14 May 2024

By Paul Mcgahey

The Way Out Is In – Live Podcast Recording in London

Pebbles Sangha member, Paul, shares about going to this wonderful event, “On the evening of Friday 5th April, I attended the first live recording of the ‘Way Out Is In’ podcast outside of Plum Village – at Conway Hall in London. I have enjoyed listening to most of the podcast series since the beginning, therefore I had real sense of expectation as the event drew near. The event was well attended with a sold out audience of 400+ and there was a wonderful buzzy atmosphere in the hall before it got started. Although I’ve listened to so many of the podcasts, to actually witness it happening live was a very special experience. When the big moment arrived it was such a joy to see & hear Br Phap Huu & Jo Cofino begin their conversation about what is meant by Thay’s teaching on ‘Stepping into Freedom’.

As Br Phap Huu stepped onto the stage he tripped and accidentally knocked over the large calligraphy ‘Be Still and heal’, which crashed onto the floor of the stage! What amazed me though was the brother somehow managed to adjust his feet in midair and land perfectly on his haunches with a huge grin on his face – his expression capturing the comedy of the moment. Almost like he recognised the fun, despite his embarrassment – never take yourself too seriously. In that moment the surprise and laughter in the audience that followed seemed to just set the scene for a wonderfully relaxed conversation between him and Jo Confino.

Personally it made such a difference to see the live podcast in 3D and not just listening to it on the Plum Village app. One thing I noticed was that Br Phap Huu was so animated and expressive in his speech – but relaxed too; answering Jo’s questions very seriously but always leaving a little space for humour. I was struck by the chemistry between the two of them; their relationship seems so warm and trusting. Jo is really skilful at asking good questions – probably due to his background as a journalist doing many professional interviews and their conversation moved along seamlessly. I noticed that when Jo was asking Br Phap Huu a question, the brother seemed to listen so carefully to each word, nodding as Jo spoke, which indicated to me that he was fully present & giving Jo his full attention. Of course you can’t ‘see’ that on the podcast. 

They talked a lot about the meaning of (inner) freedom from a Buddhist perspective. As the conversation developed Br Phap Huu was very candid about what he described as his own couple of serious ‘crises’ whilst being a monk. The second one meant that he came ‘this close’ to quitting. He said that he closed himself off from monastic friends until one brother asked him directly what was going on with him. That was a very touching moment in their talk. It lead Jo to focus on the meaning & experience of ‘vulnerability’ and being in touch with our own suffering. That was my favourite part of the conversation. As well as suffering though Brother Phap Huu also reminded us that Plum Village is ‘famous’ for its emphasis on the importance in Thay’s teaching of joy & how it’s possible to still generate happiness.

photo by Monica Max West

After just over a hour of talking they invited Qs from the audience and I was amazed that a such a long line of audience members stood up to form a queue.  I noticed that the answers that both gave were so ‘full & complete’ and so respectful. I had to leave early though so as to catch my last but one train back to Lewes and I know from listening to the podcast recording afterwards that there was a wonderful Q&A about the situation in Gaza. Highly recommended listening. On the way home I was left with such a warm, happy feeling inside.”

The podcast is available via this link  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0zVYryg5VI or https://plumvillage.org/podcast/stepping-into-freedom-live-recording-with-qa-session-episode-67