Sr Thuận Nghiêm talked about the Upajjhatthana Sutta (Subjects for Contemplation) otherwise known as the Five Remembrances during the Spring Retreat. :: link
1. I am of the nature to grow old, I cannot escape old age. Plum trees need to be trimmed so that their sap energy does not get dispersed into growing lots of branches and leaves, but instead can be directed to produce more fruits. We are the same, with the practices of mindfulness, we can grow old beautifully, bearing many fruits of happiness and peace. Who are our role models for growing old gracefully? Thầy, Sr Chân Không, Sr Chân Đức can be our source of inspiration for how to age with wisdom and beauty. 2. I am of the nature to get sick, I cannot escape sickness. The Buddha taught that sickness comes from the way we consume and what we consume through edible food, sense impressions, volition, and collective consciousness. How is your consumption in daily life affecting your body and mind? Depression and loneliness are very prevalent in our society now. Fostering a community connection can alleviate these maladies because it brings the warmth of being in a family. Eating a vegetarian diet, organic food, meditation, exercise, relaxation and friendship are other important factors in the healing process. 3. I am of the nature to die, I cannot escape death. We can remember the fact that each day that passes we have one day less to live, so we can do and say things to appreciate and cherish our loved one’s presence. When our parents have passed away, instead of regretting and lamenting their loss we can contemplate on what aspirations they had and we can continue to realize it for them. This is one way we continue them. How can we overcome feelings of resentment towards a loved one before they die? Try to look at the positive things they have done, and see the bigger picture, or the conditions that have made them the way they are. 4. All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them. Life can be full of unexpected events, earth quake, tsunami, people we live with can die the next day. Do we take time to recognize the preciousness of our relationships? 5. I inherit the results of my actions of body, speech, and mind. My actions are my continuation. The echo in the mountains is our life. What we give out through the three actions of body, speech and mind comes back to us, even very little things in our thinking. If we have received positive things from a good environment, like a sangha, then we are more inspired to give back positively by sharing our peace and joy to others.
Here's a moving article from Sr Tam Muoi, recently shared by Plum Village. It is such a beautiful and honest account of taking care of her elderly parents during the pandemic - the difficulties, the joys and the many aspects of our practice that have supported her.
Dear Mother Earth, I bow my head before you as I look deeply and recognize that you are present in me and that I’m a part of you. I was born from you and you are always present, offering me everything I need for my nourishment and growth.
You are the mother of all beings. I call you by the human name Mother and yet I know your mothering nature is more vast and ancient than humankind. We are just one young species of your many children. All the millions of other species who live - or have lived - on Earth are also your children. You aren’t a person, but I know you are not less than a person either. You are a living breathing being in the form of a planet.
I promise to keep the awareness alive that you are always in me, and I am always in you. I promise to be aware that your health and well-being is my own health and well-being. I know I need to keep this awareness alive in me for us both to be peaceful, happy, healthy, and strong.
We can embrace all of our feelings, even difficult ones like anger. Anger is a fire burning inside us, filling our whole being with smoke. When we are angry, we need to calm ourselves: "Breathing in, I calm my anger. Breathing out, I take care of my anger." As soon as a mother takes her crying baby into her arms, the baby already feels some relief. When we embrace our anger with Right Mindfulness, we suffer less right away.
Near the mountain, there is a lake with clear, still water reflecting the mountain and the sky with pristine clarity. You can do the same. If you are calm and still enough, you can reflect the mountain, the blue sky, and the moon exactly as they are. You reflect whatever you see exactly as it is, without distorting anything.
Have you ever seen yourself in a mirror that distorts the image? Your face is long, your eyes are huge, and your legs are really short. Don’t be like that mirror. It is better to be like the still water on the mountain lake.
We often do not reflect things clearly, and we suffer because of our wrong perceptions. Suppose you are walking in the twilight and see a snake. You scream and run into the house to get your friends, and all of you run outside with a flashlight. But when you shine your light on the snake, you discover that it isn’t a snake at all, just a piece of rope. This is a distorted perception.
We need to make our water still if we want to receive reality as it is.
When we see things or listen to other people, we often don’t see clearly or really listen. We see and hear our projections and our prejudices. We are not clear enough, and we have a wrong perception. Even if our friend is giving us a compliment, we may argue with him because we distort what he says.
If we are not calm, if we only listen to our hopes or our anger, we will not be able to receive the truth that is trying to reflect itself on our lake. We need to make our water still if we want to receive reality as it is. If you feel agitated, don’t do or say anything. Just breathe in and out until you are calm enough. Then ask your friend to repeat what he has said. This will avoid a lot of damage. Stillness is the foundation of understanding and insight. Stillness is strength.
Thich Nhat Hanh from “Touching Peace: Practicing the Art of Mindful Living"