The journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step

Mindfulness

The merit of maintaining mindfulness

The great masters have pointed out, that to maintain mindfulness for as long as it takes to drink a cup of tea accumulates more merit than years of practicing generosity, discipline, and asceticism.

– Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

from the book “Not for Happiness: A Guide to the So-Called Preliminary Practices”

With thanks to Just Dharma Quotes

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Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk who introduced mindfulness to the West, prepares to die

Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. AP Photo/Richard Vogel 

Thich Nhat Hanh, the monk who popularized mindfulness in the West, has returned home to Vietnam to enjoy the rest of his life. Devotees from many parts of the world are visiting the ailing 92-year-old, who has retired to a Buddhist temple outside Hue.

This thoughtful and accepting approach to his own failing health seems fitting for the popular Buddhist teacher, whose followers include a thousand Buddhist communities around the world and millions more who have read his books. For everyone, his teachings encourage being present in the moment.

As a scholar of the contemporary practices of Buddhist meditation, I have studied his simple yet profound teachings, which combine mindfulness along with social change.

Peace activist

In the 1960s, Thich Nhat Hanh played an active role promoting peace during the years of war in Vietnam. Hanh was in his mid-20s when he became active in efforts to revitalize Vietnamese Buddhism for peace efforts.

Over the next few years, Thich Nhat Hanh set up a number of organizations based on Buddhist principles of nonviolence and compassion. His School of Youth and Social Service, a grassroots relief organization, consisted of 10,000 volunteers and social workers offering aid to war-torn villages, rebuilding schools and establishing medical centers.

He also established the Order of Interbeing, a community of monastics and lay Buddhists who made a commitment to compassionate action and supported war victims. In addition, he founded a Buddhist university, a publishing house, and a peace activist magazine as a way to spread the message of compassion.

In 1966, Thich Nhat Hanh traveled to the United States and Europe to appeal for peace in Vietnam.

In lectures delivered across many cities, he compellingly described the war’s devastation, spoke of the Vietnamese people’s wish for peace and appealed to the U.S. to cease its air offensive against Vietnam.

During his years in the U.S., he met Martin Luther King Jr., who nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.

However, because of his peace work and refusal to choose sides in his country’s civil war, both the communist and noncommunist governments banned him, forcing Thich Nhat Hanh to live in exile for over 40 years.

During these years, the emphasis of his message shifted from the immediacy of the Vietnam War to being present in the moment – an idea that has come to be called “mindfulness.”

Being aware of the moment

Thich Nhat Hanh first started teaching mindfulness in the mid-1970s. The main vehicle for his early teachings was his books. In “The Miracle of Mindfulness,” for example, Thich Nhat Hanh gave simple instructions on how to apply mindfulness to daily life. This book was translated into English for a global audience.

In his book, “You Are Here,” he urged people to pay attention to what they were experiencing in their body and mind at any given moment, and not dwell in the past or think of the future. His emphasis was on the awareness of the breath. As you follow the breath, he taught his readers to say internally, “I’m breathing in; this is an in-breath. I’m breathing out: this is an out-breath.”

Thich Nhat Hanh emphasized that mindfulness could be practiced anywhere. Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock.com

People interested in practicing meditation didn’t need to spend days at a meditation retreat or find a teacher. His teachings emphasized that mindfulness could be practiced anytime, even when doing routine chores.

Even when doing the dishes, people could simply focus on the activity and be fully present. Peace, happiness, joy and true love, he said, could be found only in the moment.

Mindfulness in America

Hanh’s mindfulness practices don’t advocate disengagement with the world. Rather, in his view, the practice of mindfulness could lead one toward “compassionate action,” like practicing openness to other’s viewpoints and sharing material resources with those in need.

Jeff Wilson, a scholar of American Buddhism, argues in his book, “Mindful America,” that it was Hanh’s combination of daily mindfulness practices with action in the world that contributed to the earliest strands of the mindfulness movement. This movement eventually became what Time Magazine in 2014 called the “mindful revolution.” The article argues that the power of mindfulness lies in its universality, as the practice has entered into corporate headquarters, political offices, parenting guides and diet plans.

For Thich Nhat Hanh, however, mindfulness is not a means to a more productive day but a way of understanding “interbeing,” the connection and codependence of everyone and everything. In a documentary “Walk With Me,” he illustrates interbeing in the following way:

A young girl asks him how to deal with the grief of her recently deceased dog. He instructs her to look into the sky and watch a cloud disappear. The cloud has not died but has become the rain and the tea in the teacup. Just as the cloud is alive in a new form, so is the dog. Being aware and mindful of the tea offers a reflection on the nature of reality.

He believes this understanding could lead to more peace in the world.

In 2014, Thich Nhat Hanh suffered a stroke. Since then, he has been unable to speak or continue his teaching. In October of 2018 he expressed his wish, using gestures, to return to the temple in Vietnam where he was ordained as a young monk.


This very moment


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Sandra Schätzle


Wherever we walk

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Wherever we walk, whether it’s the railway station or the supermarket, we are walking on the earth and so we are in a holy sanctuary. If we remember to walk like that, we can be nourished and find solidity with each step.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

Our fundamental problem

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Since our fundamental problem is distraction, its fundamental solution is to be mindful. There are an infinite number of methods for developing mindfulness that all fall into one of two categories: shamatha or vipashyana. The point of shamatha practice is to make mind malleable. But a pliant mind alone will not uproot samsara completely, we also need to see the truth, which is why vipashyana practice is so crucial.

Unfortunately, though, mindfulness is difficult, mostly because we lack the enthusiasm to develop it, but also because our habit of longing for distraction is both deeply ingrained and extremely tenacious. It is therefore vital for a dharma practitioner to develop renunciation mind and to recognise the defects of samsara, both of which lie at the core of the Buddhist approach to training the mind.

– Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

from the book “Not for Happiness: A Guide to the So-Called Preliminary Practices”


No time

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The Earth Tribe


Each thought, each action in the sunlight of awareness becomes sacred

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Each bowl I wash, each poem I compose, each time I invite a bell to sound is a miracle, and each has exactly the same value. One day, while washing a bowl, I felt that my movements were as sacred and respectful as bathing a newborn Buddha. If he were to read this, that newborn Buddha would certainly be happy for me, and not at all insulted at being compared with a bowl.
Each thought, each action in the sunlight of awareness becomes sacred. In this light, no boundary exists between the sacred and the profane.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
 

Mindful walking

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Thich Nhat Hanh Philosophy & Practice


Mindfulness in Relationships (4 min)


Back to Basics: Mindfulness

Mindfulness – The Chinese character 念 is composed of two parts, the top 今 meaning “now; this” and bottom 心 signifying “heart; mind.”

“Mindfulness is the quality and power of mind that is aware of what’s happening — without judgment and without interference. It is like a mirror that simply reflects whatever comes before it. It serves us in the humblest ways, keeping us connected to brushing our teeth or having a cup of tea. It keeps us connected to the people around us, so that we’re not simply rushing by them in the busyness of our lives.

We can start the practice of mindfulness meditation with the simple observation and feeling of each breath. Breathing in, we know we’re breathing in; breathing out, we know we’re breathing out. It’s very simple, although not easy. After just a few breaths, we hop on trains of association, getting lost in plans, memories, judgments and fantasies.

This habit of wandering mind is very strong, even though our reveries are often not pleasant and sometimes not even true. As Mark Twain so aptly put it, “Some of the worst things in my life never happened.” So we need to train our minds, coming back again and again to the breath, simply beginning again.

Slowly, though, our minds steady and we begin to experience some space of inner calm and peace. This environment of inner stillness makes possible a deeper investigation of our thoughts and emotions. What is a thought— that strange, ephemeral phenomenon that can so dominate our lives? When we look directly at a thought, we see that it is little more than nothing. Yet when it is unnoticed, it wields tremendous power.

Notice the difference between being lost in a thought and being mindful that we’re thinking. Becoming aware of the thought is like waking up from a dream or coming out of a movie theater after being absorbed in the story. Through mindfulness, we gradually awaken from the movies of our minds.”

~ Joseph Goldstein ~

Tao & Zen