Plum Village Retreat Shifts Online
No one planned for an online retreat at Plum Village in 2020, but conditions are now sufficient to better realize our teacher, Thich Nhat Hahn’s vision of a fully “online monastery.” Plum Village offered its first online retreat, the Wake Up Ambassadors retreat. The Wake Up spirit of discovery and extension of our frontiers was well alive and joyful. Participants were familiar with the basic practices of mindfulness and were, in some way, facilitating or supporting their local Wake Up sanghas. There were over 140 registrations. At least 84% of these have received the Five Mindfulness Trainings, and 14% are members of the Order of Interbeing. For most of us in the organizing team, it was the first time we have organized and participated in such an online retreat. It was a pilot retreat that hopefully paves the way for future online retreats during this period when Mother Earth gets a chance to rest and rejuvenate herself.
Online Wake Up Retreat Recap
Sr Annabel Chan Duc began the retreat with a vivid Dharma talk urging Wake Up ambassadors all over the world to reflect on their role as ambassadors for our country, our parents, and Mother Earth, who is crying out, “SOS!” which stands for “Stop! Oh, Stop!” After this period of confinement, we cannot return to “normal” life as if nothing had happened. We will continue to have more calamity and suffering if we have not learned fundamental lessons on how to live together harmoniously with Mother Earth and all species of plants, animals, and minerals. As humans, we can learn to see each other as members in an enormous spiritual family. The next Buddha may not be an individual, but a community where we can cultivate a collective awakening if we want to continue living on this wonder-filled planet. How will we live differently at home with our family? Can we see work colleagues as family members? Can we practice deep listening and loving speech with all sangha members?
The online Wake Up retreat had nearly everything a regular retreat would have in its schedule. In live Zoom rooms, we did qi gong, guided sitting meditation, Dharma talks, question-and-answer sessions, walking meditation, mindful meals, total relaxation, Dharma sharing, workshops, panel sharing, afternoon yoga or dancing, and even “hang-out” time to connect in an informal way. Each person was a square box coupled with sound bites down the wifi channel, but this did not deter us from playing games together, singing together, and really feeling our connectedness with each other through space and time. We were miles apart and each person in their house, but the deep listening, compassion, and joy flowed without obstacles.
As an organizing team we worked together harmoniously, each taking care of a different aspect of the retreat. Like the different fingers on a hand, each of them have their own function, but they know how to work in harmony. They cooperate and support each other without any one finger controlling or giving orders to the other fingers. The taller finger does not say to the shorter one “You’re shorter, so you’re less capable than me!”. Nor does the shorter finger have any inferiority complex and hide away. Communication is flowing and easy because we trust each other. […]
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