Stepping into Freedom: Savoring Life

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

The Fertile Soil of Ireland

Setting my feet on the Path of the 14 Mindfulness Trainings standing on the fertile soil of Ireland. 

Winter storm,
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

Order of Interbeing Aspirant Application

After announcing your intention of aspiration, as per the Charter of the Order of Interbeing, the form linked below implement the Aspirancy process. An Aspirant to the Core Community of the Order of Interbeing (OI) is on the Bodhisattva path.  Bodhisattvas appreciate the
help of all teachers and mentors. To promote consistency in mentoring and ensure that mentors and aspirants are supported, the North American Plum Village Dharma Teachers Council asks that everyone in North America who is pursuing formal acceptance as an Order of Interbeing aspirant use this form.

This application assists your local Sangha and supporting Dharma Teacher as they begin formal mentoring with you. In deciding whether conditions are ripe for formal acceptance and mentoring to begin, your mentoring Dharma Teacher will use this form and consult with your sangha and any other OI Mentors as appropriate.

View or Download the Application to Become an Aspirant to the Order of Interbeing Core Community (PDF Document)

Mentoring Qualifications

Mentor qualification in our sangha has a long history of experimentation and evolution. We have arrived at a point where we can now bring all this experimentation and evolution together into a coherent and comprehensive system.

Our basic goal in mentoring has always been to to support each other in deepening our practice and strengthening our Sanghas. A mentor’s practice needs to be fresh and alive to mentor an aspirant effectively. To support both mentors and aspirants, the North American Dharma Teacher Care Taking Council has integrated our order’s past extensive experience into the following qualification statement for mentors. The underlying requirement for mentoring is that a Dharma Teacher must be involved as part of mentoring, as set forth in the aspirant application.

There are three situations which qualify one to mentor.

Continue reading

Pre-Aspirant Checklist

During the past two years, the Dharma Teachers Sangha of North America has been working diligently to produce a more formal application process for Order of Interbeing aspirants. The work is completed (approved 11/07/2012) and the information will be distributed to dharma teachers in the coming month. In managing this web site, a very common question that I receive pertains to readiness for formal aspiration. Here is a pre-aspiration checklist that is outlined in application to become an aspirant.

  • I practice regularly with my local sangha.
  • I formally received The Five Mindfulness Trainings one or more years ago from Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh or a Tiep Hien Dharma Teacher.
  • I am aware that by aspiring I am committing to  practice 60 days of mindfulness each year; to  study, practice, and observe the 14 Mindfulness Trainings; to regularly recite the trainings, and to  actively participate in and support my Sangha.
  • I recite the Five Mindfulness Trainings at least monthly.
  • I study, practice, and observe all five mindfulness trainings.
  • I have a daily practice that includes meditation.
  • I am alcohol- and recreational chemical-free and will remain so.
  • I have the support of my partner for becoming an Aspirant.
  • I am familiar with the Order and the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings and the Charter of the Order as reflected in the book Interbeing and use and study the book.
  • I have begun to observe regular Days of Mindfulness.
  • I am working with the reflection questions that are to be written as part of this application. [see the Dharma Teacher for application]
  • I have identified a Dharma Teacher or a qualified Order Member(s) who is/are willing to serve as mentor(s).
  • A Tiep Hien Dharma Teacher has agreed to support my Aspirancy and work with my mentor(s). [This is necessary when the mentor is not a Dharma Teacher]

In a future post, I will share the recommended mentoring qualifications document. If you have any questions or comments about the pre-aspirant checklist, please comment below.

Words from a Young OI Member

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.  
Nicole is a member of Be Here Now Sangha in Missoula, MT

Being Thây

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

Gatha for putting on the Brown Jacket

Special thanks to Brian Kimmel for the words that allowed this gatha to manifest
Putting on the half robe of the Order, the true colors  of my heart shine through.
Feeling the fabric against my skin, I connect to our ancestors,
     who diligently and whole-heartedly worked to bring the teachings into the world.
May we continue to practice with all our heart,
so that all beings may find happiness, extinguish suffering, and experience peace and freedom.

Revised Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings – FINAL

Our Teacher released a final revised version of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings in April 2012 and can be used for both transmissions and recitations. A few edits were made in the last 6-weeks and any previously distributed revision should be discarded and the versions below should be used in their place. They are made available here in English and Vietnamese.

The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings (HTML or download Word Doc / PDF)

Giới bổn Tiếp Hiện tân (Download Word Doc / PDF)

Learning from Ordination

The newly ordained order members have been asked to share their ordination experience, and I am happy to do so. But in reality the experience was much less about me than about those around me. My experience was about the Deer Park staff family with whom I worked during the late summer. It was about my blood family and how they supported me. And it was about having my home sangha, Organic Garden, there with me and with the other brothers and sisters from our sangha who were also ordained.

I did not expect any of these things to be so important next to the joy of receiving the
fourteen directly from Thay. My greatest aspiration is to continue Thay; to embody
whatever small piece of him I can for others. But these parallel experiences taught me
lessons that might support that aspiration, so I am going to share them with you. And I
am also going to tell you a little about a lesson I learned during my year as an aspirant. Continue reading