Songs from Plum Village.
Do you love music too?
I grew up in a family of music lovers. When I was about eight years old I was shocked when I first heard a recording of Bob Marley singing “I Shot the Sheriff” because I thought it was one of “Dad’s piano songs.” Music has always been an important part of my life. It is no small wonder that I felt at home at Plum Village, where singing is woven into mindfulness practice (the photo above was taken at Plum Village).
Plum Village is the Buddhist monastery in France where the Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh lives and teaches. My sister and I were pleasantly surprised, upon first visiting Plum Village 11 years ago, that we had so many opportunities to sing. We sang mindfulness songs before working meditations and walking meditations almost every day. Singing mindfulness songs watered many seeds of joy in me and inspired me to practice mindfulness.
In 2001, the Plum Village mindfulness songs helped me to continue to practice mindfulness in the hospital while I had a life-threatening flare of inflammatory bowel disease. One of the first things I did when I regained a little energy was to start singing mindfulness songs. I couldn’t sit up straight, I could barely walk, and my singing voice was a mere whisper, but it was my engagement with the music that mattered most. Just the act of trying to sing reignited my will to practice mindfulness and to come back again and again to loving-kindness and compassion.
Below are some of my favorite mindfulness songs from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Buddhist tradition.
You can listen to and download almost all of these songs from the Plum Village website.
Watering Seeds of Joy
Written by Sister Lang Mai and sung by Sister The Nghiem, this song embodies some of Thich Nhat Hanh’s beautiful teachings on inter-being. It starts:
My mother, my father
They are in me
And when I look I see myself in them…
Sister The Nghiem wrote and sang this song. It is a lovely tribute to the limitless quality of sympathetic joy.
Whatever illumines your path, I will consider as my friend.
There are no enemies, no barriers in the heart.
There is only wishing you well…
Listen to Joy.
Another gorgeous song sung and composed by Sister The Nghiem. The lyrics include:
No wait for anyone… for your peace of mind.
Know your rhythm… and bide your time.
You are a living miracle… in constant change.
And when you see this clearly, nothing will contain you…
Listen to No Wait.
Peace is the Way
Sister Jewel wrote and sang this delightful song about peace. It incorporates quotes by Thich Nhat Hanh and A. J. Muste about the nature of peace. Martin Luther King Jr. nominated Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches: “Peace in oneself, peace in the world.” This song helps us to nourish the seeds of peace in ourselves and in the world.
There is no way to peace,
Peace is the way
There is no way to freedom,
Freedom is the way…
This song written and sung by Joe Reilly is about how we inter-are with trees. It sounds a little like something you might hear in a cozy Seattle coffeehouse. I dig it!
Drinking tea I see that the steam is in me
It is water in a river flowing endlessly
The true nature of its being is ecology
We are all one organism and together we breathe.
I Am Free
Joe Reilly also penned and sang this tuneful song. I think it is reminiscent of Thich Nhat Hanh’s poem, “Please Call Me By My True Names.” It starts out:
I am a cloud, I am the blue sky
I am a bird spreading out its wings…
Listen to I Am Free.
Brother Phap Khoi is the singer of this sweet song, which sounds almost like a Buddhist hymn.
Arrived, arrived at home, I am at home
Dwelling in the here and dwelling in the now…
Thich Nhat Hanh has talked and written about our rivers of emotions:
In us, there is a river of feelings, in which every drop of water is a different feeling, and each feeling relies on all the others for its existence. To observe it, we just sit on the bank of the river and identify each feeling as it surfaces, flows by, and disappears.
The lyrics of this song are from a poem by Thich Nhat Hanh that evokes vivid imagery. The song includes, for example, the lyrics: “sunshine is my morning tea” and “perceptions, stones on the road.” Also from this song:
Consciousness, deep blue sea,
Wash over me…
Listen to Rivers.
Song of Celebration
Sister Dang Nghiem wrote and sang this song. Her passion for the dharma shines through in this mellifluous song.
The sky is deeper blue today
Because I have awareness…
Listen to Song of Celebration.
Just when you think you’ve heard it all, well, you’ve got to hear this one! A couple of years ago, the monastics of Deer Park Monastery (also in Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition) did a cover of the Beatles’ song “Come Together” but they changed the lyrics a bit!
Here come the Buddha,
He come walking up slowly
He got Sangha eyeball
He one holy roller
He takes each step mindfully.
Got to be awakened, he just do what he please.
She wear no shoe shine,
She got earth-dyed garment
She got mudra finger,
She send loving kindness
She say, I’m in you, you’re in me.
One thing I can tell you is you got to be free.
Come together, right now, mindfully
He bagged one Mara,
He got paramitas
He got full awareness,
He one meditator
He got feet crossed above his knees.
Hold you in his presence,
You can feel total ease.
Come together, right now, mindfully.
She sits early morning
She got muddy water, to plant lotus flowers
One and all they inter-be.
Got to be the real thing ’cause she’s inside of me
Come together, right now, mindfully.