When I was ordained into the Order of Interbeing by my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, my friends bought me this little gift for my ordination. And so I call him dharma bear, and he always comes with me when I go to teach. Sometimes it helps us adults to remember that we are also children, too, in this universe.
So, I brought with me a book that I thought the adults might enjoy, but maybe you children might enjoy it, too. Peaceful Piggy Meditation. So I hope you can see all the pictures. Sometimes the world can be such a busy, noisy place. Sometimes it feels like you always have to hurry, hurry, hurry on that and you feel like you can't slow down even when you're sitting down. It can be hard not to lose your temper when you're angry, and you can get really frustrated when things don't go your way. So, it is good to have a peaceful place inside. It is good to meditate. Peaceful piggies know when to take a break, find a quiet spot, and just breathe, breathe, breathe. Can you all take a deep breath with me? Ah.
Mom or dad might help them set up a special place with a few things, maybe a crystal for clear thinking, a stone for stillness, or even a flower for kindness. Peaceful piggies sit like a king or queen on their throne feeling the solid earth beneath them and the big sky all around them. Every day, they sit and feel their breath going in and out until their minds calm down. So, peaceful piggies feel free like a bird in the sky and are as calm as a pond on a cool, clear night. This makes it easier to accept things that happen and stop wishing for things to be different. When you are peaceful, you can be truly fearless. Best of all, when you are feeling peaceful, you like you are just as you are, so it is easier to face the truth about yourself, and it is easier to stand up to others.
Peaceful piggies take good care of their friends, and their enemies, too. They try to be loving and kind to all beings, even worms. By slowing down, peaceful piggies notice all the magical little things in life, like the way raindrops race each other down the window, the way the clouds tell silent stories, and the way birds sing songs just for you. Having a peaceful place inside helps keep a happy heart happy so that even on a horrible, painful, disgustingly rotten day, a peaceful piggy can smile.
Though, I hope this is a story that you will remember that we can breathe and meditate and come to a place of peace, and we can smile. And one of the teachings of my teacher is smiling meditation, and it does not mean you have to smile and fake as if you are happy when you're not feeling happy. It is more like exercising your mouth, just kind of relaxing the face muscles and just smiling and just keeping that peaceful smile. And somehow that will help you feel better. So whenever you're feeling angry or sad, you can smile.
And here is a song that also my teacher taught to the children, and the children taught to me. And so I would like to share this song with you. It goes like this. This is my shruti box. It is an instrument from India, and it makes a nice sound. I'm going to sing a line, and I'm going to ask all of you to repeat the song with me, and all of the adults, just join me as well. So the words are, "When I rise, let me rise, like a bird, joyfully. And when I fall, let me fall, like a leaf, gracefully, without regret. And when I stand, let me stand, like a tree, strong and tall. And when I rest, let me rest, like a lake, peacefully, calm and still. And when I work, let me work, like a bee, wholeheartedly. And when I play, let me play, like a breeze, refreshingly, light and clear." All right. So here is the song. Please feel free to join us.
(Plays shruti box and sings) And when I rise,
Audience: And when I rise,
ChiSing: let me rise,
Audience: let me rise,
ChiSing: like a bird,
Audience: like a bird,
ChiSing: And when I fall,
Audience: And when I fall,
ChiSing: let me fall,
Audience: let me fall,
ChiSing: like a leaf,
Audience: like a leaf,
ChiSing: calm and still.
Audience: calm and still.
ChiSing: And when I stand,
Audience: And when I stand,
ChiSing: let me stand,
Audience: let me stand,
ChiSing: like a tree,
Audience: like a tree,
ChiSing: strong and tall.
Audience: strong and tall.
ChiSing: And when I rest,
Audience: And when I rest,
ChiSing: let me rest,
Audience: let me rest,
ChiSing: like a lake,
Audience: like a lake,
ChiSing: without regret.
Audience: without regret.
ChiSing: And when I work,
Audience: And when I work,
ChiSing: let me work,
Audience: let me work,
ChiSing: like a bee,
Audience: like a bee,
ChiSing: And when I play,
Audience: And when I play,
ChiSing: let me play,
Audience: let me play,
ChiSing: like a breeze,
Audience: like a breeze,
ChiSing: light and clear.
Audience: light and clear.
ChiSing: Wonderful. Thank you for doing some hand motions to the song. That is great. Well, I hope you have a wonderful time with your teachers today, and thank you for joining us. I hope you remember the peaceful piggy meditation story, and I hope you will remember the song. Thank you.
Okay. Please join me with palms together at the heart. Dear Buddhas and bodhisattvas, in this moment here and now, I acknowledge the infinite support of the universe in every moment. I also acknowledge that this particular body-mind is feeling a little nervous, as it does many times before speaking, and I willingly accept and receive the guidance. And if there are any words of wisdom that can come through, I willingly allow that. And if I just completely bomb it all, I willingly accept that, too. I'm just here like beloved with a lover, lover and beloved, just sitting in that love. Thank you.
Well, yesterday was Thich Nhat Hanh's birthday, or as we say, continuation day, and we had a nice peace walk at the rose garden. And the day before that, on Friday night, I led an evening of mindfulness at the University of Minnesota. There were about 60 college students there, and they practiced from 5 o'clock until 9 o'clock, and they really enjoyed it, and it was really nice to see their energy go from uncertainty and doubt to one of peace, joy, and hope and excitement really.
Today I really don't know what I'm going to share, so I am just going to share myself and my heart with you in honor as my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, who is not just my teacher, but the teacher of many, our teacher too. So, in that spirit, I would like to share a song with you. There is a time when my teacher—I call him Thay, which means teacher and Vietnamese—was uncertain, just like his niece was a little bit uncertain several years ago when I first encountered the practice about 10 years ago at a retreat.
She was asked by Thay to give the dharma talk during the third or fourth day of the retreat, and this was the first time she was given the opportunity to speak in front of 800 people. She got on the stage, she just said, "Breathing in, I'm aware that I am sitting in front of 800 people. Breathing out, I'm aware that I am very nervous." And everyone laughed, and I don't know what it was about her, but it just opened my heart. This is my first retreat, and by the end of her dharma talk, I was sobbing and weeping and crying nonstop for about half an hour. I could not stop. Whatever it is that she said—and maybe it was me that what she said. It was just her honest presence that helped open that dharma door in my heart, and I just let a lot of stuff out, and a lot of healing began to take place in my heart from that day forward.
So my teacher, Thay, Thich Nhat Hanh, was in South Korea with thousands of people around him on the streets. Reporters flashing cameras, people trying to touch his robe or touch him. I guess it is kind of like what Jesus must have experienced when people were trying to touch him also. He was going to lead a walking meditation, but he was not sure how he was going to do it in that kind of condition, so he closed his eyes. He took a deep breath, and he said, "Buddha, you have to walk for me." And in that moment of simply willing and allowing, the Buddha took a step in him, through him, as him, and the Red Sea parted and everyone calmed down and immediately, and he began to walk, and all the people began to walk peacefully with him. It was one of the most profound walking meditations that he had ever lead, and he wrote a beautiful poem in Vietnamese based on that experience.
One English translation is, "Let the Buddha breathe. Let the Buddha walk. I don't have to breathe. I don't have to walk. The Buddha is breathing. The Buddha is walking. I enjoy the breathing. I enjoy the walking. Buddha is the breathing. Buddha is the walking. I am the breathing. I am the walking. There is just the breathing. There is just the walking. There is no breather. There is no walker. Peace and joy while breathing. Peace and joy while walking. Peace and joy, the breathing. Peace and joy, the walking." That just sums up everything, right? So when I heard that beautiful poem, I put it to music, and I would like to share with you. My hope is is that the Buddha talk, let the Buddha do the dharma talk. Let the Buddhist sing.
So I will sing a line, and please repeat after me. (Sings) Let the Buddha breathe.
Audience: Let the Buddha breathe.
ChiSing: Let the Buddha walk.
Audience: Let the Buddha walk.
ChiSing: I don't have to breathe.
Audience: I don't have to breathe.
ChiSing: I don't have to walk.
Audience: I don't have to walk.
ChiSing: The Buddha is breathing.
Audience: The Buddha is breathing.
ChiSing: The Buddha is walking.
Audience: The Buddha is walking.
ChiSing: I enjoy the breathing.
Audience: I enjoy the breathing.
ChiSing: I enjoy the walking.
Audience: I enjoy the walking.
ChiSing: Buddha is the breathing.
Audience: Buddha is the breathing.
ChiSing: Buddha is the walking.
Audience: Buddha is the walking.
ChiSing: I am the breathing.
Audience: I am the breathing.
ChiSing: I am the walking.
Audience: I am the walking.
ChiSing: There is just the breathing.
Audience: There is just the breathing.
ChiSing: There is just the walking.
Audience: There is just the walking.
ChiSing: There is no breather.
Audience: There is no breather.
ChiSing: There is no walker.
Audience: There is no walker.
ChiSing: Peace and joy while breathing.
Audience: Peace and joy while breathing.
ChiSing: Peace and joy while walking.
Audience: Peace and joy while walking.
ChiSing: Peace and joy the breathing.
Audience: Peace and joy the breathing.
ChiSing: Peace and joy the walking.
Audience: Peace and joy the walking.
ChiSing: Breathing, walking.
Audience: Breathing, walking.
ChiSing: Sitting, singing.
Audience: Sitting, singing.
ChiSing: Working, playing.
Audience: Working, playing.
ChiSing: Standing, resting.
Audience: Standing, resting.
ChiSing: Laughing, crying.
Audience: Laughing, crying.
ChiSing: Hugging, helping.
Audience: Hugging, helping.
ChiSing: Breathing, walking.
Audience: Breathing, walking.
ChiSing: You know, one time I was going to give a dharma talk at a church near Dallas about an hour's drive away, and I was running a little bit late, and I had to skip breakfast and get into my car, and I went to Whole Foods to get a protein shake. And I think they moved it from the place that it usually is, so I was kind of running around trying to find it, and finally I found it, and I rushed to the counter, and a nice old lady there said, "Honey child, you just need to slow down."
The Buddha gave me a little dharma talk. That's right. Right there and then, since I was going to be giving a dharma talk on slowing down. It would be good for me to slow down, too. But you know, everywhere I go, the Buddha is speaking, the dharma is being shared, and I am invited in every moment to listen and to respond, and it is not that I have to do a lot. You know, yes, we need to work hard, and we need to put diligent effort into our life and practice, and that is very important, but that is not my dharma talk this morning.
My dharma talk this morning is about Vo Su. In the monastery at Deer Park in California, there is this big, round sign over the altar, and it says, "Vo Su." It is the Vietnamese word that means busyless-ness. Busyless-ness. Let the Buddha do everything, and we just simply say yes and allow, come to a place of willingness. For so many years because of my fears and my low self-esteem, and even now I still feel nervous when I'm in front of people. I've come to a place of just accepting it, embracing it, just being willing to be with it.
And what helped me with that is the dream I had several years ago, a dream that I really feel that the Buddhas and bodhisattvas presented to me in the form of the Dalai Lama. So I was in Tibet, and it was a very vivid, clear dream. I actually thought it was real because it was so vivid, and I was going up the steps to the monastery in Tibet, and the doors were opened, and incense filled the air, and I heard the sound of chanting, and a monk led me into a room where I was asked to sit and be silent, and the Dalai Lama would be appearing soon, and when he does, I need to not speak unless spoken to and not look up unless asked.
So I began to feel a little nervous, and then there was a gong, and everyone in the room went down to the floor, and I heard footsteps of people coming in, and I began to think to myself, oh my goodness. There are all these holy dignitaries in this room. What am I doing here? And what if the Dalai Lama really is a reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara bodhisattva? And maybe he has developed psychic abilities, and he can see into my mind, and he can see into my history and all my thoughts? And I thought oh no, I'm not worthy to be in here. He can see all of my imperfections.
And I started to hyperventilate because I was really nervous, and all of a sudden I felt something touch my head, and a warm liquid light of love flow through my body, just washing away all I was feeling at that moment, and it felt so good, like unconditional love, and I just dared to look up, and it was a 5-year-old boy touching my head, and it was the Dalai Lama as a 5-year-old boy, and he was smiling at me, and he was giggling at all of what I was thinking, and he just looked into my eyes, and the Buddha through and said to me, "Come, play with me."
And it meant much more than what those literal words were when he said it. There were a thousand profound meanings in those simple words when he said it to me, and I will not go into that right now, but it's so broke open my heart, I just began to cry and feel all this love and acceptance that I am simply this child in this universe and that I am invited by the Buddhas and bodhisattvas the play and to be a child and to explore and not take things so seriously. And I cried so hard that I woke myself up because I was also crying physically and not just in my dream.
So my invitation to you is if you find yourself sometimes taking things too seriously and judging yourself too harshly, just breathe in and breathe out and practice smiling yoga and remember that the invitation of the universe is, "Come, play with me."
I remember a few years ago I was at the monastery, and we were in a retreat, and during the afternoon session when some people were taking naps, there was this one lady just sleeping in the zendo very peacefully, and obviously was very tired from the day, and I was just feeling very playful that day, and so I wrote a card that says, "Sleeping Buddha." Kind of like sleeping beauty, but sleeping Buddha, and I placed it right in front of her face and snuck away. I didn't think much of it. You know, I just was hoping that she would smile when she woke up. I was just playing.
A few years later, actually a few months ago, I was leaving a day of mindfulness in Los Angeles, and during the sharing time in the afternoon when some people were sharing, this one lady started talking about something that had shifted her whole practice a few years ago when she was at this retreat and she woke up from a nap and there was a sign that said sleeping Buddha, and if so struck her heart that it created a shift in her heart from that day forward in her practice, and she was determined to really live out being that Buddha, and so she started a meditation group in her home for local people to come and so forth.
So you never know what a simple act of childlike innocence can do. It doesn't have to always just be serious actions. Of course, they are necessary, too, but even when we are doing a serious action, let it be the Buddha. Let it be your true nature doing it. And also know that everything done from a place of just openheartedness is the Buddha breathing, sitting, walking, working, playing.
I was recently at a retreat—and by the way, there is no order to this talk. I call it a dharma collage. Sometimes I have ordered notes but I'm going to follow, and I call it a dharma talk, but other times when it is just a piece of art as I'm going along and I call it a dharma collage. I hope you're enjoying the collage so far. I was recently at a retreat called, "The Great Heart Way." And there is a Zen teacher there in Colorado that teaches this practice of Great Heart Way. It is combining the practices of Soto Zen and Rinzai Zen with some psychotherapeutic modalities to help us really sit with some of the shadows and deep wounds within. So at the retreat, I wrote a song that sometimes comes through after retreat, a song based on that retreat.
So I'll just sing it for you. The words are—let's see if I can remember the words here. "Open up to the Great Heart Way. Find your true self, come what may. Feel the pain and release your tears, embracing the child within, embracing the child within. Open up to the Great Heart Way. Find your path to a bright new day. Feel the joy of life set free, embracing the world you see, embracing the world you see." It is still not finished, but I can hear a bridge, you know, (sings) don't be afraid of your shadows. Don't be afraid of the darkness.
I haven't written that part yet, but here is what I have so far.
(Plays shruti box and sings) Open up to the Great Heart Way. Find your true self, come what may. Feel the pain and release your tears, embracing the child within, embracing the child within. Open up to the Great Heart Way. Find your path to a bright new day. Feel the joy of life set free, embracing the world you see, embracing the world you see.
And in another song that I wrote after a day of mindfulness with friends in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh in Austin, Texas, it started to rain on our walking meditation outside, and no one stopped because it was Texas, and it is warm, and it was nice. It was just a little sprinkle. And so as we walked, I smiled, because I am walking with friends, walking with friends in mindfulness as the dharma rain falls upon our heads. Brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart as we walk along the path of love.
(Plays shruti box and sings) Walking with friends in mindfulness as the dharma rain falls upon our heads. Brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart, brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart, as we walk on the path of love, as we walk on the path of love.
Another song that I wrote recently was after a Soto Rinzai Zen. It was actually called Sanbo Kyodan Zen sesshin with the head teacher from Japan. On the second to last day of the retreat, the dharma talk was very deep. Well, every dharma talk was very deep, but I think on that day I really felt that it penetrated deeply into my heart. And on the last day of the retreat, I wrote a song based on that. The words are, "Turn around and look within. Can you see the sound of silence? Can you hear the flowers smiling? Can you taste the setting sun? Do you know that I am the one? Do you know the one is you? No separation, no birth, no death. Only this moment, only this breath. No self to suffer, no gain, no loss. All is perfection, even the dross. Do you know that I'm the one? Do you know the one is you?"
(Sings) Turn around and look within. Can you see the sound of silence? Can you hear the flowers smiling? Can you taste the setting sun? Do you know that I am the one? Do you know the one is you? No separation, no birth, no death. Only this moment, only this breath. No self to suffer, no gain, no loss. All is perfection, even the dross. Do you know that I'm the one? Do you know the one is you?
So, please remember, dear friends, to let the Buddha breathe, let the Buddha walk, and that the Buddha is breathing, the Buddha is walking, and so the Buddha is the breathing, the Buddha is the walking. There is just breathing. There is just the walking. Peace and joy is the breathing, peace and joy are the walking. I am the one. You are the one.
I would like to invite you to sing one more song with me, and if there is time, perhaps we can have some sharing. Something that helps me with remembering to let the Buddha breathe, let the Buddha walk is something from the Pure Land tradition of Buddhism, and it is simply the recitation of the name Amitabha, infinite light, and the Zen understanding of Amitabha is that this very mind is the Buddha, and this very body, the Pure Land. Amitabha. Infinite light.
(Plays shruti box) So I will sing a line, and then you can repeat after me. Please put your palms together at the heart. Or you can put them on your heart.
ChiSing: Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa. Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa. Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa. Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa. Do we have time for a couple of minutes of any just short sharing or no?
Male: Oh, sure.
ChiSing: Okay. If anyone wants to share a short phrase, I'd like to have several people just offering up short phrases. Let the Buddha share. This also nourishes me to be able to hear whatever you have to share as well, and of course we can enjoy the silence, too.
Audience Member: We've had such a difficult week in certain situations [inaudible]. I just want to thank you so much for your words and reminding me that the Buddha can [inaudible]. And I just wanted to give you a heartfelt thanks for your words today.
Audience Member: At the children's practice group, having you speak to the children, I was so moved by the audience, how they received your words, and it really touched me. It help me to see again how part of the reason it is so wonderful to help children it's because I'm talking to the child and myself and telling a child—as we give to children, we are giving to the parts of ourselves that would've loved to have had that kind of support and recognition. So I too I'm very moved and nourished by spending time with you today.
ChiSing: Thank you.
Audience Member: Body-mind [inaudible]
Audience Member: I just want to tell you how much that this experience of hearing the dharma through you today, using that as a vehicle for expression of the dharma, is really refreshing and beautiful. Thank you.
Audience Member: I don't customarily think of myself as a peaceful piggy, so that is kind of—
ChiSing: Breathing in peaceful, breathing out piggy. Well, just one thing. You reminded me of peaceful piggies. I actually did get to do a walking meditation with peaceful piggies a few weeks ago for animal activists when I did a retreat. It's funny. I've been doing more retreats for college students, activists. I never thought I would be doing this kind of stuff, but I am, and we're doing walking meditations with cows and chickens and pigs, and it was great. I will never do walking ever the same again.
So, thank you everyone for having me.