By Thich Nhat Hanh
Who is Thich Nhat Hanh?
Thich Nhat Hanh was a Vietnamese monk and peace activity who was a major influence on western practises of Buddhism. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1967 for his engagement a peaceful ending to the Vietnam war.
What is the miracle of mindfulness?
The Miracle of Mindfulness was originally written in 1974 as a long letter to a fellow Buddhist monk while Thich was living in exile due to the Vietnam war. The letter provides a beginner level of practical guidance to the process of mindfulness.
The Essential Discipline
Thich writes about being given the small book “The Essential Discipline for Daily Use” written by the Buddhist monk Doc The. The book, under 40 pages, contains the thoughts which Doc The repeated to himself throughout the day to ensure mindfulness.
When he washed his hands, he used this thought to place himself in mindfulness: “Washing my hands, I hope that every person will have pure hands to receive reality”. The book is composed entirely of such sentences…Each time you put on your robe, washed the dishes, went to the bathroom, folded your mat, carried buckets of water, or brushed your teeth,you could use one of the thoughts from the book in order to take hold of your own consciousness
Thich describes what he sees as the purpose of mindfulness itself.
Mindfulness is at the same time a means and an end… When we practise mindfulness in order to build up concentration, mindfulness if a seed. But mindfulness itself is the life of awareness: the presence of mindfulness means the presence of life, and therefore mindfulness is also the fruit…. Mindfulness enables us to live.
A day of mindfulness
Thich talks about the difficulties of making mindfulness a daily practise with the distractions of daily life. To help with this, Thich suggests to reserve a day a week to devote to the practise.
I suggest to those who come to the meditation sessions… to reserve one day out of the week entirely to the practise of mindfulness… We have the impression that our family, place of work, and society rob us of all our time. So I urge that everyone set aside one day each week. Saturday, perhaps.
A moment of rest
Thich discusses the important of one finding joy while in peace and how one should think of reaching a place of peace during meditation. It is recommended to think of yourself as a peddle falling in water.
The pebble sinks through the water effortlessly. Detached from everything, it falls by the shortest distance possible, finally reaching the bottom, the point of perfect rest. When you feel yourself resting like a pebble which has reached the riverbed, that is the point when you begin to find your own rest. … Don’t chase after your thoughts as a shadow follows its object. Don’t run after your thoughts. Find joy and peace in this very moment.
Viewing your thoughts
As someone meditates, thoughts will naturally come into their head. Thich asks how should you deal with this?
When a feeling or thought arises, your intention should not be to chase it away… the intention isn’t to chase it away, hate it, worry about it or frightened by it… Simply acknowledge their presence…. The essential thing is not to let any feeling or thought arise without recognising it in mindfulness like a palace guard who is aware of every face that passes through the front corridor.”
But how should one think about these thoughts?
In fact our thoughts and feelings are us. They are a part of ourselves. There is a temptation to look upon them as an energy force trying to distrust the concentration… But in fact, when we are angry, we ourselves are anger. When we are happy, we ourselves are happiness.
A compassionate mind
Thich describes how when your mind is liberated you overflow with compassion both for yourself due to having to undergo unnecessary suffering and compassion for others who are not yet able to relieve themselves.
No matter where you go or where you sit, remember the sacred call: “Look at all beings with the eyes of compassion”
The Three Questions
Thich describes the Tolstoy story of the “Three Questions”.
The story is written up here.