Laughter and Smiles

Peggy McPartland

The laughter and smiles; there’s pure joy at the prospect of returning to life as it was.

The sisters are literally beaming. They’re holding hands, with us and each other. There’s much giggling and singing. Their joy is contagious as always.

It’s the end of a week-long retreat at Plum Village and everyone’s returned home. It’s just us again – 35 or so sisters and 8 lay friends. It feels heavenly.

We’re so ready for a simple meal in silence without waiting in lines or running out of food. All the ingredients for spring rolls are laid out – dried sheets of seaweed, rice wrappers, tofu, sliced cucumbers, rice noodles, fresh mint and lettuce. The simplicity of preparing our food and eating in silence is incredibly nourishing.

Afterward we share tea, chocolate and stories. It’s a feeling of intimate friends and family once again.

A huge thunderstorm passes through. The rain is heavy and the thunder incredibly loud.  I stop what I’m doing to be fully present with the moisture, the dark clouds, the rumble of the thunder, and the rain being poured onto the earth. The power of the storm takes my breath away. It’s cleansing and grounding.

We have several lazy days ahead to recover our energy and find balance after being in the midst of so many people. It’s a time we all cherish and look forward to. We have no schedule, no obligations. We’re quiet, we’re playful, we’re connected and we’re recovering. We spend time walking, eating together, singing, meditating, and just lying in the grass.

It’s incredibly healing.

And then we’re ready. We return to our practice, our routine.

We wake before dawn and walk to the meditation hall in silence. The candles are flickering. The delicious fragrance of incense hangs over us. The sound of the great bell breaks the silence and a strong voice begins a slow melodic chant in Vietnamese. It’s powerful and reaches deep into my soul.

I feel at home again.

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