Jinnene Foster

Yoga & Meditation Teacher, Wellness Blog Writer

Anxiety Relief, Spirituality

Why a buddhist monk says inner peace is attainable for anyone

| Posted by Jinnene |

I attended a meditation event yesterday at Dharma Gate in Seattle. A couple times each month, I visit that center and sit with the Mindfulness Community of Puget Sound to meditate, and to learn about the teachings of renowned Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh.

Last night, I had the great pleasure of being guided through meditation practice by Brother Phap Vu, a practicing monk. Brother Phap Vu has learned under the tutelage of Thich Nhat Hanh, affectionately known as “Thai.”

Roughly 25 people settled upon cushions or chairs in a minimalist, dimly lit zen-do (meditation hall). An altar sits at the front of the zen-do, as well as a giant steel singing bowl.

Bells and bowls are a big part of Thai’s tradition in mindfulness circles, as their rings remind us to stop, observe silence, and come back to our inner landscapes.

Bespectacled, hairless, and kind-eyed, Brother Phap Vu wore a brown frock that you would expect to see clad upon a caring monk, and took us through a series of prompts to get into our meditative mind space; familiar prompts like, “find the breath, engage in a body scan head to toe; observe any sensations that come up.”

“Observe sensations that come up” is a prompt I myself have instructed many times in various public spaces around town as a yoga and mindfulness/meditation teacher.

It’s a prompt I find agency in, as I too have practiced it repeatedly at the suggestion of one of my own teachers over years time.

However, despite my familiarity with this practice: I stop moving my body, I sit, I close my eyes, I observe my physical state, I observe the quality of my thoughts, I observe the quality of my breath, I derive an entirely different experience each time I go there.

It’s like every time I sit, I begin anew.

While I listened to Brother Phap Vu’s voice yesterday, I observed gratitude in my body. It was comforting to be around others.

As a relative newcomer to Seattle, with little contacts (three years in, and I still feel alien at times in this town), I often spend Friday evenings on my own.

Loneliness is a familiar plague to any introverted writer-type, and the acute discomfort that it can bring about can knock me off center, sometimes unexpectedly. If you can relate to this truth, please understand that you are not alone.

For many bodies and minds, sitting to meditate can be a powerful, enriching, but sometimes excruciating journey.

To sit quietly and observe our minds, fears, aches, and pains with full intention can sweep us up into a swell of overwhelm, rendering us intimidated by the practice forevermore.

This is to be understood, and why it can be useful to practice meditation with a community (sangha in Sanskit).

I have found that to breathe in the presence of others administers a sort of quiet glee within that I can’t always touch during practice on my own.

After a 30-minute meditation, Brother Phap Vu led a dharma talk, another Sanskrit word–this one denoting a public discourse regarding Buddhist teachings.

To listen to a practicing monk for me, after years of fascination around Buddhist philosophies, was quite a treat.

Though many of Brother’s concepts found their loving way to my heart space, there was one that spoke to me most:

To stay the course toward inner peace, we must practice our mindfulness techniques every day. We must be persistent.

That sounds easy enough, right?

Yet persistence may be the one little detail that seems to keep us from achieving our mindfulness goals.

When I asked my very wise mother (Lois) what she thought would keep one from persisting at anything challenging, she said: lack of stamina.

“Stamina is the ability to keep going—ongoing energy, strength, determination.”

Lois’s assessment makes good sense to me. Sadly, I struggle to be persistent at anything–not in the least at meditation.

Can you relate to the desire to have a meditation practice, but despite your best efforts, you soon fall out of it?

We’ve all been there. But Lois has me thinking: perhaps we struggle to be persistent, as Brother Phap Vu suggests do, because we struggle with stamina; because we are tired.

What does your self-care regime look like? Take a moment now, and consider something kind you can do for yourself today. What are ways in which you restore within?

For my part, it’s sunny outside. This month marks May: my favorite month of all. I have much to be grateful for. I am breathing. I am able bodied. I love, and I am loved.

I give thanks for a special mother and a special monk to help me recall gratitude itself; without it, we’d have nothing to persist for.