When I began this renewal journey, I thought I would be writing and posting here along the way. But once I slowed down; once I found myself in new surroundings with different ways of being and living, it became clear that I, first of all, needed to develop a deep awareness of the journey and what was going on inside myself. In that awareness, it became clear that communicating with others, would take me from my heart, soul, and body to my head, or mind (which is where I spend too much time). This renewal needed to nurture integration and balance – heart, soul, strength, and mind. So all my focus and attention went into slowing down, going deep, and not worrying about how I would communicate the experience with others. So here I am, nearly at the end of this renewal time away, and posting for just the second time.
The picture above is of the Meditation Hall in the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village in France -the Buddhist Monastery in southwest France founded by Thich Nhat Hanh. I spent a lot of time each day – in the early morning, mid-day, and the evening – in this Meditation Hall. Plum Village was my first stop on my renewal. The intention of going there first was to quickly remove myself from my “normal” way of being and put myself in an environment that would nurture quieting my mind and my body, and allow me to discover myself, others, and God in new ways. At the point when I left Ames, my “normal” way of being was fast-paced and busy, with a racing mind, emails demanding response, notifications needing my attention, and lots of good-byes to share, all while trying to make sure I had what I would need to be in Europe for 2 months with everything on my back. I was exhausted!
After just one night in Bordeaux following my overnight flight to Paris, I arrived by train, then van at Plum Village. I started my renewal journey there because it was the most different from my own context. Plum Village’s website describes itself this way: “At Plum Village we weave mindfulness into all our daily activities, training ourselves to be mindful throughout the day: while eating, walking, working, or enjoying a cup of tea together. Plum Village is a home away from home, and a beautiful, nourishing, simple environment in which to cultivate the mind of awakening.” That sounded like just what I needed for my own renewal – heart, soul, strength, and mind! So I wasted no time. There, right at the beginning of my renewal journey, I was suddenly immersed into a completely different way of being, including finding myself surrounded by an international community speaking several different languages. Yet what I encountered was a way of being that allowed me to slow down and hear myself think, and get in touch with my heart at the same time. What I experienced was a way of being that allowed me to hear my own thoughts while being part of a community. What touched me was a way of being in tune with the interconnectedness of human life, and all of creation. What I found healing, and deeply moving was a way of being full of grace and wonder, gratitude and awareness. Gentleness, calm, grace-filled discipline wrapped me in its loving embrace.
Plum Village was the perfect place for me to begin my renewal. In my next post, I’ll begin to share some of the insights and experiences I had in the quiet, beautiful, fully alive community of Plum Village.