3 May 2018

By Philip

Be Calm Be Happy – a personal view from Lauri Bower

We are really fortunate in the UK Community of Interbeing to have access to a beautifully written short course on mindfulness that is based directly in Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings.

This course was compiled and refined by two Dharma teachers with the very active support of a large cast of Order members and committed practitioners who offered professional inputs and piloted the course. I became involved in 2016 and now co-ordinate the course leaders across the country. Firstly there were some pilot courses to test out the material, and to pare it down to Thay’s essential teachings. The course being delivered at the moment has undergone three major rewrites/compressions to create an accessible and interesting short course on mindfulness.

Now we have 36 course leaders trained and available to offer the course in their locality, from the north of Scotland stretching throughout the UK to the Isle of Wight, and many places in between. Ideally the course leaders work together in pairs, sharing the teaching sessions between them. Thus far we have offered 35 courses, with the prospect of several more coming up soon (Kirkbymoorside and London in May, and Newcastle under Lyme in July) plus more on the cards for autumn.

As a course leader I find offering the course deepens my personal practice, and is a regular reminder of many of Thay’s wonderful teachings. Each session begins with the simple (yet profound) practice of coming back to our breath, noticing and being aware of our current state of mind, and with the focus on the breath, letting our thoughts settle. As with all of Thay’s teachings, this is practised with a sense of gentleness and acceptance, rather than the violence of berating ourselves if our minds seem to be all over the place. There is “clarity and spaciousness in the six units of the course. Carefully chosen, each topic builds on the one before using simple language that is easy to engage with.”

For the participants, some of whom travel great distances to attend a course, the benefits include:

“a deeper understanding of mindfulness and its application”;

“the tools to cope with the problems I have got”;

“a very real shift in my ability to be present and enjoy simple things”;

‘Reducing my panic attacks – feeling much calmer’.

We find the participants gain a lot from working together in a group format; sharing insights and hearing “… helpful anecdotes and analogies” that make the teaching of mindfulness all the more clear.

My journey in Thay’s teachings of mindfulness began in earnest in 2009 with my first visit to Plum Village. As I stepped into the now familiar dining room on arrival, I saw a beautiful calligraphy stuck to the window declaring, “I have arrived, I am home”. This was palpable then, and has stayed as I have learnt more and more about Thay’s teachings. Having already been practising meditation for twenty years, but not enjoying it, I discovered a simple joy in the Plum Village practices which allowed me to feel I was ‘home’ when I meditated, or when I practised mindful walking and mindful eating. This profound sense that we can stop searching because here is a teaching that provides inner peace and calm is available to many more people through the means of the Be Calm Be Happy course.

Indeed, it is not only useful and helpful to those new to Thay’s teachings, committed Sangha members have also found the course “reinforced and strengthened what I did know, and made me aware of how much I forget. It gave me new insights that I could start working with straight away”. It is a beautiful way for seasoned practitioners to water our Beginner’s mind and begin anew with the basics of practice.

At a Nottingham retreat in 2010 when Thay visited the UK he said, “The teaching, no matter how lovely, if it cannot be applied to daily life, it has no value at all”. He offers us many gifts that we can apply to our daily lives through his teachings, and these are freely available to share with others through the Be Calm Be Happy course.

If you want to find a course in your area please visit our Eventbrite page.

If you have any questions about the course please email us at admin@coiuk.org . If you are a committed Sangha member who regularly facilitates and is interested in training to become a course leader please email me at bcbhmindful@gmail.com

Having picked up the BCBH baton last year it is my aspiration that we soon have enough courses running throughout the UK so that anyone who wishes to attend can easily access one. I hope you will support this unique endeavour.

Lauri Bower

True Mountain of Non-Fear.