On January 22, 2022, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, a beloved Vietnamese Buddhist monk and teacher to so many, passed on to the other shore. His gift of presence will ever be with us all in the rain, wind, light, and earth. You might wonder what this has to do with me, a Xicana living in Vienna. What does this have to do with ofrendas? Well, it has everything to do with me, my journey, and the ofrenda that I share with the world.
You see, Zen master Thay changed the course of my life by introducing me to another path. The path of compassionate mindfulness. A path that would bring me home to my roots, my heritage, my ancestors, and the earth. It was his ofrenda of wisdom that enabled me to integrate a new way of being and moving on this planet. He showed me a path that brought nourishment and balance to my soul. It opened up a whole new life that held space for love, truth, and belonging. His gift of presence brought me to a place of faith when there was none left in my heart.
I was a single mom with two children living in a foreign country with very few friends and no family. I was utterly alone and feeling lost, exhausted, helpless, and hopeless. His message entered my life at a time when I needed love the most. Its simplicity has kept me grounded in the wisdom of being interconnected with all our relations in the web of life.
I am a mestiza in diaspora, and in some ways, that has been my greatest weakness and my greatest strength. For the longest time, I was so caught up in my identity that I felt only separation, but the gift of presence allows me freedom and wholeness to be who I am today. As a Mexican American, I have the sacred honor and privilege to draw from a rich, Indigenous heritage of Yaqui lineage, entwined with Germanic and Spanish European roots. The dignity this human experience brings into my life allows me to honor my ancestral truths and reclaim the freedom and sovereignty of my deep wild spirit back into a celebration of life and beauty. It also lends me strength and insight to help people in transition reclaim, trust, and embody their own deep wild nature while connecting to the earth through the gift of their presence.
I first went to Plum Village to attend a family retreat in 2013. Plum Village is a global community of mindfulness with practice centers and monasteries founded by Thich Nhat Hanh near Bordeaux, France. When I stepped foot onto the land there and saw the words “I have arrived, I am home,” my soul cried with longing. I actually dared to believe that I was home. The two weeks that followed instilled that knowing deep into my inner, native landscape.
Thay teaches a gratitude practice called Touching the Earth, a practice where you bow to touch the earth while honoring the ancestors in your blood family, your spiritual family, and your ancestors of the land. It’s a practice of acknowledgment, reconciliation, understanding, and forgiveness in which you transmit your energy for the healing of all. It was this practice in particular that eventually brought me to the wisdom of what I call our deep wild nature. This is our core essence, our truest self. The self that has always remained primordial, wild, untouched by the world.