My Week at a Mindfulness Wake Up Retreat

Plum Village

Dear Respected Thay, Dear Friends,

A Kingston summer time smile to you today.  Please take a deep breath, offer yourself a smile and be at ease as you read about my wonderful experience and highlights at the Wake Up retreat in mid-June 2018 at Plum Village Blue Cliff Monastery. The retreat was for young people on the path of mindfulness.

Upon arrival at the monastery, I felt a deep sense of ease and peace; not only because it’s a sacred space of practice but also the energy of mindfulness was penetrating deep within me and around me like a warm down blanket. I remember stopping to take in deep breaths of fresh pine and birch tree air - a wonderful moment of arriving.

There were about 100+ practitioners in attendance. After day 2 of the retreat, we became closer in friendship and support, especially in our dharma family, the Cheeky Cherries. Many tears of release and revelation were shed in our circle of sharing.  As we peeled away layers of letting go and insights, along came layers of understanding and loving kindness for ourselves and one another. It was like “magic” as our Cheeky Cherry friend, Joseph coined it. 

To guide us with the theme of “For a Future to be Possible,” Brother Promise or Thay Phap The, gave a practical dharma talk on four elements that can help us live a joyful and happy life, now and in the future;

1) Self-Care
2) Eating a plant-based diet (veganism)
3) Purpose
4) Community

I resonate with number 3 and 4 quite a bit because of the nature and offerings of our wellness school “saigon om” that Sarah and I started 5 years ago. After having been an engineer and then high school math and science teacher as my career in my former life, I now transfer my “problem solving” and “teaching” skills into our holistic approach of well-being when we travel and teach.

On the topic of purpose, Brother Promise asked “Do you want to be #1 or do the #1 thing you love?” I’ve spent a good number of years on this auspicious spiritual journey to figure out just that - my purpose and volition. I’ve travelled as far as China, Thailand, Laos, Bali and Vietnam to cultivate, learn and strengthen what has helped and transformed me the most; and that is yoga and mindfulness.

A decade later, I’m ecstatic to say that saigon om is manifested with the intention of bringing wellness practices to all beings. With combined skills of Reiki, fitness, yoga, Qi Gong, massage and mindfulness, Sarah and I are able to offer and share this transformative path with friends around the world. My favourite Thich Nhat Hanh (aka Thay) quote says it all “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.”

Yes, we often remind each other that we are blessed to do the #1 thing we love and now sharing it with communities in Kingston, Melbourne and Saigon.  I have much gratitude for Sarah, my second body, to offer our practice to our beloved communities as we “travel, teach and learn.” (our motto).

As for #1, self-care this is very important; be it Qi Gong, yoga, fitness, or meditation, I think caring for one’s body and mind is crucial so that we can be there for others. When self-care is there then eating a plant-based diet (#2 veganism) is a natural process with the practice of looking deeply in terms of the cause and effect we as humans have on other beings and species.

The week at Blue Cliff was very nourishing for my spirit and inner child to sit, breathe and play with young like-minded friends. I love you, my Cheeky Cherries. Until we meet again next year, smile and breathe.

Bowing in Gratitude,