I really had no expectations of this retreat (October 2011 at Blue Cliff Monastery), except to participate in the OI ordination ceremony, and to spend five days with Thay and 1000 of his brothers and sisters. But of course, I found that they were my brothers and sisters too, my sangha also. It was wonderful to be with my FCM OI friends John and Bill and Barb and Chris and Mary and Martina, and of course with my lifetime heart companion Nancy – I knew that would be so. But I also took my place as one cell in a larger sangha body, the Plum Village – Blue Cliff – Deer Park – FCM – everywhere sangha that has grown around Thay and his teaching.
Nancy and I camped at Blue Cliff, in a tent village with hundreds of others, in simple, silent harmony. How beautiful to see many dozens of colorful tents grouped naturally together, each with just enough space around it, without fuss or clutter. When we rose in the early mornings the only noise to be heard was the unzipping of tent doors as we made our way in ones and twos under the bright stars to the great Dharma Hall. Continue reading
Setting my feet on the Path of the 14 Mindfulness Trainings standing on the fertile soil of Ireland.
Into the sea,
Snow dissolves silently.
In the Plum Village tradition there are wonderful, mindful paths of practice laid out for lay people. These are the Two Promises for children, the 5 Mindfulness Trainings for all, and the 14 Mindfulness Trainings for Thay’s Order of Interbeing (OI). The Promises and Trainings are Dharma doors through which one may enter formally by a transmission ceremony supported by monastic or lay Dharma teachers, one’s sangha and the wider community.
Some time after I received the transmission of the 5 Mindfulness Trainings I noticed that my commitment to training and practicing in their direction became more solid. I had found the public commitment and the support of the community during the ceremony both helpful and joyful. Reading and studying the trainings after the transmission ceremony created a deeper path of practice for me. Continue reading
I was 28 years old when I joined the Order of Interbeing in 2007. I didn’t feel ready at the time to join the OI ranks of brown jackets and not much has changed for me in that regard, I still don’t feel qualified 5 years later, whatever qualified means. And on retreats I still struggle to wear the brown jacket, concerned it will set me apart from other sangha friends on the path. So why did I join the Order? Why am I on this path? Have you ever been walking in the woods and come to a fork in the trail and decided which way to go based on what simply felt like the right direction? It was like that for me. Sometimes the answer doesn’t have to be clear in order to take a step on the path. All I knew for sure is that I enjoyed the practice and wanted to be of service to others. And that really was enough.
Becoming an OI member isn’t about having a perfect practice or mastering sutras and recitations, it isn’t about having knowledge that others don’t or gaining status and high rankings, it’s about seeing where our particular skill-set shines and offering that to others. You can’t build a house with only one tool just as you can’t build a community of practice with only one practitioner.
For me, joining the Order at a younger age has been a wonderful practice in stepping up and saying, “Yes!” Yes, I can do this, yes I want to commit myself to this beautiful tradition, yes I have a lot to offer. To embrace ourselves fully just as we are with authenticity is of great value to to the world. When we embrace ourselves we embrace others. And when we embrace others we embrace ourselves. Being a part of the OI brotherhood and sisterhood is about embracing. Embracing the practice, ourselves and one another.
What are the times when we need to be Thây? How often do we find ourselves in situations for which having Thây Nhat Hanh present with us would be very helpful – situations in which the only Thây present is the Thây within us?
Our SammaSankappa Sangha (California Medical Facility State Prison) was approaching its first Five Mindfulness Trainings Transmission (June, 2009). As facilitator, I wanted the sangha to appreciate the honor of having three Dharma Teachers join us for our Transmission. I spoke with the inmates about the designations within the Order of Interbeing. I described what it meant to receive The Five Mindfulness Trainings, receive The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings and receive Lamp Transmission. I explained that I had received both The Five Trainings and The Fourteen Trainings but that I was not a Dharma Teacher. Continue reading