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The Luckiest Daughter of Cambodia

By Sister Khe Nghiem

The Buddha said every one of us has the seed of peace within our consciousness. Unluckily, when I was a young child, the environment in which I grew up did not water my seed of peace. As a child, I ran under the bombs and bullets during the civil war in my country, Cambodia. My heart and body were wounded and traumatized by fear and hunger. This wound remained in me throughout my life until I met Thay' s teaching. The Buddha's teaching opened my heart wider.

The practice of looking deeply at non-self and emptiness is a wonderful and healing practice for me. I see clearly that the wound that exists in me and in the world is not me. I have no right to possess or attach to it. So I practice letting go. Now I see I am lucky to experience this wound. I have the opportunity to encounter the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha and I am happy to put the teachings into practice. I practice mindfulness to come back to my wounded mind and body. During the day or at night, when my heart does not beat normally, as if it were still under the bombs and the bullets, I follow my breath to calm my mind and relax my whole body. Letting go of all tensions, I become calm and happy again. Thanks to my daily mindfulness practice with a kind teacher and Sangha, I have experienced a lot of healing.

In the beginning, cultivating peace in my five territories (of body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness) was very unpleasant. But as my practice goes deeper and becomes more familiar, there are times I can smile, free from my suffering. Whenever my mind is caught in negative perceptions or useless and unpleasant thoughts, I practice to recognize it. I sit stably in front of a mirror. I look at my face with care and love. I can see my little wounded parents, grandparents, and all my ancestors. I practice, "Breathing in, I am experiencing an unpleasant emotion. Breathing out, I smile. Breathing in, I calm my mind. Breathing out, I relax my whole body." I give my blood a chance to flow freely. I sing my favorite song and listen to peaceful instrumental music for a while. I touch and embrace my blood ancestors, spiritual families, all people and species. I smile to them.

Everyday I feel reborn and full of gratitude to life. Being here in Plum Village with Thay and  the Sangha, I feel I am the luckiest daughter of Cambodia. Thay gave me the dharma name Khe Nghiem, which means "Adornment with Appropriateness." It is appropriate for me to cultivate peace in myself, family, nation, and in the world.

A moment with the dandelions

Dear dandelions, you are so free
You seem very humble and in harmony
You open your whole being to the cosmos
You accept life as it is.

Sister Khe Nghiem ordained in 1999.

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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