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Lions Roar : September 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2007 103 As the days of waiting pass, it begins to feel like the film Waiting for Fidel, about a documentary crew that goes to Cuba to interview Castro. They’re always told, “Tomorrow for sure.” The crew turns the camera on themselves, and they slowly start to go crazy, drinking way too much Cuban rum, arguing all the time, combus- ting in real time. They never do get their interview, but they wind up with a hilari- ous and an instructive film. Something al- ways emerges. We’re not hitting the booze here, though on occasion we do sneak out of the monastery for an ice cream. What emerges is a time of quiet reflec- tion and gentle patience. A chance to let the teachings soak in. There is a monastic retreat on, all soft and silent, a sea of end- less smiles. All month I’ve been smiling and bowing like crazy. If I keep doing this back home, people will think I’m nuts. One morning, as I am walking up the path from my favorite little valley, who should I run into but Thich Nhat Hanh, alone with his two attendants. I stop and bow, and he gives me a great big beaming smile. I am a little awestruck, because nor- mally when I see him he is sitting in front of 10,000 people or leading a walking meditation with thousands behind him. I beam back and am about to continue on, but he says, “I think today we can do the interview. I’ll let you know.” “Thank you so much!” I eagerly reply. We bow, trade smiles, and I continue down the path. A few hours later, the in- terview is confirmed. I go down to the kitchen and meet Sister Chan Khong. “Are you ready? Do you have your camera?” “Right here.” I pat my monk’s bag, camera stowed away inside. “First get some food and bring it down with you.” So we are having dinner with Thay first. My producer, Cher, and I fill up our bowls with the simple vegetarian food—rice, jackfruit, a little tofu, and some steamed water spinach. Sister Chan Khong leads us down the path to Thay’s house, a simple, • Therapy • Eidetic Image Therapy • Counseling & Coaching • By phone and on line Toni D. Nixon, Ed.D., L.L.C. Therapist, Buddhist Practitioner Finding calm in the midst of change: integrating spiritual practice with therapeutic goals 1.843.682.3198 1.732.539.2927 firstname.lastname@example.org www.drtoninixon.com •• EXQUISITE HOLIDA EXQUISITE HOLIDAYS & RETREA YS & RETREATS TS •• INTRIGUING PROGRAMS INTRIGUING PROGRAMS •• RESTORA RESTORATIVE GET TIVE GETAA WW AA YS YS FREE CATALOGUE 800.933.6339 • hollyhock.ca Sweet Spot HHOOLLLLYYHHOOCCKK CORTES ISLAND, BC YEARS25 lovely little house, like a miniature ver- sion of one of the temples. We slip off our shoes and step inside. Thay is seated be- hind a low wooden table with a tray hold- ing small bowls of vegetables, red rice, and fresh herbs. Two meditation cushions are laid out for us. He smiles. “Come in, sit down.” We sit down, along with Sister Chan Khong. “I saw you down by the creek today. You were filming the waterfall?” That morning, when I was on the path above Thay, I had filmed him walking along the stream. He looked up at me while I was filming. I was afraid that he felt I was invading his privacy, but by his smile I could see that he was happy I was cap- turing the beauty of Prajna Monastery. “Yes, it’s so beautiful down there. So peaceful.” Thay gestures to our bowls. “Please, begin...” Out of respect, we wait until he has taken the first mouthful, and then we be- gin to eat. He reaches into a small bowl of lemongrass shoots with chopsticks and offers me a piece. “Try this. It tastes so nice.” I put my bowl out and he drops it in. “It is delicious,” I say. “The gardens here are so beautiful. Can you grow all year?” “Yes, every season,” Thay says. We eat in silence for a while, and then chat about the laypersons’ retreat. I tell him that I think it’s incredible how many people the monastery can handle. “We don’t have enough facilities, in fact,” he says in his soft voice. “People are sleeping everywhere. And not enough toi- lets. We’ll have to build more. Here, try this. Do you know what this is? I don’t know the word in English.” He offers us another tasty leaf. “It tastes like cilantro,” I reply. Thay takes a piece himself, tasting it carefully, taking such a simple delight in the sensation. The sensual pleasures of a monk. He offers us another herb. “A good laxative,” Sister Chan Khong says, which is a little too much information. As she eats, she leafs through a Vietnamese magazine with an article about the tour. Thich Nhat Hanh continued from page 57 SEPT 100-120.indd 103 SEPT 100-120.indd 103 6/25/07 5:08:31 PM 6/25/07 5:08:31 PM