Brother Phap Dung is a Vietnamese American who has been residing in Plum Village, a Buddhist meditation centre founded by two Vietnamese monastics, Chân Không and Thích Nhất Hạnh, for the last six years.
You might be familiar with Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Buddhist monk and peace activist who has written more than 100 books, including The Miracle of Mindfulness and Peace is Every Step. He also coined the term “Engaged Buddhism,” which refers to Buddhists who are “seeking ways to apply the insights from meditation practice and dharma teachings to situations of social, political, environmental, and economic suffering and injustice.” In 2014, Thích Nhất Hạnh suffered a stroke and has made few appearances since. He has been living at Plum Village, located in the south of France, since 2016.
Barclay questioned Phap about his opinion on Trump and asks how America can better manage their emotions through all the uncertainty created during this presidency. “As a collective energy, fear and anger can be very destructive. We make the wrong decisions if we base it on fear, anger, and wrong perception. Those emotions cloud our mind. So the first thing in the practice that we learn from the Buddhist tradition is to come back and take care of our emotion. We use the mindfulness to recognize it,” he says.
He also shares his opinion on anger, a natural reaction many Americans are experiencing during this presidency:
People are so convinced that anger and all this energy will produce change. But in fact it’s very destructive, because you’re opposing. Opposition wastes energy. It’s not healing.
Emotions can be good. Passion can be good, and compassion is very passionate. But compassion doesn’t waste energy. It includes and it understands; it’s more clear.
Engage in protest, but not from a place of anger. You need to express your opinion, and you need to go out there and say this is wrong. But don’t do it by saying hateful things. In a way, we Buddhists look more at energy than personality. That helps us be wiser.
Phap goes on to share some interesting perspectives on Trump that reflect points we also raised in an article detailing our stance on Trump. He says, “Trump is not an alien who came from another planet. We produced Trump, so we are co-responsible. Our culture, our society, made him. We love to pick somebody and make them the object. But it’s deeper than that. We have to see him inside of us.”
Elizabeth expresses how difficult it is for Americans to show compassion during these times, as they are afraid it will make them “passive” and therefore run the risk of getting hurt. Yet Phap explains that compassion can be active, too:
Compassion is not sitting in your room; it’s actually very active and engaging.
Trump is not an alien who came from another planet. We produced Trump, so we are co-responsible. Our culture, our society, made him. We love to pick somebody and make them the object. But it’s deeper than that. We have to see him inside of us.
We’re shocked because we found out there’s a member of our family that we’ve been ignoring. It’s time to listen and really look at our family.
We are afraid to engage, but you can dialogue and debate. It requires a lot of practice to sit there and listen, and not judge so you can understand.
You cannot end discrimination by calling the other names. All the people who voted for him are not bigots and racists and women haters. We are all judgmental, sometimes even a bit racist.
What’s in my heart is that people find the patience and clarity to listen before they start to blame and criticize.
Phap also expresses his admiration for Bernie Sanders and his decision to speak publicly about the illusion under which Americans are living. Bernie not been shy about his belief that it doesn’t matter who wins the presidency, since he or she will remain under the control of corporations.
Phap shares his own perspective of the media as well, saying, “Our society is very vulnerable to being very polarized and that’s what the media is taking advantage of. We have to be really careful. I don’t follow politics a lot, but because of my background and my teacher and how I come from a war, I had to look at some of these things. I’m not fooled by the media anymore.”
Assuming that we’ve stabilized our emotions when it comes to taking action, he suggests going out in nature and finding out exactly what it is you want to change instead of operating out of despair. It is then that we can go out and truly help others: “Our friend may be somebody who is being discriminated against. You can only be there to offer them that kindness if you are stable. You cannot help them if you are filled with hate and fear. What people need is your non-fear, your stability, solidity, clarity. This is what we can offer.”
We’ve explored the benefits of meditation extensively here at CE, and Phap offers further guidance for how it can help to calm our minds and connect us to one another. He says, “When you sit with someone who’s calm, you can become calm. If you sit with someone who’s agitated and hateful, you can become agitated and hateful.”
He also stresses meditation is a practice that has no setting, no rules; it can take place any time we remember our presence: “It can happen right in whatever activity you’re doing — while walking, in the office. It means you are there, present with calm and peace. With a breath, you can bring calm, clarity and rest your thinking.”
Phap also explains the importance of deep listening. Plum Village has hosted many retreats, inviting both Israelis and Palestinians, and spends three days preparing both groups to listen to one another through exercises like walking and meditation. Even political strife can be overcome in this way.
“Both sides are suffering — they may have different levels of suffering — but both sides are suffering. People don’t want to be hateful or harming. We keep that in mind. The wake-up call is to not to be too quick. That’s the hard part. When someone hates, it’s hard for us to accept that and listen. But to find relief, we have to listen,” he says. When Buddhist practitioners choose to get involved in politics, they have to be inclusive.
So how can we properly deal with a family member or friend we anticipate disagreeing with?
Drop all expectations.
The way I practice is that you cannot ask people for what they do not have. You only make yourself suffer. So you don’t need to try and convince them. Don’t put stuff in their box they’re not going to want. It’s a waste of saliva.
When there is discrimination, you can use the opportunity to increase understanding. You can concentrate on what makes you happy; there are other elements in this person, not just the prejudice. You have to find also the good qualities in them. Don’t focus on wrong views because that makes you angry.
This is not wishful thinking or deluded thinking. This is taking care of yourself. Only when you can do that — when you can be a good listener and be nonjudgmental — is a dialogue possible.
When I think I am right, I am on a course for a lot of conflict. Because I am stuck with my own views and not open to other people. So I suffer. When I see that in other people, I see they are suffering. Maybe kindness is there. Their viewpoints may not be correct, but their heart may be kind.
Barclay also asked Phap how we can best prepare for the future, and he offers a uniquely positive response focused on individual accountability:
The future is built with the present moment and how we take care of it. If you are fearful, the future will be fearful. If you are uncooperative, the future will be divisive. This is very important.
The future is not something that will come to us; the future is built by us, by how we speak and what we do in the present moment.
Community practice is crucial at this time. It’s crucial not to be alone in front of the computer, reading media. That makes the world dark for you. Find flesh. There are still wonderful things happening.
And what does Phap’s mentor, Thích Nhất Hạnh, think of Trump? “I heard that he took his left hand; he went like this (opens palm). You can interpret that all you want.”
Are You A ‘Self-Help’ Junkie Dying For REAL CHANGE?!
- The Facts:
The coaching industry is for the most part, unregulated. Anyone can decide they want to be a coach without having the skills, experience, self-awareness and depth of understanding of the complexities of the human condition, which are essential.
- Reflect On:
If you are considering or already working with a coach it is important firstly, that you are crystal clear on the primary role and responsibility you possess over your wellbeing. And secondly, that you do due diligence on any coach you hire.
As someone who’s been working closely with clients for the past 16 years in a personal growth capacity and who, in that time has been working on myself and my own growth as well, my life has changed more than I could ever have imagined was possible. I have been through many growth experiences that have seen me move countries twice, become a wife and a mother and now, I enjoy a beautiful existence in a small countryside town where I run my boutique-style business on Mallorca, off the coast of Spain.
My experience on both sides of the coaching and personal development industry however is what I want to highlight because it uniquely qualifies me to point out more than a few things. I want to speak to, in my experience, the many folks who have been blindsided and gotten caught up in searching for their next ‘fix’, be it through coaches or coaching programs ‘designed’ to address your most dire life/relationship/money/health problems and needs.
As they refer to it in the industry, your ‘pain’.
The thing is, I have come to believe that many of the promises made by some of the players in the self-improvement industry, are built (most times unconsciously) upon inherent untruths and assumptions about who YOU, the consumer ARE.
I don’t only believe this for you. I know it to be true because I, along with many of my colleagues and clients have been burned too.
I have have had to find another way. I have had to find my own way.
There are a significant number of coaches and coaching programs out there that simply FAIL to adequately acknowledge your inner resources, wisdom, resilience and strength, what you deserve, have the potential to create AND to bring these to the fore.
If your Facebook experience is anything like mine, these are the tentacles that reach out, flailing at you, trying to grab your attention every time you scroll down your feed.
It is both my observation and personal experience that as much as the industry is filled with practitioners who are conscious, in integrity and awake, it is also full of practitioners who, driven by their own fear, lack an overwhelming desire for a profitable bottom line, are unaware of the covert ‘personal development’ business building techniques they have been taught to bring unsuspecting, often vulnerable clients in.
Without calling any names, you can think here of some of the high-visiblity players in the industry. Consider the fanfare and energy around their launches, the tone of their copy, the well-oiled funnels, landing pages and up-selling strategies they use to bring large numbers of clients in. We are confronted by this kind of marketing everyday. It would be interesting to know exactly what percentage of their students/clients feel, by the end of these programs, that the promises made had been fulfilled. It is a number that we will never know, but what I do know is this…
Those who find themselves disappointed in their results and by extension, their coaches and themselves, THESE are the clients that tend to make the rounds because they feel forlorn, hopeless and lost. These are the ‘personal development junkies’ who are searching for their next FIX.
If this is YOU, I invite you to stop whatever it is you’ve been desperately throwing your energy, attention, hopes and dreams at and take this truth in:
No matter what shiny new modality, course, coach, coaching program or product promises to change your life, here is what 9 times out of 10, they won’t say…or if they do, they have no idea how to hold the space needed for it to root itself into your muscle memory and bones…
More than anything, it takes confidence and self-belief as well as deep connection and communication with YOURSELF to create what you most desire and need.
In other words, if you haven’t been actively acknowledging this truth, theres a good chance that you’ve been unwittingly been buying into the untruth for the solution to all your problems, your ability to call in your needs and heart’s desires lies outside of yourself, in someone else’s hands.
What can you do to change this subversive belief?
You can DECIDE once and for all that you are no longer going to let yourself be distracted by the plethora of ‘mindset’ modalities and teachers clamouring for your attention out there. That is not to say that there isn’t value in investing in mentorship and support, but the point here is this:
In your life, YOU call the shots.
The answers to your problems all lie within you and can only be unearthed firstly by cultivating a solid relationship with yourself so that YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.
YOU get to take full ownership for your growth and decide, based on your wisdom, what support you most need.
You too can and are meant to find YOUR OWN WAY.
Your Vagina Is More Beautiful Than You Think
- The Facts:
Filmmaker Layla Martin was inspired to capture the gap that can sometimes exist between how a woman sees her body, and the way her lover views it.
- Reflect On:
How do you deal with self-consciousness if it arises in your life? Can we all relate to feelings of self-consciousness and self-judgement?
It was 11 years ago and I was in a big documentary phase. I had watched hundreds of documentaries in a single year as I had come to realize the world around me was not quite what it seemed, and I was thirsty for knowledge.
After hours of UFO/ET docs, docs exploring the true history of our world and governments, and even health docs, I one day landed upon a documentary called ‘The Perfect Vagina.’ Quite honestly, my initial thought was, “what the heck is this?!” So I read the description: “Lisa Rogers investigates vaginal cosmetic surgery and why more and more women consider this surgical procedure.”
Wait, cosmetic surgery for what? I was 20 years old at the time and had not heard of people doing cosmetic surgery on their vagina. So I decided to watch the film.
The further I got into the film, the more I learned how many women, like men can be about their own bits, can be quite self-conscious about the look of their vagina. Sure, I was no stranger to the fact that everyone is slightly self-conscious about their parts, but how deep things can sometimes go, and the specifics that were focused on were all a bit of a surprise.
To make the story short, the documentary chronicles the journey of one woman who decides to have her labia minora ‘trimmed down.’ As you might imagine, it was an incredibly painful process following the procedure, and the subject was not all that jazzed about her choice in the end.
Where do these ideas about how our parts look come from? What stories do we tell ourselves about why we need to change them? How often do people actually make fun of our parts? These were all things I thought about. Sure, you see it in pop culture, men or women talking about specific positive details they want in the bits of their partners, but I never really saw this all that much in ‘real life.’
As I entered into more relationships in my life, I began to really realize that each of us may view our own private part in a very specific manner, while our partner often sees it in a very different and unique way. What we’re self-conscious about, they don’t see or actually love. And ultimately, connection, not our bits, were the core of what produced the greatest experiences involving those bits. (This is super family friendly as you notice lol)
This is partly why I was so interested to see the result of a video I came across just this morning, even though it had been out for some time. The video was done by Layla Martin as she was inspired to capture the difference that can sometimes exist between how a woman sees her body and the way her lover/partner views it.
Women were invited into a photography studio to have their vaginas photographed, they then viewed their own vaginas up close, and then watched in secret as their partner was shown the picture.
How did each react? Check out the video below, but be sure to read the important reflections I wrote below the video as well.
*Note: The feature image used for this piece was originally used and chosen by the filmmakers themselves.
We All Experience Hardship
To say that our world is experiencing polarity at the moment is an understatement. Things are VERY extreme right now. Whether it’s specific activist groups or political groups, everyone wants to be the biggest victim and pretend no one else can possibly know how they feel- and therefore should have no opinion.
This shows us how unwilling we are to face ourselves and how much we struggle with practicing true empathy.
Men, women, children – of any ethnicity or social class, experience feelings of doubt, fear, self-consciousness, worry, guilt, etc. You name it, in some way, others experience it. While it can be juicy to want to figure out who suffers the most, who the biggest victim is, this doesn’t really lead us anywhere productive as looking at things in this manner is from an extreme place, creating more extremity on the other side.
I bring this up in the context of this video simply because I know from direct experience of living in society on this planet, regardless of what extreme activists might suggest, that both men and women deal with self-consciousness issues about their private parts (and many other things) and it comes from many places. But ultimately, only WE, individually, can move beyond it. I mention this, because this understanding applies to all things we go through as humans, and it’s only within true empathy that we will be able to assist one another past our challenges.
In doing the work that we do here at CE, we are very careful to avoid creating divides or encouraging groups of people to feel victimized, simply because we know where that leads. Instead, we cut the BS and get to the core of why we suffer as humans and what we can do about it. We challenge us all, from all aspects of life, to view the challenges we face not through the light of looking at how others ruin things for us or make us feel sad, but instead how we can be solid within ourselves. As this is the only way we have true power individually and collectively.
A quick reflection I thought was worth sharing as we all can relate to what it feels like to struggle with aspects of self-consciousness and self-judgement.
Can Sacred Geometry Help Evolve Your Consciousness?
- The Facts:
Sacred Geometry patterns are found etched into many aspects of life, nature and the universe. It is an incredibly fascinating study that reveals the immense beauty and patterns that exist within the perfection of our world.
- Reflect On:
Have you explored the nature of sacred geometry? Can understanding it more deeply shift your perspective of our world and life?
What patterns do you see in your own life, or in the world that have symmetry and balance? Which ones are asymmetrical and out of balance? Noticing patterns helps us build on them if they are healthy, or break them if they are not healthy. The flux between asymmetry and symmetry is the process of growth and evolution. Sacred geometry gives us a beautiful reflection to contemplate as we navigate life’s challenges seeking balance and harmony.
Mathematics is the alphabet with which God has written the universe.
What is Sacred Geometry?
Sacred geometry involves sacred universal patterns used in the design of everything in our reality, most often seen in architecture, art, and nature. The basic belief is that geometry and mathematical ratios, harmonics and proportion are also found in music, light, cosmology. It is the invisible patterns that animate our physical world much as spiritual traditions believe that the soul animates the body.
Shapes, patterns, and visual compositions have the capacity to seduce our eyes while captivating our imagination. Whether from masterful works of art or in nature, this entrancement can be so emotionally moving and awe-inspiring that people naturally associate it with transcendence, the super-natural, or spiritual. Beneath these patterns are relationships that can be measured, numbered, replicated, and defined. This mathematical yet esoteric realm of inquiry and observation known as sacred geometry will enlighten and mystify you while inviting you to change the way you look at the world.
History of Sacred Geometry
The earliest cultures including Christians, Hindus, Greeks and Egyptians recognised the existence of different patterns or geometric shapes that repeated throughout nature. They also worked out that there was a correlation or connection between the various elements found in the earth and the heavens. These sacred geometric patterns were mirrored by earth and sky and ancient cultures believed these patterns existed in all parts of the universe. Modern science has proven these sacred geometric patterns are the very molecular shapes that form the basis of all life in this universe.
Is it Really Sacred?
The subject is vast and though it is spiritually inspiring for many, there are plenty of mathematicians who disdain the notion of correlating geometric formulas to mysticism. For this reason I will not attempt to ascribe meaning to these patterns, or connect them with specific spiritual traditions in this short, introductory blog. The mere observation and recognition of these visual relationships in nature, along with their powerful influence on art, architecture, and music are more than enough to leave you filled with wonder!
I was never good at math as a student though geometry was fun because it involved drawing shapes using graph paper, protractor, and compass. This idea of numbers being represented in visual form, or through music is a very special example of how abstractions (numbers, formulas) can be mirrored in the physical world. In this way, math is an interesting science that flirts in the space between physical and non-physical.
The space between physical and non-physical is usually reserved for art or spirituality. This is why it is interesting to find math formulas spanning the divide. It is also one of the reasons why this geometry is considered “sacred”. If you are interested in getting specific about the numbers and formulas, there is a great website called Math is Fun. Understanding more about the different shapes of Sacred Geometry and how they were used in ancient cultures can teach you how to harness their power.
The Golden Ratio
Also known as Phi, the Golden Mean, or the Golden Section, the Golden Ratio was revered as the mathematical law or representation of beauty by the Greeks. It is the numerical representation of infinity and an unreachable approximation. This begs one to contemplate the possibility of a transcendent number. From the Golden Rectangle comes the Fibonacci Spiral which is seen in flowers, snail shells, pinecones, and other parts of nature. The Golden Rectangle and Fibonacci Spiral are used in the crafting of musical instruments like cellos, violins, and the tones of musical scales are created using these same mathematical formulas. These formulas have been used in design and architecture going back at least 4,000 years and are seen in historic buildings like the Greek Parthenon.
The Flower of Life
Another very powerful symbol that is found all over the world dating back over 6,000 years and up to 10,000 years is the Flower of Life. This symbol is made of evenly-spaced, overlapping circles with six fold symmetry like a hexagon and looks like a flower, hence the name. It can be found in Egypt at the Temple of Osiris; the Forbidden City of China, synagogues in Galilee, Israel; in temples across India; in la Mezquita, Spain; Turkey, Japan and elsewhere. Leonardo da Vinci spent much time playing with and contemplating the Flower of Life’s form and used its mathematical properties in his art. Just by gazing at the symbol, or trying to count the circles will play tricks on your mind, and there is no wonder that people from ancient times to now are enamored with the Flower of Life.
Within the Flower is the Seed
The Seed of Life is a symbol found within the Flower of Life, as well as many other symbols of great significance including Metatrons Cube. These shapes called polygons are defined by having sides of equal length. This includes the cube, tetrahedron, dodecahedron, icosahedron, octahedron and they represent what Plato called the 5 platonic solids. These are visible within the flower of life when straight lines are drawn to connect the center of various circles within it. It is amazing to see all of this symmetry unfold in one succinct pattern which is created by math. Since many traditions believe that circles and curves represent the feminine, while corners and straight lines represent the masculine, this symbol also shows a divine balance of both.
Spirituality and Sacred Geometry
Higher frequencies of energy and awareness are transmitted through sacred geometry. Sacred geometry reveals that there are mathematical, or abstract patterns beneath everything that we see in the physical world. How might this relate to our own personal journey of integrating science and spirituality? Our internal beliefs create patterns that slowly ripple outward from us and manifest into real world experiences. The invisible informs the visible. Sacred geometry is a visualization and metaphor of the connectedness of all life, the interface between abstraction and physical reality. When we change the mathematical formulas, the relationships, we also change physical form. This is the teaching of many mystics.
The flux between asymmetry and symmetry is the process of growth and evolution. Just like a symphony or a film that uses tension to build for a great climax and resolve, we humans are always moving through this constant state of flux. Spend some time looking at these symmetrical patterns, as a means to strengthen your resonance with symmetry and balance. Maybe even attempt to plot-out and draw some of these patterns in your spare time, or color them in with markers… There is a reason that spiritual traditions have used these mathematical patterns for centuries, and by bringing them into your life you will be well on your way to a more balanced and happy life!
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