Our teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, shares that with each step we take we can say, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” This is a way to practice mindfulness and gratitude.
On July 16, 2016, I took more than 10,000 steps and each step was taken with gratitude and love.
For the first time in the Plum Village tradition, the monastics of Deer Park Monastery marched in the San Diego Pride Parade. This historical moment by the monastics sent a message of love, compassion, and acceptance to their LGBTQ brothers and sisters. The path that led us all here was not an easy one though. It came about through an unpleasant moment.
This past April at Deer Park, during the Wake Up Retreat’s Q&A session, one practitioner asked if there was a place for gay and transgender people within the practice. The answer given by one of the monastics was very difficult to hear, but it created the space to where we are now. It created an opportunity to “go home” as we say, look deep within, then share and grow as a community.
After the Q&A Session, many of us were hurt from the answer given. Seeing the hurt, Sister Mai Nghiem and Brother Phap Hai organized a LGBTQ breakout group. Many of us participated and gathered together in the Circle Garden at Deer Park to share our pain. It was in the Circle Garden where we had a sacred and holy moment. Under the tall beautiful trees, years of my own pain and anger were erased due to a simple and humbling act by Sister Mai Nghiem.
As I’ve stated in my post, I Love Jesus But I Follow Buddha, whenever I have come out to my past spiritual communities I was always met with rejection. However, when I shared my story in the Circle Garden, Sister Mai Nghiem took on our pain and suffering rather than negating it. Sister Mai Nghiem asked if she could “touch the earth” for us. I was not sure what that meant, but I nodded in agreement with everyone else. At that point, Sister Mai Nghiem removed her sandals, stood up from her chair and walked to the center of the circle. Sister Mai Nghiem knelt down to her knees, placed her face on the ground, and stretched out her arms before her.
This is when the healing began.
This simple and humble act erased the pain and anger from five years of ex-gay exorcisms, rejection by friends, rejection by family, and rejection by my past spiritual communities. It healed years of spiritual and emotional abuse. Lastly, it gave me a path out of a very dark time in my life through the practice of mindfulness.
So my decision to drive from Las Vegas to San Diego for the Pride Parade had nothing to with anything more than wanting to be with my spiritual community for a historical moment and express my gratitude with each step I took.
Right before we entered the main street to march in the parade, Sister Mai Nghiem turned to me and said, “This is a happy moment.” I couldn’t have agreed more.
A happy moment.
Surrounded by painted faces, barely dressed people, large parade floats, and thousands of people, I paused. A happy moment indeed.
It was not only a happy moment but a sacred moment as well. I was standing next to Sister Mai Nghiem, one of my greatest teachers, and I was surrounded by my community.
For me, it was a moment of victory. It was a healing moment. It was a moment filled with gratitude for Sister Mai Nghiem, the other brothers and sisters, for our teacher, our community, and our practice.
Then we marched.
As we stepped out onto the main street to begin our march I observed everyone around me. I heard the laughter. I saw the smiles. I felt the energy of love and kindness.
With each step I said, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
With each step I felt peace.
With each step I felt togetherness.
With each step I felt forgiveness.
With each step I felt whole.
Each step was not only a step of gratitude, but it was also a step towards ending the pain and suffering of others. We didn’t just march in the San Diego Pride Parade. We were walking towards the end of pain and suffering for all beings.
There is a way out of your pain and suffering.
Begin it by walking mindfully.