I often speak about mindfulness in my classes and even in these emails. Yesterday, we lost one of the pioneers of the concept of mindfulness in the Western world, Thich Nhat Hanh, often referred to as the “father of mindfulness”. As a monk ordained when he was 16, he spent nearly eighty years spreading the Buddhist tenets of peace through compassion and mindfulness. “Mindfulness is to be aware of everything you do every day,” he wrote in one of his nearly 100 books. “Mindfulness is a kind of light that shines upon all your thoughts, all your feelings, all your actions and all your words.” His many books included novels, poetry, story collections, spiritual guides and Buddhist texts. One of my favorites is his compilation of mindfulness verses for daily living called Present Moment Wonderful Moment, which is a handbook of mindfulness for people’s everyday lives. One of the verses says that although every toothpaste manufacturer tells us that their brand will make our mouth clean and our breath fresh, our breath will never be completely fragrant and fresh if we do not vow to speak purely and lovingly with Right Speech (where our words are true, kind and constructive). He takes us from waking and starting the day through many other daily activities, such as washing the dishes, driving a car, or standing in line, as an opportunity to return to a state of mindfulness.
I think my favorite teachings of his are about the miracles mindfulness offers and how it can change our lives. He says “[a]round us, life bursts with miracles — a glass of water, a ray of sunshine, a leaf, a caterpillar, a flower, laughter, raindrops. If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere. Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings. When we are tired and feel discouraged by life’s daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they are always there.” And, finally, “People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But, I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black curious eyes of a child – our own two eyes. All is a miracle. “ His teachings tell us that when we practice mindfulness – which is simply awareness cultivated by paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgement – we open to the wonders of life and allow the world to heal and nourish us.
In honor of Thich Nhat Hanh’s life and his incredible teachings, when you are out and about in your everyday life this week, see how many miracles you can recognize and appreciate. They are all around us when we are paying attention. As you recognize and appreciate those miracles, know you are fully immersed in this adventure in living. Hope to see you on your mat this week in any of our in-studio or online classes where you can jump into the practice of mindfulness and enjoy all the miracles you encounter.
As always, thanks for reading my musings. Namaste, Leslie