APRIL 5, 2019 | LEUM DTAA COHORT | SOUTHEAST ASIA - LEUM DTAA
-Blog written by Loida Pat
After Spending a day and a half of exploring the big city of Bangkok, we left to Plum Village. Plum Village is a Vietnamese meditation center created in Thailand by Thich Nhat Hanh. He is a very famous for teaching Zen Buddhism, which is basically mindfulness. Mostly everyone was pretty excited to go on this retreat where we would learn mindfulness and get time to be on our own and just relax without thinking so much of the future. When we arrived to Plum village we were received by a grey cloudy sky and the oh so beautiful rain. To us the rain was a blessing to all the nuns and monks it was not. It was so cute although there was barely any rain compared to what we get in Portland, they were running around with their umbrellas. Our first day was very confusing, we literally broke most of the rules on our first day but we ended up learning by observing others.
Everyday we were woken up at 4am by loud ringing bells, that lasted for 15 minutes or so. Let me tell you, the first full day was the hardest for all of us. Then at 4:30 we had sitting meditation in a big hall, in the dark, where we sat on mats for 30 minutes. We were told that we should relax and not try to think too much about the future or past but stay in the present moment. It was hard not thinking because then I felt like sleeping because I was usually very tired. Right after we would go on a meditation walk at 5. We would walk following our breath, breathing in and out and admiring the nature. It was sometimes funny watching the people walk in front of us, everyone looked like zombies walking so slow in the dark. Sometimes right after we would have exercising time, where a monk would lead us in an exercise using a bamboo stick, the moves were quite fun. If we didn’t exercise we would have a break then breakfast. I loved how after every single event we had during the day they would give us resting time. After breakfast we usually had a full schedule, we would have house cleaning, then we would have Dharma talk. Where we learned about the 5 mindfulness guidelines that most people follow and people experience with the guidelines. Which is to make it short, no killing, no using drugs or drinking alcohol, showing love and compassion to others, no greed or selfishness and being kind to the earth. We would then have lunch, then do some meditation work. We did all kinds of work from recycling, to planting, harvesting, raking leaves and making paths with stones. Then we would eat again, then have resting time and after sitting meditation before we went to bed at 7:30.
The days seemed to be very long at first but then we got used to it. I never really saw myself surviving here, but I made it. All the brothers and sisters (monks and nuns) were very sweet and had such soothing voices. The food they prepared for us everyday was probably the best and healthiest food I’ve had this whole trip. They made all kinds of delicious vegetable soups and cooked tofu like 1o different ways that I never got tired of. They had all kinds of dessert and my favorite: mangos everyday. One day during exercise time in the afternoon Anya, Elena, Davineekaht, Paw Klu, Roselin, Jessica and I saw some sisters playing basketball so we went over to ask them if we could play with them. We had a very fun and competitive basketball game, the sisters were so into the game. By the end we were all sweaty and sticky, we didn’t keep score of all of Anya’s buckets but we had a very fun time with Sister Galaxy and Sister Bright Year. We also helped lead some English learning games with the sisters, we played emotion charades and vegetable walk off with the sisters. Elena and Davineekaht really did a really great job with the games.
We also had a small cake for Roselin’s birthday on the 27th of March. We gave her a bunch of flower hearts with our feelings written on them and she was very happy and almost cried. Our last day during our tea ceremony, our composer Elena wrote a gratitude song for Plum Village, named “If you’re happy in Plum Village” and presented it to our brothers, sisters and friends. Everyone was so happy with the song it made all of us smile especially Elena when she got complimented from someone very special to her. Also Anya, Topher and Nolan took the 5 mindfulness trainings on our last day, we are all so proud of them. I think Plum Village was a very beautiful retreat, we all had fun, laughed and spent a very relaxing mindful week.