When I was a novice nun, I was attending my teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, whom his students call ‘Thay,’ which means ‘teacher’ in Vietnamese. It was always a great privilege to be able to serve as his attendant when he would visit our nun’s hamlet. I felt a mixture of joy at getting to be close to him and learn from him, and also trepidation as I worried I might do something wrong in serving him or that he might spot some weakness or lack in my practice. In fact, as I grew to know him more, I understood he was constantly looking for ways to nourish our strengths and also guide each of us in the midst of our difficulties with great love.
On this occasion, I had served him tea and he was peacefully resting in his hammock as I sat quietly nearby. (At that time my Vietnamese monastic name was Sr. Chau Nghiem, meaning ‘Adornment with Jewel’).
He said out of the blue, “Chau Nghiem, other people are the path.”
Somehow he knew I was having a hard time with a particular elder sister, who many people found quite difficult. She had suffered a lot in her life as I would later learn the more I got to know her.
I listened with a tender heart as he softly continued to speak about how we don’t wake up outside of our relationships. That isolating ourselves or choosing to be only with those we like and agree with is not how we learn to truly love.
This conversation has stayed with me ever since, especially when I am struggling in my relationship with others.
This Sunday, we will explore how our relationships are the very path of awakening and how we can show up fully in our interactions with others, especially those we find challenging. People we find difficult can teach us a great deal and we will learn ways to practice with these painful relationships to profit from their transformative lessons.
We will also do a writing exercise that can be helpful in keeping our relationships fresh and as a way to support reconciliation with those we are struggling with. So bring paper and pen to class, and you are also welcome to do the writing practice as a guided meditation instead if that works better for you.
I look forward to being with you!