Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Day with Thik Nhat Hahn ティクナットハンとの一日

I'd always wanted to meet him, and my dream came true on my birthday weekend. This renowned Vietnamese Buddhist monk, peace activist and a poet who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Laureate in 1967 usually lives in France, but he visits his monastery in Escondido a few times a year. So my husband and I joined him on Sunday for a walking meditation retreat.


We got up at sunrise, and headed to the mountain. It's usually a quiet and remote place, but the monastery that day was so crowded with many cars including fancy sports cars. Once you park your car you have to walk up on the hill to get to the main temple. The estate is huge, and the monks and nuns who live here walk everywhere every day.


There were about 800 hundred or more at the day retreat. Many came from overseas to be with this 86-yr-old Zen master who still looks like 50. Thay (his followers call him Thay - it means "master" in Vietnamese) was a soft-spoken tiny man, and he was wearing a brown thick sweater, a brown wool scarf and a brown down jacket. It was 85F outside. That gave me a sense that he might be frail. We, all 800 of us, began walking slowly with him.


"Breath in, breath out. "You focus on your breathing, and be mindful. Every step you take you tell yourself, "I am here," and breath in, breath out. The master taught us.


After one hour and a half-waking meditation we all went back to the main temple, and listened to Thay's dharma teaching. He spoke very softly in a perfect English with a slight French accent. I must say that it was so soothing that I fell asleep here and there! After they offered us lunch (Vietnamese style French baguette sandwiches) many of us had a nap in the main temple. It was so peaceful, quiet and lovely. I fell asleep, too, and that is a miracle - Usually I can only sleep in my own bed!


At 2 o'clock, one of Thay's chief disciples taught us "deep relaxation technique" ..., and can you see how we did it? I think we did pretty well! lol It was based on the body scan meditation technique, and by the time she was leading us to scan our eyes and noses I was in a deep sleep. I woke up because of the loud snoring from the person next to me. Surprisingly my head was so clear, and I was feeling so good. This is why people like retreats. It was a perfect day with a great master, wonderful monks and nuns, nice people in a gorgeous natural environment. However, as Thay said repeatedly, you must meditate every day. You can meditate anywhere at any time. You don't need anything, any tools. You just need your own mind, that's it. It was another good reminder that I must meditate more often... for my own wellness :)


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