I’ve just come back from Plum Village France. All in all I spent over one month of my past half year there and I’m so grateful for all the love and insights I received! I want to remember that and from that space of gratitude share with you.
What I love about this place
Here’s a compilation of all the things that I find so special about this place. It waters the seed of gratitude in me and gives you an overview, a first idea what Plum Village really is about. I’m aware that just the fact that it’s a Buddhist monastery can already feel quite tight and stiff to some people. Yes, there is structure, yes there are certain rules and practices. Yet, the overall feeling that is most prominent for me there is one of openness. Thich Nhat Hanh, who is the main teacher and founder of Plum Village, dedicated his life to modernize Buddhism. I feel that in so many aspects there.
– Stepping foot onto Plum Village land I feel peace entering me. It’s really tangible that human beings and nature are living in harmony there. The brothers and sisters are dedicating all their energy to nurture that peace and love. You can see it in their smiles, you hear it in their soft voices, in the insights they share how to live life happily, and in their great ability to listen.
– Other than you’d probably expect from Zen Buddhism, there is usually only half an hour or maximum one hour of sitting meditation at Plum Village per day. It’s really about bringing mindfulness to all aspects of daily living. There is eating meditation, brushing teeth meditation, working meditation, walking meditation, talking&listening meditation and so on. Sometimes I miss hours of continued sitting, as I know them from Vipassana Retreats, yet this practice to me really feels more sustainable and much easier to bring home and apply in daily life.
– The practice there is one of ENGAGED buddhism. That means not sitting in silence and meditating, while war is happening around. For example, the brothers and sisters support Extinction Rebellion and some of them take part in it. Also, the monks and nuns accept visitors almost all year around. A LOT of people. In some retreats even families, children, teens. It’s full on for them, they share their home out of compassion and to relieve the suffering of those who are coming to practice with them.
– There is a lot of singing in Plum Village. They really understand that it’s one of the most simple and powerful ways to bring people together and concentrate the mind. So whenever we gather for example for walking meditation we would sing some songs first, e.g. „we are on a journey to nowhere, taking it easy, taking it slow…“ Simple songs, often joyful, that stay with you like mantras and help to calm down our busy thinking mind.
– Mindfulness and deep understanding penetrates everything, also the food that is served there. The diet is vegan. Usually once per day before eating, a text is being read to remind us to eat mindfully, be really there with the food and let it nourish us and the community. In those words it is also mentioned to eat in such a way that does not contribute to climate change.
– While among the monks and nuns female and male genders are separated for example for housing and some of the practices, and sexual abstinence is practiced, they know the lay way is different. In the last years even a LGBTQ group has started in Plum Village (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer). There are gender-neutral toilets and again this openness and inclusiveness I find really remarkable.
– I’ve had moments there when I couldn’t believe this was really happening inside a monastery. The openness and tolerance of the brothers and sisters to the ways us „lay people“ practice mindfulness is just amazing. For example last Thursday there was 5 Rhythms dancing meditation happening in the Buddha Hall. In one moment I felt like the 5 or 10 years younger version of myself dancing at Berghain / Panorama Bar, this Berlin electro club… I had to open my eyes to realize No, I am not naked and there are no gay men in leather/latex outfits around me, there were just other meditators and the Buddha smiling from the altar. It was a moment of immense joy about bridging worlds.
– Understanding more and more of Buddhist psychology, how the mind works from an experiential perspective, I keep being shown and reminded at Plum Village what the path to a fulfilled, happy, true life can be. I love how suffering as well as joy & happiness are embraced there. How everything ultimately aims at love that comes from being with what is naturally.
I bow to you Plum Village. To all the brothers and sisters living there, and sharing with us a way to live as one, simply, humbly, in harmony with our own nature.