Nurturing Practices

This article is a summary of a wonderful dharma talk on nurturing practices given by Sister Mai Nghiem, a French nun and Dharma Teacher in the Plum Village Tradition.

The dharma talk was given on April 29th, 2016 at the Earth Holder Retreat at the Deer Park Monastery last week.

I was especially moved by the love and admiration she felt for her father.

This is because I am a father, and I feel that more than anything else in my life, I’ve been a good father.

Sister Mai Nghiem at Deer Park Monastery - Photo Jerome Freedman

Sister Mai Nghiem at Deer Park Monastery – Photo Jerome Freedman

Sister Mai began with telling us that if we can take care of our difficult emotions, we can produce joy.

She quoted Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh: “The Earth will be safe when we feel safe in ourselves,” and proceeded to rearrange the letters of earth:


She said,

Happiness is possible in the present moment. Peace is possible in the present moment. Joy is possible in the present moment!

“Taking care of our own happiness is taking care of the Earth.”

She spent the rest of the dharma talk speaking about these nurturing practices:

“One regret dear world, that I am determined not to have when I am lying on my deathbed is that I did not kiss you enough.”

  • Offer gratitude, to the cosmic mind-body and the simple way of living.
  • Remember impermanence.
  • Recognize that happiness and suffering are not separate: the level of suffering is so high that we don’t need more.
  • Pay appropriate attention (yoniso manasikāra) to what is good and wholesome.
  • Build a sangha.
  • Practice deep listening and loving speech.
  • Ask yourself, “Am I sure…”
  • Nourish the beauty and freshness of other people.
  • Ask yourself, “Do I make my love and compassion grow every day?”
  • Ask the Earth for her love and freshness – don’t underestimate her power!

She told a story about a fourteen year old boy who was taken out of public school and home schooled because of bullying – I wondered if he had experienced Challenge Day, would he have been able to remain in school?

After the talk, I told Sister Mai about Challenge Day and told her that my daughter was studying to be a Challenge Day leader.

“Challenge Day’s mission is to provide youth and their communities with experiential workshops and programs that demonstrate the possibility of love and connection through the celebration of diversity, truth and full expression.” – from their mission statement

A funny thing she said was that when you are a dharma teacher, you can’t complain any more!

She also spoke about a village which puts bad guys in a circle and the whole community showers praises on the person.

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