Don’t wait for transformation to feel joy and happiness, feel joy and happiness now

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Woke up this morning to rain and 40-degree farenheight weather at 5 am. Change in location for morning meditation, and I ended up being late. 


Same breakfast which I love, plus fresh warm apple sauce. Lunch was fantastic. Roasted potatoes in some amazing spice, winter squash leek kale and fennel gratin recipe adapted from The Happy Pear by David & Stephen Flynn (no kale), wonderful soup of cabbage and broth, lettuce, steamed carrots, dahl, two kinds of rice.


After lunch I spoke with one of the sisters who was involved with the cooking, and she explained that there’s no lead cook, it’s a group effort, and it always changes in terms of who cooks what.  There are eight stations and teams that rotate through each day. It’s quite an intricate and well thought out operation. As I eat and imagine the cosmos in my food, I can feel when the love is there, and today the love was there. So much gratitude! 

Last night we received training in Beginning Anew. This is the Plum Village model for conflict resolution. This model can be used between individuals, groups and community. I was sitting next to the speaker and white board. I didn’t have a notebook. Knowing this training will occur once a week, I relaxed and listened. I will write take notes about it next week, and share more at that time.

Noticing that I lessons sink in when I listen, hand write, transcribe and allow time in between each for letting go and consideration. 


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A long term friend/retreatant passed me a note appreciating my dance at the Be In yesterday. A Be In is a sort of sharing session. We were invited to share in whatever form we chose, and I chose a dance. It was vulnerable. It was true. 


During a conversation with two retreatants who had birthdays this week we spoke about astrology and they tried to guess my sign. We all have different first languages so it was interesting to try to find the words in a shared language to identify the zodiac. They weren’t able to guess my sign, but the symbol that one of them kept insisting on for me was the bridge. I like it. I’ll take it. 


I danced in the courtyard today. There is a short video. I like seeing this video of me dancing in this space. It felt good. I felt free. I gave myself permission to be happy and move. For me, movement encourages joy, and I finally understood that my feeling of joy is more important than following strict form.  Grateful for Thay’s interpretation of the dharma, allowing me to be me.  One drop of water, flowing in the river, connecting with the sea. 


I listened and danced with the sounds of the owls and the wind. I have some hesitation about posting this video because there are a few sisters that enter the back of the space and I want to respect their privacy. You can’t really see clearly who they are, but I would feel more comfortable posting this video with details blurred. I don’t have the technical skills to blur out details. If someone reading this can help me edit video to blur out part of the frame, let me know.

For the rest of the day I felt the joy an happiness seeds growing. Felt good. Grateful to water these seeds and know I am supported.


Tip on how to maintain the practice at home - When you are sitting in your car in traffic, and you see a red light, Imagine it is the eye of the Buddha reminding you to breathe. Take three breathes. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Mindfulness Day - Upper Hamlet



Focus on Mother Earth - Environmental Awareness/Responsibility/ Action

On mindfulness days we eat a little earlier, and organize ourselves into a small fleet of white vans. We travel 20 kilometers to Upper or Lower Hamlet. I enjoy these journeys through the French countryside. Offering silence as support to the driver. 

Decided not to blog too much about personal interactions here. Keeping that to myself and in my paper journal. Much is happening that I can’t begin to detail here, and that I don’t want to constantly try to remember as doing so is counter to this practice of mindfulness and being in the moment. Because I do want to share the dharma and my experience so others may find it, I am returning to my paper journal after a week and copying some notes here to share with you. 

Here goes the retelling…


We had a guest speaker at the dharma talk, Christiana Figueres, International Negotiator and participant in the 2016 Paris Climate Summit. The topic of her dharma talk was Principles of Buddhism Applied to the Something Something of Climate Change. She spoke rather fast and unfortunately I wasn’t directly facing the white board, and this talk was not recorded. It was quite powerful and informative.  I have done my best to recount some key points below. If anyone reading this has additional notes, information or recordings, please add in the comments, or message me.

We have been increasing our load of green house gases on earth. The amount represents 2/3 of what we can load before the load becomes unmanageable. With the projected rate of population growth we will soon use up the 1/3 that is left.

The ecological balance that was lost due to the industrial revolution must be regained by 2050 to keep our consumption manageable. We have recently flattened emissions which is great, but we need to bring it down. (Note: The speaker drew some helpful diagrams here, which I could only imagine and draw in my notebook. I won’t put them here since I technically couldn’t see what she drew and I don’t want to misrepresent. If you have these notes and drawing, please pass them to me.).

We must mindfully swallow an alarm clock with the knowledge that by 202 we will reach the top of our emission and will need to dismantle. Not sure if I got this concept correct looking at my notes now….

Why is there resistance to addressing global climate change (like reducing/balancing emissions)?

-Outside educating and doing talks

-Inside trying to listen and understand the situation through Thay’s teaching.



We as humans have the habit of using fossil fuels. This is the habit energy we have developed over hundreds of years. It’s hard to change deeply rooted habit energy that is the result of thousands and thousands of people’s individual habit energy.



(Note: There was also a diagram here, but couldn’t see it. If any friends reading this now have that diagram, please share:)

Counties that have the experience of being unfairly treated feel the block of pain. For example, South American countries feel the block of pain when North American say we have this great new way of addressing climate change that they want the south to accept. And the southern countries say we don’t believe they can trust because of history, the block of pain. This was a major reason why it was difficult to move things at the Paris summit.


  2. MUD

Just because you don’t see the lotus doesn’t mean it’s not there. There is a lot of collective mud in the political climate around the subject of climate change. We must be realistic about the consequences, habitats destroyed, people losing home lands. What is your/our role?


Requires a huge amount of trust that the seed of transformation is there. The planet will continue, it will change it’s the human beings that will not. By addressing climate change, reducing emissions, we are trying to protect the current state that we know as life now. Yes , there is a lot of mud, but together we can find the lotus.



We can take these principles any apply them to anything in life. Our speaker applied them to climate change. 


We need to reduce our carbon footprint down to 2 tons/year. In Europe it is currently 10. In the US it is currently 21. Global social justice would look like a commitment from industrial nations to bring green house gas emission down, while allowing those who need it, like India, to increase. A global balance is needed. 


Our speaker was asked how she deals with conflict in the political arena.

-Fan of diversity - 195 countries and opinions at Summit - the richness of it

-Listening- decisions need to be kaleidoscopic - beautiful, complex, speak to many


References: Carbon Disclosure Project

Friday, January 13, 2017 - Departure day for lay friends

Said goodbye to sweet friends. Didn’t take a lot of notes today, so I will use this space to share my list of suggested things to bring should I/you consider joining the sangha at Plum Village New Hamlet for Winter Retreat. 


Packing list:

  • Flash light
  • Notebook
  • Pen
  • Ear plugs
  • Chapstick
  • Nail clipper and nail file
  • Slippers - having these throughout my travels was key, not only at Plum Village. Allowed me to feel more at home in many places with cold floors that required shoes off. Worth the space in my luggage. 
  • Unscented personal care products - be sensitive to your sangha friends
  • 3 layers of clothing for one week - natural fabrics are better over time. In my experience synthetic fabrics hold odors and I could not wear as long. What worked for me - 3 long sleeve cotton t-shirts, three thermal long sleeve shirts from UNIQLO, I cashmere turtle neck sweater. Merino wool sweater was also ok on some days, but the loose soft cashmere was my preference and I wore it every day. Thermal extra warm leggings from UNIQLO. I also brought some thermals from a European sporting good store that did not breathe well, and I ended up not using over time. Know what your body needs to be comfortable, and bring it. 
  • Thick wool socks - at least 4 pairs if you are willing to wear for two days at a time.
  • Underwear - 10 pairs - always good to have extra. Never know when you’ll be able to do laundry or how fast something will dry.
  • Full length warm coat - down or heavy wool
  • Waterproof boots or booties - it will rain and you will get muddy. You will want to be able to easily take shoes on and off often throughout the day. I suggest boots that you can tuck pant legs into so your pants aren’t always wet or dirty. I had BOC leather boots which were perfect. Could get wet and dry quickly. Easy to clean and wear in the city if needed, or go for a hike. Sneakers require lots of tying, untying and get soaked in wet conditions. Not worth the space in luggage IMHO.
  • Umbrella - it will rain. They have a few loaner umbrellas, but it’s nice to be self sufficient here.
  • Hair ties - Be considerate of others who are cleaning your loose hair on sinks, tubs, floors, dining tables.
  • Warm hat - it’s cold.
  • Light weight tote bag or back pack - you will want to bring a notebook, flashlight etc as you move around hamlet. Nice to have something lightweight.
  • Thermos - nice to make three cups at tea with one tea bag and consume as needed instead of constantly using tea bags and mugs. 
  • Body lotion - winter is drying on the skin. Take good care of your body.
  • Loose pants/skirts/dresses - during sitting and bowing you will want freedom of movement.  Jeans aren’t the most comfy.
  • Polar fleece/cashmere/wool blanket for sitting in meditation hall - it’s not heated, and sits start at 5 am. You can sometimes see your breath. Seriously, bring a blanket to wrap yourself in while meditating and sitting in shared spaces that aren’t heated. It’s worth half your suitcase. If you stop in Paris en route you can often find XL cashmere scarves/blankets at street markets that work well for this purpose and don’t take a lot of space. 
  • If you have a favorite kind of tea, bring a box of tea bags that you like and will comfort you. 
  • Packets of tissues - seriously - bring like 10 - they do not use napkins, and you will want to have a tissue in your pocket at all times. Plus a packet of tissues is a great gift for travelers if you have extras.
  • If you want to bring gifts for the sisters, I suggest small notebooks, chocolates, coffee.


One week is a nice taste, but two weeks is what really feels right. 

Know that the sisters and brothers are not therapists, and this is not a replacement for psychotherapy.

Ask yourself seriously if you are on this journey as a spiritual archeologist or for true understanding, joy and happiness. Keep asking, again and again. 



Saturday, January 14, 2017


About the food, I have to say that hazelnut season has passed, so now we have some almonds, and occasionally peanuts at breakfast.

One day we had popcorn in the evening, and I was amazed to see that leftover popcorn continued to be available for several meals after, even breakfast. Interestingly a woman whispered to me at breakfast today “There’s no honey today.” This was interesting because I had only noticed honey the day before, and not on any days prior. In my life outside of PV I have honey every day, and had gotten used to not having git here. Had the honey always been on the breakfast table and I never noticed it? Did we only have honey for a day? Will there be honey tomorrow. Amazing how we get used to things being as they are, or believe they are. So many truths. So many perceptions. 


Sunday, January 15, 2017 - Mindfulness Day - Lower Hamlet

Dharma talk subject: Right Mindfulness

Talk given by a brilliant young nun from lower hamlet. I didn’t catch her name. 


The theme for the 2016-2017 Winter Retreat Dharma Talks is The 8 Fold Path. The subject for today is Right Mindfulness.


What is mindfulness? —> To remember that we have a body to experience joy and happiness. 


Remember the happy conditions we have. Awareness of what is gong on in body and mind in order that we can take good care. 



Contemplate the body in the body. When we are aware of our breathing we relax our breathing. Initially we feel it in our chest and slowly, day by day, our out breath becomes slow and deep. In the belly, Out of each sweat pore Deep in our bones, blood, every cell. Breathe with entire body. Will relax the body. 


First Establishment of Mindfulness

  1. Aware of breathing
  2. Calming breathing
  3. Aware of body
  4. Calming of body


When we suffer we create tension in the chest. Worrying too much makes stomach ache. Sometimes when we pay attention to breathing we forget body, and vice versa. Sometimes mind is somewhere else. 


**Breathing is like a bridge, bringing the mind back to the body**


Eventually you can breathe and listen. Listen and work. Mastering the ability to do both.


When we are aware of body, we make body happy, and with that awareness we will have joy and happiness.


Second Establishment of Mindfulness

  1. Feeling joy
  2. Feeling happy 
  3. Aware of feeling
  4. Calming feeling


Contemplate the feeling in the feeling. When we recognise the feeling we can calm the feeling. Don’t be afraid of suffering, knowing we have a method to transform it.



-Nature is nurturing, take a walk!

-Eating is a kind of medicine. 

Sister talked about not liking breakfast because it’s always the same thing. And she knows that her body requires the nutrients provided breakfast so that her brain will function, be happy, joyful and know whole body happiness. 


***Don’t wait for transformation to feel joy and happiness, feel joy and happiness now.***


Third Establishment of Mindfulness

  1. Contemplate the mind
  2. Calming the mind
  3. Concentrating our mind
  4. Liberating our mind


Habit energy needs to transform. Embrace habit energy. Take good care. Transform. Understand the other. Forgive. 


Fourth Establishment of Mindfulness 

  1. Contemplating impermanence
  2. Disappearance of desire
  3. No birth No death
  4. Letting Go


Contemplating the object of mind in the object of mind. 



  1. Mindfulness
  2. Investigating dharma by understanding/practice, rather than knowledge
  3. Energy/diligence
  4. Joy
  5. Ease
  6. Concentration
  7. Letting go/Equanimity



Monday, January 16, 2017


Beginning Anew - Plum Village Conflict Resolution Model


This is a tool for reconciliation in community. It’s a practice of love and harmony within community. Before reciting mindfulness training, it is always asked if there is harmony in the community. 


This is a practice of deep listening and loving speech. 


  1. I appreciate yo

  2. I am sorry
  3. I am hurt
  4. I need help


Watering seeds of appreciation now in this moment - I appreciate you dear reader <3.