Wake Up family!
A reflection on the October 2012 Wake Up Tour in Bhutan & India
Stop, breathe, smile.
That’s what we learn in Plum Village and on retreats all around the world led by monastic students of Thich Nhat Hanh. This simple, yet deep, teaching has the quality of being easily transportable around the world! All we need is our in-breath and out-breath, our steps and our smile. So, off we went with a little group of 7 monastics and 4 lay-friends to bring the practice in the high Himalayan mountains of Bhutan and the busy chaotic city of New-Delhi, India last October 2012.
In Bhutan we spend 4 mindfulness days for mostly young adults on the theme of “Mindfulness is a source of happiness”. These events were organized by the wonderful team of the GNH (Gross National Happiness) centre in Bhutan. For everyone of our team, it was a powerful time of practice. As Brother Phap Sieu shared: “Every single time we invited the bell it was just amazing to feel the wave of energy of peacefulness just wash over, like immediately.” In this beautiful country, high up the mountains Buddhism is still an intrinsic part of their culture and education. Children get acquainted with the practice of meditation at school, and this was noticeable right away. It was amazing how everybody had such a strong concentration and energy of mindfulness, right from day one on! It was so wonderful walking together, eating in silence together, playing and singing together and dharma sharing together.
It seemed that everybody we met in Bhutan was living through their heart, from the young adults to the high ministers. In my Dharma Sharing group one girl shared her difficulty and after that one boy bowed in just to share that he really hoped that everything would be alright for her and that he would send out his best energy to her. It was so beautiful that a young boy just shared that. I was very touched by the sincerity, openness and authenticity of all the young (and old!) people I have met and received a beautiful smile from in Bhutan. That is what really touched me during my short time there: this heart to heart connection that everybody seemed to have or try at least to have, with us and with each other.
The last day, we ended by singing together “the river is flowing” and when we asked who would be interested in continuing practicing in form of a Wake Up Sangha, everybody raised their hand, everybody!
After this beautiful nourishing week high up in the clouds, in the mountains, it was time to go down to India! The environment in India is intense: all the smells, the sounds, the colors, the tastes. So much to see, smell, hear, taste, discover. Here too we were blessed with meeting many many smiling and generous people who became our dear friends. We spent the majority of our time in India at two high schools with the teachers, students and the parents, sharing time and space with them in form of mindfulness days on the theme of “Happy teachers will change the world”. When teachers, students and parents learn to stop, to truly look at themselves and the person in front of them, so much love arises automatically. Teachers are very stressed and have a lot of pressure, so do parents and children. And it was wonderful to see how during these mindfulness days they had a chance to relax (every day we offered a total relaxation to everybody and ourselves!) and to get back in touch with the deep aspiration in their hearts. We taught everybody the lyrics to a classic Plum Village song: Breathing in, Breathing out, I am blooming as a flower, I am fresh as the dew, I am solid as a mountain, I am firm as the earth, I am free. At the end of a whole week at one school, we sang this song together, all the teachers, all the students, what a powerful moment!
We also had the opportunity to have days of mindfulness with students at universities and were able to manifest a 4-day retreat. Spending 4 days of practice together at Lady Sri Ram College made it possible to really build up a strong energy and by the end of the days everybody was so alive, smiling and fresh!
We could all feel strongly that we were in the country where the Buddha got enlightened 2500 years ago and where spiritual traditions have been transmitted from generation to generation. Wisdom seems not so far under the surface in India and it was amazing to see how fast everybody connected to the practice. During a question and answer session at the end of the 4-day retreat the questions were very real, touched upon everybody’s real life situations of dealing with anger, anxiety, and compassion. And the strong aspiration of everybody to bring the practice into their daily lives was very present. The question of how to bring the practice into our daily lives and explain it to friends and family was a hot topic.
I know that since we have left, there has been a Wake Up meeting already, and I hope the energy we built up together during that retreat can be continued by people coming together in New Delhi practicing together.
Visiting these two beautiful countries, getting to know so many wonderful people, made a deep impression on me. It feels like my family has grown; I have so many new brothers and sisters, physically far away maybe, but very close in my heart here with me. I feel how we are all so connected, we are all part of this one big family, the Wake Up family! Young people coming together all over the world, in small groups and in bigger groups, to be there for each other, spend time together, to stop, breath and smile. This image, of our Wake Up family practicing all over the world is a big support for me in moments I think I am alone: I remember my big family is right here in my heart.