Mindfulness and interconnectedness to all

Kasia Stepien

The impact of Plum Village Mindfulness practices go much beyond one’s individual wellbeing or stress relief, additionally bringing to awareness deep ecology, global ethics and social action.

Plum Village Tradition of Engaged Buddhism: The key Plum Village teaching is that, through mindfulness, ‘we can learn to live happily in the present moment—as a way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.’ Some of the key features of Plum Village Mindfulness: • Mindfulness as a way of life - Plum Village tradition uses the Five Mindfulness Trainings, a concrete expression of Buddhist teachings, to bring an ethical and spiritual dimension to decision making. • Engaged Buddhism - a practice that is engaged with the challenges of our time, and in which personal spiritual growth and service to society go hand in hand. • Community Building Key elements of mindfulness: • Stopping and calming • Cultivating happiness and joy • Taking care of difficult emotions • Untangling our thinking • Looking deeply – the insights of impermanence and interbeing From: www.plumvillage.org and www.plumvillage.uk 5 Mindfulness Trainings: plumvillage.org/mindfulness-practice/the-5-mindfulness-trainings/

Imagine a world where people, groups and organisations are bringing care, consideration and mindful intention to what they are doing; they listen to each other with compassion, and reflect on the impact their decisions make for themselves, others and the Earth.

This is the world I believe many of us long to see, partake of and co-create. One of the ways that helped me come closer to living in such a way has been practicing mindfulness in the Plum Village Tradition.

Some years ago, whilst searching for inspiration and support in how to live in times of global crisis, isolation and separation, I came across a group called Wake Up London. They are a community of young people who practice mindfulness together, inspired by the teachings of Zen master and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh. Here were a group of people who embodied the values of compassion and understanding that I so thirsted for.

Imagine a world where people, groups and organisations are bringing care, consideration and mindful intention to what they are doing

Soon after, I decided to attend the mindfulness retreat to discover more about these practices.

There, through daily activities such as eating, sitting, walking, working, speaking and listening, I experienced the depth and joy of mindfulness.

Coming back to my breathing, bringing awareness to the joy of walking, being present with those around me, with my own thoughts and feelings I started to realise how little of my actual time I was intentionally spending ‘here’. Rather, I had been living life on autopilot. But this time, washing dishes, eating a meal, looking at the tree or experiencing a challenging emotion with awareness and curiosity, I felt that I was encountering life in a much more meaningful way. A way that was inspiring gratitude and joy.

The practices seemed simple and ordinary, yet proved to be both powerful and transformative. By stopping and looking deeply, I found myself more and more in touch with the insight of interbeing; a term coined by Thich Nhat Hanh, understood as the interconnection of all things. One day during the retreat while chopping carrots for lunch in the practice of ‘working meditation’, I suddenly became captivated by their beauty, unique expression, shapes and colours.

One day chopping carrots for lunch I became captivated by their beauty, unique expression, shapes and colours

For a moment I found myself falling into a deep encounter, contemplating, where is this carrot coming from and how does it come into being? It appeared as a gift of the earth, sunshine, rain, the time and energy of farmers who put seeds into the soil and picked them when ready, plus all the other people involved in order for us to enjoy it for lunch. ‘A carrot is made of non-carrot elements’ – I remembered reading in one of Thich Nhat Hahn’s books. Instantly, it brought a profound realisation that the carrot wouldn’t be here without the support of Mother Earth and the entire universe and I could feel the magical unfolding of this interconnected relationship with all beings.

This understanding is a source of love and compassion that in turn guide my actions in a daily life toward living more ethically, sustainably and happily, in service to life, the Earth and all beings. In times of global, social and environmental crisis, we need this awareness to make necessary the shift from mindless, harmful consumerism to a society based on harmonious, caring and mindful relationship for humanity, the Earth and all beings; one that sustains all life.

“To practice mindfulness and to look deeply into the nature of things is to discover the true nature of interbeing. There we find peace and develop the strength to be in touch with everything. With this understanding, we can easily sustain the work of loving and caring for the Earth and for each other for a long time.” (Source: T. N. Hahn, 1982)

How much of your time do you actually spend ‘here’ - with those around you and with what you are doing? What is your way of coming back to the present moment?

What does interbeing mean to you? Where in your life can you see the interconnectedness of all things?

What is the world you want to see, partake and create? What can you do right now to take a step towards contributing to this vision of the world?

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