Hac Nguyen

Hac Nguyen, Newark, California

Hac Nguyen, Newark, California

“I was raised in a Catholic family, but over the years I became disenchanted. It just didn’t fit with me. I was very cynical for years, anti established religion and any religious institution. Then I came to meditation through my Aikido teacher. I was aware enough to realize that I had a somewhat crazy mind, I always felt stressed, my mind felt very disordered, and so I thought that meditation would help me. My Aikido teacher gave me the book “The Sun My Heart” by Thich Nhat Hanh. I read it and did some meditation at home. Eventually I attended my first retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh at UC Santa Barbara, and my mind was just blown away. I had seen a different way of living which really resonated with me. Most of my life I felt that the culture I was exposed to didn’t resonate with what was inside of me. I always felt really out of place, but at the retreat I felt for the first time that something really fit me. That’s how I came to the practice and meditation.”

“Having a mild form of ADHD, I was never consistent with my practice, and I would always beat myself up for it. But recently I just accepted it. So now I rotate practices. My favorite thing to do is attending retreats because it is immersive. You are able to be with fellow practitioners for a longer period of time, and you get deeper into the practice. My kids are an important part of my daily practice. I am very empathic, and I use that to feel my connection with my kids. If they are happy, I am doing a good job. I always want to be aware of how they are feeling. If they are unhappy, and I don’t know what’s going on, it tells me that I wasn’t being mindful and aware enough. I use it as a tool to help me be mindful.”

“When I first started practicing, rituals were very much a part of me. I loved it. Knowing that they have been practiced for thousands of years, I felt a deep connection. But later my focus shifted to trying to figure out how to live a happy life, how to have happier relationships with the people in my life. A lot of our practice is about dealing with our anger, making us more mindful, having more solidity, but I always need a reason for doing something. And I think my kids are one of the best reasons. It is easier for me to practice with my kids because I love them so much.”

“The practice helps me to let go of my judgments and preconceptions. Let’s say I am trying to get my daughter to wear a particular outfit and she refuses. Why does she have to wear this particular outfit? What does it really matter? It is more important that she feels she is a beautiful person, and that I let her develop and make her own decisions. My perspective as a parent has changed. At the beginning I thought I have to shape my kids, now I think I have to get out of the way. I keep them safe, but they know who they are. I also try to make them aware that there is a separation between them and their emotions. Whenever they have a hard time or when they are angry at something, I tell them calmly: I know you are angry right now, and it’s okay to be angry, but it’s not okay to act out. I acknowledge that their feelings are important, but I also want them to be aware that they are not their feelings.”

“The two most important qualities in a relationship for me are trust and the feeling that I am being heard. This works well in my Sangha. I feel like I am close to them, I can trust them, they care and they listen. We have practiced and been around for a while, and we do know that you don’t just fall into that. It actually has to be cultivated, you have to have an intention. It also means that if these qualities aren’t available, it can become difficult. I don’t have a relationship with Sangha, but with the people that make up the Sangha, so I have to develop a friendship and trust with each person.”

“We all need help now and then. I take refuge in my Sangha’s wisdom, in knowing that the people in my Sangha have more life experience, knowledge and wisdom, and that they can share it with me. Another aspect is knowing that they will accept me and care about me. Four years ago my marriage was falling apart. Intellectually I knew that things were not going to work out, I had tried everything, but emotionally I couldn’t accept it, it was just too painful. At the time, I actually brought a divorce book to a retreat. I felt really weird about it, so during personal time, I would sit on my bed and read it under the blanket. Later during the dharma sharing I felt like I had nothing to lose, and I broke down crying. You know it’s a good Sangha when you know you can cry in front of them. I told them about my marriage falling apart and about not knowing what the right decision was. An older Sangha member took me aside and showed me a tree outside. He told me that this was a very old and wise tree, the answer tree. He talked about how he had asked it a question years ago. So during my break I went out and asked the tree a question. The following day I shared the tree’s answer with the Sangha. The member who had originally told me about the tree later told me that the answer was really inside of me, and the tree was just a catalyst. Something concrete like that makes me feel really grateful for the Sangha. When I feel like I am not able to take care of myself, they will have some kind of wisdom to share, something that will help me.”

“My greatest challenge is finding peace within myself. I have experienced this inner peace on retreats, the clearest one being during a ten-day Vipassana retreat. The goal is to develop equanimity with whatever arises. At the end of that retreat, at least for a period of time, I became liberated from my emotional wounds. There is a space between the stimulus and the reaction, so when you sit and practice that long, your equanimity muscle is pretty strong.”

“Buddhist practice has helped me to become aware of who I am. It makes us awake to what reality is, so that we are not just meat puppets reacting to things. It’s not easy, but we can live our lives with intention, every single moment, every word we say, knowing that we are actually choosing it. I think that’s where the freedom is, it’s that awareness.”

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