Reading Peace discussion

Healing: A Woman's Journey from Doctor to Nun
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Book Discussion > Reader's Guide for Ch. 1 & 2 for "Healing"

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message 1: by Parallax Press (last edited Nov 07, 2014 05:55PM) (new) - added it

Parallax Press (parallaxpress) | 53 comments Mod
It's November, which means we've begun to read Healing by Sister Dang Nghiem or "Sister D" as she is affectionately called.

Remember that our Reading Peace book club members get 25% off on our monthly picks for the duration of the month, so order your copy of Healing with the code PEACE2 through the end of November through

Sister D's memoir is a very personal, and at times, intense read. Please take care of yourself while reading this book as it may be triggering or create strong feelings within you. 

Throughout the book, Sister Dang Nghiem reveals the painful memories of her many traumas. She does so not to make us feel bad or angry, but rather to reflect on how to heal ourselves and others from the many injustices of the world.

Here's the Reader's Guide for this week's reading: the Introduction, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2.

You can also always find it on our website at:


1) Sister Dang Nghiem grew up in a time of war, the Vietnam War. Clearly, it was a traumatic period for her, her mother, and the country.

Yet in such misery and violence, even as a child Sister Dang Nghiem found strength within herself to carry on.

Note every instance where she discovered or acted with wisdom and courage and ask: How can we be wise and courageous through the violence and traumas of today?

2) Sister Dang Nghiem clearly had a very difficult relationship with her mother and other close family members, including her violent and abusive uncle.

Yet she is also careful in pointing out how people like her mother and uncle were also suffering immensely themselves.

Think about your own relationship to your family and loved ones. Try to see yourself in them, even when they harm you or make you angry.

This is the teaching of interbeing and equanimity.

3) When Sister Dang Nghiem ends Chapter Two, she describes her classmate who works at a brothel and yet was always generous. Furthermore, she was the object of both scorn and envy.

Think about a time you've judged somebody because of rumors you've heard, their outward appearance, their background and social status, or their vocation.

Food for Thought

"In that emptiness, there was lightness too. I wanted nothing but peace. I desired nothing but to let go. The choices were obvious: to commit suicide or to change my life completely." p. 9

"No war promotes honest living. Thay said to me, 'What happened to your mother also happened to the whole country.'" p. 12

"'Purity does not mean that you have not been exposed to anything. Purity is a process of purification.'" p. 15

"Near my house, there was a brothel. The youngest daughter of the mistress of that house was my classmate. She was only fifteen years old, but her body was very developed... Most of the students looked at her with scorn and envy. They whispered, 'Her mother sold her at a young age and that's why she has a womanly body like that. She has a lot of money!' I didn't feel any hatred or disgust toward her. I didn't tease her, but I also didn't dare to be too close to her... She was always willing to lend money to other students... and she never asked for her money back." p. 23

"[My Grandmother] reminded me of the only three requests she always asked of me: to raise my brother to be a good person, to obtain a good education for myself, and then to become a nun, for my own liberation and for others." p. 26

message 2: by SueM (last edited Nov 09, 2014 12:20PM) (new) - added it

SueM (Sue0121) | 6 comments This is a very powerful book. One cannot read it without finding something to relate to that hits your inner core.
In your darkness moments of emptiness where you find that all the intensity of pain and sorrow have left you in a state of nothingness. You cannot "feel" any more. There is no ground, no space, no anything, a numbing of the world. Yet a freedom that pours over you like a soft gentle rain, waking you up to see and feel the calmness in your inner being. Giving strength to a new breath that "empty" is okay and with it brings peace.

message 3: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim | 12 comments What a life Sister Dang Nghiem has lived so far, even in the first couple chapters. What a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. And what loving, simple language she is able to use to relay her experiences. She truly does glow with the nondiscrimination which is her namesake. With metta,

message 4: by SueM (new) - added it

SueM (Sue0121) | 6 comments I agree Tim, she writes in such a way that makes you feel you are actually living there with her.
Through all her struggles I have not seen a place where she has not been thoughtful and her motives of actions been of highest honor except for maybe her uncle.

message 5: by Hilary (new)

Hilary Lange | 7 comments A true testament to the resilience of the human spirit. What courage to be able to forgive the ones who have violated us and see with compassion that they are/have suffered also. I seek the courage to do this.

message 6: by Ann (new)

Ann Jeffrey | 2 comments I have nearly finished the book. I couldn't put it down. I could identify with her on so many levels. It made me laugh and cry along side her. I too desired the peace she craved for but found it not by changing my life but changing my thoughts and beliefs about myself. I too reached the point where I had to choose to die or find a way to live in this world. Luckily I had a loving family and a good teacher that helped me love myself and so let go of the attachments that I relied on for my self worth. I still have a journey to travel but Thay,s teachings and also this book have been motivator. Xxxxx

Sonia Crites | 8 comments She writes with such a simple eloquence. It really is as if you are there with her. I can relate so well to wanting to rid yourself of anger of feeling so unsettled internally that something simply must change. This book is a true gem that shows rising above life circumstances and connecting with inner peace are possible. Healing is possible. Now I'll carry on with my journey.

Elaine Fisher | 38 comments I get tears when I read about Sr. D’s grandmother. Even though the world was in an uproar around her she remained true to her own values. She provided the child who was Sr. D with what stabililty and peace the child had, giving her a base and a loving memory to help her survive times of deep pain.

I love Sr. D’s quote from Thấy on p. 15: “Purity does not mean that you have not been exposed to anything. Purity is a process of purification.” We can move toward our own purification no matter what damage we’ve incurred from others’ actions.

Sr. D. honors the truth of what happened to her when she describes her pain, anger and helplessness but writes from the perspective of an adult who sees her family more clearly that a child could. She is in the practice and can have compassion for those who have hurt her and recognize that it had its origins in their own pain.

Alexa | 20 comments I'm a bit behind this month, but wow, the impact just these few chapters have had! I am amazed at her sense of calm as she recalls these stories.

It's so important to me to read about the pain felt even by those who hurt her. My past is not nearly as painful as Sr. D's, but I realize I still struggle to understand that the pain my family has caused me is probably due to a pain they experience themselves.

message 10: by Pixiepjp (new)

Pixiepjp | 13 comments Yes , I love how calm and at peace she seems. These few lines spoke to me "I think if each of us is fortunate enough to have somebody in our life who is peaceful and stable,then we will find a way to get through life. Everyone needs a light that he or she can follow" how very true this is! I try to be that person for everyone but for my family most . I want my children to feel that peace and stability. The world outside our home is so very difficult and we all suffer in some way. I'd like to have our home be a place where when my family returns after a long day they feel the tension leave and feel peaceful.
Outside of the home it's equally as important. I am going to try to remember this in all my interactions outside of the home as well.

message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

The same few lines spoke to me as well, and like you I do wish and work to be such a peace light !

Alexa | 20 comments Pixiepjp wrote: "The world outside our home is so very difficult and we all suffer in some way. I'd like to have our home be a place where when my family returns after a long day they feel the tension leave and feel peaceful."

What a beautiful aspiration! I absolutely love this line of thought. A great reminder that we can shape our environment to our liking/help us feel positive.

I find this particularly nice to remember because if I feel even a little down, the first thing I neglect is my room (both in terms of mess/letting negative thoughts still follow me). Might be nice to think of my room as a "safe" room where positive energy is stored, so I feel more refreshed when I come home after a long day. =)

Sorry, I took what you said and ran off with it. Hope you don't mind. ^^;

Eileen | 15 comments Ah, the creation of a peaceful, loving environment is so important. Thank you, Alexa and Pixiepjp, for reminding me. I'm always searching for the balance in being and doing, and the pull to organize and create order in my house is strong - I know that an orderly home (not over the top orderly!) brings me peace and comfort. But I need to balance this pull with the wisdom of taking care of myself and resting. The present moment - right now, today - is the perfect time to remember that my inner order, my inner peace, my mental calm, my self-care, are as important as de-cluttering things. I am so grateful for your reminders, dear friends. May I see my physical environment from a different viewpoint, springing from a de-cluttered mind and body ;) May we all know the peace we truly are.

Alexa | 20 comments Beautifully said, Eileen!

Elaine Fisher | 38 comments An organized, orderly home sounds so lovely. I wonder what it means to like a little clutter around? Or some days a lot?

Eileen | 15 comments Elaine, my intention, re clutter and organization, is to be able to relax in each moment, whether the moment involves organizing (while craving resting) or resting (and craving organizing!). It's about finding that sometimes elusive equanimity in each moment, regardless of the environmental circumstances. We all have different circumstances and need to find our inner peace and joy with whatever is. Oh - and lots of breathing is involved, too ;) Blessings.

Elaine Fisher | 38 comments Eileen wrote: "Elaine, my intention, re clutter and organization, is to be able to relax in each moment, whether the moment involves organizing (while craving resting) or resting (and craving organizing!). It's a..."
Eileen, thank you for the sweet response. I seem to breathe a little easier with a few things within easy reach. :) Grateful for the blessings, and sending blessings back!

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