People at the retreat are placed into families of about ten people, with 4 monastics. Our family was the Morning Star family and our working meditations was to make breakfast every morning. Since breakfast prep was during the morning meditation (beginning at 5:45 am) we broke into two groups. The sister with Jim in the photo, Sister Adornment of Intelligence, was the leader of our group. At 25 she was one of the first nuns to be ordained when Thay went back to Viet Nam 5 years ago to open a monastery, which was violently closed down by the Viet Nam government in the fall of 2009. The nuns and monks went into hiding and some 115 monastics have since left Viet Nam and joined his monasteries around the world.
I would describe Plum Village as a Summer Camp for Buddhists. We did more laughing meditation then sitting meditation. As a fund raiser for their library, on Lazy Day, (a free day mid way through the retreat) the sisters had a soccer match against the kids. Jim was the announcer and although he knows nothing about Soccer, he was extremely funny with his steady stream of off-the-wall comments. The players began with singing the national anthem of Plum Village, "Happiness Is Hear And Now." They even had a half time with music and refreshments. Jim announced that Lady Gaga was scheduled to arrive in a lotus flower, but couldn't make it at the last moment.
There were awards given after the game. One went to Wonderful Bamboo, pictured above with the purple T shirt dancing a jig after shooting a goal, for raising the most money getting people to sponsor her. The couple below (from Portland Oregon) with crowns of flowers, received an award for their generosity. It was their 18th wedding anniversary.
We met some wonderful people from all over the world. Our family included people from Denmark, Holland, Mexico, China, New Zealand, England, Sweden, Wales and the USA. All kinds of people come to Plum village. One woman was a military chaplain from the U.S. on sabbatical. Below I'm pictured with Annelie, a 30 year old world-class free diver and mountain climber. In May she became the first woman from Sweden to climb the north side of Mount Everest. She got into mediation at the age of 14 when she began mountain climbing, and realized it was as much about mental strength as physical.
Children and families are a big part of Plum Village. There are programs for all ages. Two of the women in my family, each with 12 year old boys, came back this year because their kids asked to. One family, in our family, were back because their 13 year old daughter was asked to come back for a month this year, at no cost, to be a "seed teen" because she had such good qualities. I often saw teen age girls walking hand in hand and singing Plum Village songs together. One group of boys gathered in the meditation hall every afternoon to make music together with a piano, drums and guitars.
After Thay's talks there was walking meditation in the plum orchard, with a pause for sitting meditation in the trees.
Jim loved his time at Plum Village and we are looking forward to going back again next year. I feel so very blessed to have the opportunity to go to Plum Village and be a part of this wonderful international community. Nothing in my life has ever felt so Right. I have found my home; a wonderful mix of Asia and France and everything in between.
Since Cajarc is just three hours east of Plum Village, after the first week, a couple from Vancouver stopped by and stayed two night in our second house, on their way to a Santana concert in Nice. After the second week a family with two children camped two nights in Cajarc while on their way home to Prague. And the 1st of September a group of 6 monastics, two sisters and four brothers, will be traveling to Nime for a conference. Sister Wonderful Bamboo asked me if they could stop in Cajarc for a meal, or possibly to stay the night while in route. Jim and I are very excited with this possibility. Just imagine, a group of asian monastics visiting our little French village and staying in our second house! What an honor it will be to host them. I will keep you posted.
Flowery Light of the Heart
(my dharma name)