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Wake Up: Four Mantras of Love

In the summer of 2017, I found myself caught in an episode of emotional exhaustion from London life, family duty, and placement burnout. I was overwhelmed by the combined stress of adapting to the hectic lifestyle of a new city, the daily six hours of restless commuting, the heavy workload and the responsibility of looking after my little brother, who had just moved to the United Kingdom. All the stressors got the better of me whilst I didn’t take good care of my mental health. Slowly, I saw myself in the same old, dark place. I could sense that my energy level had sunk to its lowest. The black dog—another episode of depression—returned. My mental and physical battery was depleted and I struggled to find a charger or a power bank to save it.

Day after day, I barely moved and was stuck in my bed. My daily ritual to kill time was scrolling the phone, app after app. I was lost in thought and struggled to find a way out. Deep down, I knew that I needed help and I wanted to seek help. But as always, depression numbed my ability to ask for help. I had always been hesitant to ask for help from outsiders and instead tried to sort things out myself. In a muddy place like that, I literally wished that the problem would go away in its own time.

calligraphy by Thầy in Vietnamese, loosely translated as I am not dreaming at all - today is indeed a beautiful day; photo by Hà Down

Looking back, I wish I had known the power of taking refuge in the abundant support that I had available; I wish I had been more comfortable asking for support. I remember vividly one evening lying in bed watching YouTube videos. My newsfeed recommended an interview between Oprah Winfrey and Thầy. That was when I first came across the teaching of Thầy and learned of the existence of Plum Village. That ‘virtual encounter’ changed my life. Thầy shared about the practice and the meaning of the Four Mantras of Love or True Presence.

The fourth mantra is “Darling, I suffer. Please help.” This was what I needed to hear the most at that time. I was stuck in circles and didn’t know how to ask for help. I felt great shame even as I struggled to make sense of the fact that the depression kept coming back to haunt me after so many years.

‘Darling, please help.’ That simple yet powerful mantra, gently whispered from Thầy, was like a wake up call to me. It felt like an antidote to my great suffering at that moment. That mantra significantly changed my life by urging me to leave my bedroom and ask for help.

I started to look online to get more information about this Vietnamese monk; before, I only knew of his name. As a Vietnamese who lived overseas, I wondered why I didn’t know much about him, either from national news or from my education.

I then found out that the Plum Village monastics were doing a retreat tour around the United Kingdom that summer and I immediately signed up. Following that wonderful one-week retreat in Stourbridge, I was lucky to discover that the first London Mindfulness Hub took place that year.  When I returned to London I got the opportunity to connect with the local Sanghas: Wake Up London, Heart of London Sangha, and Colours of Compassion Sangha.

opening ceremony of Thầy's first ever book and calligraphy exhibition in Hà Nội, Việt Nam on March/April 2021 Hương Thơm Quê Mẹ (Fragrance of Motherland); photo by Hà Down

The Mantras of Love shared by Thầy in Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday series had moved me whilst I was lost wandering on the internet. It brought me to this beautiful path. I now practise with the Wake Up Hà Nội—Xóm Trăng—Moon Hamlet Sangha, as I am now back home in Việt Nam.

I wrote this little tune, based on Thầy’s teachings on the Four Mantras of Love, as a personal practice and as a reminder for myself in case I ever forget.

1. Darling, I am here for you

2. Darling, I know you are there and I am so happy

3. Darling, I know you suffer, that’s why I am here for you

4. Darling, I suffer. Please help.

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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