Thursday, August 08, 2002

Back from Plum Village

Dear Friends: After resisting much when I arrived at Plum Village a month ago, still feeling the delicious taste of the souffle in my mouth, the freedom to get a croissant almonde whenever I wanted and feeling the fast pace of Paris in my bones, the monastery did not look so good. With my judgemental mind at its peak I couldn't stop comparing and critizing everything. The kitchen practice sucks, the walking meditation is too fast, the food is too plain, the dishwashing process hardly hygienic, people are too slow, there is too many "royal silence zones" people look half dazed and how dare them add one more bed in my room. I requested two people only - and with no warnings at registration. Now I have a hard time adjusting back to the pace in the city, the noise, the cigarette smoking everywhere, the hurried manners of the woman at the tourist office. The fear and greed in peoples eyes, foccused in grasping and getting to places. Where is the joy of each action? Although Bordeaux has a much slower pace than Paris, it is too fast for me right now and I crave nature. I arrived in Bordeaux yesterday after emotional good byes, hugs, kisses, tears and lots of pieces of paper with new names and addresses of people I connected with sometimes briefly but intensily. The practice of mindfulness is serious business. According to Thich Nhat Hanh, it takes mindfulness to recognize all the happiness around us. Happiness is all around us, twenty four hours a day. With the energy created with mindfulness we are able to feel it, to be peaceful, happy and able to help others. I really appreciated his gentleness, poetic lectures that made perfect sense and teachings that seemed very doable to anyone. We don't have to be in a monastery- we can practice anywhere. The practice is available 24 hours a day to anyone who dares to try - more later. I also felt lots of loving kindness and compassion going around, a lot of sweetness, smiles and joy including the monastic people. I was very encouraged, they seem to practice what they preach. Thay, or teacher - as Thich Nhat Hanh is known here is also an activist for social change, a pacifist and poet. There were groups of people from Israel and Palestine during the retreat. Thay asked them to meet regularly and share their suffering. After two weeks of outpouring of emotions, anger, rage and lots of sufferings, the group was able to come up in front of the sangha - spiritual community and make a presentation of how they feel. They decided to create a website named "peace starts" and they will continue to talk and include others in the discussion when they go home. There were people from over 40 countries during the last month, which was dedicated to lay people - non monastic - families and individuals, who stayed from one week to one month. Kind of a United Nations really. Lectures in english, french and vietnamise with simultaneous translations to several lanquagues. We also celebrated a lot of festivals and there were a lot of children, making the place quite happy. It was quite festive actually. I feel very greatful for the practice offered there and to feel so much support from the sangha. I highly recommend. I will be going to the atlantic coast tomorrow, to a place 45 minutes from Bordeaux and I am looking forward swimming and being with nature again. Monday morning - the 12th, I take a train to Toulouse, then Carcassome, then Toulon, Nice and around the area. The walk to Santiago de Compostela is coming up soon and I am a little scared and excited at the same time. Are you ready for a log? I am a little behing as we haven't even gotten to Paris yet. So, here we go. By the way, I just posted some pictures if you are interested. Paris, June 25th, 2002 Tuesday Dejà à Paris - Today is full moon and I am told there will be a moon eclipse. I am not sure it is good or bad, but I arrive at my hotel at the Henry IV with a little annoyance ahead of me. About a month ago I moved the date of my arrival a day later but forgot to change my hotel reservation date as well. Result: my room was already given to someone else and I had to pay the deposit for one night anyway. The good news is that the manager had a room for me on the 24th which is when I arrived, but not on the 25th. I was really relieved I did't have to hussle a place on the date of my arrival since I was exhausted, so I didn't even mind to pay for a night I didn't use. I only had to find a place for the 25th since the Henry IV could also accomodate me until the 30th when I move to the Esmeralda. My hotel is really rundown and I have to use the bathroom in another floor which is very incovenient, but what a location. It is situated in one of the two islands left in Paris - Ile de la Cité, at Place Dauphine, the second most important parisian royal square of the 17th century after Place des Vosges. Henry IV is maybe as old as that and it is in need of serious renovation. I don't think they had running water at that time, that is probably the reason of the difficulties with bathrooms, not only here but several places in France. Also, Ile de la Cité is where the parisii tribe originally settled long before Caesar came here in 50 BC The other is Ile St. Louis. There used to be eight or nine islands in this region of the Seine. Most of them got smaller by landfill, leaving only these two. I feel tempted to go out and party all night tonight instead of finding a hotel but given my dizzy state of jet lag it is probably not advisable. I slept from 4PM when I arrived until 11PM and could not fall asleep again. I am trying to keep myself awake until the evening so that I can straighten up my "decalage horaire" - aka jet lag. I am sitting at a cyber cafe now. I will probably check my e-mail and send a note to the group. Then I'll try to go to Place des Vosges and Ile St. Louis- they are both very close to where I am staying. I will check out a vegetarian restaurant on the way. It took me a long time to find "Entre Ciel et Terra" on Rue Herold, just to find out they were closed "pour travaux" - for renovation. Later in the evening...... I stumbled upon a vegetarian restaurant on my list- not the one I was looking for, but another one. They claim the ingredients are biologic-organic. The menu looks good- I just ordered and I am waiting for the food. I had a long day. At the beginning I was dragging, trying to stay awake. I kept walking up and down Rue Rivoli, Rue St. Etienne and all over Marais, drinking coffee, taking breaks. I even took a little nap at the grassy area near Place the Vosges. The day was so beautiful, the fountains refreshing, the green grass so inviting, the beautiful dogs made me think of Rodin and Camile. So I felt into a delicious nap, woke up refreshed and asked someone to take my picture. I also found a place to stay tonight, a hostel near the Louvre. I don't even have anything with me, just my toothbrush and paste. No pajamas, or clean underwear, oh well, I just want to get really tired, crash and wake on the local time zone. We'll see what this hostel experience will bring me. It can't be too good. This city is so beautiful, the weather so perfect, the food deliciousm the lanquage so melodius. I am perfectly content. But wait...the mind can never be satisfied. I will be better when the jet lag is over and I am out the hostel......I feel so greedy wanting more.

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