exploration journal

Lessons from my Plum Village retreat – 1

photo 2(1)

photo 4

photo 1(1)

I came back from my spiritual retreat at Plum Village 3 weeks ago.


Plum Village (« Village des Pruniers » in French) is a Zen Buddhist monastery and community founded by the Vietnamese spiritual master Thich Nhat Hanh. It is located in France, in the region where Bordeaux wines are produced.


At the heart of Plum Village philosophy lies the practice of mindfulness : being totally present in what you are doing, whatever it is – walking, brushing your teeth, cooking…


It took me some time to actually start writing about it. Certainly because it has been an extremely rich and multi-faceted experience.


It was like a path within the path. It was not easy all the time ! Going through this spiritual retreat gave me time and inner space to just be with me, look inside. And I saw with more clarity. I saw both the great things I like, and the less great things which I like much less, which I would like to change but that are so hard to change !


In this post and the following one, I am sharing with you what I learnt most : it is about expectations / result-orientation, and making choices.


Unlearning about expectations and result-orientation


I planned to go to Plum Village last March or April. At that time I wanted to experience a Buddhist spiritual retreat, giving me the opportunity to connect to myself and to learn more about the Bouddhist art of living.


On top of that, I had a « secret » motivation !


I felt stuck in my decision-making process. I could not decide what to do during my exploration year. There were so many possibilities ! So I secretely hoped for a kind of « enlightment » that would magically provide me answers…


When I arrived in July, my « expectations » had changed : I had decided about what I would be doing during the months to come – wahou, wonderful ! I had finally managed to make choices !


So it was more about the transition to my new life, taking time for connection to myself through meditation, learning more about mindfulness through living with the community and practicing.


Thanks to the practice of mindfulness, the dharma talks, the introspection process, I realized that I could live a much more serene, positive life if I changed perspective on the way I considered my exploration year project and the expectations I had.


Letting go


What I learned most from these 2 weeks at Plum Village is that a key to happiness and self-fulfillment is to have as less expectations as possible and no strong drive for a specific result.


Because happiness lies within the path. « Happiness is here and now », as the Plum Village song goes.


Happiness is about fully welcoming the unexpected and understanding how enriching it is.


Happiness is about patience.


During my education and work experience, I have learnt to be efficient, to control things and develop my impact, to aim at excellence, to be organized and to focus on return on investment.


This way of thinking really influenced the way I tried to build my project :


« I want to build a tailor-made exploration year program which will allow me to use my talent to have the most impact in a way that I contribute to make the world a better place, doing things I love. »


Only reading these lines, I feel exhausted. This is so much pressure !


And this is not the way personal development works. Personal development is about « lâcher-prise », letting go.


And the more we want to let go, the less it is likely to happen ! I understood that it is at the moment when we give up focusing on the expected result that answers and solutions spontaneously come up.


I do my part, and I trust life to do the rest


Now, I try to develop a much more flexible approach to my objectives and plans. It is about adopting a different mindset.


It also means to trust life.


Here is the way I do :


1/ First of all : making sure that what I choose to do deeply feels authentic and right


2/ Then « do my part » – connecting with someone, expressing a dream I have, booking a flight to Bucarest, offering to facilitate a workshop in Authentic Life Design…. In a way, I send my message in a bottle.


3/ And then I decide to « trust life to do the rest » – which is the step that corresponds to letting go


4/ I « go with the flow » – accepting what comes out as the best thing that can happen to me. It helps me a lot to avoid useless frustration.

It does not mean that I accept anything ! If I do not feel comfortable with what happens, I react to make the change needed.


It is not easy all the time, but I really evolved thanks to this « method » ! It is particularly useful when you organize a project with a wide horizon of possibilities.


I am becoming more and more curious about what suprises the universe will bring to me !