Greetings to you from a summer morning in Jerusalem. The air is cool and I am enjoying delicious hot chocolate -- the kind made from whisking chocolate pieces and milk. If you are reading this letter, I hope you are happy enough and healthy enough. I have seen the pictures of your home in Hue and it looks very beautiful.
I am happy and settled to be writing to you, my teacher. Even though we have never met in person, I know that you are in me and walk alongside me in my path. I see you in my teacher Joann and the elders and sangha friends I have met on my journey, from San Francisco to Green Gulch Farm to Plum Village to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. I hear your voice reminding me to enjoy the blooming of the lotus, to touch the fresh breeze on my face. And I know you are with me in my suffering too.
Yesterday, a dear friend and I practiced Beginning Anew, and we invited the presence of you and our friend Sister Luc Nghiem to our lunch table. Together, we were able to look deeply at the roots of our shame and anxiety, to heal, and to remember our love for each other anew. The transformation was truly a miracle: where there was hurt and resistance, there is now spaciousness and a desire to understand. I am very grateful to you for sharing this practice with us, Thay. Your teachings inspire me to commit to the truth of not knowing. To ask again, “Am I sure?” To open my heart and stay present when I want to fight or run away.
Thay, I am writing to let you know of my deep aspiration to walk this path of practice with you and with our sangha. It is an aspiration that is clear in my body, heart, and mind. I aspire to the Order of Interbeing Core Community, and I accept the responsibilities and commitment that this aspiration implies. I touch deep happiness and ease when sharing the dharma with others, and I want to make a formal commitment to this practice and the sangha.
Right now, I live in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and I participate and contribute to the sanghas here as I am able. Shelagh and Baruch are pillars of the practice here in Jerusalem, and I have much to learn from them. In Bethlehem, I am trying to start two practice communities: one in the Aida refugee camp for young people and one near the Nativity Church for all ages. Two days ago, I had my first session with the young people in Aida camp, and it was such a joy, Thay. They were curious, enthusiastic, and asked such deep questions about the practice. One young person said that he had never taken a deep breath before, and his first attempt resulted in coughing up blood. He shared with me that he smokes one pack of cigarettes per day, which limits his ability to breathe deeply, a discovery made in sangha. I was struck by how inviting in awareness can plant the seeds of transformation.
On this path, I commit to taking good care of my anger, greed, anxiety, and shame. I commit to looking deeply at my own thoughts and actions, and the actions of others, as a path to understanding and love. I commit to practicing generosity and kindness with the sangha and in my communities. I commit to being a student first, to striving for curiosity, deep looking, and growth without closing my heart. I will strive for the recognition of interbeing in each moment.
Thay, I want to thank you for the seeds of peace and happiness you and the practice have planted in my garden. Now, there are sunflowers and wildflowers and the beginnings of tall trees. Each is a happiness of mine cultivated by deep awareness, love, and the presence of community. I will continue your work of watering the flowers of myself and others.
Sending my love and deep gratitude,
June 13, 2019