That’s a quote from the Tao Te Ching- translated from my bad german from the chinese- I’m sure there is a more lyrical way of saying it! I bought a postcard of the lady Buddha today to remind me of my true home.
I’ve recovered from visiting the concentration camp. Today I sat amongst the Holocaust Memorial and reflected that it was a reminder to us all to speak up when we see oppression and injustice. Or it will happen again- and in some parts of the world it already has.
Human Rights watch has released information on Vietnam condemning what has happened and is happening there. The debate about asylum seekers continues in Australia with a ex colleague of mine Lyn Bender writing an opinion piece for the Age. Unfortunately this is what we are known for in Europe but when I tell Europeans how many asylum seeker applications we receive (4500 approx) they are appalled, the applications in Europe are ten times more.
I am hoping to bring my play “i could be you” as a video installation to Berlin and Bangalore in India with my new contacts. “I could be you” is about asylum seekers in detention centre in Australia.
We have landed in the multicultural neighbourhood of Kreuzberg, dominated by Turkish and the odd anti-immigration poster on the walls. The weather is surprisingly sunny for Berlin- so I’ve been told by Laura- our friendly guide from the Literaturewerkstratt. She is Italian, and speaks German and English fluently. Our attempts at German so far lapse into English pretty frequently. Our hosts Agnes and Piettre have provided us with a very large room, double bed, bathroom and kitchenette which we share with their daughter who I have not sighted yet. Today we visited the Eastern Gallery- the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall that is covered with art. It was morbidly fascinating, thinking what the Wall used to represent and the deaths caused, now reduced to pretty mosaic memorials and a magnet for tourists. Mostly German ones, I have only seen a handful of other Asians here so far- though the Vietnamese restaurants are common- along with sushi and Chinese noodle shops.
On retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh for seven days and it is a wonderful experience breathing in and out with 400 people. There are dharma talks every day conducted by Thay himself. What I have taken from these talks have moved me so much. That my grandparents and parents are in every cell of my body and I can write to them (three of my grandparents are deceased). That craving is at the root of my desire to shop and drink and being mindful is one way of stopping these cravings. I finally understand manas the concept of ego roughly translated which stops us from reaching nirvana and the pure land the realm of no self. The four practices of diligence and the four noble truths I am absorbing into my psychology practice and I have vowed to try and be more mindful every day. Every breath is a miracle, life is a miracle and present moment is a wonderful moment. The pure land is right here right now.
I have been trying to plan ahead with my creative endeavours and have discovered to my amazement that I’m booked up till mid next year. The residency takes up the remainder of 2008 and the “Return” project the first half of 2009 a project initiated by Caitlin Nunn for the Big West festival 2009 for her Phd. Myself and other Vietnamese-Australian artists will be devising artistic works responding to multi generational interviews about “Vietnamese-ness” and “Australian-ness”.
Finally the Melbourne City Sangha (for lack of a better name so far) has met and trying to establish a regular pattern of meeting on Sunday afternoons. We are Thich Nhat Hanh followers so to speak, and meditate with the Melbourne Zen group for an hour then meet separately to discuss the dharma through readings in the second hour. We met last Sunday and I was moved almost to tears during reciting the Five Mindfulness Trainings- I felt it had been so long since I had engaged in the practice truly (it’s been a year since I was in Vietnam). The most poignant thing I took away from the dharma discussion that afternoon was to smile at my negative habit energies. When I do this, it provides a shift in me and again almost makes me cry although whether with joy, relief or release of sorrow it’s hard to tell.
I have been reading “Emotional Alchemy” by Tara Bennett-Goleman (yes married to the Emotional Intelligence guy Daniel Goleman) which is about Buddhism and psychotherapy. It was really inspirational. I found the part 4 where she touches on spiritual matters very resonant with where I am at the moment. She talks about mindfulness and that moment when you are fully mindful which you may recognise as “flow” when you are caught in the moment. This quicksilver time, this in between space is what I want to capture when writing. Expressing it and the joy of it to others is difficult.
My piece “Acceptance” has been accepted by Alice Pung to be in the “Growing up Asian in Australia” anthology. I’m really chuffed by this, the anthology is going to be so important in Asian Australian terms so I’m glad to be a part of it. Phillip Tang one of the writers we published in Peril is hopefully going to have his piece published on Peril put in the anthology too which is fantastic- Peril has already achieved one of its’ aims by this happening!
Alice asked me a question in a series of Q and A for the anthology about what was the most important lesson that I’ve learned (or something like that). It really set me thinking. What I came up with is that your story, experience and voice is important and valuable. It’s something that drives my work as a psychologist- and what I’d like to do if I wander down the community arts path or story therapy path (story therapy is a term I’ve just made up for today! I’ve brushed with narrative therapy and in my oodles of spare time (NOT!) I’d like to read up on using story telling in therapeutic practice).
Just read a transcript of a dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh about our continuation with our ancestors. His talks can be accessed at www.plumvillage.org
What he said made a lot of sense to me. He said that Western psychology is centred around the self which means it can only heal up to a certain point. Buddhist psychology encourages the concept of no-self – the connection of you to your ancestors and other beings so you go beyond yourself. I came to this conclusion while on retreat with Thay in Vietnam- that it did not matter who I was (i had been wondering what and who I was for sometime) but my interconnection with all beings made me who I am.
I have found so far with some of my clients that I see that they take to viewing their thoughts as being outside of themselves very readily. I have not yet taken that step of trying to teach mindfulness but I will soon.