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Monthly Archives: October 2014

Sunday evening, my heart was filled with gratitude as we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Washington Mindfulness Community. Thich Nhat Hanh, our teacher, had survived a recent illness to mark his 88th “continuation” day on October 11, so we also celebrated our gratitude and love for him and his teachings. The founder of WMC, Richard Brady and his wife El came from Vermont and others we had not seen for years arrived to fill our meditation hall with gratitude and joy. We had three pregnant members and several new people also, reminding us that we are a growing, vibrant community. A panel including two dharma teachers and leaders of WMC shared how the practice had transformed their lives, then invited others to share. Several spoke about the transformation of our parents and ancestors in us,the power of mindfulness to nourish compassion for ourselves and others, the opportunity the sangha retreats have given family members to practice and make friends in the community. All of this has been true for me too.

I first met Thich Nhat Hanh in 1968 at a talk he gave in St. Louis about the suffering of his people in Vietnam from American bombs. I remember still how much love radiated from this young monk’s heart and eyes, how he cared deeply enough about the very Americans who were bombing his country that he listened to our suffering, guided us to mindful breathing and mindful listening. There was an angry man in the crowd who heckled him, said if he wanted to help his people, he should “go home.” Thay was silent for a few moments, then he calmly said,””If you want the tree to grow, it won’t help to water the leaves. You have to water the roots. Many of the roots of the war are here, in your country. To help the people who are to be bombed, to try to protect them from this suffering, I have to come here.” I was amazed.

Twenty-three years later, after being inspired by Thay to join an anti-war action that changed my life and much suffering that followed, I went to a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh, my heart open to finding a spiritual community. I fell in love again with Thay, with the sangha of practice, the mindfulness trainings, meditation. I was home! Then Thay went back to France and I to my job and life. I needed a local community where I could keep learning and practicing several times a week. I found that in WMC and have been a member now for 23 years!

What happens at WMC? What is meditation? Mindfulness? Can suffering really be transformed? My suffering? The suffering I read about in the paper every morning – war, poverty, Ebola, the destruction of our environment by human beings? YES! For me, it had to start with bringing some peace and sanity to this body, this mind, these emotions. By healing the particular suffering I have in my life, my body, my emotions, having compassion for myself, my parents, ancestors, children and grandchildren, I began to understand my deep connection to all beings, all suffering people all over the world, to Mother Earth. Was it really possible, as TNH says in retreats, that healing my suffering could heal my mother’s suffering? That generations of suffering mothers and fathers could be healed in me, in this precious moment? He says,”Yes!” I say Yes with him. With the help of my community, I know that I will continue to heal and to become more able to help heal the suffering of the world, one precious moment at a time.

WMC 25th anniversary

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