Thich Nhat Hanh is a globally known spiritual leader and peace activist. It is my hope that in reading my findings in three of his books ("How to Sit", "How To Eat", and "How To Love") that you will discover your oneness with life and how you can contribute toward a peaceful existence on this planet. This blog post is a collection of sections that I took to be important for me out of these books.
My notes on the highlights:
HOW TO SIT
Our breath is the broth that brings the many elemental flavors of our existence together. This includes, but is not limited to, the mind, the body, the soul, the present, our senses, and so on.
Peace and calm are contagious. Give it to others by firstly giving it to yourself.
Meditation should not be viewed as a practice of concentration, looking deeply, or gaining insight. It is sitting, enjoying doing nothing, being fully alive, and noticing the wonders of our working bodies.
Stop doing anything and "see" what is there: clouds, pebbles, human beings, your own emotion, the nature of impermanence.
The quality of your presence is the most positive element that you can contribute to the world.
Noticing your breath is noticing the miracle of being alive and in it is a celebration of the joy of existence.
Check in throughout the day with the question "Am I sitting, standing, walking, or laying down?" and notice the breath in it.
Use your time (now in the present) wherever you are (you are always here) to nourish and heal yourself. Notice, watch, and do nothing. It is always now and you are always here.
Do not sit with expectations, do not try to sit in any way. Let your muscles relax, rest, spine erect, and the face stays loose. Smile into a slight grin.
First, we nourish ourselves with joy in meditation; this calms the breath, body, and thoughts naturally. Then we fully embrace the difficult feeling.
There is nowhere to arrive accept the present moment.
Recognize and smile as your old habit emerges. In that way, you can become free of it. In doing so you correct the error from thousands of years of human conditioning.
With mindful breathing comes four important elements: peace, clarity, compassion, and courage. With these elements, we cut through craving and anger and they deter us from afflictions that make us suffer.
In mindful awareness, you will see that you are more than your emotions.
Your belly is like the trunk of a tree in a storm. Your suffering is like the storm that shakes your leaves. Instead of focusing your awareness on the shakiness in your leaves (thoughts), be mindful of the sturdiness of your trunk (body awareness). Remember, too, that all storms must pass.
Your physical existence is like a cloud. When a cloud dies, it does not. It simply becomes something else: rain, snow, sky, and so on. A cloud can not become nothing, and you can not either.
HOW TO EAT
Ask yourself to ponder what is in the food that makes it what it is and to consider all that came before it.
We are the caretakers of our bodies, not their owners.
Your own happiness and that of the earth are intertwined.
With mindfulness, awareness, and concentration, everything becomes spiritual. A truer way to state that would be to say that everything becomes known as inherently pervaded with spirit. The term spirit is to be understood as a thing's beingness, the quality that it is like something to be that thing, it is its existence and essence. All things have life.
During the time of eating a cookie, eating that cookie is the most important thing in your life.
Food is a gift of the earth, sky, and countless living beings to have aided in its creation.
Our lives should have meaning and that meaning is to help others and this planet and universe to suffer less and to aid in the goal of touching the joys of life. The meaning of life is to find happiness and that is the result of rooting yourself deeply into the vibrancy and fleetingness of the miracles in the present moment.
"In this food, I see clearly the presence of the entire universe supporting my existence."
Become aware of what energies preceded the creation of the food you are presented with.
There are four types of food or nourishment. EDIBLE: what we put in our mouths for our bodies. SENSORY: what we smell, hear, taste, feel, touch, and experience. VOLITION: motivational and inspirational intentions that fuel our actions. CONSCIOUSNESS: awareness, presence, knowing of the individual, of the collective, and of the environmental.
HOW TO LOVE
To love means to learn the art of nourishing happiness. This happens through simply understanding when happiness is absent in the self and in others. Noticing and being present with it is enough.
Understanding someone's suffering is the best gift you can give another person.
Reverence is the nature of love. It lies in forgiveness. Forgiveness is to allow, to overlook the error, see into the essence of a being, and to understand.
Be beautiful. Be yourself. Practice being at home in your body.
Know yourself, what you need, and when to say "no".
Listen deeply and with patience.
When anger arises remain mindfully present and nonreactive. Remember to say "My dear, I am suffering, I am angry, and I want you to know it. I am doing my best. Please help me."
Mindful living is an art, and each of us must train to become artists.
Physical intimacy should take place only when there is a mutual understanding of love.
True love is like the sun shining with its own light and offering that light to everyone. The sun does not need or take light from other stars, it simply gives.
There are and have never been, any miraculous true saints or masters. You yourself can love fully and be fully present now, but we all begin in the same place at the same time: here and now.
Watching a loved one as they sleep for 15 minutes or so can, and will, reveal their tenderness, suffering, hope, and despair. Understanding and compassion will arise in you and you will know how to be there for them.
Listen compassionately and with understanding. Breathe as you listen and allow silences. Simply being there as you are and allowing others to be there as they are is enough.
May we find ways to live more simply in order to have more time and energy to change the system of injustice that exists in this world. The injustice is created by mind-made concepts that pull one out of presence. In knowing and acknowledging what is present, one's awareness points toward true reality and that can only be known through experience. Once we can see clearly how things are, we can take corrective action, and only then. It starts with the self, then moves to the seemingly separate individual, then it combines into the collective, and finally, we have the whole of the environment working together toward corrective action in the here and in the now.
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