A Serene Fifth Day of Mindfulness

by Anna

A grey lazy morning, rain is mixing with the water of the lotus pond, a gentle wind, otherwise silence. Can’t possibly walk past the water drops on the roses without taking a photo.

 I think I have finally understood the table manners now. Fill empty seats at a table before sitting at an empty table, bow before sitting down, wait until everyone is seated at the table and bow before beginning to eat. When finished eating, bow before standing up, wash up your plates and remain silent for the whole procedure 😉

Cat outside dining room

Cat outside dining room

I have been watching many “random acts of kindness” or rather “rescue missions” of small creepy crawlies and invertebrates the last days. Just like flowers are left untroubled by slow walking Buddhists. It gives you an idea what impact mindfulness could have on the planet if we were all to incorporate it into our daily lives.

The bell and I

My stay here has greatly helped me to breathe better or slower. My shoulders are also so much more relaxed and I can now hear a clicking noise every now and again when I take a deep breath, which might not sound good, but compared to the previous tightness, is definitely a positive change. At first I was unable to join in with the group singing, partly because I didn’t know the texts and melody, but also due to shame and embarrassment. As the days went by I began to recognize some of the songs and began to sing along. Today I even sang a short German song in the group on my own, which was complemented with cheerful hand fluttering, for here nobody claps their hands.

Small bell

It dawns on me why monasteries separate men from women, because I understand now that it is about finding inner peace, which is impossible to find if there is someone who you just can’t get out of your head. For if I have found inner peace, I can engage peacefully with the other sex without my head being full to the brim with perplexity. And I realise how perfect it is that I have found a loving long-term partner, who gives me all the time and space in the world when I need it and yet is also there to listen, talk and share my life with. Even though I might at times long for the excitement we felt when we had just met, I also know that these feelings won’t last in any relationship, and if I were to keep looking for these feelings of excitement, they will be all I will ever have. For once they will stop me from finding inner peace and secondly experience the beauty of real love, which develops over time. Just like wine, as the French will tell you 🙂

View over plum orchard at Plum Village

Today’s walking meditation leads us past the plum trees with a beautiful view onto Plum Village. We stop for a mindful moment and I smile when I see that the tall grass is bowing to me in the wind and I bow back. A purple flower is standing proud amidst the green border. My head prickles under the sun. I’m breathing in and I’m breathing out as feet slowly pace ahead again.

The bowing grass and the purple flower

Working meditation was on the schedule again and I was once again allocated to remove the cobwebs, this time in the big meditation hall. The little nuns made the most of it and took full advantage of my height, even tying a long bamboo stick to my mob so I could reach the high ceiling. I wondered what more figurative cobwebs there were  that I still needed to get rid off, didn’t I already remove enough during my stay?

Big meditation hall at Plum Village

When I reached the far end of the hall and began to remove cobwebs around the magnificent stained glass window depicting Buddha, I came to the conclusion that the last few figurative cobwebs were still clouding my full devotion to whatever there is that makes us live. As I looked at the vibrant colours of the glass, I promised myself to continue practicing mindfulness, as it seemed to be a practice of real worth to the inner self, which is where devotion should be aimed at first and foremost.

Stained glass window in the big meditation hall

Yesterday I had talked to the brother about how I don’t like to be part of a group, especially not a religious belief, since I don’t believe in a one and only belief and that I don’t like the rules that come with such group formations. This was reason enough for me to decline my holy communion when I was 14, and I wasn’t prepared to let my search for the truth be blinded by somebody’s teaching of their truth.

The golden light of the evening sun

But what I had come to like at Plum Village was the ease of simply going with the flow of your breath. Yes, there are certain rules, like the table manners for example, which are really just courtesy rules, whereas the teachings are mainly based on the heart, on being in the present moment, being mindful of yourself and your surroundings and to practice for your own inner peace. And like the brother had said: “You don’t need to be a Buddhist in order to practice.”

A cheeky noble silence cherry picking

As noble silence sets in me and my room mate are reaching for red cherries, giggling and whispering merrily.

Cheeky cherries