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The Life of a "Lazy Monk" Print

The Life of a "Lazy Monk"


During the Han dynasty, at about the beginning of the Christian era, many Indian and central Asian Buddhist monks traveled to China to share the dharma. Many of those who went by sea landed first in Vietnam, and there they started the prominent Luy Lau Center of Buddhist Studies, where traveling monks could rest, teach meditation and study Chinese before going on to China. The first treatise on Buddhism in Chinese ("Dissipating Doubts about Buddhism") was written in Vietnam in the first century C.E. by the Chinese expatriate Mou Tzu.

The dhyana (meditation) school of Buddhism (Thien in Vietnamese, Chan in Chinese, Zen in Japanese) was introduced to Vietnam in the third century by Tang Hoi, a Buddhist monk of central Asian descent who taught meditation and translated many sutras into Chinese before going on to southern China in 255 C.E. According to the Kao Seng Chuan, the first Buddhist temple in the Kingdom of Wu was built for Tang Hoi, and the first monastic ordination in Wu was conducted by him. The text concludes, "After the arrival of Tang Hoi, the dharma began to prosper south of the Yangtse River."

Two hundred years later, before Bodhidharma arrived in China, an Indian monk named Dharmadeva came to Vietnam to teach dhyana Buddhism. Beginning in the sixth century, six important schools of dhyana Buddhism were founded in Vietnam. Today the dhyana and pure land schools are the most important in Vietnam; in addition, because of contact with Laos and Cambodia, there are also Theravadin Buddhists.

Dhyana master Thich Nhat Hanh was born in central Vietnam in the mid-1920's during the period of French colonialism. He became a monk at the beautiful Tu Hieu pagoda in Hue at the age of 16. As a young monk, he wrote many books, including a collection of poems, The Autumn Flute (1949); The Family in the Practice (1952); How to Practice Buddhism (1952); and Buddhist Logic (1952). He also wrote many newspaper articles, edited two journals, coined the term "engaged Buddhism," and helped found what was to become the foremost center of Buddhist studies in South Vietnam, the An Quang Buddhist Institute, all before he reached the age of 30.

In 1960, Thich Nhat Hanh came to the U.S. to study comparative religion at Princeton University, and he was subsequently appointed lecturer in Buddhism at Columbia. In 1963, he returned to Vietnam to join his fellow monks in their nonviolent efforts to stop the war. That year, all mahayana and Theravadin Buddhists in the country came together to form the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam.

In 1964-65, Thich Nhat Hanh founded the School of Youth for Social Service, teaching young monks, nuns, and lay students to go into the countryside to set up schools and health clinics, and later to rebuild bombed villages; La Boi Press, a prestigious Buddhist publishing house; Van Hanh Buddhist University; and the Order of Interbeing, guided by fourteen mindfulness trainings (precepts) of engaged Buddhism. He continued his prolific writing and served as editor-in-chief of the official journal of the Unified Buddhist Church.

In 1966, Thich Nhat Hanh was invited to the U.S. to lead a symposium on Vietnamese Buddhism at Cornell University and also to convey to Americans the suffering of the Vietnamese peasants caused by the war. When he called for a unilateral ceasefire and withdrawal of U.S. troops, he was denounced by the South Vietnamese government and was unable to return home.

In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize, saying, "I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of [this prize] than this gentle monk from Vietnam. His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity." Thich Nhat Hanh was granted asylum in France, and during the Paris Peace Talks he served as chair of the Buddhist Peace Delegation.

In 1982, Thich Nhat Hanh and his long-time colleague, Sister Chan Khong, founded Plum Village, a monastic retreat in southwestern France. When asked to describe himself, Thich Nhat Hanh usually says, "I am a lazy monk."

Today hundreds of communities and small groups worldwide follow the way of mindful living taught by Thich Nhat Hanh. In November, 1997, Thich Nhat Hanh founded Maple Forest Monastery in Vermont, and his students are looking for land to begin other retreat and practice centers in the U.S. His books have sold more than 1.5 million copies and his retreats and lectures attract thousands of followers. His presence, many feel, conveys the essence of Buddhadharma, and his words, simple and direct, communicate the teachings of the Buddha in ways anyone can understand.

Arnie Kotler is a dharma teacher and the founding editor of Parallax Press. To receive a complete catalog of books and tapes by Thich Nhat Hanh, a list of groups practicing in his tradition, and a schedule of mindfulness retreats led by him and his students, you can write to Parallax Press/Community of Mindful Living, P.O. Box 7355, Berkeley, CA 94707. Website:

The Life of A "Lazy Monk", Arnie Kotler, Shambhala Sun, March 1998

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Does Anybody Like to Talk This Way? Print
Shambhala Sun | May 1998

Does Anybody Like to Talk This Way?

By: "Why must an `ability' be recast as a `core competency?' Why must we all face the future armed with `strategic plans' and `key leverage points?'"

Expert heard on public radio: "We'll be conducting statistically relevant attitude studies."
College billboard: "Achieve math empowerment!"
Conference brochure: "...we'll show you how to identify people with the abilities or competencies necessary to help you develop an effective mentoring relationship. Plus we'll show how mentors and mentees alike achieve satisfaction and career growth by creating unique alliances through mentoring relationships."
Politician: "We're trying to achieve buy-in with the stakeholders."
Person in meeting: "We are all change agents."
The workplace, the boardroom, and the public meeting are awash in hideous rhetoric. In spite of all the mockery that Dilbert and the sitcoms have heaped on it, bad language still grows like an insidious vine, clinging to our everyday speech and choking the life out of it. We laugh but it hurts.
We are in danger of losing style. Not the kind they have a section for in the newspaper, but prose style. The beauty and the directness in the way we write and talk to each other. The power to express ideas clearly and eloquently.
For a long time, unfortunately, language was taught as a moral discipline. In English, we learned the Queen's English, which was God's English. God was an old man with a white beard and he spoke English, the Queen's English. He did not split infinitives. For many in school, formal language was a strait jacket of nineteenth-century rules that they could not comfortably inhabit.
Nowadays, in many school systems, whole language is taught, a method that encourages creativity but is often accompanied by a lack of attention to rules. In many ways, it's an advance, but in other ways it's merely a pendulum swing from the moralistic rule-worship of earlier teaching. Students learn how to pour out their hearts, but they often have little skill in polishing what they have to say. (Read a sampling of first-year-or even fourth-year-college papers if you need evidence.)
And to make matters worse, the language of their betters has often become the kind of materialistic technospeak mentioned above, the language we lead the world with today. What's with that? Why must an "ability" be recast as a "core competency" or as part of a "skill set"? Why must we all face the future armed with "strategic plans" that have identified "key leverage points"?
This is the kind of reification and deification that George Orwell lampooned in "Newspeak," his appendix to 1984. Newspeak centered on an elite's creation of a vocabulary with rigidly defined special meanings, accessible only to the initiated. It was these words that were to be used to discuss important matters of everyday life and work. This rigid use of language rendered the "expression of unorthodox opinions, above a very low level, well-nigh impossible." Curiously, Orwell closed his essay by noting that final adoption of Newspeak would be complete in 2050.
So young people today are taught to express their ideas freely, creatively, without much attention to rules. Then, paradoxically, when they enter the world of work they are trained in a technocratic cant developed by management consultants and academics. The result is not something beautiful to behold (consult the average business, government, or non-profit report). The notion that everyday speaking and writing-about any subject-could be beautiful is unthinkable. Obscurity and pomposity hold a higher place than eloquence, which is left to "creative writers."
Is public discourse doomed to proceed in an unerring path to the achievement of Newspeak? Where could we go from here?
Perhaps we could return to square one.
Many ancient writers on public discourse assumed that for democracy to have real meaning, a citizen must be able to make a case simply, eloquently, and convincingly. Otherwise, elites in possession of the ruling language would dictate to the uninitiated. Rhetorical skill-the ability to make clear, persuasive points in speaking and writing-was thought to supersede all skills in the public realm. If we have very unequal abilities to communicate, how can we work together?
To become a full participant in society (a citizen in the true sense of the word), a student needs to be taught to invent freely with words, and then to give their invention both structure and style. Good intentions are not sufficient. One must develop skill in speaking and writing. Neither our schools nor our workplaces encourage this sufficiently today. The schools do not emphasize rhetorical training, and the workplace is mired in the worst kind of materialistic rhetoric.
In the groundbreaking book by Strunk & White, Elements of Style, E.B. White (the spinner of Charlotte 's Web) makes the point that "style takes its shape more from attitudes of mind than from rules of composition." It is these very attitudes of mind-subtlety, beauty, straightforwardness-that we must cultivate in future citizens.
Otherwise, debate and decision-making will become the province of an elite of technicians, legalists and theorists, and our children will be their "mentees," armed only with the "skill sets" that will "grow" the "career paths" needed for the brave new world of 2050.

Barry Campbell Boyce is a writer and teacher of writing. He is president of Victory Communication.

    Does Anybody Like to Talk This Way?, Barry Boyce, Shambhala Sun, May 1998.

The Threefold Purity Print

The Threefold Purity

"To begin with, just give up any expectations of yourself. That's a simple good instruction for how to do Buddhist meditation."

Buddhist meditation is about dissolving our fixation on ourselves, on the process of meditating, and on any result we might gain from it. Through meditation, we begin to get the hang of living with a non-grasping attitude.

When you sit down to meditate, you can bring to your practice the notion of the threefold purity: not being caught up with ideas about yourself, not being caught up with ideas about the practice, and not being caught up with ideas about the result.

Sometimes you begin meditation with the sense, I am sitting down to meditate. That's not too helpful. However, you can't just click your fingers and Zap!—all sense of self is gone. You have to start where you are. Before you sit down you can actually reflect on the fact that you don't have to hold on to a solid identity of yourself as a worthless or worthy person, as someone who can't meditate, or as someone who can. You can practice lightening up the whole persona that you bring to meditation.

For example, if you're new at it, you might take a certain pride in being a meditator. You come back from a retreat and your friends say, "Where were you?" and you say, "Oh, I was just meditating for ten days in a monastery on Cape Breton Island. We kept silence most of the time and we meditated many, many hours every day." You have this feeling, "Wow! Are they going to be impressed." Perhaps in other situations you feel a little embarrassed. If your parents ask you where you were, you might say, "Oh, I just went on a little trip to Cape Breton."

To begin with, just give up any expectations of yourself. That's a simple good instruction for how to meditate. Liberate yourself from any sort of idea of how you're supposed to be, and just sit. Then remember this instruction occasionally during the meditation period, because you're going to do a lot of talking to yourself about how right or how wrong you are. You're going to spend a lot of time on center stage as the star of your own movie. You can spend a lot of time planning, worrying, and trying to get it all right.

Instead of holding on to a limited identity of yourself, do your best to observe yourself minute after minute. Observe what's happening. You'll keep freezing it by fixating on it, because you do have an idea of who you are; we all have an idea of who we are. But if you'll just observe instead of fixating, the meditation itself will begin to shake that identity up a lot. You'll begin to have doubt about being just one way; you'll see that who you are and how you are keep changing. The first five minutes of the meditation period you're depressed; the gong rings and you feel happy. In walking meditation you're bored; you sit down on your cushion again and your back hurts. The gong rings and you realize you've been on a shopping spree in New York City. The changes go on and on. Observe them with no expectation of how you're supposed to be, or who you are. Just sit there and see what happens.

That's the first quality of threefold purity. Traditionally it's stated as "no self." What it points to is giving up expectations of being any particular way. Buddhist meditation is the perfect vehicle for seeing how you keep changing, changing, changing. Thoughts keep changing. Emotions keep changing. They say that advanced meditators can even see molecules changing. (Personally I've never had this experience.)

The second guideline of the threefold purity is "No meditation." Don't make your meditation a project or a special event; don't bring into it an attitude of great seriousness and solemnity. For that matter, have no concept of your meditation at all, no religiosity. Don't hold any notions about it, not even, "Oh, meditation is meant to be completely natural; you just sit down, relax the mind, and be cool."

We have a lot of ideas about what's good meditation, what's bad meditation. The notion here is that we sit down with no expectations of ourselves and no expectations of what the practice is. We simply follow the instructions, without imagining that meditation is supposed to be this way or that way. We can continuously let go of any solid views on the meditator or the meditation, any caught-upness. That's the whole training—to let go and observe without judgment, without bias. We can just let go.

So you think, "That's the meditation. I'm supposed to observe and let go. But I can't observe and I can't let go, and my meditation is a mess. On the other hand, I did observe a little bit, and that's good. If I have a chance to tell my meditation instructor about this, she'll be pleased." We have a habitual tendency to solidify, but remember these instructions: no Expectations. It is as it is. You don't have to add something extra.

The third quality of threefold purity is "No result." Give up all hope of fruition. Practice without hope of anything beyond right now. That's all there is; there's no later. Being on the spot is the only way any transformation of your being occurs. If you practice with hope and fear, if you practice in order to become what you think you should be—even a calmer, more loving, more compassionate person—you're just setting yourself up for disappointment. You can't get there from here. Being fully here for each moment—that's the point, from now until you die.

After you've meditated, if you notice something that feels like a result—for example, your mind feels rested, or you feel completely one-pointed, or you feel a lot of compassion or kindness—simply observe it and let it go. Trungpa Rinpoche often used the word "disown." It's not that there's anything wrong with results. But when we cling to results, they're of no use at all. One of the mahamudra texts says, "Even the qualities of clarity, non-dwelling, and bliss are obstacles if you cling to them."

So that's threefold purity. It provides good directions for practicing meditation—or any other activity, for that matter. Have no expectation about who you are—the generous one or the mean one or whoever—no expectation of your activity or process, no expectation of fruition. This is how we go from living by concept, freezing ourselves in time and space, to relaxing into the fluid spaciousness with which we were born.

Pema Chödrön is the director of Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and author of The Wisdom of No Escape, Start Where You Are and When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.

The Threefold Purity, Pema Chödrön, Shambhala Sun, May 1998.

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Voices and Visions Print

Voices and Visions


"When the spirit moves into writing, shaping its direction, that is a moment of pure mystery. It is a visitation of the sacred that I cannot call forth at will."

Writing and publishing my first book was a long drawn out test of faith. It was a process that taught me patience. Knowing the path we want to take does not mean that it will not be an arduous one, but the difficulty of the journey does not mean potential failure. During this process I not only re-affirmed my commitment to spiritual practice; devotion to this path enhanced my commitment to writing and my ability to write.

Not much is written about the connection between writing and spirituality. Even though new age writing describes circumstances where writers receive ideas mysteriously, rarely does anyone talk about the sustained link between spiritual practice and writing. Writers are reluctant to speak about this subject because literary elitism engenders a fear that if we describe "unseen forces" shaping our vision and the structure of our writing we will not be taken seriously. Women writers have been more willing than their male counterparts to speak of visions that serve as a catalyst for the imaginative process. When describing the process of writing The Color Purple, Alice Walker spoke of images appearing in her dreams, of voices, of spirits calling to her.

Oftentimes men have evoked the muse, whether real or fictive, to talk about those forces beyond the realm of human reason that drive the imagination. Since the male muse was so often imagined as an obscure object of desire, usually a beautiful young female being (but sometimes male), this has always been an acceptable way to talk about "spirits" and the creative imagination. Few men attempt to link their muses to spiritual practice. Indeed, the Beat poets in their modern rebellious anti-establishment way were among the first modern writers to mesh unabashedly the spiritual and transgressive creative process.

It was this unlikely pairing that drew me to the Beat poets. In 1959 Kerouac would tell the world that the heartbeat of his transgressive spirit was triggered in the traditional church. Sharing his perspective on the origin of the Beat perspective he declared: "Yet it was as a Catholic, it was not at the insistence of these 'niks' and certainly not with their approval either, that I went one afternoon to the church of my childhood (one of them ), Ste. Jeanne d'Arc in Lowell, Mass., and suddenly with tears in my eyes and had a vision of what I must have really meant with `Beat' anyhow when I heard the holy silence in the church...the vision of the word Beat as being to mean beatific..." Kerouac's transition to Buddhism was engendered by grief from lost love. To cope with his suffering he began reading The Life of Buddha by Ashvagosa.

My vision of the writing I would do was informed by a longing to give expression to an inner emotional universe that was mostly self-referential. I began my writing career believing I would be a poet, bohemian, avant-garde, art-for-arts-sake writer. All the writing classes I took focused on poetry. My engagement with Buddhism began with poets and poetry. Yet it was the struggle to find my voice as a poet which led me to feminist thinking and feminist politics. Even though I continued to write poetry, as I prayed and meditated about my writing future I felt called to write a book about black women and feminism. It is difficult to explain the nature of this calling—what it means to be called by that unseen force I call divine grace.

During this period of struggle I heard voices calling to me in my dreams, telling me that it was important for me to speak about the experience of black women. My maternal grandmother and great grandmothers were figures in my dream life urging me to answer this call, telling me that they would help direct my path. Despite my initial resistance I would sit at my desk and find myself, seemingly without will, writing just what the voices were telling me to write about.

Imagine my distress when I answered the call of these voices and committed myself to writing work, only to find that writing mocked, that no one wanted to publish it. I was confused. I had naively thought that answering the call of unseen forces would somehow work like magic to ensure the success of my writing. I confronted the reality that we may discover the rightness of our vision and vocation before others do. I wish I could confess that my faith was so great I did not despair, but indeed, I did.

It was with a heavy heart that I took this first manuscript of mine and stored it away in a closet. I took it out again when I accepted more fully that completing the book was my path to fulfillment. Whether or not it would ever be published was another question all together.

The serendipitous way that my first book found its publishers seemed to confirm the presence of unseen spirits. I had mentioned to a new friend I met when she was waiting on tables at a museum cafe that I was working on this book. When we spent time together I shared what it was about. It was she who called to say that she had seen a small ad in a newspaper calling for manuscripts about race and feminism. That ad was placed by South End Press, who would publish this book of mine and many more.

I follow the path Kerouac helped forge as I work to mesh intense Christian upbringing with Buddhist thought. In the late sixties he continued to work through the convergences between theses two spiritual paths, juxtaposing Christian with Buddhist writing. Starting with the assumption that "words come from the holy ghost" Kerouac reminds readers that "Mozart and Blake often felt they weren't pushing their own pens, 'twas the 'Muse' singing and pushing."

When I sit down to write I do not imagine my pen will be guided by anything other than the strength of my will, imagination and intellect. When the spirit moves into that writing, shaping its direction, that is for me a moment of pure mystery. It is a visitation of the sacred that I cannot call forth at will. I can only hope that it will come. This hope is grounded in my own experience that those moments when I feel my imagination and the words I put together to be touched by the presence of divine spirit, my writing is transformed.

At such moments I feel that I am touched by grace. I am moved both by the writing and by the presence of spirits which make that writing the very best it can be. When I complete this work I feel intense jubilation and ecstasy. Not all the writing I do is divinely inspired. The difference is tangible. Many writers who have felt guided by unseen spirits testify that the writing poured forth with ease. Much of the time we labor over our words.

More than anything my writing is informed by spiritual practice in relation to the subjects I write about. After my first book I have never written another without first spending significant time in prayer and meditation about the content and the direction of work. Since I always have many ideas I count on sacred visualization to guide me to the timeliness of the work. My reliance on spiritual guidance is connected to the desire I have for the writing to touch the hearts of readers-to speak to their innermost being.

Much of my work is written to create a context of healing. Words have the power to heal wounds. Out of the mysterious place where words first come to be "made flesh"—that place which is all holiness—I am given the grace to work with words in a spirit of right livelihood which calls me to peace, reflection, and connectedness with communities of readers whom I may never know or see. Writing becomes then a way to embrace the mysterious, to walk with spirits, and an entry into the realm of the sacred.

bell hooks is Distinguished Professor in Residence at Berea College in Kentucky. She is the author of Wounds of Passion.

Voices and Visions, bell hooks, Shambhala Sun, May 1998.

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Meeting in the Darkness Print
Shambhala Sun | May 1998

Meeting in the Darkness

By: "If you ask me what we do with people who come in the door, the people who live with chronic hopelessness and fear, I'll tell you that we try to live comfortably in their darkness. And that's the hardest thing of all."

On January 8, 1945, my birthday, I asked the priest at La Iglesia del Perpetuo Socorro in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, if I could become an altar boy. I had just turned six. I was turned down outright. Too young, I was told: I had to wait until I was eight. The tall, pale, lanky Irish priest with the kind eyes was firm. But I would not take no for an answer and continued to ask even though I continued to be turned down. One day, after one of my entreaties, Father Keegan turned to me and said: "En tu inocencia esta la sabiduria"-in your innocence lies your wisdom. I had worn down Father Keegan and he agreed to make an exception and let me serve.
Once I was to assist Father Keegan at mass by myself. The moment came when I had to move the huge prayer book from the Epistle side to the Gospel side behind and around the priest. I went up the three steps to the right side of the altar, picked up the book, descended the steps, turned at the middle of the altar, genuflected and attempted the climb of the three steps to bring the book up to the Gospel side.
The waiting priest, who had his back to the congregation, turned upon hearing their laughter to see that the book was so heavy that little Paco could not make it up the three steps. Every persistent attempt at stepping up brought me to the edge of being toppled back by the weight of the big book. The priest rescued me by taking the weight off the book as he lifted it slightly, allowing me to complete my mission with recovered dignity.
Six months later, my very close friend, Juan, was killed by Father Keegan as the priest was backing up his car and did not see the small child who was waiting for him. Juan was trying to talk to Father about he, too, becoming an altar boy. From then on, whenever I saw Father Keegan, I was impressed by the fact that his face and neck had become beet red, a permanent mark of his deep grief. All he could do was hug me and cry-no words.
Soon after the accident he told me I could not continue my altar boy training. I felt wounded; my heart was broken. But something had happened in the brief days I was allowed to serve. I had learned everything I ever needed to know about being a priest, even though I would forget lots of it and would have to relearn it. I believe it was in that period long ago that the seeds for my life's work were germinated.
I have now been living and working in The Bronx, New York for fifty-one years. What I have relearned in these many years working in the second poorest Congressional District of the United States (second only to one in Mississippi) is that in order to serve one must have the openness and innocence of a child. That compassion and love for oneself and others is essential, and that being always mindful of the moment you are breathing is the way to heal yourself and others.
My mission is to work with people whom I call "wounded healers" and their organizations in the South Bronx, to build sustainable neighborhoods with a sound, spiritual underpinning. In light of the many years I've spent as a businessman, I teach that doing well should not be seen as evil or an obstacle to spiritual transformation. My bedrock foundation is meditation and prayer.
The challenge is that people are very cynical, very scared, very hungry, and very wounded. Most of all, they are feeling very tired and uncared for. A friend once told me that wounded humans do not care what you know; they want to know that you care, and only then they might be interested in what you know. If you ask me what we really do with people who come in the door, the people who live with chronic hopelessness and fear, I'll tell you that we try to live comfortably in their darkness. And that's the hardest thing of all.
Somebody comes into the employment program.
"Tell me what you can do," I ask her.
"I can't do nothing. I got no skills, no diploma, no job. I'm on welfare, my mother's been on welfare, don't fuck with me!"
I enter her darkness.
The hardest thing is being with people who are hurting, with no agenda of their own, no answers. You need to stay with them in this place and help them find the light within this darkness.
So I continue my interview.
"Tell me, do your kids get fed?"
"Course they get fed."
"Who feeds them?"
"I feed them."
"How do you do that?"
"I go to the fucking refrigerator. I look inside, I make a list, I go to the store."
"You know what you're telling me? You're telling me that you do inventory, you do planning, and then you get the job done. People go to college and get a BA to do what you did."
As Father Keegan had done with me, I intervene only enough to lighten the weight so they can move to the next objective with a whole change of perspective. A wounded mother begins to mend.
The Latino Pastoral Action Center (LPAC) is a living experiment testing these premises on a daily basis. LPAC was founded by Reverend Raymond Rivera in 1992, and it is where I established my first Peacemaker Village soon after my ordination in July, 1997.
Raymond has struggled with the dichotomy between the sacred and the secular and the personal and the structural, while responding both to those who want to save the soul and those who want to change the system. He founded LPAC because he found it difficult to integrate these two perspectives within the church and the social activist communities. Since I have also found myself in similar struggles, the LPAC Peacemaker Village is his and my heartfelt attempt to respond to this challenge.
The work that our village carries out is to bring peace to these wounded healers and their organizations. We also teach alternatives to violence-particularly to parish youth, but also to gang members. We accomplish this by teaching people to sit and just be quiet; we dialogue and even teach Aikido, not necessarily as a defense mechanism but rather as a state of mind.
At our weekend workshops for young people, we even use some of Thich Nhat Hanh's mindfulness practices. That's when I can tell them about myself, that I have brailled my way through life. That feeling my way through long periods of darkness, I've learned that the darkness and the light come from the same source, and that for too many of us, getting through the darkness is our only road to getting to the light.
For many of the youngsters we work with, La Aldea de Paz del Sur del Bronx (The South Bronx Peace Village at LPAC) is the gateway out of darkness and the back to dreaming, imagining and creating hope under circumstances that appear hopeless to them. Our approach is to meet them where they are.

    Meeting in the Darkness, Francisco Lugovina, Shambhala Sun, May 1998.

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