By Joann Malone and Patrick Smith
Ten years ago this summer, my husband and I learned a mindfulness practice at Plum Village that has since nourished our home and our marriage. The leader of our Avatamsaka family group, Shantum Seth, suggested that all the couples in our group renew their wedding vows each month on the full moon. After several beautiful talks on love by Thay, a signing of the Peace Treaty, and a Beginning Anew Ceremony in our large family group, we couples gathered in the evening around the lotus pond. As the full moon rose over the trees, children exclaimed and songs burst forth from hundreds of people from dozens of countries. Supported by the entire PV community and summer retreat participants, we pledged to love one another with loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. The children released paper boats they had made onto the pond and brought us special full moon treats to feed one another.
We have continued to practice with Plum Village each month in our home, simply by gathering our candle, bell, and chant book, and standing near the kitchen window where we have the best view of the moon. We light the candle, invite the bell, and recite the Five Awarenesses:
- We are aware that all generations of our ancestors and all future generations are present in us.
- We are aware of the expectations that our ancestors, our children, and their children have of us.
- We are aware that our joy, peace, freedom, and harmony are the joy, peace, freedom, and harmony of our ancestors, our children, and their children.
- We are aware that understanding is the very foundation of love.
- We are aware that blaming and arguing never help us and only create a wider gap between us, that only understanding, trust, and love can help us change and grow.
These deep truths have seeped into our consciousness with our monthly renewal, allowing us to wake up more quickly when challenged by blaming or becoming angry at one another. Our deepening awareness helps us stop, breathe, and look at one another with more love and understanding. We remember that joy, peace, freedom, and harmony are possible in any moment. We are always loved and supported by our ancestors, our children, their children, and the worldwide Sangha. Our love for one another helps transform our ancestors, our children, their children, and the world.
Our monthly vow renewal was particularly powerful for us when we were in Miami to memorialize my niece, who had passed away at age thirty-eight from a brain aneurism. This sudden death, caused by lack of medical insurance for high blood pressure medication, brought great sadness to our family. Additionally, as the family gathered, secrets were revealed that possibly could have led to violence. The night before the memorial service, the full moon appeared over the ocean and reminded me that it was time to recite the Five Awarenesses. We invited my brothers, sister-in- law, and other niece to join us. The words “understanding is the very foundation of love,” recited by family members feeling deep conflict with one another, brought enough peace into our midst to hold off actions that might have further divided us and increased our suffering.
The Full Moon Ceremony, along with daily meditation together, the Peace Treaty, the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, our teachers, and our Sangha (the Washington Mindfulness Community), brings stability and peace to our family. We are so grateful to Thay and Plum Village for supporting us on this path of love. Happy 30th Anniversary.
Joann Malone and Patrick Smith, True Collective Practice and True Collectie Beauty, live in Takoma Park, Maryland