A young man from America came here for the summer retreat about ten years ago. He enjoyed his three weeks of practice in the Upper Hamlet, he enjoyed walking and sitting and breathing and cooking, and so on. One day we organized a ceremony called the Thanksgiving Ceremony. Because we also have our own way of celebrating thanks giving – to our parents who brought us to life, to our teachers who show us the way to live happily in the present moment, to our friends who support us in difficult moments, and to all living beings in the animal, vegetable and mineral realms. That day we practiced being aware of their existence, and lived in such a way as to be grateful for their support.
That young man was asked by his fellow Americans to go to Ste. Foy la Grande to do some shopping, because each national group had to cook something very special from their country, in order to place it on the collective altar of ancestors. If you were a Chinese person, then you would cook something Chinese, something very special in your country. When he was in the market shopping, suddenly a kind of energy came up, and he suddenly became restless, and hurrying. He lost his peace and his beauty. During the three weeks in the Upper Hamlet he never behaved like that, because he was among his Sangha, and everyone was practicing walking and sitting and doing things in a relaxed way, learning how to live in the present moment. The practice in the Upper Hamlet was strong, and he found himself in a Sangha that was practicing well. That is why he enjoyed that kind of freedom, that kind of stability, that kind of joy. Now he was alone in the market, and suddenly he felt himself rushing, feeling restless, and trying to do things quickly in order to go home to the Upper Hamlet. But because had already been practicing for three full weeks, he was able to recognize what was going on within himself. He had a kind of insight: he saw that that was the habit energy of his mother, because she was always like that, rushing, hurrying, agitated, restless. At the moment when he got this insight, he went back to his in-breath and his out-breath, and he said, "Hello, Mommy!" and that feeling of restlessness and hurrying just disappeared. He knew that he was not surrounded by brothers and sisters of his Sangha, and that alone in Ste. Foy la Grande he had to use his mindful breathing as his Sangha. From that moment on he continued the practice of mindful breathing, and he stayed stable and joyful and peaceful the whole time he was shopping. When he came back here he told us the story.
From "Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh on August 6, 1998 in Plum Village, France"