A New Way



A poem by Mary Oliver, offered as a reflection.

You can
die for it –
an idea, or the world. People

have done so,
their small bodies be bound

to the stake,
an unforgettable
fury of light. But

this morning,
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought

of China,
and India
and Europe, and I thought
how the sun

for everyone just
so joyfully
as it rises

under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?

What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it

whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter

Core Practice

Loving Resistance

On Saturday 12th January, Leicester sangha met for the first time in the New Year. Our experience of sangha is growing in our home in the library and garden of the Quaker Meeting House on Queen’s Road.

Loving Kindness is our theme for 2019, beginning this time with offering metta (loving kindness) to ourselves. We began by sitting with this guided meditation and the opportunity to commit to it as a daily practice until we meet again on February 9th.

Later, as we shared our thoughts on practice and community/sangha, we were reminded of the New Year message from Plum Village. It offers us clarity on a way forward in our challenging climate.

Below is the Love Meditation, as practised by Plum Village. You also may like to commit to a daily practice and reflect with us on the path as it opens to us in the light of the Plum Village message.

Meditation – Love, Loving Kindness, Metta

May I be peaceful, happy and light in body and spirit.

May I be safe and free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.

May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.

May I be able to recognise and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.

May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.

May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.

May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free.

May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.

How to practice:

To begin, sit still and calm your body and your breathing. Sitting still, you are not too preoccupied with other matters.

Begin practising this love meditation on yourself (‘May I be peaceful…’) because until you are able to love and take care of yourself, you cannot be of much help to to others.

Plum Village New Year Message: the full version can be found  on the PV website

Extract: Thay’s words of guidance are clear:

To take refuge, first of all, is to take refuge in the island of ourselves and then in the island of a Sangha. These islands are communities of resistance. “Resis­tance” does not mean to oppose others. It means to protect ourselves, like staying inside the house to protect ourselves from the weather. We resist being destroyed by society’s pollution, noise, unhappiness, harsh words, and negative behavior. If we do not know how to take care of ourselves, we may get wounded and be unable to help others. If we join with others to build a sangha that can nourish and protect us and resist society’s destructiveness, we will be able to return home. Many years ago, I suggested that peace activists in the West establish communities of resistance. A true sangha is always therapeutic. To return to our own body and mind is already to return to our roots, to our true home, to our true person. With the support of a sangha, we can do it.

—Thich Nhat Hanh (“Finding our True Heritage”)

Core Practice, Dharma Talks

A Day of Mindfulness


Today, we met as we do on the second Saturday of each month, in the Quaker Meeting House in Leicester. While our mornings together are a great benefit and privilege, it’s clear Thich Nhat Hanh recommends more! The text below is slightly adapted from his book ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’.

Every day and every hour, one should practise mindfulness.

That’s easy to say, but to carry it out is not. I suggest to those who come to meditation that each person should try hard to reserve one day in the week to devote to the practice of mindfulness.

If it is Saturday, then Saturday must be entirely your day, a day during which you are completely the master, Then Saturday will be the lever that will lift you to the habit of practising mindfulness.

Every worker in a peace or service community, no matter how urgent its work, has the right to such a day; without it we will lose ourselves quickly in a life full of worry and action, and our responses will become increasingly useless.

To set up a day of mindfulness, work out a way to remind yourself the moment you wake up. While still lying in bed, begin slowly to follow your breath – long, slow and conscious breaths. The slowly rise from bed, nourishing mindfulness by every motion.

Once up, brush your teeth, wash your face and do all your morning activities in a calm and relaxing way, each movement done in mindfulness. Follow your breath and don’t let your thoughts scatter.

Bathe slowly and mindfully. Afterwards you might do household work like washing the dishes, dusting, cleaning the floor… Whatever the tasks, do them slowly and with ease. Don’t do any task in order to get it over with! Resolve to do each job in a relaxed way, with all your attention. Enjoy and be one with your work. Without this, the day of mindfulness will be of no use at all. The feeling that any task is a nuisance will soon disappear.

For those who are just beginning to practise, it is best to maintain a spirit of silence throughout the day. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak at all. You can talk or even go ahead and sing, but if you do, do it in complete mindfulness of what you are saying or singing and keep both to a minimum. But be warned that it is much easier to stray from mindfulness if your meditation strength is still weak.

At lunchtime, prepare a meal for yourself. Cook and wash up in mindfulness. After your cleaning in the morning, or after you have gardened (or watched clouds) in the afternoon, prepare a pot of tea to sit and drink in mindfulness. Allow yourself a good length of time to do this. Don’t gulp down your tea like someone on a work break. Drink slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the whole earth revolves. Live the actual moment. Only this actual moment is life. Don’t worry about things you have to do.

In the evening, you might read scripture and copy passages, write letters to friends, or do anything else you enjoy outside of your normal duties during the week. Whatever you do, do it in mindfulness.

Eat only a little for the evening meal. Later, as you sit in meditation, you will sit more easily on an empty stomach.

Afterwards, you might take a slow walk in the fresh night air, following your breath and measuring the length of your breath by your steps. Finally, sleep in mindfulness.

Such a day is crucial. Its effect on the other days of the week is immeasurable

The day of mindfulness will begin to penetrate the other days of the week, enabling you eventually to live seven days a week in mindfulness.

I’m sure you agree with me on the importance of days of mindfulness!


Core Practice



Our Mindful Mornings have started again after a summer break with an inspiring call to practise from Thay.  Below is the reading we enjoyed together, adapted slightly from ‘The Art of Living’ by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Please enjoy your practice!

Scientists tell us that to live is to learn. For millions of years our species has been learning…to adapt to our environment.

If we want to survive in our fast-paced society that is overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, fear and despair, we have to learn how to deal with it.

Human beings evolved from Homo habilis to Homo erectus before we became Homo sapiens. Some people have spoken of the new species called Homo conscius – humans with the capacity of being mindful.

There are two ways to adapt to our current situation. The first is to find ways to protect yourself. The way you think, the way you breathe, the way you walk are kinds of protection. Thanks to the energy of mindfulness, concentration and insight, you can survive in a stressful, toxic environment and thanks to your understanding and compassion, you don’t contribute to making it any worse.

As a member of the Homo conscius species, the fruit of your learning will be inscribed in every cell of your body and be transmitted to future generations. They, in turn, will profit from our experience, so they will not only be able to survive challenging situations but also be able to lead happy and fulfilled lives….

There is so much suffering caused by stress, depression, violence, discrimination and despair, and we need a spiritual practice.With a spiritual practice we will be able to adapt and survive. By living with solidity and freedom, we can transmit mindfulness, concentration, insight, joy and compassion to others. This is our legacy, our continuation body, and we hope future generations will inherit our life’s offering.

But suppose you adapt in a different way. Seeing everyone around you so busy, you try to be even busier in order to keep up. You might be successful for a time, but in the end, this adaptation is self-destructive, for you as an individual and for the species as a whole.

In today’s society we are so busy we don’t even have time to take care of ourselves. We’re not at ease with ourselves. We find it difficult to take care of our body, feelings and emotions. We’re afraid of being overwhelmed by our suffering and so we run away from ourselves. This is one of the defining characteristics of our civilisation.

But if we run away from ourselves, how can we take care of our pain? If we can’t take care of ourselves, how can we take care of the people we love? And how can we take care of Mother Earth? She has the capacity to nourish and heal us, but we are running from her and even causing harm and destruction. Technology is allowing us to become ever more adept at running away from ourselves, from our family, and from nature.

There needs to be a revolution, a kind of gentle revolution, a kind of awakening, in each of us. We need to rebel. We need to declare, “I don’t want to continue like this! This is not a life. I don’t have enough time to live. I don’t have enough time to love.”

 Once we have started a revolution in our own consciousness, it will bring about radical change in our family and community.

When we stop to breathe, we are not wasting time. Western capitalist civilisation says “Time is money” and we should use our time to make money. But time is more precious than money. Time is life. Coming back to our breathing and becoming aware that we have a wonderful body – this is life.

We need to wake up from a long dream. It is possible to live differently. Can you see that you already want to live differently?

Time is not money. Time is life and time is love.

With collective awakening, things can change very quickly. That is why everything we do should be directed toward bringing about collective awakening. Humans can be hateful, mean, and violent but we also have the ability, with spiritual practice, to become compassionate and protective toward not only our own species but others too – the ability to be awakened beings who can protect our planet and preserve her beauty. Awakening is our hope. And awakening is possible.

We need to shake ourselves awake so we can change our way of living, so we have more freedom, more happiness, more vitality, more compassion, more love.

We have to reorganise our life so we have time to take care of our body, our feelings, our emotions, our loved ones, and our planet.

Taking care of ourselves and others is the kind of adaptation we want to pass on to future generations. We have to remove the pressures that society puts on us.

We have to resist. Simply our way of walking is a way of reacting: “I refuse to run. I resist. I will not lose a single moment or a single step. I reclaim my freedom, peace, and joy with every step. This is my life and I want to live it deeply.”

Core Practice

Looking Deeply

The following extracts are taken from two books by Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay, for short). Those in normal typeface are from ‘The Other Shore’ and those in italics can be found in ‘No Death, No Fear’. As we continue to practice our love of Mother Earth, we can stop to look deeply and enjoy the liberation of no separate self.


Reflections on a Leaf

One autumn day while I was walking in the park, I became absorbed in the contemplation of a very small and beautiful leaf in the shape of a heart. It was turning red and barely hanging on to the branch, about to fall… Usually we think of the tree as the mother of the leaf, but contemplating I could see the leaf was also mother to the tree.

The sap the tree’s roots take up is only water, amino acids and minerals – not rich enough to nourish the tree. So the tree distributes that sap to the leaves, which, with the help of the sun and carbon dioxide, transform into sap rich in sugars which the leaves send back to the tree. Since the leaf is linked to the tree by a stem the communication between them is easy to see…

We are nourished and sustained by countless parents. The river, wild animals, plants, the soil and all its minerals are our mothers and fathers, and are mothers and fathers to all phenomena on planet Earth. That is why in the sutras it is said that living beings have been our parents through countless lifetimes…

Suddenly I had a kind of insight very much like the insight contained in the Heart Sutra. You have to see life.

You shouldn’t say, life of the leaf, but life in the leaf and life in the tree.

I saw the leaf leave the branch and float down to the soil, dancing joyfully, because as it floated it saw itself already there in the tree. I was so happy, I bowed my head, and I knew that we have a lot to learn from the leaf because it was not afraid; it knew that nothing can be born and nothing can die.


I am more than this body

We should not identify the leaf cadaver we see on the ground as being the whole of the leaf. Only then do we truly see the leaf, which is present everywhere.

After many months of nourishing the tree, nourishing other species, providing shade and making life beautiful, the leaf lets go and gracefully falls to the ground, without any fear, because it knows it has gone out into many directions. It does not identify itself with the form that is floating down to earth, because what is floating down is just a small part of itself that will become one with the earth; in the future it may become a leaf or a flower again. There is nothing to attain and nothing is lost.

When we look into a leaf we should look deeply like this in order to see the interdependent co-arising of the leaf, to see that the leaf is not just present in the leaf. It is also present in the tree and in all other phenomena. Once we are able to see in this way, our grief and our sorrow will disappear.

Drinking our tea, we see “The leaves that remain are only a very small part of the tea. The tea that goes into me is a much bigger part of the tea. It is the richest part.
We are the same; our essence has gone into our children, our friends, and the entire universe. We have to find ourselves in those directions and not in the spent tea leaves.”

 The Gift of Nonfear

We should not wait until we are on our deathbed to begin to contemplate that this body is not myself. We should begin right away to look deeply into this truth…

Most people are used to living in the realm of birth and death, and they forget about the realm of no-birth and no-death. We need to know that in this very moment we are living the life of no-birth and no-death. The word ‘know’ here is important.

To know is to realise.

Realisation is mindfulness.

All the work of meditation is aimed at waking us up to one thing: that birth and death can never touch us in any way whatsoever.

“When you practice looking deeply, you see your true nature of no birth, no death; no being, no non-being; no coming, no going; no same, no different. When you see this, you are free from fear. You are free from craving and free from jealousy. No fear is the ultimate joy. When you have the insight of no fear, you are free. And like the great beings, you ride serenely on the waves of birth and death.”

At our next meeting, on Saturday 7th April, we will take time to reflect on these teachings and share our experiences. Dear Reader, you are welcome to join us.

Core Practice

Myself, Earth and Sangha

Appreciating Mother Earth

On Saturday 10th March, we gathered as a sangha to connect with, appreciate, and learn from Mother Earth. Our guided meditation provides the title for this week’s entry, and prepared us for a contemplative walk in the garden. There were signs of Spring everywhere – from birdsong to tight buds on the trees.

We placed our feet gently on the earth, mindful of Thay’s words in his letter to Mother Earth.

“Dear Mother, you wish that we live with more awareness and gratitude, and we can do this by generating the energies of mindfulness, peace, stability, and compassion in our daily lives. Therefore I make promise today to return your love and fulfill this wish by investing every step I take on you with love and tenderness. I am walking not merely on matter, but on spirit.”

Our experiences culminated in us writing our own letters to Mother Earth, and some of us have chosen to share them here. Dear reader, you may like to compose your own …

Dear Mother Earth

I give back to you as you give to me. With every step that I take knowing you are there to support, sustain and carry me forward on my journey. Knowing that you are the path. You are the earth, and the air and fire and water. You are compassion and kindness, forgiveness and healing. You are everyone and everything that has passed before me. And everyone and everything that will follow after me. You are them and me. And I am them and you. You are body, mind, feelings, perceptions and consciousness. I am body, mind, feelings, perceptions and consciousness. 

When I walk on and with you, I give back all of this.

With respect and gratitude,


Only with careful steps and mindful respect Mother Earth will supply what we expect. By repeating our careful steps with mindful respect, from Mother Earth we will be blessed. Only with careful steps, careful steps.


Dear Mother Earth,

You may not always like what we do to you but you are always love us with your care; air to breathe, food to eat, water to refresh and much, much more.

Thank you,


Dear Mother Earth,

I am so pleased to become re-acquainted with you after I have been absent for so long. Forgive me – I have been remiss; not remembering to thank you for your loving support and sometimes hardly noticing your presence.

Our walks together now are so pleasant. How did I forget how much you nourish me?

I want to thank you now and promise I will remain in touch with you, treating you with respect and doing me best to care for your needs as you care for mine.

In mindfulness,

Your forgetful child,



Dear Mother Earth,

I know I love you.

I love your natural beauty.

Please teach me how to join you, becoming part of you, an element of nature.

Hui-Ling Chen


Dear Mother Earth,

You will be here after I am gone. You will be here long after all now living are gone. You will be here after the last human has gone.

You are not eternal, but will endure while the sun remains stable, a vast span of time. New forms of life will come and go over you, nourished by your air and water. Your volcanoes will belch forth fresh land, renewing the continents as they wear away.

We are not always appreciative.

Today let me feel gratitude for your steady presence, on which I utterly depend.


Finally, here is the Guided Meditation we shared.

Myself, Earth and Sangha meditation

Aware of my in breath, I breathe in.
Aware of my out breath I breathe out.
In breath. Out breath.

Calming my body, I breathe in.
Relaxing my body, I breathe out.
Calming body. Relaxing body.

Aware of my body, I sit upright.
Aware of my body, I sit solidly.
Sitting upright. Sitting solidly.

Sitting in peace, I breathe in.
Letting go of thoughts, I breathe out.
Sitting in peace. Letting go.

Aware of the Earth, I breathe in.
Feeling her solidity, peace and joy I breathe out.
Aware of earth, transmitting solidity, peace and joy.

Sitting on the earth, I breathe in.
Trusting the patience, the freshness, of the Earth, I breathe out.
Sitting on the earth, patient and fresh.

I am fresh like the earth, I breathe in.
I am patient like the earth, I breathe out.
I am fresh, I am patient.

I am the earth, sitting solidity, I breathe in.
I am the earth, sitting peacefully, I breathe out.
I am the earth, solid and peaceful

Touching the joy of our oneness – Myself, Earth and Sangha – I breathe in.
Touching the beauty of our oneness – Myself, Earth and Sangha – I breathe out.
Myself, Earth and Sangha. Joy and beauty.

Please continue to enjoy your practice, feeling and transmitting solidity, peace and joy.







Core Practice

Mother Earth


“I know the earth is my Mother, a great living being. I vow to protect the earth, and she protects me.”

As this Sunday is Mother’s Day, and following on from our morning on Love Meditation, we will focus on our love for Mother Earth during our Mindful Morning this Saturday, March 10th.

Below is a letter Thich Nhat Hanh included in his book ‘Love Letter to the Earth’. We will have an opportunity to look deeply at this together on Saturday and consider other ways in which we can express this love.

Dear Mother Earth,

Every time I step upon the Earth, I will train myself to see that I am walking on you, my Mother. Every time I place my feet on the Earth I have a chance to be in touch with you and with all your wonders. With every step I can touch the fact that you aren’t just beneath me, dear Mother, but you are also within me. Each mindful and gentle step can nourish me, heal me, and bring me into contact with myself and with you in the present moment.

Walking in mindfulness I can express my love, respect, and care for you, our precious Earth. I will touch the truth that mind and body are not two separate entities. I will train myself to look deeply to see your true nature; you are my loving mother, a living being, a great being – an immense, beautiful, and precious wonder. You are not only matter, you are also mind, you are also consciousness. Just as the beautiful pine or tender grain of corn possess an innate sense of knowing, so, too, do you. Within you, dear Mother Earth, there are the elements of earth, water, air and fire; and there is also time, space, and consciousness. Our nature is your nature, which is also the nature of the cosmos.

I want to walk gently, with steps of love and with great respect. I shall walk with my own body and mind united in oneness. I know I can walk in such a way that every step is a pleasure, every step is nourishing, and every step is healing – not only for my body and mind, but also for you, dear Mother Earth. You are the most beautiful planet in our entire solar system. I do not want to run away from you, dear Mother, nor to hurry. I know I can find happiness right here with you. I do not need to rush to find more conditions for happiness in the future. At every step I can take refuge in you. At every step I can enjoy your beauties, your delicate veil of atmosphere and the miracle of gravity. I can stop my thinking. I can walk relaxedly and effortlessly. Walking in this spirit I can experience awakening. I can awaken to the fact that I am alive, and that life is a precious miracle. I can awaken to the fact that I am never alone and can never die. You are always there within me and around me at every step, nourishing me, embracing me, and carrying me far into the future.

Dear Mother, you wish that we live with more awareness and gratitude, and we can do this by generating the energies of mindfulness, peace, stability, and compassion in our daily lives. Therefore I make promise today to return your love and fulfill this wish by investing every step I take on you with love and tenderness. I am walking not merely on matter, but on spirit.