Finding Our True Home

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Silver Spring, Maryland, Community Online on Thursday Evening
January 7, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Open to all Online on Friday Evening
January 8, 7:00 to 8:45 pm

Dear Still Water Friends,

When I went to Plum Village for the Winter Retreat in 1991, I learned the Hearing the Bell Gatha:

Listen, listen,
this wonderful sound
brings me back
to my true home.

I was instructed that whenever I heard a bell – a temple bell, chiming clock, church bell, or telephone – I should stop what I was doing and become aware of my breath, for a least three in-breaths and three out-breaths. I should return to “my true home.” In its outer form, the practice was not difficult. It was a little like a game. When a bell sounded – and they sounded rather frequently –  I could stop washing dishes, stop talking to a friend, and just breathe. It was especially easy because everyone around me was doing it, too.

Gradually, over years, I came to understand that the inner practice of learning to return to “my true home” was really at the heart of everything at Plum Village. Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) explains in At Home in the World:

Our true home is the present moment, whatever is happening right here and right now. Our true home is a place without discrimination, a place without hatred. Our true home is the place where we are no longer seeking anything, no longer yearning for anything, no longer regretting anything. When we return to right here and right now with the energy of mindfulness, we will be able to establish our true home in the present moment.

Your true home is something you have to create for yourself. When we know how to make peace with our body, to take care of our body, and release the tension in our body, then our body becomes a comfortable, peaceful home for us to come back to in the present moment. When we know how to take care of our feelings—when we know how to generate joy and happiness, and how to handle a painful feeling—we can cultivate and restore a happy home in the present moment. And when we know how to generate the energies of understanding and compassion, our home will be a very cozy, pleasant place to come back to. But if we’re not able to do these things, we won’t want to go home. Home is not something to hope for, but to cultivate. There is no way home; home is the way.

It was also during that visit that I got to know Sister Jina. She is a Dutch-Irish former hotel manager, turned yoga teacher, turned Japanese Zen nun, who had come to Plum Village in 1990 to study with Thay. She was especially appreciative of Thay’s capacity to elucidate in English and French the deepest teachings of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. Sr. Jina has remained in the  Plum Village community, serving for many years as the Abbess of the Lower Hamlet.

This Thursday and Friday evenings we will have the opportunity to view a short video of Sister Jina in which she asks herself: What is preventing me from going back home to myself? It is from”Stop Waiting, Start Living,” a public talk she and Br. Phap Dung offered in New York City in 2015.

You are invited to join us.

Some transcribed sections from Sr. Jina’s talk are below.

It is still possible to receive 2021 Tao Te Ching and Pooh Wisdom Oracle Readings from the Still Water website.  Over the past week it has been used by practitioners from around the world. Many have emailed that they enjoyed and benefit from the guidance they received.

Warm wishes for a peaceful and joyful every moment.

Mitchell Ratner

Going Back Home to Myself
by Sr. Jina from “Stop Waiting, Start Living,” a 2015 public talk

What is preventing me from going back home to myself? When my mind and body are in the same place, I feel at home. I’ve been fortunate enough to always have had a roof over my head, to have a home, but I’ve not always been home. I’m not always home. …

Many years ago, there was a lady from Austria that came to Plum Village. At the end of her stay, at the end of the retreat, we asked some friends to give some input, how it had been for them. This lady said she came to Plum Village because she had read Thomas Merton’s words that said: you can see Thich Nhat Hanh is a monk by the way he closes a door. So she had come to watch us closing doors. We didn’t know, maybe just as well, however. She must have been impressed, because she was scheduled to stay one week and she stayed two. Closing a door became for me a practice: how do I close doors?

I think we all have doors somewhere that we can open by taking the knob, turning it, and pushing open the door. It’s very interesting to observe how we open a door.

And how do we close a door? It’s just a door, but it is a wonderful way to bring us back to our home . To put our hand on the knob, to feel the knob in our hand, already brings our mind back to our body. I turn the knob, or I push the handle down, and I’m aware of how much force I use to open the door and close the door.  So if you don’t have time to sit, and breathe, maybe, since you’re going through the door anyway, you can make that your practice of going home.

But coming home also is something else, like coming home to that place where it’s quiet. I’ve noticed, here in New York, it’s quite noisy outside. As I was walking here on foot I thought, “Yes, it’s very noisy, but let me see if I just let the noise be, then, is it quiet?” And I realized, I’m thinking and sometimes I find, even if there’s no noise around me, it’s quite noisy inside. Maybe the most noise is inside. The outer noise not so much. When I listen to this noise, what I see most is just un-useful thinking, not helpful at all. And then I think, “Ok, can I close a door?”

Why am I thinking so much? I’ve just come out of a meeting and I carry things out of the meeting with me.  I’ve already closed the door physically, but in my head, no. Why did she say this in that way? Why didn’t she flow along, et cetera. The meeting was closed, but not everywhere. I continued the meeting in my head. So, close the door. The meeting is over: close the door. Then, as I closed the door, it’s the same as opening a door. It means new possibilities, new challenges. Can I be there for the possibilities and the challenges. …

When we close the door of the office and we go home. And then we open the door of our apartment or house, and we close the door behind us. Truly close the door. Then we can be truly present for our loved ones, for our children, our partner. We can be there, we can share with them from our heart. We can listen with our heart and we can enrich each other’s lives.

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