May 27, 2009

this is not an improvement plan

When people start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, they often think that somehow they’re going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are.


This is not an improvement plan; it is not a situation in which you try to be better than you are now. If you have a bad temper and you feel that you harm yourself and others, you might think that sitting for a week or a month will make your bad temper go away – you will be that sweet person that you always wanted to be. Never again will a harsh word leave your lily-white lips. The problem is that the desire to change is fundamentally a form of aggression toward yourself. The other problem is that our hang-ups, unfortunately or fortunately, contain our wealth. Our neurosis and our wisdom are made out of the same material. If you throw out your neurosis, you also throw out your wisdom. Someone who is very angry also has a lot of energy; that energy is what’s so juicy about him or her. That’s the reason people love that person. The idea isn’t to try to get rid of your anger, but to make friends with it, to see it clearly with precision and honesty, and also to see it with gentleness. That means not judging yourself as a bad person, but also not bolstering yourself by saying, “It’s good that I’m angry at them all the time”. The gentleness involves not repressing the anger but also not acting it out. It is something much softer and more openhearted than any of that. It involves learning how, once you have fully acknowledged the feeling of anger and the knowledge of who you are and what you do, to let it go. You can let go of the usual pitiful little story line that accompanies anger and begin to see clearly how you keep the whole thing going. So whether it’s anger or craving or jealousy or fear or depression – whatever it might be – the notion is not to try to get rid of it, but to make friends with it. that means getting to know it completely, with some kind of softness, and learning how, once you’ve experienced it fully, to let go.

Pema Chödrön, The Wisdom of No Escape (Shambala Publications, Boston/London, 2001)

Illustration from the site Beauty Analysis, on the article Faces Variations by Sex; to see and read more on this -- and find how perfect you already are, no matter what -- please refer to:

May 20, 2009

that was all

One day, a Zen student came to his master and asked him a very important question about the ultimate reality. He had been there for three years, but he believed that his master had not taught him the best things concerning meditation. So he presented himself that morning to the master, hoping that he would teach him very important things. The master pointed to a cypress tree in the front yard and asked the student whether he had seen it or not. That was all. The master refused to say another word. I think perhaps the student had gone by that tree many times a day for many years but he had not had a chance to really look at the tree. Therefore, his master wanted him to go back to the tree and look at it. And that was his deepest teaching. I don't know whether the student got the message, but when I read the story, I got the message. If we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, it will be impossible for us to meet anything, including a flower or a tree.

[...] To go back to yourself, to be yourself again, in order to be in the present moment, in order for the encounter with the flower to be possible; that flower and [...] that cypress tree, they are life, they represent life. And if we cannot meet them, we cannot encounter them in a direct way, we miss life.

Thich Nhat Hanh, from the Dharma Talk Truly Seeing (available on cd, Parallax Press)

May 16, 2009

a pebble for your pocket

A meditation with Pháp Huu, in the tradition of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, shot by David Nelson at Plum Village during the Winter Retreat 2008/2009.

Enjoy it!

May 13, 2009

the mirror smiles

If we’re a free person, we aren’t conditioned by things around us. We just smile to them and we make our path. Our surroundings are like a mirror. If we smile, the mirror smiles. If we cry, the mirror cries. If we’re angry then the situation becomes angry. But even if the situation looks angry, if we’re able to smile, then the surroundings smile with us. So the surroundings are coming from our mind.

Thich Nhat Hanh
, Nothing to do, Nowhere to go - Waking up to who you are, Parallax Press, 2007

photo: " uomo libero, amerai sempre il mare; è il tuo specchio "©Enzo Rubino; if you'd like to see more from this photographer please refer to:

May 9, 2009

the road is covered with diamonds

The path of life seems to be mostly difficulties, things that give trouble. Yet the longer we practice, the more we begin to understand that those sharp rocks on the road are in fact like precious jewels; they help us to prepare the proper conditions for our lives. […] There are sharp rocks everywhere. What changes from years of practice is coming to know something you didn’t know before: that there are no sharp rocks – the road is covered with diamonds.

[…] the longer we practice, the very difficulties that life presents more and more can be seen as jewels. Increasingly, problems do not rule out practice, but support it. Instead of finding that practice is too difficult, that we have too many problems, we see that the problems themselves are the jewels, and we devote ourselves to being with them in a way we never dreamt of before. In my interviews with students, I constantly hear about such shifts: “Three years ago, I couldn’t possibly have handled this situation, but now..” That’s the turning over, preparing the ground. That’s what is necessary for the body and mind truly to transform. It’s not that problems disappear or that life “improves”, but that life slowly transforms – and the sharp rocks that we hated become welcome jewels. We may not delight to see them when they appear, but we appreciate the opportunity that they give, and so we embrace them rather than running away from them. This is the end of complaints about our life. Even that difficult person, the one who criticizes you, the one who doesn’t respect your opinion, or whatever – everybody has somebody or something, some sharp rock. Such a rock is precious; it is an opportunity, a jewel to embrace.

Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special – Living Zen (HarperCollins, 1993)

Photo © daily inspiration

May 5, 2009

mankind is no island

I dedicate this post to my dear friends and Brothers from the other Great South Land, (in order of appearence in my Plum Village life) Steven, Mark, Garry, Nathan, Richard, Ian and Shane.
Thank you for being there.

May 1, 2009

the scattered one, the collected one

There are Martha and Mary, the two sisters encountered by the Passing Christ. Martha was concerned about order and food, awhirl in her kitchen, lost in the sound of dishes and boiling water. Mary, her apron rolled up under a bench – Mary sitting on the ground, her legs folded under her like the wings of a bird in a moment of repose, face open, hands empty – Mary was concerned about the love without which all is sad, all food dull. Martha and Mary. The scattered one and the collected one. The unresting one and the pacified one.

Christian Bobin, The secret of Saint Francis of Assisi (Shambala Publications, 1997)

image above: Johannes Vermeer, Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, 1654-55 (?),Oil on canvas, 160 x 142 cm, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh; to see more works by this Dutch painter please refer to: