I feel very touched to hear everyone’s aspirations. It’s very moving for me.
I think at the moment my main aspiration is just to keep going with what I’m doing, with where my practice is at. I have made some significant transformations this summer, I have moved on a lot, and I think all I want to do is just to keep moving on and not regress, not fall back in my old habits of before.
This summer, I was able to really find what I suppose I could call my true self. For the first time, I was able to relate to people in a way that is really, truly me.
Outside of Plum Village, I am a very different person. I am overly shy, I have difficulties talking about myself to others, about what I believe in. I often feel embarrassed talking about how I live my life, about my practice in Plum Village. But I’m in Plum Village, I’m a different person. I am more confident, more myself. Every summer retreat, I spend 4 weeks just being myself, and it’s wonderful. But when I go back to my daily life, and especially when I go back to school, I put on this mask again, the mask that hides away what is true to me, that covers up what lies deep in my heart. But I don’t want this mask, I want to be able to truly be myself all year round.
Last year, I felt very good in the summer retreat. For 4 weeks, I was happy being who I am. But after, I went back to my “normal” self, which is not my “true” self, the way I would like to be. It’s the self I have of hiding what is true to me from my friends. The ones I thought were my friends, I didn’t trust them. I knew they wouldn’t understand, and right I was. Only one person understood, and I could really talk to him about how I felt. But even though he showed an interest in the practice, there were still things he found more important, things that I couldn’t agree with, and again I felt alone.
But this retreat, I felt different.
In the Youth Retreat, it was so nice to see so many young people interested in the practice. I made deep friends with whom I could share deeply, with whom I can just be myself. And during the summer retreat, I was able to deepen friendships I’d made the previous years, but most importantly, I was able to find a new me, my true self. This retreat, I was with people in a way I hadn’t ever been before. I could be myself and I was accepted just the way I am, without being judged for this, that and the other. I realized who I really am. Actually, I am not at all shy, my shyness is something I use to cover up for what lies underneath.
When I shared these feelings with a friend, she took my hand, smiled at me and said, “don’t worry, we love you just the way you are.” I suppose I knew this deep down, but it was very touching to be reminded in this way.
This summer, I have realized that I can just be myself with everyone, whoever that may be, in the same way, as friends as a family, as a Sangha.
And now that I’m at home, I want to keep that feeling, and continue feeling this way when I go back to school. To do this, I want to try to introduce my friends to the practice. I am starting a new school, I’ll have new friends, I want to start anew with myself, leave my old self behind.
But coming home after the retreat, I found that I quickly sank back into my old self, and that I didn’t feel confident in my practice, and I fear that when I go back to school, I’ll have lost this feeling completely. I feel that I need a strong energy of practice around me all the time to be able to go where I want to go with my practice, and to do this, I will spend some time in the Son Ha community and see where my practice goes from there.
Thank you everyone for your strong practice and strong support, wherever you may be on this planet, but through your practice, we are together. Thank you.