why ‘breathing & playing – mindfully’

Buddha_Doodles_ConsciousBreathing_MollyHahn

Back in 2008, I started to pay attention tobreathing’ when practising yoga along Master Karmal’s videos. Though I took some yoga classes in early 2007, I guess the teacher was not focusing on breathing or I was not attending enough classes. Master Karmal, however, keeps reminding about breathing, turning off the phone during the lesson and forgetting about everything else.

I then read the first books by Thich Nhat Hanh in summer 2009 thanks to recommendation of a friend back then. I got a set of three of his books: ‘Anger – Wisdom for Cooling the Flames’, ‘The Art of Power’ (for people in business and politics) and ‘Cast a raft of reed – analyse The Tale of Kieu (Vietnamese classic literature) with the eyes of Zen Buddhism’. The first one I read was ‘Anger’. I can easily see why – at that time, with mental and physical violence at home and at the same time I stressed myself out trying to get a full scholarship to study abroad. I was often upset about my dad, my parents, my friends and myself. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds me often in his books of breathing in and out to come back to the present moment with myself – here and now.

I have, since then, practised ‘breathing’, more in situations that I want to calm down and gradually, almost all the time now. While doing anything – sitting, driving, eating, socialising etc. I pay attention to any discomfort in my body and mind, come back to my breath, relax to let go of tension. Great thanks to Eye Leo app for PC to prevent eye strain that freezes the computer screen every 30 minutes for 7 minutes (my own setting, you can change up to your preference)

Since August 2013, I practise meditation and yoga everyday. Months of continuous practice until now have eased my long-term emotional, mental and physical discomfort. I continue to read and listen to Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings everyday if possible, also try to apply them into my daily life – at home, at university, at work. Practising yoga, meditation and applied Zen Buddhism does not work all the time, it takes time and practice – it leaves me with stories and experiences to share.

‘Playing’ is about enjoying anything I do: sleeping, cooking and having meals, practising yoga and meditation, writing, working, brushing my teeth, having a shower, decluttering – the list goes on. When we were kids, we used to play toys or in the playground with full concentration and joy; and we mostly still do when it’s a form of playing as in traveling for example – but why not having the ‘playing’ spirit when we do other things in life? When we mindfully remind ourselves each time that all the chores, works and things can be done with joy and focus  – then we will be able to enjoy them better. I will get into details of how-to from my experiences and practice in later posts.

We breathe naturally, we can ‘play’ and have fun for some moments yet we don’t always breathe and play mindfully to bring true joy that lasts to ourselves and people around us. ‘Breathing & Playing’ with more than just a dash ‘mindfully’ is a reminder for this journal where I share my journey to a healthier mind, body and soul – day after day.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s books with customers’ reviews on Amazon can be found here. You can watch and listen to Thich Nhat Hanh’s talks in English, French, Vietnamese on Youtube, Vimeo or audio.

You can download Eye Leo app for PC here.

Videos of yoga teaching by master Kamal (with Vietnamese dub) are here.

(updated in July 2017)

Advertisements

my favourites in saigon

(book) cafes:

She – lane 158D Pasteur, D1

Kafka Bookstore – 64/7 Cù Lao, Phú Nhuận

Cục Gạch – 79 Phan Kế Bính (cafe + set menu)

~ built by an architect with love for the soul of old village house ~ i really enjoy the small details of design, material, texture, smell and feel-like-home spirit here : )

will try out different ones at apartment building

42 Nguyễn Huệ, D1 & 14 Tôn Thất Đạm, D1

 

events:

Saigon Swing Cats – social dance on wed & sun evenings

Art House Saigon (film every friday) –  08 Nguyễn Văn Tráng, D1

saturday culture cafe – talks – discussion/ music/ films etc. (mostly in vietnamese)

  monday films curated by An Ordinary City at Yoko cafe – 22A Nguyễn Thị Diệu, D3

 

food:

Secret Garden (booking in advance) – rooftop lane 158 Pasteur, D1

cơm Bắc mẹ nấu ~ northern meals mum cooks – 4 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, Đa Kao, D1

thực dưỡng Khai Minh macrobiotic food ~ 157 Điện Biên Phủ, Bình Thạnh District

snail & snail/ crab noodle soup northern style ~ bún ốc riêu cua Thanh Hải ~ 14/ 12 Kỳ Đồng, D3 (so happy to find northern dish in central saigon!!)

Quán Hải Phòng ~ 45 Quốc Hương for bánh đa cua ~ crab noodle soup!!

 

(to be continued)

 

p.s. as i’m fond of hanoi taste, for drinks in saigon, i often request no/ less ice – sugar and for food less salty sauce/ oil when possible : )

 

related posts:

my favourites in hanoi

useful listing sites for Vietnam

 

 

‘How much ego do I need’ – Rita Riniker

Jamyang Buddist Center London

filmed by Ewan Phillips

interviewed by me:

Question 1 – Relationship between Buddhism and politics:

 

Question 2 – Is it possible to meditate and be happy without the basics (food, water)?

 

Question 3 – Danger of attachment in case of a mother to her child?

 

Question 4 – How is it to be a buddhist with a family and emotions like jealousy and attachment?

 

Question 5 – Is it wise to want to be famous to influence people in a positive way?

my favourite local food and drink in Hanoi

places below are mostly around Hai Ba Trung – Hoan Kiem district where i grew up and Tay Ho – West Lake area where i live recently

noodle soups

  • bún thang – one of Hanoi signature noodle soups – end of Xóm Hạ Hồi lane on Quang Trung street
  • bún ốc – snail noodle soup the traditional way – 16 Đặng Dung (6am – 2pm only)
  • mì vằn thắn – dimsum noodle soup – 86 Phố Huế (near Chợ Hôm market)
  • bún mọc – meatball noodle soup – Nguyễn Chế Nghĩa (a small lane on Hàm Long street, til noon only)
  • miến lươn – eel noodle soup – to be updated
  • bánh đa cua  – crab noodle soup – Tràng Tiền lane

other dishes

  • bánh mỳ pate & sốt vang – bagguette sandwich & beef stew – Đình Ngang street at the counter of Cửa Nam & Hàng Bông str.
  • cháo trai – oyster rice porridge – 26 Trần Xuân Soạn used to be better in my memory, not that good anymore as they use the same porridge base for two different types ~ i’ll try the one on 37 Trần Nhân Tông and update : )
  • xôi – sticky rice with stewed egg, meat, etc. – my mum’s – from around 6-9am, 36 Thịnh Yên (in front of the third house from the outer one)
  • Cửa Hàng Mậu Dịch ~ eating like it’s the 50s ~ vietnamse food during communist time in Northern Vietnam ~ 37 Nam Tràng
  • bánh đúc nóng ~ hot rice pudding with stirfried minced pork and mushroom topping (it tastes better than the description!) ~ inside lane 8 Lê Ngọc Hân

snacks

  • ốc luộc – boiled snails – Đinh Liệt/ Hàm Long/ Tống Duy Tân/ 109 Thụy Khuê – sitting like it’s the 90s!! (you can’t get the Hanoian sophisticated dipping sauce elsewhere!!)
  • nộm – papaya & banana flower salad with jerky beef, bánh bột lọc – central vietnamese clear dumplings with minced pork & shrimp filling, nem cuốn – rolled nem with fermented meat, fresh vege etc. – 16A Ngọc Hà lane
  • nem tai bà Hồng – 35 Hàng Thùng – rolls of fresh herbs and pork sprinkled with rice flour

vegetarian & vegan (restaurants)

  • bún đậu – fried tofu with noodle buns – C5 Giảng Võ close to a smal football field – until early afternoon ( i love the green leafy ‘hoa phượng’ trees there), the chè dessert closeby is alright too
  • An Lac Chay – vegetarian hut – 15 Đặng Thai Mai, lovely food & drinks served by a lovely Vietnamese couple – southern husband & northern wife
  • Sesame – lane 12 Đặng Thai Mai, vegan restaurant – you have to try the green rolls!
  • May – 18C Đặng Thai Mai
  • Sala – 170 Ngọc Hà, lovely menu, nice zen calligraphy on the walls, wooden tables & chair
  • Zenith Yoga – 247 Âu Cơ – delicious non additive vegan food & drinks
  • White Cloud – 299 Âu Cơ – lovely homemade by a warm-hearted buddhist practitioner lady
  • Hoa Đất – mindful family vegan week day lunch (booking in advance)
  • Diệu Tâm vegan buffet – Nguyễn Đình Thi street – 30K each person, wide variety of dishes with whole (red) rice, good value : )
  • atelier vegan to be ordered, made by a sister i trust

desserts

  • chè dessert – bobochacha lane 92 Cửa Bắc
  • traditional Hanoi chè dessert – 146 Quán Thánh – open from 2-9pm
  • kem Bodega icecream ~ 57 Tràng Tiền

drinks ~ cafe, tea and more

  • cafe Dinh ~ 13 Dinh Tien Hoang with the tiny balcony hotspot looking to Hoan Kiem lake : )
  • blue birds’ nest book cafe ~ 19 Dang Dung ~ support art, culture, social events and cyclists (10 ~ 15% off bills) with acoustic music and film events, good drinks and some food : )
  • tranquil book cafe ~ western drinks, open mic, vietnamese music nights’, film sometimes ~ a few locations in town, google : )
  • reng reng cafe ~ warm and cosy seating, like a new version of cafe Dinh : ) message them for the address, it’s part of the little journey : )
  • Tan’s tea house ~ attended a cosy introduction about tea and tea brewing and drinking from sister Tan’s heart ~ planning on a personal visit

(to be continued)

p.s. i haven’t cooked meat at home for a few years, though i still eat seafood and am still flexible with a few meat dishes when eating out – mainly because i miss some vietnamese/ hanoian dishes after 5-6 straight years being away. after almost 2 years in vietnam and 1 year in hanoi, i probably have had enough of what i missed and am planning to eat no meat when eating out aswell; with seafood – it will take some more time i guess. though i do believe in listenning to my body and in moderation : )

related posts:

my favourites in saigon

useful listing sites for Vietnam

enjoy and for more recommendations on events etc., visit Vietnamese Culture Space

Useful (listing) sites for newcomers/ travellers in Vietnam

Travel

City Pass Guide – Vietnam Travel & Living Guide

Community-Produced Local Reviews and Answers Guide

 

Eat

SOFF Find Safe & Organic Vegetables

Happy Cow – Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurant Finder

 

Cooking Vietnamese food

Helen’s recipes (in English)

Savoury Days (in Vietnamese)

Khai Tam (in Vietnamese)

 

Activities

Wake Up International – Young Buddhists and non-Buddhistsfor a Healthy and Compassionate Society

Weekly Vipassana Meditation Hanoi

Hanoi Nerd Night

Philosophy Club: HanoiSaigon

Swing dance: Hanoi Da NangSaigon

 

Drink

Hanoi Hideaway  (tea & cafe house listing)

 

Events

Art & Culture Events in Vietnam

Vietnamese Culture Space

Friends of Vietnamese Heritage

 

Walking tours:

Hanoi:

www.hanoifreewalkingtours.com/tours

www.hanoifreelocaltours.com

www.facebook.com/pg/Hanoi.Bohanh (in Vietnamese)

 

Da Nang:

http://danangfreewalkingtour.com

 

Saigon:

www.facebook.com/saigonfreewalkingtours

(to be continued)

related posts:

my favourites in hanoi ~ saigon

Lessons from budget travelling & attending mindfulness retreat with my mum

It was the first time I travelled with my mum and it was her first time travelling for such a long time (3 weeks in total) with a budget to some extent.

I booked for Airbnb well in advance in Saigon for me and my mum. A few days before my mum arrived, the Airbnb host informed they will be away for a few days in Thailand. I did ask for the key before they left Vietnam but they said their cleaner would need it, gave me her number and wrote to me where to get the key. Two hours before my mum arrived, I came to the place but could not open the front door, couldn’t call the host or their cleaner, text sent but no reply. The neighbours couldn’t help either and showed me to the actual landlord.

It turns out the landlord doesn’t allow the Airbnb host to sublet and he did not let me in despite how much I explained about how Airbnb worked and that my mum was going to be here in one hour and he can talk with the Airbnb host when they are back in 2 days. He insisted on a ‘no’ and kept coming back a few times to check…After an hour, just before my mum arrived from the airport, I managed to get us to stay at my Couchsurfing host when I first came to Saigon who has become a good friend. I reported to Airbnb and asked for urgent help but they called for further information after a few hours…and offered me a coupon for next booking.

I then booked for accommodation from Agoda, with my mum complaining about cost, I changed the booking from a room with windows to one without – which was not a good idea…I used to share a room with my mum for more than 20 years when I was living at home in Hanoi and thought it would be nice to share the room with her again. I didn’t realise I have been living away from her for five years and she still thinks of me as her baby so that was quite a problem… I was lucky to be able to come to another friend’s at night and left the room for my mum so we can have a break from each other each day.

Airbnb in Bangkok was not a good experience as well when the host (not Thai…) came over the next morning with anger and after an abrupt conversation, asked me and my mum to move, only because I informed him that my mum found the toilet dirty. I tried to make peace with him because I don’t want my 50+ year old mum to have to move just after arriving the night before. I gave an honest review on Airbnb about this host to then get his review on my profile with made up accuses. After such two experiences with Airbnb in two weeks, I am not sure I will choose Airbnb again in Asia though my experience with it was generally ok in Europe.

My mum had stomache after eating the sticky rice with durian bought from Big C supermarket that we kept in our bag while walking in Bangkok. It could be the durian or the heat of the day that spoiled it…I appreciate that my mum managed to take the metro and tried tuk tuk, together with taxi sometimes.

It was good that I booked on Agoda for Koh Samet after Bangkok – even budget hostels manage to be more professional when you need help compared to some Airbnb hosts. Koh Samet, recommended by a friend who lives in Thailand, was quite relaxing with a few not crowded nice beaches because it’s less popular. My mum had a good rest there before we went to Plum Village Thailand for a retreat for Vietnamese.

13521879_1722467191356577_3612083863056162588_n

My mum taking the 5 mindfulness trainings with her dharma sharing family teacher

We were arranged to stay in a tent together at the retreat because there were too many people. It was a nice big tent but after around 8 hours of bus altogether, my mum did not want to stay in the tent thinking she would not be able to breathe. Together with the fear that I might want to become a nun, she wanted to leave. I was not prepared for this – in the retreat I went just the month before, no tent was needed. I was tired too and couldn’t keep calm, told her she could do what she wanted then. The returned ticket was booked and my mum probably can’t go by herself…I left her sitting at a rock to decide…

A helpful nun saw what happened and went to comfort my mum, brought her to me afterwards saying she could stay at another area. It was good to stay separately so my mum would make new friends and practise (mindfulness) properly without talking to me. Throughout the retreat, I tried to not spend much time with my mum so she would be more dependent and make the best out of the retreat. She was cynical about the practice in the first day. The first dhamar talk the second day touched her and she started to ask about how to practise sitting meditation properly to keep calm and improve health & well-being – I was so surprised and happy. At the end of the retreat, my mum attended a private consultation session with a nun and even registered to practise the fourth mindfulness training ‘Deep listening and loving speech’. Home practice is important after the retreat, I will try to find some Plum Village practitioner who can take my mum to practise with a sangha (group) in Hanoi.

Lessons learned:

  • Cancel Airbnb if the host is not going to be there when you arrive
  • Some doors are opened by sliding to the side…
  • Agoda is probably a better option when travelling with elders because there might be accidents with Airbnb…
  • Try to accept your mum as she is, though she might act or say things to you that are not easy to hear, it’s mostly because she cares about you but just doesn’t know the best way to show it. This is easier said than done though…Having breaks from eachother during travels helps. Taking my mum to massages was a good way to have a break from eachother while still being together.
  • When taking parents to a retreat, ask for a normal accommodation in registration form, staying in a tent is properly too ‘hippy’ for them…It’s ok that they don’t stay so quiet or follow the retreat’s reminders. While I have been practising for around 7 years, it was my mum’s first time. I tried to be more relaxed about her after a few days…
  • Taking parents to Plum Village retreat becomes very fruitful. I hope to take my dad there next retreat 🙂

 

13612128_1728312917438671_4878809879968898442_n

My mum practising walking meditation at Plum Village Thailand

Links:

Plum Village retreats in Thailand

 Plum Village retreats in France (for other countries visit Monasteries list at the bottom of page)

 

Lessons from travelling with friends

While I often inform friends about my travels and invite them to join me if they can, most of the times I travelled alone. A few moments I felt like having a companion but most of the time, I figure I enjoy travelling alone – I go with my pace, I stop where, when and for as long as I want, I don’t get lost in conversations but truly experience new places.

I am always happy to plan travelling with good friends, especially those I haven’t seen for a while. In reality, unexpected things happened and I would like to share the lessons I learned from travelling with friends.

 

  • Health

While we exchange a number of emails to plan our trips together, I was not informed if a friend has been ill in a way or other. This led to unexpected emotional breakouts from them that I didn’t prepare myself for – I might want to do more things than their health permits, I might talk about topics that are sensitive to them emotionally.

From now on, before deciding to travel together, I would check with my friends if they are in good health or should I know about any discomfort or difficulty they are having. Is it ok to sleep early and wake up early to make the most of our experiences? Does anyone snore and is that ok for everyone else?

I need to remember to not visit hot places during the summer as well – the heat takes a lot out of me and my friends and we tend to be more grumpy when we are tired.

  • Budget

I often travel with a restriction on visa (the UK is not in Schengen – borderless countries in Europe) and with a budget and I would like to make the most out of my experiences. I assume friends know about my travel style but some might not and I should let them know about this in advance.

I should ask them if it’s ok to buy food from the supermarkets and eat out only once in a while; if it’s ok walk to places to see the local scenes and people on the way, to take public transportations instead of taxies, if it’s ok to couchsurf or stay in shared dorms or affordable AirBnb etc.

  • Interests

We’re often friends because we share some interests but it’s not always the case with travelling. I prefer local experiences while some friends might prefer visiting touristic places, I prefer out-door nature while some might prefer indoor city visiting, I prefer tea houses while some might prefer nights-out etc. I would like to practise walking meditation, eating meditation when we can while some friends might want to walk or eat faster.

And of course it’s ok to spend time apart while travelling together, knowing this in advance prevents any disappointment though.

 

If hanging out with friends is like dating – it’s often fun, travelling together is like moving in – you should know the person well enough in advance and still, you will learn a lot more about each other to know whether or not you just want to hang out sometimes, or are suitable to travel together.

At the end of the day, we are there for each other and as long as we understand where ourselves and our friends come from, we can act with compassion and help each other during our travelling together – emotionally, physically, mentally, financially – when one forgets their bank card at the ATM in a crowded touristic area…ATMs in Thailand give you money before the card by the way!

exercise on the go & at work

On days when I don’t have time to do yoga and meditation after breakfast as usual, I do exercises on the go – that make up some basic positions of meditation, yoga and aerobic workout

  • I leave myself enough time to walk slowly to the station and keep my back straight as when I meditate. By being straight, you not only look better but also feel better and your back will thank you

 

  • I walk up the stairs or the escalator most of the time unless I have heavy luggage; tuck my belly in so I can use walking as an abs-exercise as well

 

  • Sitting or standing in the tube/ train, I try to keep my back straight as well, although I tend to rest my back on the chair when I sit

 

  • In Vietnam, I sit straight on the motorbike, drive slow enough to be mindful of the traffic around me; stretch my arm and back a bit – up and from side to side when the red light is more than 1 minute

 

  • Before work, I fill up my glass bottle with some still water. I use a small bottle – when the water runs out after not too long, it’s a good chance for me to stand up, have a little break from the computer and fill up the bottle again

 

  • I try to sit straight in front of the computer – same as when walking – it really pleases my back. I sometimes do a quick back bend position by putting my right hand on the left knee, left hand to the back and then reverse

 

  • I install EyeLeo for the computer and set 2 minute break every 40 minutes. When the computer screen freezes during break time, I stand up, go to the toilet, do some stretches, add some water to my tea/ water cup

 

  • I walk to have lunch in between working hours so I do not sit too much for a long time

 

  • I go the toilet when I need to, sometimes work can carry you on and hold these needs – that is not good for your health and mood, you have to do it anyway, why holding it

 

  • In the toilet, sometimes I do stretches for my arm and back when they feel tiring – it feels great after sitting for a while! I normally turn my back from side to side, turn my head around, stretch my arms to all sides and finish with a standing forward bend. Or at balcony areas at office buildings in Vietnam

 

  • Before leaving, I fill my small bottle with water again. Same for walking back, I take my time and keep my back straight, walk the escalators, try to sit or stand straight in the tube/ train and drink some water

 

  • Since I start my 8 week MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy) at Oxford Mindfulness Centre, I listen to guided meditation audio by Mark Williams on the tube and have great relaxation after a whole day at work

 

If there is anything else you think can be added to exercise on the go & at work, please share in the comment!

{Zen Installation} Peace Is Every Step

Peaceful New Year! Below is my Zen Installation for Convergent Media university coursework back in March 2012.

I want to create a Zen installation using what I have learned from reading about Zen Buddhism – mainly books by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen Master living in France. Thich Nhat Hanh turns thousand year Zen Buddhism wisdoms into modern everyday life lessons with simple and clear English writing; with real stories and examples of those who have found Zen Buddhism helpful in life, in their relationships with others.

One of the fundamental ideas of Zen is to simplify to the minimal. There are minimalism architectures and sculptures in the 1960s with simple blocks (Tony Smith). In ‘Zen For Film’ by Nam June Paik (1962-1964) there are eight minutes of white film.

What are the degrees of being minimal? How much minimalism is too much? Is being minimal equal to being simple? If a project is too simple, can it convey any meaning?

I tried to think of the most simple and ‘minimal’ installation possible to convey Thich Nhat Hanh’s wisdom: having one of his books on the floor in the middle of a white empty room – nothing else on the floor or on the walls or in the room. The book I first intended to use in the installation is ‘Anger’ – a size A5 paper cover book of more than two hundred pages with eleven parts.

Would people pick up the book to read? They probably would because there is nothing else in the room or on the walls. How much would they read? How much would they get from what they read? Does the empty quiet room help people to concentrate on reading the book? Or after how long they would find it boring and leave?

In this digital era people including myself have been reading less from books but surfing for information more from the internet. There is more quantity than quality reading from an unedited internet source compared to a book written and edited carefully from a known author. However I am not fond of using technology to convey Zen ideas. It’s not ‘simple’ or ‘raw’ enough to be ‘zen’ enough.

To get people’s attention using sounds, we make it loud i.e. ambulance or fire alarm. To get people’s attention using texts, we can make it larger than usual. With that thought, I tried enlarging the pages from the book. After trying with different sizes, I find size A3 is big enough but not too big. A3 is four times bigger than the original size of the book. Bigger than that, the distance between words and the words themselves are a bit too big and would make the texts too much longer and make the readers, one of whom is myself, find it long and tiring to read.

While enlarging pages from ‘Anger’ I picked up another book by Thich Nhat Hanh ‘Peace is every step’. ‘Peace is every step’ contains more than one hundred practical and small Zen Buddhism lessons in daily life. Each lesson is written in one, two or a few pages. I want to hang the enlarged papers over a wire across an empty white room. Longer texts from ‘Anger’ might make it hard for people to follow and there is not enough space for the whole book. Because of that, I decided to use small lessons from ‘Peace is every step’ instead. I picked out the pages I find more relevant than others to mostly western audiences who would be in the room: Non-Surgery, Pillow-Pounding, Parents, What’s Not Wrong?, Blaming Never Helps, Real Love, Hugging Meditation, Investing in Friends, The Art of Mindful Living, Love in Action etc.

I first thought of putting the enlarged pages on the walls as posters running from one to another in the flow of texts in the order of pages . Pages, in that way, would be glued on the walls and stay fixed there. By hanging the papers over the wire, the papers would be more free in space and people can also pick the bottoms of the papers up a bit to read if they want. That way the papers as well as the audiences have more freedom – a more ‘zen’ factor to this Zen installation rather than papers being fixed on the walls.

I often turn on instrumental music when studying – this is using one ‘distraction’ to distract oneself from other distractions. I searched on the internet for Zen and meditating music and was satisfied with mediation music from Tony Scott for this Zen Installation.

Having asked for an empty white room, I got room PDR for my installation. The room is spacious enough however there were many tables, chairs and wine bottles from a party before and I was not allowed to move anything outside of the room. I tried to re-arrange and clean the room to the best I can – pushing all tables neatly one next to another against the walls, chairs under the tables, hiding the bottles away.

My idea was to have the wire hanging on eye level across and in the middle of the room. Trying to adjust to what the room had to offer, I finally had the wire hanging in a diagonal line across the room. I hang the pages starting from the left side of the room, as that is how we read, and the pages go the same order as how they are in the book. I hang them on both sides over the wire. Mediation music by Tony Scott was played using a borrowed iPod attached with a small speaker hidden behind the projection screen in the room.

During the viewing, some people pulled the chairs out from under the table to sit – this is why it would be better if it could be an empty room with no clutter in it so people would concentrate more on going around reading than sitting down. However since I was not allowed to move anything outside, leaning the tables and chairs neatly to the very end sides of all the walls in the room was the best I could do. Despite what some people say it is better having the wire in a diagonal across the room, I actually still think that having it hanging in the middle of the room would give the whole installation an equal space between both sides and therefore would give more and equal space to readers/ audiences from any side of the wire.

Despite how beneficial I think Thich Nhat Hanh’s books and Zen wisdoms are to people, if looking at one normal size book, people might just find it boring and walk away. The moment I opened the room for people to walk in, people start walking around looking at the pages and stopped at the pages to read what is on there – everyone was quiet in the room filled with meditation music. On purpose, I ducked down and walked to the other side of the room divided by the wire and later on people were filling the room reading the pages on both sides of the room divided by the wire. Almost everyone was immersed into reading the pages. The quietness lasted for about half an hour until Raine (my tutor) asked someone to speak up for the critic part.

References:

  1. ‘Anger’, ‘The Art of Power’, ‘Peace in every step’ – Books by Thich Nhat Hanh.
  2. Meditation Music by Tony Scott
  3. Minimalism Installation – Tony Smith
  4. ‘Zen For Film’ – Short film by Nam June Paik (1962-1964)

{Video Installation} FLOW

Below is the text and videos for my video installation for Experimental Film & Video module in the first year at university on May 18th 2011.

The two big (projection) screens with sounds muted of Marylebone Road and Oxford Street were in V shape. The Waterfall smaller video screen with sound on was at the corner point of the letter ‘V’. All videos were looped. 5m2 in space.

Two months before I knew I would go to London, a girl from my high school passed away in London when crossing the street. I used to think such accident would not happen in a developed country like England…

Four months later I arrived in London. By the first time waiting for the light for pedestrians to turn green I had my first culture shock from the speed of the cars on Marylebone Road. The drivers must be stressed enough to drive at that speed. The first morning in London, after finding my way from Marylebone Road to Baker Street for a while, I found myself walking much faster than usual as if unconsciously I was catching up with others’ speed. I slowed myself down.

Big screen 1 – One side of V shape (Marylebone Road)

Marylebone Road with stores full of mass produced souvenir about London and Britain added up with numerous tourists from all over the world makes that part of London Chaotic. However, later on, it is Oxford Street that makes London not being a classic cultural European place I expected. A whole long street of super big glossy stores of supposed to be famous brands of clothes and everything else that is called fashion. Noisy and dusty streets of on-going constructions, cars, buses and pavements packed with people walking one after another with big shopping bags. Trying to find a way out of Oxford street in the weekends feels like trying to find a way out of the flow of a society where people slave themselves for commercial products.

Big screen 2 – The other side of V shape (Oxford Street)

Leaving all the dramas back at home in Vietnam to start a new life in London, day after day, month by month I realise I haven’t prepared myself enough for all these difficulties and stress when living in a whole new city of a whole new country doing a whole new course all by myself. Dragging myself through the gloomiest days of the winter and my mind with all problems here and home, past and present and worries about the future, I gradually find peaceful moments when being in the nature part of the city – the parks.

Small monitor screen – At the corner point of V shape(Waterfall, Regent’s Park)

Recalling what I read in Thich Nhat Hanh’s books about knowing your breath in each and every single second, I allowed myself to sit in the park for a long time just to look at trees, listen to the waterfall sounds, look at the water flow, breath, think about nothing – do nothing but immerse myself in the nature surrounding.

References:

  1.  Anger, The Art of Power – Zen Buddhism Meditation Practice Books by Thich Nhat Hanh.
  2. Zen For Film (Nam June Paik, 1962-1964)

P.S. Since then, I have discovered more of London’s nice bits for myself and get more used to the stress side of the city. You can visit So You Think You Know LONDON for some art, social and cultural event updates that I repost from my favourite places in London.