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Letters

I just read the latest Mindfulness Bell [#74, Winter/Spring 2017]. I had been saddened to feel that I did not know more about Thay at this time and the struggles of the Sangha to go on without him. I wanted the mud with the lotus, and this issue was so beautiful in its refusal to deny the pain, the challenges of this conventional reality, and yet its affirmation of all that he has represented of ultimate reality. To see the two growing together was powerfully moving to me and gives me a great sense of how you will continue, allowing Thay to live and grow not just from his wheelchair but within each of you. Thank you for your courage and love.

Cynthia Rich

Mirror Mind Sangha

San Diego, California

I’d like to put in a request for an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Special. I know we have many inspiring LGBT Dharma teachers in our community (lay as well as monastic) and Thay has sent a clear message of acceptance, which has attracted many LGBT people to his tradition. It would be great to hear from these teachers how they use the practice to face shame and discrimination. I’m also aware there are different levels of understanding and acceptance within our community. The article “I Love Jesus but I Follow Buddha,” on the Wake Up International website (wkup.org), is a beautiful illustration of this tension within the Sangha. Recently I’ve been part of a few different sharing circles in Plum Village that have also been powerful reminders that people do not always feel 100% welcome as LGBT members of our Sangha. Those sharings really touched me, and I feel the Mindfulness Bell could be a powerful and wonderful place to bring this topic into the light of the Sangha eyes, and hopefully help us move collectively towards greater understanding and inclusivity.With gratitude,Ethan PollockUpper Hamlet, Plum Village

Dear Ethan,

Thank you very much for your heartfelt message. I truly appreciate your invitation to make the Mindfulness Bell a place for sharing about LGBT-related struggles and learnings. As a member of the LGBT community myself (I’m married to a woman), I resonate deeply with what you’ve expressed. I encourage you to submit an article, essay, or poem about your own experience and practice around this topic. 

With gratitude and warm wishes,

Natascha Bruckner

Managing Editor

I want to bring to your attention a word choice that I deeply question, the word “dissociate.” In issue #74 [Winter/Spring 2017], on page seven, it is stated, “You learn to dissociate yourself from all fears, worries, and anxieties. The more you dwell in that island of yourself, through the in-breath and out-breath and dissociate yourself from fears …” This word is used in psychiatry to describe disorders where people separate themselves from reality, usually pathologically. I think most Americans understand the word in this way. Yet, I don’t think this is what Thay teaches. I’ve heard or read Thay say mindfulness of breathing helps us not to be caught in fears and anxieties. He talks about creating space to embrace, take care of, and look deeply into them, about not throwing away our suffering and making best use of it. We claim our suffering rather than separate ourselves from it. Our suffering is clearly our reality, but mindfulness of breathing helps us remain calm and stable so we can begin to understand and transform that reality. The use of the word dissociate was new and troubling to me. If you disagree, I shall certainly appreciate hearing why, as I am always eager to deepen my understanding of Thay’s teachings.

Thank you, and be well,

Bethany Klug, The Practice of True Emptiness

Kansas City, Missouri

Dear Bethany,

The talk was in Vietnamese. “Dissociate” was a mistranslation. As editors we should have noticed it. Thanks for pointing out our mistake.

Sister Annabel

Advisor and Editor

Errata 

In issue #74 (Winter/Spring 2017), on pages 9 and 12, information about the Plum Village 21-Day Retreat was incorrect. Sister Tu Nghiem (Sister Eleni) gave the Dharma talk on June 3, 2016, with the topic “The Three Pillars.” When Thich Nhat Hanh came to the front of the hall, the Sangha sang “I Have Arrived” in several languages.

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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