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Mindfulness

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.

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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


A Hindu Priest Explains How Your Subconscious Mind Can be Reprogrammed

Create positive changes in your life by reprogramming your unconscious mind.

Source: A Hindu Priest Explains How Your Subconscious Mind Can be Reprogrammed – Waking Times

Waking Times

Vic Bishop, Staff Writer

September 8, 2017
 

The subconscious mind is akin to that unseen portion of an iceberg which remains underwater. Some believe that up to 95% of our mental activity takes place in the subconscious, just below our conscious awareness. This ‘underwater’ portion of the mind is never inactive, though, as it continues to collect and process information even when we are asleep.

According to the Freudian model of the unconscious, the contents of the subregions of the mind are the primary guiding influence on a person’s behavior, habits and urges. And in his study of the psyche, revered psychoanalyst Carl Jung relates the importance of paying attention to what is going on in the lower parts of the mind, saying, “until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

While this model may be debatable to some scientists, sages and those devoted to personal development have long known that these regions of the mind are programmable with conscious intention, a process which can be achieved with affirmation and mantra.

As a spiritual tool, monks of the eastern traditions have been using mantras since time immemorial, most recognizably along with prayer beads. The value of this type of meditation is well-understood by practitioners, although, difficult to quantify. It offers a simple but powerful means of creating the emergence of desired positive outcomes in personality, habits, beliefs and emotions.

“Mantra is really just a specialized grouping of sounds and vibrations which positively affect the mental and physiological planes. The effects of sound on the brain have been demonstrated in Electro Encephala Graph (EEG) charts as well as by documented physical changes (skin temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate among them). While we may consciously want to remove certain thought patterns, they can be difficult to dislodge because they are formed at subconscious levels. This is where mantra can be very effective.” ~Christina Sarich

Speaking on how this process works, Hindu priest and international speaker Dandapāni explains how mantras are similar to affirmations in how they work to reprogram the subconscious mind. In an interview with Brian Rose of London Real, Dandapāni answers the question of why the simple concentrated repetition of sound can so powerfully brings about positive changes in personal behavior.

“You can say they are prayer beads, but they’re actually more like affirmation or mantra beads. So, we use these to actually program our subconscious. So as we chant on each bead, we chant an affirmation. I am happy, or I’m confident. And we repeat the same chant over and over again, and there are 108 beads… one chant over and over again.”

There is more to it than just saying a phrase 108 times, however, and as he explains, three ingredients are necessary: “Concise choice of positive words, clear visualization, and a corresponding feeling.”

The process of visualization is extremely important in clarifying for the mind the precise object in focus. If you were to chant, ‘I love apples,’ the brain would become confused by the word apple, however, unless a very clear picture of the apple is presented along with the mantra.

Regarding a corresponding feeling, he explains how feeling is emotion and emotion is energy, quoting the late Nikola Tesla.

“He [Tesla] had this beautiful saying which kind of encapsulates Hindu philosophy really well. He said that, ‘to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.’ Everything is made up of energy that’s vibrating at its own frequency. What we believe is that if your subconscious is filled with patterns that are vibrating at a certain frequency… and if you can go into your subconscious and create a pattern, infuse it with energy that’s vibrating at a certain frequency, you can attract things of a similar nature to it.”

The combined of effect of intentionally applying sound, visualization and emotion to create positive change can override the contents of the subconscious mind. He elaborates further in the video below:

Read more articles by Vic Bishop.

About the Author

Vic Bishop is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com and OffgridOutpost.com Survival Tips blog. He is an observer of people, animals, nature, and he loves to ponder the connection and relationship between them all. A believer in always striving to becoming self-sufficient and free from the matrix, please track him down on Facebook.