Mindful eating is an exercise practiced daily at Plum Village, founded in 1982 by Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Each year, more than a thousand visitors come from all over the world to make a retreat, alone or with family, in one of its three centers in France, in Dordogne, in Gironde or in Lot-et-Garonne. During meals, taken in silence, you are invited to become aware that the food you eat is a gift from the universe, from the earth, from the sky, from the rain and from the sun. This is also the time to thank all those who participated in its development, such as farmers, merchants and cooks. A lot of energy has been expended to make a dish or even cook a grain of rice as recalled Martin Batchelor, who studied and practiced Zen Buddhism in Korea, Taiwan and Japan. “While I was a nun in Korea, there was a monastic tradition during meals: that of reciting a song aimed at becoming aware of all the efforts undertaken so that this grain of rice reaches our plate and helps us with its energy inputs to support our practice. Considering all the people who have worked to give shape to this grain of rice, we can only feel gratitude, but also feel endowed with a responsibility. We have to be careful to make good use of this grain of rice and not let it rot.” Author of several books, she now teaches in France and elsewhere in the world. She encourages practicing this type of meditation during meals.
This very simple exercise allows us to see that everything is interrelated, “interconnected” as we would say today. Human beings are interdependent with each other, just as animals, plants, minerals, fungi and bacteria are by what is called the food chain. Not only are humans dependent on animals, but also animals on humans, humans on the environment in which they live, and this environment on humans. And so on. To describe this endless chain, Thich Nhat Hanh defined the concept of “interbeing”: “If you are a poet, you will clearly see a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there would be no rain; without rain, the trees would not grow; and without a tree, we couldn't make paper (…) Looking even deeper into this sheet of paper, we also see the sun there. Without the sun, the forest could not grow. In fact, nothing could grow, we could not develop (…) Continuing to observe, we also discover the woodcutter who cut down the tree and brought it to the paper factory. And we also see the wheat: we know that this man could not have lived without his daily bread. This is why the wheat that was used to make the bread, which fed the woodcutter, is present in this sheet of paper. And the woodcutter's father and mother are also there. If we observe in this way, we notice that, without all these elements, this sheet of paper could not exist. Looking even deeper, we also discover our presence there. It's not hard to see: when we look at this leaf, it becomes part of our perception. Your mind is there and mine too (…) Everything coexists with this sheet of paper. »
From Emptiness to Compassion
The fourteen mindfulness trainings offered to monks, nuns and lay practitioners in Plum Village allow us to touch the nature of "interbeing" in all that is, and to see that our happiness is closely linked to that of others. others. “Interbeing” is not a theory; it is a reality that each of us can experience directly, at any time in our life or during meditation. “As human beings, we always exist in dependence on the things that allow us to survive, whether it is air, water, food, medicine or even clothing, but also according to the gaze of the other. And since nothing exists independently, nothing exists by itself. It all starts with emptiness,” adds Martine Batchelor. But make no mistake, the term emptiness is often misinterpreted by Westerners. Thus, Ringu Tulku Rinpoche emphasizes: “Sûnyatâ does not mean “empty”. It is a very difficult word to understand and define. It is with reserve that I translate it as “emptiness”. The best definition is, in my opinion, “interdependence”, which means that everything depends on others to exist (…)”
“If you are a poet, you will clearly see a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there would be no rain; without rain, the trees would not grow; and without a tree, we couldn't make paper. » Thich Nhat Hanh
In Buddhism, practitioners endowed with the greatest faculties begin by establishing the view of emptiness, then, knowing the possible liberation, they cultivate renunciation and applying it to others, they then experience great compassion, explains for his part the Dalai. -Llama. How do you develop genuine and lasting compassion for others? Meditating on interdependence is undoubtedly necessary. “When we talk about compassion, it must be informed, enlightened and imbued with wisdom, explains Martine Batchelor. First of all, there is no possible compassion if one is not open to the other and unable to develop a relationship with him. It is important to feel connected or connected to him. To be aware of the other as he is, we must get out of our natural tendency to be self-centered. It is only under this condition that one can be able to welcome the suffering of the other. But you still have to not let yourself be overwhelmed by it and stay tuned. We will have to relieve her in the most enlightened way possible, with a lot of benevolent love”.