Dearest Melanie,

On the eve of 33, take heart in your true name
given in the stillness of morning by a woman who
practices freedom, who carries her stories lightly and
acts with great compassion. You woke to the mist
embracing the blue monastery, street lights illuminating
your path to the zendo. Monastics in their sanghati robes,
bright yellows and golden hues, your companions beside you.

Return to the moment of no-return
taking vows that now rest in you with tenderness and
enduring fire, a hearth that warms from within
that needs tending, continues to rustle and flame.

Your name spoken aloud, feet in slow step,
you drop to your knees before the sister, head bowed
name bestowed, a gift from the spiritual ancestors
accepted with habitual resistance and deepening
faith, gratitude, trust in the luminous path which
is me, is in me, carries me forth.

Melanie Gin
Peaceful Embracing of the Heart
True Light of Aspiration (Chân Nguyện Sáng)

True (Chân) cuts through the illusions of a separate self
pointing at the there left when all pretense is stripped away,
this human body existing in a never-ending flow of cause and effect.
This is because that is, I am because you are.

Light (Sáng) is a name shared by my ordination family,
and with Thay, whose full name is Trùng Quang Nhất Hạnh.
The Vietnamese word Quang an archaic word for light,
while Sáng conveys a light that illuminates.

Aspiration (Nguyện) is the name given to me by the sisters of Blue Cliff Monastery,
chosen upon reading my letter to Thay and Sister Chân Khong.
It is the very act of breathing in and out, reflects
the bodhisattva vow to save all beings from suffering.

Aspiration encompasses the many callings on my heart,
those surfaced years ago in a quiet forest in Plum Village:

To love and honor my family, know the stories of my ancestors
To build conditions for partnership and motherhood

To celebrate my creativity in art, poetry, clay
To walk the path of peacebuilder and dharma teacher

To deepen my relationship with mother earth, and to treat her with reverence
To live with and contribute to beloved spiritual community

practicing ease in the body

I name and hold my sensitivity with kindness.
I aspire to deepen my resilience to discomfort, expanding my capacity to be at ease in the world.

This year, I am exploring these two truths with care. I am highly sensitive to sensory inputs - loud noise, motion, scents, tone of voice, facial expression - and can find it challenging to operate from a body of solidity and ease. Frequently I am aware of agitation in my stomach, severe tension in my shoulders, neck, and jaw. I often attempt to change my surroundings to facilitate more comfort and ease in the body. These attempts can be compassionate means of taking care. And they can limit the spaces in which I can be comfortable and happy. My teacher Joann recently shared:

If you’re already sensitive, the practice of mindfulness is not about becoming more sensitive. Mindfulness of the body facilitates conditions of more ease and wellbeing. How can you stay regulated in a wider range of conditions, and strengthen your ability to tolerate discomfort?

Recognizing that every situation of agitation is different, I composed a set of actions that may be helpful for future iterations of self.

  1. Discern safety - assess if the conditions are dangerous to your physical body or mental wellbeing. If so, remove yourself from the situation - without excuse or delay.

2. Calm the body - in moments of agitation, pause to calm the body. Take a deep, refreshing breath. Ground your feet or sit-bones on the earth. Resource yourself with a glass of cool water.

3. Be curious - what contributed to the activation in your body? Include the impact of past traumas alongside the conditions of the present moment. Does this emotion or thought feel familiar?

4. Hold with love - meet whatever arises in your exploration with compassion and presence. Maybe fear, grief, or rage surfaces when you pause. Let these emotions be your companions without needing them to dictate your speech or behaviors.

making peace with loneliness

An insight from a weekend of quiet joy and togetherness,
with Ryan and our dog in the comfort of a mother's home –

You are going to be lonely. No relationship will save you. No amount of searching or longing will prevent loneliness from seeping into your soul.

Pause for a moment. Let the grief and disappointment of this truth arise in full form, let them flower like armfuls of lavender after a summer harvest. No person will ever fully understand you.

You get to choose with whom and where you settle. Some friends can sing to pieces of yourself that bloom in their presence. Sangha friends will help you to hold the rituals and beauty of your Buddhist practice. Others will ground you in histories of justice, while still others will remind you of the ancestral songs you’ve forgotten. I know your whimsy and play, your ambition and entrepreneurial leanings. Most of these pieces can be met with others. Other pieces may be held by yourself as witness in deliberate moments of care.

Create a village for yourself of beings who connect you to the many pieces of yourself. Find beings you trust to have their own integrity and who offer you the freedom to be yourself. Beings who meet your longing and grief with loving and patient hands. Who celebrate the many parts of you, even when they do not fully understand.

As you build this village of friends and loved ones, please remember to love your loneliness. To know that there is a home within yourself, that you are seen and welcomed in this vast and unshakable home inside.

Welcome to 33, dear Melanie. May you inhabit a body of ease and contentment. May you recognize the preciousness of each moment, holding fears of mortality with presence and love.

With love and enduring care,