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Lions Roar : January 2013
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2013 42 in mindfulness, you are truly there. You are in touch with the tea; you are truly in the here and the now. But if you are possessed by worry, if you think a lot about the past and the future, then the tea is not truly there. There is no real life. It’s like a dream.” With mindfulness, Thay said, “you can touch the nature of interbeing. Once you get that insight, discrimination and fear vanish. You know that your happiness is the happiness of other people. Their sorrow is your sorrow. Everything inter-is with everything else.” On the morning of my first day at Plum Village, it was still dark when I woke to the sound of a young sister ringing a bell, signaling that it was time to get ready for meditation. My dorm was in Hillside, an old farmhouse in New Hamlet, a section of the cen- ter that houses nuns, lay single women, and families. All Plum Village retreatants are part of a dharma family who eat and do chores together and have almost daily group discussions. My dharma family was made up of the retreatants staying at Hillside and because our designated chore was washing up after meals, we were known as the Joyful Scrubbers. The head of my dharma family was Sister Loving- Kindness who had been a nurse for twenty years before ordaining in 1991. “Thay has created Plum Village with the wish that we use the family as a model for relationships,” she told me. “We have elder brothers, elder sisters, younger brothers, younger sisters. The sangha is our support, our home, and a resource for us throughout our practice life. Even if there’s temporary conflict within a small segment of the community, there are others to embrace the two people who may be having difficulties. That’s the benefit of practicing with a community.” Thay, in his first dharma talk of the week, expanded on the importance of sangha. “It’s pos- sible to practice alone, as individuals,” he said. “But you might lose your practice after a few months because you don’t have a sangha to guide you, to protect you, to support you. That’s why a good practitioner always tries to build a sangha in his town or village. Even a buddha needs a sangha.” If we are merely individual drops of water, we will evaporate on our way to the ocean. To arrive Top: Lotus at Plum Village: Thich Nhat Hanh frequently uses a flower to teach the concept of inter-being. “A flower cannot exist alone,” he says. Middle: A hand-lettered sign announces “Plum Village New Hamlet.” Bottom: At Plum Village, bells large and small—including telephones and fire engines—are used as calls to mindfulness. PHOTOSBYDZUNGVO,DAVIDNELSON(BOTTOM)