A poem I have written when I saw the beautiful mountain in my town disappeared in a foggy day:
“Sương mỏng manh, sương phủ mờ ngọn núi
Người thinh lặng, người tỏ tường thế gian”
Sương: dew, fog
mỏng manh: fragile, arachnoid
phủ mờ: cover, overlay, erase
ngọn núi: mountain
Người: man, one who…
thinh lặng: silent
thấu tỏ: know, understand, see thing clearly
thế gian: the world + lives in it
So this (mantra) poem could be translated to something like:
“The dew is fragile but can overlay the whole mountain
The one who remains silent can see the whole world clearly!”
Can not transfer a poem word by word or the whole sentence without losing a bit (or a lot) of its soul, and it is the beauty of language.
Back to the topic:
The beauty of a mountain with white clouds clinging and floating around it, everyone can see.
The beauty of a mountain without clouds, still many people can see.
But the beauty of a mountain’s soul, the silence that clinging and covering the whole mountain with or without clouds, how many people can see?
To see the invisible beauty hidden in visible things – is, seeing the real beauty of life.
To see it, you need a certain kind of ability. Observing is the name of it.
And to be able to observe anything, you have to be in an atmosphere named ‘silence’.
Silence is also the spirit, the soul of life.
My first spiritual experiences of being in silence, were also with a mountain. Its name is ‘Xanh Mountain’ – such a beautiful and simple name – specially in Vietnamese, ‘Xanh’ means both “Green” and “Blue”. I prefer to call it “Blue Mountain” because it’s more poetic and mystery than Green.
Our house is located at the crossroads in a very beautiful valley, where a green stream winding its way follows the hills cover by different shades of green painted by tea and coffee trees.
Look to the north, behind rolling hills dotted with some rooftops here and there, is my huge and silent Blue Mountain.
From my mother’s grocery store, I could look over that peaceful mountain any time, and the truth is, I did spend many hours of my childhood just silently gazing at the stillness of that mountain, as well as being the witness for all the changes people have done to it.
The Blue Mountain was not just a mountain, it was the source of nourishment for my stillness. It was a partner and also a teacher for my silence. It was a source that nourishing my spirit, my soul, even though I was very young back then and had no clue about the meaning of it.
Back to those days or even these days, not many kids have the rights or the ability to sit quietly alone for hours.
If I had to choose, perhaps I wouldn’t sit alone quietly facing the mountain for hours like that, I would go out and play kido-games with my friends instead, as any kid would do. Fortunenately, I could not play because all my friends were busy.
My friends, one and each of them always has works to do in their house, such as: watching the fire of the wood stove, cooking rice, preparing for the family’s meals, or even the pigs’ meals. For that job, they have to chop a lot of vegetables or the banana trunk for making the pigs’ congee, or feeding the chickens and the dogs. Meanwhile the others have to wash the dishes, clean the house or look after their little brother or sister…
Oh, so many works for kids in the village to do, specially if they are poor. Luckily, my family was not so poor and I was the only one who doesn’t have to do any of those works. What a blessing!
Living and growing in the village but my life was a bit different because my parents have a grocery shop which provices everything the villagers needs. We were more like a “supermarket” than just a grocery store because we also sold fresh foods, fruits, all kinds of rice and seeds, foods for animals, agriculture tools, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides… everything literally.
That grocery store had given me so many chances to live such a good, creative and “heavenly” life between my “farmers” friends. I started learning the art of doing business, the art of communicate and also started finding ways to do many art works since I was just a kid.
A grocery shop is a heaven for a kid, no doubt.
Candy and sweets were not as important to me as all the hand-doing tools in the shop: carton all-sizes-boxes, glue, “super-glue”, colour pencils, colour papers, scissor, zinc-wire… everything I needed for my creative works.
Such a huge bless when I had a chance to live in a unlimited-providing-source for my needs since I was a kid. And as a kid, we don’t have so many needs to fulfill. Thank God for that. It was a long jouney until I have learned another important lesson in life that we don’t have so many needs to fulfill when we’re adult either.
There is a huge difference between what we need and what we want. Find that difference and focus more on what you need, not what you want – this lesson would change your life forever. I have been living an abundant life still, expanding from my childhood’s bless, (not because my parents still have that store) but because my needs are so small to compare with what life keeps giving me.
In another word, my parents’ grocery shop has nothing to compare with what life (God’s grocery) is offering me now.
Maybe my friends did learn so many lessons of life as well, when they were watching the fire and cooking congee for the pigs. I don’t know what they have learned but I know: Life always offers us a fair-deal, a fair-oppotunity to learn all the lessons we need to create a better life. Can we learn? Are we smart enough to learn? It is a different story.
Another good thing about growing up in a busy grocery shop is, the shop always needs so much attention that my parents did not have time to care much about me or what I was doing.
When you have a hundred of people that need you to take care everyday (giving what they need), you would care less about people around you. So it is really a good thing when my parents were so busy whole day and just let me be free to do whatever I like without any interruption. They had no time to interrup actually.
And I was just 6-10 years old in that period of life so at that age, you can not ask too much from the kids anyway.
You may not believe: Freedom and privacy for kids is more important than they are for adults. Because kids need to grow. You can see anything that needs to grow, will grow the best in the dark, in the silence, in the privacy.
Trying to interrupt the privacy of a baby in the womb, a butterfly in a cocoon, a bird in an egg, a bud in a seed, you will kill them before you can do anything else for helping. And not many kids have enough privacy as they need to grow properly. Just think about your own privacy when you were a kid, did you have any?
So I was a lucky kid because my parents were super busy and they just let me be myself, alone. I was not forced to look after my mom’s shop at all, but I choose to do it because I’m a sensitive kid and I want to help.
I used to ask to look after the shop at noon when the customers were low, then my parents could take a nap after a busy morning.
My mom always wakes up at 3AM every morning to go to the big market in the big town far away and take stuffs back to the village on an old motobike with two huge bamboo-baskets on its sides that my dad had made for her. I felt sorry for her and wanted her to get more sleep, that’s why I would like to be in the shop at noon and that’s how I had spent so much time alone with my Blue mountain.
I have one older brother and older sisters but they all left home to go to a better high school in another town. I also have a younger sister but she is too young, of course she could not look after the shop, she could not even look after of herself. Thank God I did not have to look after her, or maybe I did, I don’t remember to be honest.
We had grandma who lived with us and she was super busy too with all the home-works. Yes, my grandma was the one who did all the cooking and cleaning in the house, while my mother took care the shop and my father took care the family’s coffee and tea farm. So everyone has their own duty and work. Everyone worked hard, except me. I never been a hard-worker by force or duty, but I was a hard worker by my own choice and decision. It is important, remember that.
When a kid decides to do thing because he/she likes to do it, that experience will bring a deep awakeness and responsibility inside the kid that will totally lead their whole life’s dimension later. My whole life – I can say: noone can force me to do what I don’t like (at least not for longer than I wanted)
One of the biggest luck in my childhood is, noone force me to do anything. I was free to not do anything but I also had the rights to choose what I wanted to do and help.
And I much prefered to help my mom look after the shop rather than help my grandma do all the cooking or cleaning. As any Gemini, I like to be an outrovert, communicate, watching, listening and learning new skills like calculating or reading people’s mind about what they want and need.
But also, as a Gemini I have two different “characters” inside me. One is absolute outrovert and other is definately an introvert.
Watching the shop alone in silence, waiting for the customers to arrive (without the desire for them to arrive) while leisurely looking at that very silent mountain is like a yin-yang supplement that keeps my life in balance since I was a kid.
I love communicating, selling, talking to many people and I also love the moments when the mountain and I communicate in the language of silence.
The silence of the mountain is something that anyone who looks at it can immediately see from the distance, but its movement, its soul, if one wants to see, one must be very observant and aware.
I had observed the mountain in misty mornings, I had also observed it in sunny or rainy afternoons. My eyes – somehow always give it a special attention, they always look towards that Blue mountain. That’s why I see a lot of things that perhaps no kids would care or notice.
I had seen flocks of birds flying towards the mountain. I had seen how the green forests are gradually disappeared from the foot to the top of the mountain when people cut them down to make land for coffee. I have hated coffee tree since I was very young for the most obvious reason that they killed all forests on my mountain. And that’s why I like to call it Blue mountain instead of Green mountain because the green is so different when there is forests trees and when there is just coffee tree. Forest trees has many shades of green and coffee doesn’t, even though they are still green but coffee-trees-only is an ugly green to me compare to the natural green.
I also saw rocks as big as houses slowly disappearing from the mountain when they were broken down for unknown purposes. Of course people do it with their own purposes, I just didn’t know. And when I don’t know, I don’t feel good.
Unknowing about something always creates in us a shadow of unsatisfaction.
This is also a good lesson of life. You would alway be confuse and sad about people’s actions when you don’t know what their attention and purpose are.
When you can see one’s purpose, you can understand almost everything about what one does, says or even thinks. Then nothing would suprise you anymore.
Try to read people’s desires and reflect them on yourself, you would come to know a fact (or a truth) that we are all the same, we are all the creator of our own lives, and we create our life by our own actions.
Our actions are always controled by our desire in life.
Our actions are maybe different from the outside but the desires inside one and each of us is not so different though.
In many desires, the desire to know – no matter what to know – is the core of what makes us “human being” instead of just an “animal-being” on this planet.