Plum Village : My Contemplation

con·tem·pla·tion
ˌkän(t)əmˈplāSH(ə)n/
noun
           the action of looking thoughtfully at something for a long time; deep reflective thought; the state of being thought about or planned.

 

I heard about mindfulness since a few years back from books. Every single time i went to a bookstore, i either went to “Self-help” section (where usually mindfulness book were placed) or business section to find something interesting. Read someone’s ideas, especially about life. One of my best friends even asked me why i read these “Self-help” books a lot. It seemed that “Self-help” only for people who struggling emotionally in daily life; and i looked happy.

The main reason why i am writing this is because i humbly think everyone has their own suffering. We have our own problem and issue we need to face, every single day. Doubt, sorrow, anger, sadness, and many more. I hope with sharing my own experience, i can help other to not feel alone in this and give courage to face their own ‘demons’ gently. Nothing more personal than our own experience to touch other soul in need.

When i thought about going to Plum Village or doing this trip alone, i was thinking this would be a great isolation for me. Isolation would give me a chance to get away from everyday distraction back home. Isolation would let me hear my own voice. Isolation would help me know the real me inside.

What i found was something contradicting. I found inclusiveness and togetherness. Connection with other people. Connection with nature. Then, connection with myself.

There was only one prerequisite in this process. I need to allow myself to be seen. Elizabeth Gilbert write this, “Be careful about hiding yourself way, because walls that are meant to be fortresses can quickly turn into prisons. Be careful about trying to become invisible or you may accidentally disappear. The very thing that you believe is protecting you may ultimately be endangering you – by making your life smaller, poorer, and more deeply saturated with fear.”

It was not easy for me. I could conceal myself too well so people wouldn’t know anything private about me. I knew more about people and kept asking questions about them without giving any personal information about me. I was convinced that i could disappear without people knowing. I was hiding behind this so called mysteriousness. Even in this site, at first i was hiding behind anonymity, for the wrong reasons.

Why?

I was afraid to be hurt. I didn’t want people to see my flaws, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. I was not confident to face all negative things of life; i chose only fully faced some of essential ones which was also a wrong perception because at the end i couldn’t fully separate them and put them in the different boxes. I numbed myself – a common self-defence mechanism. I avoided emotional feeling because being rational was easier.

Brene Brown in her TED talk said, “You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness.” And that was true. I was happy, but not as happy as i can be.

I was living in my own bubble – a “safe” place. It was okay until i reached my own limit in my own bubble. I realised if i wanted to expand myself and world, i need to break this bubble, with its risk and consequences. And Plum Village was a great place to start. Later on,

I said hello to Mother Earth by doing things consciously. In mindful breathing, i said thankful for the fresh air, especially if we saw how polluted some areas nowadays. In mindful eating, i said thankful for the food from nature. In mindful walking, i said thankful for such a beauty of trees, hills, sky, and natural landscape.

I engaged in deep conversations of life. Topics such as divorce, love, loss, desire, worries, gratefulness, joyfulness, or simply something beautiful we just saw. Conversations that came from heart.

I observed respect within togetherness. How amazing it was to experience a total silence every time we hear Bell of Mindfulness; no matter how noisy we were.

I saw that peace in heart was everyone’s wish. Old and young. White and black. Monastic and non-monastic. And, i was lucky enough to be able to see this in young age.

I felt people through their smile, words, stories, drawings, singings, and hugs. When felt their sorrow, disappointment, sadness; i connected to my own sorrow, disappointment, and sadness. Something i started to forget how; something i thought i didn’t have.

Thats when the hard process begin. Facing each sorrow, disappointment, and sadness mean that i need to open up the wounds and get hurt, once again. Reminiscing each painful experience from different perspectives, mindfully. To see the truth behind it.

Beginning narration of “Walk with me” – a film about Thay – by SpeakIt Film, narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, says “I knew early on that finding truth is not the same as finding happiness. You aspired to see the truth, but once you have seen it, you can not avoid suffering. Otherwise you have seen nothing at all.” I feel this truth in every word. 

In Salesforce conference, Brother Phap Dung said, “We want to teach people how to suffer. Out teacher shared if someone knows how to suffer, they will suffer less. You might be wondering, ‘I don’t want to suffer’. Thats exactly why you continue to suffer. So we teach people how to be with their suffering. If you know how to be with your suffering, your heart will melt.”

Thats how i face my own “demons” – sorrow, disappointment, sadness. I started to write about them. I try to remember them, mindfully deconstruct them into different perspectives, and feel it. When i am starting to feel overwhelmed, i practice Thay’s teaching.

Brother Phap Dung shared, “Its not — you know its not — a product that you can sell or you can package. Its only when you can touch your suffering. That it will arise. So out of suffering, compassion arise. So, you can not run away from suffering. So what we teach people how to be with suffering. When we breathing in, you know ‘i am felling sad.’ breathing out, ‘its okay to be sad.’

Breathing in, ‘i feel lonely’. Everyone on Facebook and they are having party and i feel alone. Tonight, Saturday. And i can sit with it. I don’t need to do and go anywhere. I put it down and just be with my loneliness. And its from that ability to sit there and be with your suffering. That you begin to see that it flows and goes away. ”

Just be there with my suffering and understand that it is okay – we are human with our own suffering – help me. If i need to cry, i let myself cried out loud. I know now that its definitely okay to cry. Once i did that, they started to calm down and turned back as seeds – satisfied to be acknowledged and loved. It is a long process and when i am writing this post, i still in progress in facing them, one at a time. So far the progress has been satisfying. I am more confident, solid, and light.

Some of you may ask why on earth i still live in the past with those experiences?

Because i admit that some of them are still bothering and affecting me. I am who i am, build from my past experiences, both good and bad. If i can not reconcile with my past, especially the ones who hold me back, then i will not be able to reach my potential. And i want to explore my potential so bad. I want to see how far can i go.

If you need more information about Plum Village or Thay’s teaching, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment. I will help you the best i can. I humbly end this post with a passage i love from “The Book of Joy” – a book from Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu,

“Discovering more joy does not, I’m sorry to say,” the Archbishop added, as we began our descent, “save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily, too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreak without being broken.”

Have a great day everyone!

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