Planting and nurturing seeds for Wake Up communities in Europe


A reflection from the Wake Up Tour 2023

In the spring 2023, some monastics were on the road for six weeks to plant and nurture the seeds for communities in Europe. We were deeply inspired by some tours in the last two years by how they were able to help many local Sanghas to revive again after the pandemic. Some monastics were inspired to help revive local Sanghas in their home country, for example in the UK, Germany, France and Spain. Some monastics who care for the young adults and support the Wake Up movement are inspired to organise the Wake Up Tour.

The first event on April 19 was held in Brussels, Belgium. We had an evening session with Wake Up Brussels and Wake Up Ghent and an all-ages Sangha in Balegem. Toos and Jeremy, a Wake Up couple hosted us at their house in Ghent. Toos has been serving on the European Wake Up CTC (Oomph) since we formed Oomph from the beginning. We’ve been meeting in the living room of Oomph (Zoom meeting) every month since 2018. It felt very special for us to be able to see the real cozy living room of them! During the tour, we met many Wake Up friends, and for me this tour was like visiting friends. Of course, some organisations were involved in this tour, but apart from that, this tour was really like a chance to find out how the Wake Up Sanghas are doing and find ways to support them.

“Hosting the monastics on their Wake Up tour in our home was a transformative experience that brought the essence of mindfulness and compassion right to our doorstep. As the brothers and sisters gracefully entered our lives, their presence infused our home with the serene Plum Village energy and the depth of their practice

The journey continued as we participated in a Wake Up evening hosted by the Brussels Wake Up Sangha. Surrounded by like-minded individuals, we experienced the joy of collective mindfulness practice, contributing to a profound sense of interconnectedness. The warmth and inclusivity of the Brussels Sangha created a harmonious atmosphere, reinforcing the teachings we had received from the monastics.  We flowed as a river into a joyful potluck with the All Ages Sangha of Ghent and the Sangha of Balegem. In this gathering, the exchange of wisdom, laughter, and shared experiences became a celebration of diversity within the Plum Village community. The brothers and sisters, like bridges between Sanghas, enriched our understanding of the path, reinforcing the importance of unity and mutual support. Their visit became a precious gift that strengthened the bonds between Sanghas, nourishing our bodhicitta and reminding us of the power of mindfulness in fostering a world of compassion and understanding.

Through shared meals, conversations, and guided meditations, the Wake Up Tour became a haven for the Plum Village spirit, allowing us to deepen our practice and cultivate a sense of peace that lingered long after their departure.” – Toos, Wake Up Ghent

Then we held a Day of Mindfulness in Utrecht, the Netherlands. This was the biggest event during the tour with more than 120 people attending the event. We had planted many seeds in this country, now there are more than 10 Wake Up Sanghas in the Netherlands. We visited some Wake Up Sanghas in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Nijmegen, and Utrecht. We were also invited to an interreligious gathering at Dominicus Church in Amsterdam and shared about how Plum Village relates to climate change.

The Dutch word “gezellig” (which is untranslatable into English, which represents the coziness and warmth of a true home) inspired me to write a calligraphy “Be a gezellig home for yourself”. The word “hygge” in Danish and Norwegian has been widely used, which means the same as gezellig. Thus, I wrote another calligraphy “Be a hygge home for yourself” for friends in Scandinavia. Brother Pham Hanh also shared about the word “gezellig” in his Dharma talk during the Day of Mindfulness, a word that encompasses the heart of Dutch culture.

“Since I organized the monastic tour one year earlier, I felt ready for the challenge to do it a second time. The big difference was, that in 2023, Wake Up was the driving force behind the tour. In 2022 it was the All Ages Sangha who took the lead. This was a challenge, because we never did that before. Moreover, we wanted to really create a Wake Up Tour in the Netherlands where as many young people could get in touch with the Plum Village practice as possible.  The Wake Up Utrecht, Amsterdam, Nijmegen and Haarlem Sangha teamed up to rise to the challenge. 

For me personally organizing the Wake Up Tour felt like a next level in my mindfulness practice. We wanted to move into action and get things done, without losing the energy of mindfulness. I have to admit, I’ve had evenings where I was a little bit stressed and even had a hard time falling asleep, because I felt so engaged with the Tour. 

However the practice of mindfulness and sharing helped me to embrace the anxiety that came along for me with organizing something at this scale for the first time. I believed that doing it anyway even though it caused some anxiety, was in important step for me to grow as a person. The Tour was an opportunity for me to face my fears. During and after the tour I felt a lot of satisfaction about what we had pulled off as a lay and monastic team. Organizing the Wake Up Tour has had a transformative impact on my ‘work mindset’, because we integrated mindfulness with organizational action. I feel more confident now in picking up responsibilities for the Plum Village practice for example. The journey of organizing became an inner journey in this way. It also helped us to connect more and deeper as a Wake Up lay community in the Netherlands. So mindful organizing is something I felt was a very beautiful journey in myself, with the monastics and with the Wake Up Netherlands community.” – Jan, Wake Up Amsterdam

Then we crossed the water and held a retreat for Wake Up Malmö and Wake Up Lund in Southern Sweden. We deeply enjoyed the beauty of the beach and spring in this southern part of the country. We were very happy to see many friends that we had only met online, including Arlind, the Wake Up coordinator for Europe & Middle East, who is part of  Wake Up Lund. It was such a happy reunion after meeting them online! We offered a mindfulness session at Lund University with the theme “Existential Sustainability and Resilience: The role of contemplation and compassion to protecting ourselves, all beings and the Earth”. Brother Phap Ly offered a talk, followed by circle sharing groups, and fika meditation. We enjoyed fika deeply, as it is enjoying snack with tea or coffee like we often do in Plum Village!

“We were so happy to welcome the group of monastics in the South of Sweden last spring. Our time together started with a wonderful retreat in nature, located within walking distance to the vast white beaches of Österlen. We spent the whole weekend in friendship and cultivating our togetherness. We laughed, shared, sang, hugged, and spent time in silence together. To celebrate the Swedish Walpurgis night, traditionally a day to ward off evil spirits, we even danced around a bonfire listening to ABBA. At the end of the retreat, some friends received the 5 mindfulness trainings – it was a very happy moment

The monastics also took part in an interfaith event at Lund University, which explored the theme of existential resilience. It was wonderful to see a busy event calm down as brother Phap Ly gently guided us through a meditation. Afterwards, we had a fun photo session at the University

Before the monastics moved further north towards Stockholm, we all met in Malmö for a last evening of flower watering and vegan ice creams. It was an overall perfect week and we are now inspired to plan another Sweden-wide event this year.” – Arlind, Wake Up Lund & Wake Up Coordinator for Europe and Middle East

With Arlind and friends from Wake Up Lund & Malmö

As we went up to the north, the spring seemed to begin everytime we arrived at a new place. We called our tour the “Ever Spring Tour”. In Stockholm, we held a weekend non-residential retreat “Be free where you are”. During the retreat, there happened to be “Tough Viking” – Scandinavia’s largest obstacle race. We were practicing walking meditation alongside them, walking slowly against the stream of society as we believe sometimes we have to be “rebels” in order to contribute to a more healthy and compassionate society. Thay had named the Wake Up movement “Young Buddhist and non-Buddhist for a more healthy and compassionate society” before finally coming up with Wake Up.

“Organizing the monastic visit in Stockholm was such a joyful experience. Hosting the retreat became a catalyst for us to grow closer as a sangha, engage more sangha members to be more active, as well as find new friends to join the community.  Bringing the mindful energy of the monastics to my hometown was a true blessing. Both since we had the lovely opportunity to get to know the monastics more as well as seeing how touched and grateful people at the retreat were for being given this space. 

One of my favorite moments from the retreat was a walking meditation we had next to an obstacle course race. The collective energy of mindfulness helped us stay centered amidst a stream of runners. Many people later mentioned this as being one of the most memorable and transformative moments as it was such a beautiful metaphor for how mindfulness in real life can feel like – trying to stay calm and mindful against a stream of fast and performance-based activities and expectations.” – Johanna, Wake Up Stockholm

We also joined Fridays for Future. Luckily, we met with Greta Thunberg who came that day and expressed our gratitude to her for waking the world up to take care of our beloved Mother Earth! We offered a song “The River is Flowing”:

The river is flowing, flowing and growing

The river is flowing back to the sea

Mother Earth is carrying me, her child I will always be

Mother Earth is carrying me back to the sea

We continued our trip to the most northern part of the trip: Oslo, Norway. We visited Wake Up Oslo and then we went to an island on the border to Sweden for the retreat. We get our joys from the simple things: singing, playing games, enjoying hygge moments around the bonfire, baking campfire bread, enjoying the beauty of the forests and the ocean in the north of Europe that nourishes and heals our hearts. This was the biggest Plum Village retreat in Norway with 24 people attending the retreat!

After traveling in Scandinavia with the calligraphy “Be a hygge home for yourself”, finally we made it to the land of hygge! We went to the Royal Parks where we met the ancestors of the Danish, more than 400 years old oak trees. We had a picnic lunch with the old trees and deers coming closer to us and enjoying a hygge moment with us. We expressed our gratitude to the land ancestors who invented the word “hygge”. This is truly a hygge moment!

The retreats we offered in Southern Sweden (for 30 people), in Stockholm (for 50 people) and in Norway (for 24 people) were the biggest retreat they had ever organised. In other countries like Denmark, the Czech Republic, and Austria there are less Plum Village practitioners. They were not able to organise a retreat, thus we organised Day of Mindfulness, and mindfulness events with local Sanghas. We also witnessed the birth of the first association of the Danish Sangha: The Interbeing Community of Mindful Living in Denmark. We also held a day of mindfulness for the Danish and the Vietnamese community in Denmark. After the events, some young people were inspired to come together and start a Wake Up Sangha in Copenhagen.

We’re also planting seeds for new communities during some events in the Czech Republic. We had an evening of mindfulness at Baby Jesus Church, The Scouts Institute and we concluded our trip to the Czech Republic with a Day of Mindfulness. Some young people attended these events and now the seeds for a new community are sprouting and growing, Wake Up Prague is born!

We went to Charles Bridge where Thay was able to touch the soul of ancient Europe in 1992.

“Suddenly the church bells started ringing. I don’t know why, but in that particular moment, the sound of the bells touched me deeply. I had heard many church bells before, in France, in Switzerland, and many other countries, but I had never heard bells like that. In the sound of those bells, I felt that I was hearing the soul of ancient Europe. I had been living in Europe for a long time, and I had seen a lot, but at that moment, the sound of the church bells brought me into a deep connection with the soul of Europe.” – Thay

We held the last Day of Mindfulness on the Wake Up Tour in Austria with the Wake Up Sanghas and all-ages Sanghas from Vienna, Graz and Innsbruck. We practiced walking meditation through the beautiful city of Vienna and had a picnic lunch in the city park. Then we had a gathering with Wake Up Ambassadors from Vienna, Graz and Annica who is the former Wake Up Coordinator for Europe. We also had a gemütlich (or hygge) Sangha evening with Wake Up Vienna.

We concluded the Wake Up Tour with a Peace Walk in Konstanz. We practiced walking meditation around the beautiful Konstanz Lake and then we had an informal Q&A with monastics.

Opening up to the tears and joys in everyone

When young people open up their heart to the tears and joys in everyone, and share their fruits of practice after a retreat or a day of practice, I see that as the reward. Going on a road for six weeks was not easy. We had to know how to take care of our energy and enjoy a lazy day between events to rejuvenate ourselves. After listening to deep sharing, sometimes I find myself lying awake at night and can’t fall asleep. In times like this, I remember Thay’s story when Thay lie awake at night. Thay couldn’t fall back asleep when the wounds in Thay’s heart from the war came up from time to time. Thay practiced mindful breathing to embrace himself, his country, and the whole planet. When I first heard this story, I was deeply moved by Thay’s humility and capacity to share vulnerability, and helped me to see that Thay is a human being.

One time, after listening to the tears and joys of young people during a retreat, I couldn’t fall asleep and worry made it worse since I thought I wouldn’t be able to be fresh the day after. I decided to let go of that idea, and just followed my breathing. Suddenly, I had an insight that mindful breathing is an act of Earth holding. One mindful breath is enough to hold the Earth. I started to understand the meaning of “Earth Holder”, which has been my contemplation since I was actively involved in the Wake Up Earth Holder Community.

Singing the Wake Up song

We were singing the Wake Up song many times during the tour. Before ordaining, I offered the Wake Up song to Thay with my Wake Up Sangha in Indonesia (from Bogor and Jakarta) and hundreds of young folks at the Wake Up Retreat in Thailand in 2013. When I saw Thay sitting at the bell in front of us, I was deeply moved to tears. It was like telling Thay my story with the lyrics that we’re planting seeds for Wake Up communities in Indonesia, and now in Europe, and everywhere!

At the “Love in Action” Wake Up Retreat 2023, my Dharma sharing family offered this song and invited everybody to offer the Wake Up song to Thay in our hearts and a little bit everywhere around the Buddha Hill where we scattered Thay’s ashes.

I used to sing this song with my Wake Up Sangha in Indonesia. After ordaining, it took me years to realize that I could also rap as a monk! Thanks to Brother Phap Huu for inspiring us (some young monastics to rap) and showing us that this is Thay’s Buddhism! Brother Phap Huu shared that even though some people were not happy when he had started to rap, but Thay kept encouraging him to rap and told him that whatever people say, this is Thay’s Buddhism.

Some people think that young adults in Wake Up Sanghas just know how to play and have fun. During the events with all-ages Sangha, we discovered that many adults think like this. When they were playing games with us, they were touched and discovered the “play” pillar as one of the four pillars in Plum Village. We were very happy to see they start to connect in a deeper way and some people in all-ages Sangha (including the OI members) express their willingness to support their future generations. I realised that this tour not only had planted and nurtured the seeds for Wake Up communities, but also had nurtured the seeds of siblinghood in the brothers and sisters on this tour.

“To redefine society, no don’t give up!”. This tour has nourished my hope for a more healthy and compassionate society by seeing many young folks (and many who are still young at heart!) practice in the communities.


Wake Up Tour 2024

This year we are lucky to be traveling through Greece & Italy to meet with old friends and make new ones. We will be taking part in Days of Mindfulness and retreats, many of which still have open spaces. One of the retreats we are looking forward to is the “Healing Oneself Healing the World” Retreat, in Italia. Find more information here:

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