January - February 2023

Dear respected Thay,
Dear respected Sister Chan Khong,
Dear respected ancestors and teachers,

A few days ago, I celebrated the lunar new year at a tea house with a sangha friend. There, a master calligrapher wrote two verses in elegant Chinese script, which I have interpreted and offer to you:

stillness of winter / welcoming spring

In the stillness of winter, resting in quiet, I welcome the spring inside of me. Thanks to your teachings, dear Thay, my garden is blooming. Seeds of love and understanding have taken root in my heart. Dharma rain has softened this soil and watered this garden. Now my body is fertile earth, singing with possibility.

I aspire to the courage and clarity of Thay, Sister Chan Khong, and the many young social workers who risked their lives to care for others and advocate for peace in the midst of war. Their stories offer me a path towards collective liberation, a path that continues to inspire my whole life. In summer 2018, during the 21-day retreat at Plum Village, I was fortunate to meet so many spiritual elders who had chosen to walk this path before me. They touched me deeply. One afternoon in Lower Hamlet, I walked to the white stone Buddha in the forest past the lotus pond, touched the earth, and committed to this path of peacebuilding. This path has become my home.

After Plum Village, I chose to study with peace activists and dharma teachers in Jerusalem and to build a trade school for Palestinian young people in the occupied West Bank. Over two years, I helped to organize trips of Israeli and Palestinian friends to Plum Village for days of connection and healing. In 2019, dharma teacher Joann Rosen and I facilitated workshops on building resiliency through trauma in Israel and Palestine, an experience which gave me the tools to understand my own body, emotions, and trauma more deeply.  I returned to California in early 2020, and helped to organize Sit Walk Listen, public gatherings of meditation and deep listening in support of Black Lives Matter and Asian-American communities impacted by violence.

Today my body is humming with a deep and abiding aspiration to build the beloved community: sangha that excludes no one, where all are welcome, seen, and loved. I aspire to contribute to sanghas that can act with wisdom and compassion – in the streets when necessary – to care for all beings and this precious earth. I imagine sanghas that can hold in collective awareness the conditions of oppression, injustice and climate change that contribute to the suffering of so many. I aspire to build sanghas that help me to recognize this miracle of being alive. Today, I serve on the caretaking council of the vibrant and beautiful Wake Up San Francisco sangha, and the emerging Beloved Community Circles initiative, which supports mindful action as sangha practice.

In 2017, I received the dharma name Peaceful Embracing of the Heart at a Wake Up retreat at Plum Village. That summer, I remember carrying deep sorrow and grief at my fractured relationship with my parents and brothers. The practice has supported me in transforming my relationships with my blood family, learning to embrace each person as they are and letting go of my expectations for how they will show up. I’ve learned to hold my own grief and loneliness with the same tenderness, to recognize suffering and joy as part of my ancestral inheritance.

Dear Thay, you have brought light to every part of my life. My days and weeks sing with the rhythm of practice, reflection, and community building. You have helped me to build a life that I am proud of, to come home to a body that I know how to love. For the rest of my life, I will tend my garden with care and patience — inviting in dharma rain, watering good seeds in mind and body. I will hold my suffering with reverence and care. Thank you for the opportunity to join the Order of Interbeing and to formally commit to the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, alongside friends and teachers who have been my companions on this path.

With humility and deep gratitude, I ask for your support.

Melanie Gin
Peaceful Embracing of the Heart