My name is Fabiano Gentile. I come from Arezzo, a small town in Tuscany, Italy. I’m 29 years old. Now I’m in Plum Village for a year. I have a mother and father, a sister, and a brother. I’m the youngest in my family. My sister also likes this practice.
How did you discover Plum Village?
I discovered Plum Village from my previous all-ages sangha in my hometown. After a year of practicing with them, I decided to come to Plum Village for one week during last year’s summer retreat. It was a beautiful experience, so I returned this past winter retreat. I’m now doing an internship here for a year.
After the winter retreat, are there any habit energies that you see you’ve been able to transform?
A monk asked me at the end of winter retreat what I learned after three months. I said that I understood we can transform ourselves. Also, I’ve noticed my practice is more solid. I saw some suffering in myself and now during this year, I’d like to look deeply into my suffering and transform it into happiness.
How has your practice and engagement with Plum Village affected your outlook on life?
It’s beautiful. During the winter retreat, I learned about the beauty of community with brothers and sisters and how important the community is to support my practice.
When you returned to your hometown after the winter retreat for a month, has the practice made an impact on your relationships with the friends and family closest to you?
This is interesting because my parents change a lot. I really think we’re connected because when I’m happy, they start to be happier. When I have difficulties, my parents start to be unhappy.
When I went home, I saw my parents more beautiful and quieter. They still have suffering, but there is less tension between each other. The communication is also easier between my parents and me. Before Plum Village, it was difficult.
Everything is also better now with my friends. I have to be careful and take care of everything.
What inspired you to start a Wake Up sangha in your hometown?
There were some changes with my all-ages sangha, so my friends and I decided to start a Wake Up sangha for young people with fresh energy. I think it’s a good idea because young people are open to new situations in my hometown. Also, people can choose which sanghas they’d like to go to.
During that one month when you helped to set up the sangha, has there been any hardest moment for you as a facilitator?
No. I proposed to my friends to start a Wake Up sangha. They were happy to help me and we built it together.
I was lucky because during the Vietnamese New Year in Plum Village, I had the opportunity to ask an oracle question to Thay about how to grow a sangha. His answer was to water seeds of brotherhood and sisterhood, and we have to decide together how to facilitate sessions as well as be in this together.
When I went home, I shared this with my friends. I participated in four sangha meetings before returning to Plum Village. Each meeting had three different facilitators. Before the meeting, we talked and asked what we wanted to practice, such as sitting meditation. Everyone can contribute and feel at home.
Do you have one or two people who facilitate?
We have one person who facilitates each practice. During a meeting, we have 2-3 practices. We start with sitting meditation, walking meditation and finish with group-sharing. For example, I facilitate sitting meditation, one does walking meditation, and another one does group-sharing.
Now that you’re staying in Plum Village for a year and you’re not in Italy to support your sangha, what’s your greatest fear for your sangha?
Sometimes I think about that. I try to keep in touch with my friends by writing letters and sending energy to support my sangha.
I also talk to them on the phone every week. A few weeks ago, a friend told me that the sangha was happy to keep the meeting going. They know how important the practice is and to have someone like me who is more experienced in the practice in order to help them.
What is your biggest dream for your sangha?
The first thing that comes to my mind is to strengthen our brotherhood and sisterhood. When we are a solid sangha, we can go in my hometown to do a community project, such as cleaning some part of the city because it’s dirty.
What is your biggest dream for your practice?
When I returned to Plum Village in March, I felt a lot of changes around me. I have to put my attention to clean everything. Quietness, peace, but now it’s not possible. It’s changeable outside and within me. I’d also like to continue building my Wake Up sangha and lessen my suffering.
Please share one moment where you really tasted “true” brotherhood and sisterhood.
I have to thank one lay friend whom I got to know during the last winter retreat. He offered me a big help in allowing me to stay in Plum Village for a year. I wasn’t sure whether to return after the winter retreat, but thanks to his support I’m able to stay here for one year.
Also, I’d like to share how much it’s important to be here for a long time. At least one year if it’s possible. It’s really important to strengthen our practice. When the practice is strengthened, we have stability and we can help our sanghas after a year.
So my dream is to strengthen my practice this year and bring all my energy to my sangha. I feel grateful for Plum Village and everyone who have offered me this opportunity. I’ll be able to do a lot for my sangha.
How would you describe Wake Up to someone who has never practiced mindfulness before?
In my Wake Up sangha, there’s a new guy who joined at the end of March. I know him as a friend, and I spoke to my friends on the phone.
We understand this practice and mindfulness, but he doesn’t know everything. We don’t need to know a lot of stuff. If you’re kind and quiet, you can just follow the energy of the sangha.
Everyone is able to practice.
Click here to read about his sangha Wake Up Arezzo, this month’s Sangha of the Month.