Every week, Julien, who leads our morning community meeting and mindfulness practice, likes to offer a different style of meditation. This way we get a taste of a variety of different kinds of practices, some of which will resonate with us. It’s a bit like planting different seeds, so that maybe one day when the conditions are right, they will eventually grow and produce fruit. At their core, these practices are very similar: they all aim to cultivate loving-awareness.
This week’s morning mindfulness practice is based on the Plum Village tradition. The Plum Village lineage was founded by Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. The main monastery is in France, and originally it was called the “Sweet Potato Monastery”, after the food that poor Vietnamese people eat.
Thich Nhat Hanh is quite a remarkable man. He has lived in exile since 1966, when he was banned by both the non-Communists and Communists from his home country. He has worked tirelessly for reconciliation between North and South Vietnam, and even from France he continues to work to help refugees worldwide. Thich Nhat Hanh has also been a leader in the “Engaged Buddhism” movement, which emphasises the individual’s active role in creating positive social change.
Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings are a combination of traditional Zen with influences from Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism, as well as ideas from Western psychology. The resulting teachings and practices are fresh, accessible and relevant to the struggles that we face in contemporary life.
In the Plum Village tradition, the focus is on learning skills for bringing mindfulness into everyday life. In other words, we practice the art of how to work, play, dance, sing, have a relationship, drink tea, or eat an orange, mindfully. This practice encourages us to do everything in life with joy, awareness, openness, curiosity, acceptance, and love.
The following quote captures the spirit of Plum Village:
The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.
This week at New Life, we will practice singing meditation and conscious breathing meditation. We invite you to join in at home!
Although you might feel that singing meditation is somewhat cheesy, it is incredibly effective for opening our hearts. If it is too challenging at first, you could try sitting and practicing mindful listening to these simple lyrics, which really capture the very essence of Buddhism.
Singing Meditation Lyrics
Happiness is here and now, I have dropped my worries. Nowhere to go, nothing to do. No longer in a hurry.
Happiness is here and now, I have dropped my worries. Somewhere to go, something to do. But not in a hurry.
Whenever I wake up, I feel happy. Aware of my eyes I feel happy. Aware of my health, I feel happy. Because I have learned to look deeply.
Whenever I walk, I feel happy. Whenever I sit, I feel happy. Whenever I rest, I feel happy. Because I have learned to look deeply.
Sitting Meditation Guidance
To help us with the conscious breathing we can recite certain words as we breathe in and out, to help us concentrate and to help evoke certain qualities of mind.
Repeat these words silently with every in-breath and every out-breath:
Breathing in I know that I am breathing in,
Breathing out I know that I am breathing out.
Breathing in I calm my body
Breathing out, I feel at ease.
Breathing in I smile,
Breathing out I release.
Dwelling in the present moment
I know that this is a beautiful moment.