Wishing you this much peace this holiday season
Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence . . .
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.
—from Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann
Choose Joy! —me
I hope this finds you having a wonderful holiday season, whichever holiday you are celebrating.
This morning they are livestreaming the Christmas Eve Talk from Plum Village. http://new.livestream.com/plumvillageonline/events/1759716
Please remember that we can also follow the Winter Retreat Teachings from Thay at tnhaudio.org
This is a reminder that there will not be any meeting this week. The next gathering of the Mind Tamers will be on Tuesday, January 8, at 6:30 PM. I will be facilitating, and I hope you will be able to be with us then.
In the meantime, we will be having our annual New Year's Ceremony at our home on Sunday, January 6, at 6 PM. If you would like to join us please rsvp . . . so we can set up the space. At this ceremony, we honor our ancestors . . . (Please bring a photo or photos of your ancestors.) And we have a bell meditation—please bring a bell or bells if you have them—to ring in the New Year. I hope you can join us.
GOOD NEWS!!!!!!!! Thay will be touring the U.S. next summer. I have included his schedule below . . . so we can plan our time. There will be lots of opportunities to see him in the Northeast. I hope that you will be able to be with him for at least one of the events being offered. Save the dates!!!!!!
More good news! Thay Phap Dung has sent us Thay's Christmas Letter . . . please see below.
Once again, we have been called upon to wake up . . . I hope that the terrible happenings in CT have inspired us all to look deeply at the root causes of this tragedy and take action. Now that we have survived the end of the world as we knew it, we have the opportunity to Begin Anew and co-create a kinder one. Let's do all we can to nourish the highest and best in ourselves and everyone. To help us, I have also included below a beautiful letter to Adam Lanza from Br. Phap Luu who is from Newtown.
And here are a number of gifts to water our seeds of joy . . .
Last year the Sangha watched the film I AM by Tom Shadyak. This is a link to a follow up . . . about college students helping elementary school children . . . the transmission of the energy of generosity . . . very inspiring http://www.hulu.com/watch/434288
A wonderful video about some people doing wonderful things with almost nothing! "Remember this: that very little is needed to make a happy life."—Marcus Aurelius Landfill Harmonic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXynrsrTKbI
And . . . a great song to inspire us to be the change we want to see in the world and do it NOW! singing for the climate . . . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7V1qLLsn7M&feature=share
Thay often tells us that all the conditions for happiness are available to us in this very moment . . . Enjoy!
with much love, and the deep hope that as we navigate the rough waters of change, love will be our North Star, Joanne Chan Lac Thi True Joy of Giving
THICH NHAT HANH'S TEACHING TOUR
The dates for the 2013 North America Teaching Tour with Thich Nhat Hanh are listed below to help with planning. In the coming weeks, more information will become available on http://tnhtour.org with themes and registration information. In the meantime, please do not contact the monasteries for more information.
Aug 11-16 Mindfulness Retreat for Educators, Brock University, Hamilton, ON (Toronto) Aug 17 Public Talk, Sony Centre, Toronto, ON Aug 25-30 Mindfulness Retreat, Blue Cliff Monastery, Pine Bush, NY Sep 1 Day of Mindfulness, Blue Cliff Monastery, Pine Bush, NY Sep 7 Public Talk, New York City, NY Sep 12 Day of Mindfulness, Boston Park Plaza Hotel, Boston, MA Sep 14 Public Talk, Trinity Church, Boston, MA Sep 15 Peace Walk, Trinity Church, Boston, MA Sep 19-24 Mindfulness Retreat, Magnolia Grove Monastery, Batesville, MS Sep 26-29 Vietnamese Retreat, Magnolia Grove Monastery, Batesville, MS Oct 4-8 Vietnamese Retreat, Deer Park Monastery, Escondido, CA Oct 11-16 Mindfulness Retreat, Deer Park Monastery, Escondido, CA Oct 19 Public Talk, Pasadena Civic Auditorium, Pasadena, CA Oct 20 Day of Mindfulness, Deer Park Monastery, Escondido, CA Oct 26 Public Talk, Paramount Theatre, Oakland, CA Oct 27 Vietnamese Day of Mindfulness in the Bay Area
Visit http://tnhtour.org in 2013.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Dharma,
How lucky we are to have found the practice, to be part of a community that is alive and real, and to have a teacher who is not only healthy and young, but still have so much energy to open the way for the many generations to come. I feel so blessed to be alive at this point in time. I write with such inspiration because our teacher once again is opening new doors for us, renewing the way we look at and understand the teachings on karma, retribution, dependent co-arising and in particular, the 12 Links. I hope you all have a chance to listen to these deep teachers online.
I write to share Thầy's message for his students and friends, his encouragement for all of us to practice this Christmas season.
Please see Thầy's letter at: http://www.mindfulnessbell.org/wp/2012/12/home-is-the-way-a-christmas-message-from-thay/
Thank you everyone for being there.
Brother Phap Dung and PV Community
A Letter from Thay Phap Luu to Adam Lanza
Saturday, 15th of December, 2012 Dharma Cloud Temple Plum Village
Let me start by saying that I wish for you to find peace. It would be easy just to call you a monster and condemn you for evermore, but I don't think that would help either of us. Given what you have done, I realize that peace may not be easy to find. In a fit of rage, delusion and fear—yes, above all else, I think, fear—you thought that killing was a way out. It was clearly a powerful emotion that drove you from your mother's dead body to massacre children and staff of Sandy Hook School and to turn the gun in the end on yourself. You decided that the game was over.
But the game is not over, though you are dead. You didn't find a way out of your anger and loneliness. You live on in other forms, in the torn families and their despair, in the violation of their trust, in the gaping wound in a community, and in the countless articles and news reports spilling across the country and the world—yes, you live on even in me. I was also a young boy who grew up in Newtown. Now I am a Zen Buddhist monk. I see you quite clearly in me now, continued in the legacy of your actions, and I see that in death you have not become free.
You know, I used to play soccer on the school field outside the room where you died, when I was the age of the children you killed. Our team was the Eagles, and we won our division that year. My mom still keeps the trophy stashed in a box. To be honest, I was and am not much of a soccer player. I've known winning, but I've also known losing, and being picked last for a spot on the team. I think you've known this too—the pain of rejection, isolation and loneliness. Loneliness too strong to bear.
You are not alone in feeling this. When loneliness comes up it is so easy to seek refuge in a virtual world of computers and films, but do these really help or only increase our isolation? In our drive to be more connected, have we lost our true connection?
I want to know what you did with your loneliness. Did you ever, like me, cope by walking in the forests that cover our town? I know well the slope that cuts from that school to the stream, shrouded by beech and white pine. It makes up the landscape of my mind. I remember well the thrill of heading out alone on a path winding its way—to Treadwell Park! At that time it felt like a magical path, one of many secrets I discovered throughout those forests, some still hidden. Did you ever lean your face on the rough furrows of an oak's bark, feeling its solid heartwood and tranquil vibrancy? Did you ever play in the course of a stream, making pools with the stones as if of this stretch you were king? Did you ever experience the healing, connection and peace that comes with such moments, like I often did?
Or did your loneliness know only screens, with dancing figures of light at the bid of your will? How many false lives have you lived, how many shots fired, bombs exploded and lives lost in video games and movies?
By killing yourself at the age of 20, you never gave yourself the chance to grow up and experience a sense of how life's wonders can bring happiness. I know at your age I hadn't yet seen how to do this.
I am 37 now, about the age my teacher, the Buddha, realized there was a way out of suffering. I am not enlightened. This morning, when I heard the news, and read the words of my shocked classmates, within minutes a wave of sorrow arose, and I wept. Then I walked a bit further, into the woods skirting our monastery, and in the wet, winter cold of France, beside the laurel, I cried again. I cried for the children, for the teachers, for their families. But I also cried for you, Adam, because I think that I know you, though I know we have never met. I think that I know the landscape of your mind, because it is the landscape of my mind.
I don't think you hated those children, or that you even hated your mother. I think you hated your loneliness.
I cried because I have failed you. I have failed to show you how to cry. I have failed to sit and listen to you without judging or reacting. Like many of my peers, I left Newtown at seventeen, brimming with confidence and purpose, with the congratulations of friends and the approbation of my elders. I was one of the many young people who left, and in leaving we left others, including you, just born, behind. In that sense I am a part of the culture that failed you. I didn't know yet what a community was, or that I was a part of one, until I no longer had it, and so desperately needed it.
I have failed to be one of the ones who could have been there to sit and listen to you. I was not there to help you to breathe and become aware of your strong emotions, to help you to see that you are more than just an emotion.
But I am also certain that others in the community cared for you, loved you. Did you know it?
In eighth grade I lived in terror of a classmate and his anger. It was the first time I knew aggression. No computer screen or television gave a way out, but my imagination and books. I dreamt myself a great wizard, blasting fireballs down the school corridor, so he would fear and respect me. Did you dream like this too?
The way out of being a victim is not to become the destroyer. No matter how great your loneliness, how heavy your despair, you, like each one of us, still have the capacity to be awake, to be free, to be happy, without being the cause of anyone's sorrow. You didn't know that, or couldn't see that, and so you chose to destroy. We were not skillful enough to help you see a way out.
With this terrible act you have let us know. Now I am listening, we are all listening, to you crying out from the hell of your misunderstanding. You are not alone, and you are not gone. And you may not be at peace until we can stop all our busyness, our quest for power, money or sex, our lives of fear and worry, and really listen to you, Adam, to be a friend, a brother, to you. With a good friend like that your loneliness might not have overwhelmed you.
But we needed your help too, Adam. You needed to let us know that you were suffering, and that is not easy to do. It means overcoming pride, and that takes courage and humility. Because you were unable to do this, you have left a heavy legacy for generations to come. If we cannot learn how to connect with you and understand the loneliness, rage and despair you felt—which also lie deep and sometimes hidden within each one of us—not by connecting through Facebook or Twitter or email or telephone, but by really sitting with you and opening our hearts to you, your rage will manifest again in yet unforeseen forms.
Now we know you are there. You are not random, or an aberration. Let your action move us to find a path out of the loneliness within each one of us. I have learned to use awareness of my breath to recognize and transform these overwhelming emotions, but I hope that every man, woman or child does not need to go halfway across the world to become a monk to learn how to do this. As a community we need to sit down and learn how to cherish life, not with gun-checks and security, but by being fully present for one another, by being truly there for one another. For me, this is the way to restore harmony to our communion.
Douglas Bachman (Br. Phap Luu) who grew up at 22 Lake Rd. in Newtown, CT., is a Buddhist monk and student of the Vietnamese Zen Master and monk Thich Nhat Hanh. As part of an international community, he teaches Applied Ethics and the art of mindful living to students and school teachers. He lives in Plum Village Monastery, in Thenac, France.