Surprise Company on the Road to Mindfulness

by Anna

The weather really hasn’t shown it’s best side since I had left England, but I was way too excited to finally get to Plum Village, so despite the accompanying rain I optimistically got back on the road for the last day of driving to mindfulness.

After a few hours of driving south, past many more vineyards, the weather cheered up a little. It was only while serenely driving up alongside a canal with uncountable flood-gates, enabling small boats to travel up the canal, that I became aware of the presence of a protector. I could sense this presence, definitely male, definitely some higher hierarchy and definitely on the roof of my car. Upon checking in more with this presence, I chuckled. To mind came Jason from the Argonauts, wielding his sword at animated skeletons and Twilight’s Emmett, atop a pick up truck. Don’t ask 🙂


This other-worldly protector was here purely to ensure my safe travel and quite obviously enjoying the ride. Head up in the wind, on all four on my roof, a big smile on his face, with his steel-engraved leather straps and sword flapping in the wind. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at this visual image of him that I had and the sheer joy of having him there, knowing I would arrive safely, wherever the road would lead me.

Even though I still wasn’t entirely sure what exactly the term “mindfulness” encompassed, I knew that my week at Plum Village would entail a lot of meditation, vegan cuisine and, well, to be mindful with anything you do, particularly with those around you. While on the road I found it nearly impossible to find vegan food. At this moment I was probably still digesting the Boeuf Bourguignon from last night’s exclusive hotel restaurant experience (it was easy to order and I knew what it was).

Today, however, I felt like I couldn’t possibly eat meat and carry it into a vegan area. It just felt wrong. Luckily I found a service area along the route where I could choose a selection of cooked food, so I loaded a plate up with rice and different vegetables, while trying to make the lady behind the counter understand that I really didn’t want any meat. I was secretly hoping it would make up for the many lives of flies that were left on my windscreen (not to mention the bird that plunged onto my roof later).

It is pretty much the same food that I load on my plate at the dining hall in Plum Village a few hours later. I feel insecure, I’d rather run and hide, I am terribly, terribly scared that I do something wrong,  and in my throat is a big lump, which makes it really difficult to eat this simple but nice food. I feel that everyone is staring at me and take the giggling from a group of nuns personal. I was convinced that I sat where I shouldn’t have sat and felt like an intruder into the overall stillness in which everyone was eating so peacefully.

I gulped my food down past the lump as quickly as possible and got up and out of the hall, following others who are carrying their dishes. Outside are basins with water – one to wash with a little soap and three more to rinse it off – and finally a rack to leave the clean dishes to dry. Playing copycat during the process and then I went on to put my belongings into my room, which I had been shown by one of the Vietnamese nuns.

A lady hesitantly calls my name. She is my room mate and her name is Ana, just like mine. She helps me settle and shows me around. I begin to feel more at ease. The sight of a nun on a lawn mower makes me laugh, easing my insecurities even more.

Among other new arrivals, I sit in the small meditation hall, sucking in the subtle scent of wet and old wood, following the introductory talk and learning that to be mindful, it is important to smile at yourself, to smile at your thoughts, to breathe and to walk.

Sitting outside on the green grass later, listening to the Vietnamese chanting of a nun as she sounds the big bell, inviting noble silence, while lightning and thunder roll over the green hills of Plum Village. Beautiful!

I have arrived – but I am not home yet … the week to come will speak for itself.


Travelled from Vougeot (3) to Plum Village (4). Click to enlarge map.