Interbeing Project

Fall 2019: Pilot

The purpose of this project is to explore Thích Nhất Hạnh’s conception of the miracle of mindfulness and  interbeing. He conceptualized the term “interbeing” as a nondualistic way of defining the relationship between people and earth. This interdependent relationship between people and earth includes watering the seeds of kindness, hope, and compassion in ourselves and in the earth.

In this transnational project, people from Huế, Việt Nam  and from Pitzer College will take photos and discuss examples of the miracle of the present moment and interbeing. In doing so, we will learn about and compare these frameworks and co-create a global learning community.

Selected Photographs:

Evolving definitions:

After this project, I learned:

Next steps:

Pitzer College Facilitators: Professor: Dr. Kathleen S. Yep with Sarah Lynn Miralles (IDAAS CEC)

Huế Facilitators: Professor Cong Ho Dinh and Ngo Y Nhu

Interbeing Project: Evolving definitions

Dear Interbeing,

I notice you most when…

  • While I sit under the trees that are shedding their autumn leaves.
  • I mumble into the phone, “I’m okay, mom. I really am. Everything is fine.”
  • I go home and see my family pore over old photos from Vietnam strewn across the house, memories coming up when you least expect them to
  • I think of taking care of my grandmother—a family display of generational strength and love shifting over time, from birth to illness to death
  • I look up at the sky and see the clouds that move across the world, reminding me of the value of the vast Earth under my feet
  • I realize the importance of a healthy body mind and body when I am feeling unwell
  • an extreme emotion overtakes my rational thought
  • I am in a large group of people and we are all doing something individually, but related
  • I am on a long slow run processing the contents of my mind.
  • I take a moment to honestly answer how I’m doing.
  • I read my family’s WeChat group messages.
  • I turn myself away from distractions and just sit still and be with myself

Dear Interbeing,

Thank you for helping me to let go, heal, and transform my…

  • bitterness to become a more forgiving, gentler person than I was in the past.
  • emotional outbursts that would inevitably follow me after bottling up my feelings.
  • frustrations from feelings of helplessness into empowerment.
  • misunderstandings of the world around me and of myself.
  • anger at those who are unaware of the impact of their actions.
  • judgement of others when I don’t really know their story.
  • my urge to protect myself by building a wall.
  • my feelings of fear, anger, anxiety, and despair towards the future.
  • stress and tension in my body
  • disappointment in myself for all the times I am not mindful and act harmfully towards myself and other beings.
  • childhood and adult trauma.
  • voice.

Interbeing Project: Next steps

After this project, I aspire to…

  • take deep breaths more frequently
  • develop my own clear definition of interbeing
  • intertwine the materials that I have learned into my own daily life and the spaces that I work in
  • be just as forgiving to myself as I am towards other people
  • experience the world for what it is and not based upon how I’ve drawn and colored within its lines
  • embrace the wisdom that growth is never linear, never lonesome, and neverending
  • use interbeing to think about my daily actions
  • look beyond hegemonic cultures to learn more about interbeing and its applications
  • take care of my body and suffering
  • to relearn my native tongue in hopes it will reconnect me to my roots,
  • to learn my family history to better understand my ancestors,
  • to build reciprocal connections with the Tongva people and the Tongva land I am hosted on,
  • to appreciate the relationships I have to their fullest extent.
  • reduce unneeded consumption
  • stick to my practice even when leaving the umbrella/support of this class
  • be more reflective about my own practices and relationships.
  • spend intentional time each day with Mthat other Earth.
  • think more deeply about the ways in which I already am practicing interbeing.
  • explore interbeing more thoroughly with time.
  • remember that I am not alone in practicing mindfulness and interbeing.
  • to continue to see beauty in all things.

For all participants, I hope…

  • that our paths can cross again after this class is done.
  • that we can continue practicing mindfulness in our daily lives.
  • for moments of joy and inner and outer harmony.
  • that as we continue to love and help others, we can receive the same in kind
  • for grounding, acceptance, and peace within our own lives and our own communities.
  •  we accept and forgive ourselves for past mistakes,
    that the harm regretfully done to others can be opportunities for reflection and
    understanding for us to heal.
  • that we can think of each other from time to time, as figures of the present, not the past, and that we can smile when we do
  • that our pain and suffering can be recycled into nourishment, and
    we will allow ourselves to transform our pain, anger, and resentment into compost.

Interbeing Project: I learned…

(RC, EN)  DY (PDF) JC (PDF)

After this project on interbeing, I learned…

  • how to observe life around me mindfully without boundaries or reservations
  • that interbeing is connection, connection is mindfulness, mindfulness is interbeing
  • that in all my moments of suffering, I had forgotten I was a leaf, a flower, a part of a greater, deeply rooted whole
  •  that nature truly is loving and kind, that nature makes our interconnectedness easier to realize
  • that everything I feel and have ever felt is and was felt across time and space; the same energy, just manifested in different ways
  • that our afflictions are not our enemies, but parts about ourselves and our lives that we have yet to understand
  • through interbeing that my past and future are inextricably linked to my present
  • Everyone conceives of Interbeing differently and that is part of Interbeing
  • How we see a situation depends on the lens we use
  • A new way of thinking about the  natural environment
  • We can choose how we see and what something means
  • Even when we can’t change something, we can be mindful and mindfulness provides a way to move forward
  • That we tend to describe and interpret interbeing through a transactional lens i.e. the earth providing value to us and us to earth
  • that we can see inter-being in traditionally anthropocentric things and vice versa.
  • that Mother Earth has provided us with the simple conditions of happiness and livelihood
  • that interpersonal inter-being doesn’t have to be about responding to trauma or connecting the dots but can be simple recognition
  • other interpretations of interbeing
  • The same situation can be perceived in different ways.
  • Interbeing can come about in so many contexts, not just between people or between yourself and nature.
  • Intentions and impact are different, but both matter.
  • Interbeing is not some perfect state which we aspire to but never reach, rather, it is accessible in intention and practice.
  • People understand interbeing in different ways, and that is okay.

My understanding about interbeing shifted from… to…

  •  from a perspective that centered human interaction to a perspective that encompasses all of my surroundings as well
  •  from being within a religious framework to a choice that aligns with a way of living— not defined by religion or ideology
  • from perceiving it to be a form of political resistance against the state to being a global call for peace, empathy, and understanding
  • from mere compassion to vulnerable, reciprocal compassion
  • from filling every empty space with dialogue to appreciating the silence that already fills them
  • from working towards a future perfection to embracing the past and present imperfections
  • from the flower that blossoms and thrives in the mud to the flower itself, the mud itself, the rain and sun themselves, and every other factor, together and at the same time
  • from it having form to a boundless energy
  • from me to us
  • dispersed to integrated
  • simple and certain to ambiguous and complex
  • from a stagnant, idolized paradigm to an accessible, adapting state.
  • from a temporal mindset that only occurs when you are explicitly thinking about it to a more fluid state/lifestyle.
  • from centering human relationships with the Earth to centering the interconnectedness of the relationships between all beings.
  • from only associating Interbeing with untouched, pristine natural places to understanding how Interbeing can be practiced and realized in urban areas

From all the participants, I learned…

  • that water does not separate us like people think it does, rather it connects us (there are no boundaries, water does not disintegrate)
  •  the textures of interbeing are not distinct from one another— they overlap as concepts and lived experiences
  • that time is not a limiting boundary of interbeing— examples of interbeing in the past still serve as examples of interbeing in the present
  • what it is to be a wave within a larger ocean
  • ow interbeing, too, must cross borders and oceans and language barriers, but with such ease and such grace
  • how the seeds of Interbeing grow just the same if not more beautifully in the soil of my kin-sake
  • that there truly are communities far and wide trying to understand and live by these same lessons
  • that time lends to more experiences from which to learn, but age doesn’t dictate when to learn and how much to learn
  • the beauty of silence
  •  the value of mindful sharing academically, emotionally, and spiritually
  • to construct an environment in tune with other people’s thoughts, feelings and self
  •  how vital acceptance of self is to collective connectedness
  • to accept
  • Interbeing is messy and imperfect
  • Good intentions matter
  • Patience is the first step
  • We are connected, even when we are unaware
  • Listening is the way to understand
  • That swimming in the river can be seen as interbeing.
  • That interbeing can simultaneously be very simple and very complex
  • That every interaction is an opportunity to reflect and learn.
  • That there is a very diverse set of people practicing and studying Engaged Buddhism around the world.
  • how our country and environment can shape our relationship with and interpretations of the practice
  • Patience and forgiveness are necessary.
  • Simple questions don’t mean simple answers.
  • Listening to listen, not just to respond, is really important.
  • While we may practice mindfulness and interbeing in our own individual ways, there is something incredible in the collective nature of our intentions and actions.
  • Even just meeting people twice over video calls, it’s incredible what we were able to share in.