Interview With 15-Year-Old Lay Friend From Plum Village

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ColiaMy name is Colia and I am 15 years old. I come from Angers in the northwest of France.

When was the first time you came to Plum Village (PV)? And what made you happy?

I first came to Plum Village during the summer of 2012. What made me happy were the friends, the atmosphere and the feeling of freedom that breathes in this community.

What brought you to PV?

The first time I came is because my father forced me to come with him. I recall my refusal to come here because I had the idea that it was a “cult.” But once I arrived in Plum Village, it wasn’t too long until I asked him if I could stay for a few more days. I thanked him for having me brought here and told him that I fell in love with this place.

My father accepted me to stay here two more days. Then I went home by train.

After this experience, I always wanted to come back here because I was able to find friends and participate in activities for teenagers. The monks treated us with so much joy and love.

How long will you stay in Plum Village?

I would like to stay for a year.

Which PV retreats have you attended?

I’ve attended all summer retreats since 2012. Since last Fall, I’ve had a chance to take part in the French Educators retreat, retreat for young people, and the entire winter retreat. 

What made you decide to leave the life of a teenager behind and live in a monastery?

In the summer of 2013, I decided to come to Plum Village for three weeks, and it was a very powerful retreat for me because I discovered the benefits of the mindfulness practice for the first time. I became aware of a lot of things I had done in my life and in recent years. I can say now that I wasn’t conscious, and I did a lot of stupid things with my body and with my mind by putting them in danger. I even arrived to the point of being able to create problems with the police.

When I realized that I was hurting myself and this was not what I wanted to do in my life, I wanted to deepen my practice in Plum Village and go further since I already had established a previous connection with the community.

After a certain time, I saw a big difference within me. I feel much better with others and with myself. I am healing slowly many things inside me and my relationships are improving. This is all thanks to Plum Village where my positive seeds are being watered every day! This makes me happy and I do not need anything else.

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What are the things you like the most in PV?

I like so many things that I cannot say everything, but I try to name a few:

– The fact that you can be yourself and nobody judges you. If you act so strange, people around you look at you with compassion and understanding.

– I like to live with monks and lay people who are always ready to support you in whatever you do.

– I like to have time for myself during the day. I don’t have to sit at a table and a chair all day. I study for a couple of hours and it’s sufficient.

– I like the fact that when I have a problem within me, I can transform my negative emotions thanks to meditation and conscious breathing.

How do you continue your studies in PV?

I continue to study through long-distance learning. I study by doing a lot of exercises and then send the test at the end of each session on the Internet. This program is called CNED in France. For those who cannot take place lessons in a class for some reason can do so through the Internet and study as his/her own speed.

I like the fact that when I have a problem within me, I can transform my negative emotions thanks to meditation and conscious breathing.

What is your responsibility in PV?

I’m part of one of the “rotation” teams. The first day, I cook in the kitchen; the second day is rest day; the third day I help to recycle; the fourth day I wash the dishes; the fifth day I do working meditation which changes daily. Then there is the lazy day.

Since you’re young, is it hard to not have a television and video games or not party with your friends?

To be honest, it’s easy for me because I have the will to stop this! I realized that for me all this mechanism is not healthy! I’m really determined to take care of my body and mind. To do this, I have to be really careful in everything I do and in what I eat to be really happy.

This place can do nothing but to help me in this my purpose and maintain a good health. The fact that we do not have those things here is fortunate.

I’m really determined to take care of my body and mind.

What is your dream?

My dream is to learn to work with wood. Then at the end of my study,
I want to start traveling, hiking in nature, do woofing, meet people and enjoy the freedom!

Update from Colia on 26 March 2015: 

I’ve been about 5 months in Plum Village and I feel many, many transformations about everything. That is definitely a nourishing and healing experience. Now I feel pretty happy and determined to bring this practice in my daily life and help people around me. I also would like to say that I gave up my idea of wood because I feel more sensitive about environment protection, so next year I will go back to a “Nature School.” That is a really interesting project; I feel really concerned by this, and this is also compatible with mindfulness practice.

I wish the best to everyone, hope you’re doing well and you enjoy your precious lives! Thanks to Fabiano for interviewing me.

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