continue this mission. I implore nonveterans to do the same. I urge Sanghas to sponsor similar programs. These circles will help heal all of us, and they will become a ceremony memorializing our national wall. Gene Lovette Westbury, New York

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