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Lions Roar : May 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2012 36 In her community, Chan Khong is well known for leading the practice of beginning anew. A four-step process, it is an opportu- nity to look deeply and honestly at ourselves and to work on our relationships through mindful communication. The first step is to express appreciation for the person we’re speaking to; the second is to acknowledge any unskillful action we’ve commit- ted against him or her; the third is to reveal how he or she has hurt us; and the fourth is to share a difficulty that we’re having and to ask for support. At Plum Village, the practice center in France where Chan Khong resides, beginning anew is practiced collectively every two weeks and practiced individually as often as necessary. Chan Khong urges lay people to practice it at home. “Begin anew to refresh your relationship with your children,” she says. “Even when they’re five years old, children feel pain,” and frequently parents are unaware of the ways in which they hurt their children. For example, says Chan Khong, maybe a mother has hurt her son’s feelings by saying that she won’t buy him the toy he wants. If, through beginning anew, she gives her son an opportunity to express his hurt, the mother will know to explain to him why she can’t afford the toy. Then the boy will understand and resentment will not build between them. In romantic relationships, beginning anew can be invaluable. Frequently, says Chan Khong, people are disappointed in their partners. At the beginning of the relationship, a woman might see that her mate has many wonderful qualities and so she pre- sumes that he has various other qualities that she finds desirable. But as time goes on, she notices all the ways in which he is not her ideal. “It doesn’t mean that he’s not good,” says Chan Khong. “Maybe she presumed that he was a magnolia and would behave as one. But he is actually a lotus. He is still beautiful in his way.” “When you ask your partner kindly, he will reveal his wounds, and as he reveals them more and more, you will accept him as he is—with his education, his culture, his way of being—and he will accept you more, too,” she says. “You will grow closer and suddenly you will not be two, but one. You will have entered the world of each other. So beginning anew is a way to make your relationship good with your partner, your children, your parents.” Brother Phap Hai, an Australian monk in the Plum Village tradition, says that in addition to beginning anew, “total relax- ation” and “touching the earth” are important dharma doors for Sister Chan Khong. Total relaxation is practiced sitting or lying down and is an opportunity to rest the body and mind. Touching the earth, a series of meditations that Thich Nhat Hanh devel- oped, is based on traditional Buddhist prostration practice. “All dharma teachers,” says Phap Hai, “learn the basic practices, the basic framework. Then we’re encouraged to make the dharma our own—to allow the dharma to express itself through us. And Sister Chan Khong does that beautifully. One example is her beauti- ful singing voice, which she offers in total relaxation. She also has a great skill for improvisation. In touching the earth or total relax- ation, she’ll pick up on energy in the room or something that’s been going on, and she’ll address that. Sister Chan Khong’s touching Above: Chan Khong, on right wearing pigtails, with her extended family. Right: Chan Khong on the day of her ordination into the Order of Interbeing. PHOTOSCOURTESYOFPARALLAXPRESSANDSISTERCHANKHONG