Feeling Joy in Plum Village

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Wake Up in Plum Village
Marianna and Wake Up friends in Plum Village

During the week of the Ordination Ceremony that took place in the last week of May 2014, Marianna, a practitioner from Wake Up Rome, visited Upper Hamlet.

During that time, we shared a lot of things, ideas, and enthusiasm!

So we decided to share with you all, in an interview, our inputs for reflection, joy, difficulty, discovery, and enthusiasm that have emerged from that week.
We think the practice has the strength to dismantle the boundaries that divide us and bridge the distances that part us!

Through mindful breathing we can come home in the present moment.
This sharing arises with the aim of telling you that we are here; we are here for you too, and thanks to you too!

And from here, from the place where this practice was born day after day, we want to try to create a connection with you.

As we experienced with Marianna during her stay here in Plum Village, at times you only need a look, a word, a “healthy” meeting to rekindle that flame of love and devotion to the practice and the Dharma that at times our habits tends to neglect.

Enjoy the reading, and if you want from time to time you can stop… take three breaths… smile… and resume the reading!

Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Marianna. I come from Rome, but I’ve been living in France for six months. I am a member of Wake Up Rome and Wake Up Italy.

I am 25. The first time I came to Plum Village, I was quite young and my mum brought me here. I was roughly 8 or 9.

It took 15 years before I decided to go back of my own will with the brothers and sisters from the practice. We came to the Youth Retreat in 2011 and it was love at first sight. Since then, I come here as soon as I have the chance.

Every time I leave [Plum Village] I notice a great change, which might be conveyed through the small things – how I close doors, or how I smile.

Does something new happen each time you come, or do the same things repeat?
Each time is very different. Each time I am different, and therefore my experiences, feelings and encounters change. I also leave quite a lot of time between my visits, maybe 3 or 6 months. Over the summer I come more often and more regularly.

The experience changes hugely because what I am looking for and what I am living changes, and therefore also what I come into contact with through the practice changes as well. Every time I leave this place I notice a great change, which might be conveyed through the small things – how I close doors, or how I smile.

For example, earlier on, I went to a nearby village and in the interaction with a bartender I realised how I was smiling more, relaxed, how open and loving I felt towards the people around me, because the energy here is a very welcoming energy. The people who are here are trying to take care of themselves as much as possible, and by doing that you can also take care of others. Because, as this practice teaches, taking care of others is like taking care of ourselves.

Throughout this week of transmissions and ordinations, Thay transmitted his teachings to two Italians. Would you like to share something about it?
I think it is a wonderful thing to have such a strong support from the Italian Lay Sangha.

I consider the Italian community of Thay’s practitioners in this tradition an invaluable treasure.

Thay always insists on the importance of the Sangha. I think we are very lucky to have now two more six Dharma teachers in Italy. Six people, who are recognised by Plum Village and by Thay, who have invested their life in the Dharma and a large Tapien community that is doing fantastic things, such as opening a practice centre. I think having a lay practice centre in Italy is a great treasure and attending Beppe and Letizia’s ordination was beautiful.

I grew a lot through the practice and with the practice. And I feel the Sangha is growing with me. Therefore having seen the ordination of two new Dharma teachers and seeing the practice centre grow is very nourishing for me.

I consider this a wonderful thing because it is certainly true that this practice benefits everybody, but its energy, the fruit it gives and the kind of transformations and changes vary a great deal according to the conditions of a person’s life at a determinate moment. The fact of being young is an enormous fortune because it allows us to transform many things in our lives; it allows us to build a different relationship with ourselves and with the people around us. We are offered this opportunity, and it is up to us to seize it.

To me the practice is a great revolution, it is a revolutionary thing and it is true that the energy, the kind of change that you can bring first of all in yourself and therefore in the world when you are 20 or 30 years old is very strong.

What Thay said is beautiful – I find it important, I feel it is true, I feel that some way it nourishes my aspiration of doing something for all that I have received through the years.

Do you think it can be helpful for the practitioners to come to Plum Village and to attend some retreat at least once a year?
I personally consider it very important. Every time I come here, I feel like coming home. As a monk said a few days ago, this is the root monastery, so it is like coming back to the ‘base’, where Thay is, where all of this was born. And in truth I really love Plum Village. I love being here; it fills me with great joy.

Personally, practicing means allowing myself the chance to get in touch with the things that make me happy. These are not things that depend on external conditions, but are those elements within me that make me feel fresh, well and joyful independent of the changes that happen in my life. My practice at the moment focuses on letting go of the illusion of control over my life that I have.

Practicing means allowing myself the chance to get in touch with the things that make me happy

We wrote an email to suggest to the practitioners of the various Italian Wake Up groups to meet in Rome with the aim of getting to know each other, spend an afternoon together and maybe organise a mindfulness day or a retreat. Do you think anything beautiful could come from this encounter? Do you think that managing to fix some meeting dates to practice and spend time together, decide all together how and where, could help?
I consider structure in the practice extremely helpful. I find that coming to Plum Village regularly, having the opportunity to come here once a year or every six months is of great help and support to my practice.

I feel that if I don’t have the chance of coming here more often, if I don’t attend a retreat from time to time, if I don’t attend the Sangha meetings, everything becomes harder. For my practice regularity is extremely important.
It is really beautiful to have regularity in the Wake Up Italy meetings.

What I strongly feel is that I don’t want it to become a habit. I find wonderful it about this practice that there is no structure that constrains you, but there is structure that gives you space.

In the past we had retreats every 6 months, or even every three months. Then at times the energy lowers because people grow up. Everybody takes his/her own path, because many things happen. The fact that from time to time somebody comes to water the seed of the importance of a regular practice is very beautiful, very nourishing.

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