Healing at the Wake Up Earth Retreat

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Thay and Wake Up retreatants walking together mindfully
Thay, the monastics, and young people walking together mindfully during the Wake Up Earth retreat

I traveled to Plum Village as I wanted to spend the week having some time for reflection and to allow for some self-understanding and clarity. Plum Village offers me the space to engage with myself in this way due to the welcoming communal energy of the Sangha of the brothers and sisters, the wonderful people on the retreat, and the tranquil location. I decided to attend the Wake Up retreat as I wanted to take part with my own age group and share the experience with other young people. The retreat had a focus on the Earth this year, which was a general theme in which events and Dharma talks could focus around.

After a few days of settling in, I realised the main reason I had come back was to refresh my practice of mindfulness. One brother shared – you cannot describe mindfulness as it is not something of the mind. But I will attempt to describe my experience practicing mindfulness during the retreat. When practicing I come back to myself, I feel comfortable, aware, and self-connected, and thus open to connection with people around me.

In this space where my mind is allowed to become silent and rest, a great deal of healing takes place within as I have felt. I noticed feelings which I had pushed down in my ‘normal’ life rising up in me. There was also much physical healing taking place in me, and I dealt with a lot of physical pain (specifically an ear infection). But in the space of Plum Village, I felt empowered and I was able to view my difficult emotions and pain in a new way – to see them as a transformative power and a way to learn more about myself.

I met so many magnificent people, all on their own different paths yet coming together in Plum Village. What a great place to meet young people who are also interested in inner growth and are living a good life! One standout experience for me is when one afternoon I took part in a mindful walking beside a wonderful friend I had met on the retreat – in silent movement we were deeply connected to ourselves, to the Earth, and to each other. Another standout aspect of the retreat was the many meaningful conversations I had with people whom I met for the first time. It really opened me up.

The Dharma talks are a brilliant element of the retreat, as well as the Q&A, where the monastics shared the Dharma teachings often by offering examples of their lived experiences which makes it very tangible for me to understand in a practical way and also inspiring me to take these lessons into my own life.

Since arriving home, I realise how important the actual daily practice of mindfulness is. It has protected me from getting lost in the things I have to do each day and the many people I come into contact with. It helps me to stay connected to myself, to what matters, and in self-awareness to take on my daily life. I also notice very quickly how out of touch I can become if I miss a practice or skip doing things mindfully when I’m busy… By keeping a simple practice, such as a morning meditation, eating my breakfast and lunch mindfully, and taking a mindful shower, etc. I am giving myself the nourishment I need to stay in touch with the present moment. One brother shared with us that there is no deep practice that will help you to reach the highest level – it is only the daily practice done well and regularly that can bring you deeper.

Brian is a 26-year-old practitioner living in Dublin, Ireland. He has just returned to student life to study a graduate degree in Physiotherapy and is currently enjoying
trying to discover how mindfulness can benefit a student’s life.

Below is the first Dharma talk, given by Brother Phap Linh, on touching silence.

Click here to watch the remaining Dharma talks and Q&A session and photos of the retreat.

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