Excerpts from The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh
Keep your attention focused on the work, be alert and ready to handle ably and intelligently any situation which may arise – this is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is like that – it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.
If, in your mind, you think, “I wish this fellow would quit talking, so I could concentrate,” you have already lost your mindfulness. But if you think, instead, “If he wishes to talk, I will answer, but I will continue in mindfulness, aware of the fact that we are walking along this path together, aware of what we say, I can continue to watch my breath as well.”
Everything should be done in meditation. Be mindful 24 hours a day, not just during the one hour you may allot for formal meditation or reading scripture and reciting prayers. Each act must be carried out in mindfulness.
Live the actual moment. Only this actual moment is life. Don’t be attached to the future. Don’t worry about things you have to do. Don’t think about getting up or taking off to do anything. Don’t think about “departing.”
Be a bud sitting quietly on the hedge
Be a smile, one part of wondrous existence
Stand here. There is no need to depart.
This homeland is as beautiful as the homeland of our childhood
Do not harm it, please, and continue to sing…
“Butterfly Over the Field of Golden Mustard Flowers”
Imagine yourself as a pebble which has been thrown into a river. 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. You are like a pebble which has let itself fall into the river, letting go of everything. At the center of you being is your breath. You don’t need to know the length of time it takes before reaching the point of complete rest on the bed of fine sand beneath the water. When you feel yourself resting like a pebble which has reached the riverbed, that is the point when you begin to find you own rest. You are no longer pushed or pulled by anything.
Recall a simple and ancient truth: the subject of knowledge cannot exist independently from the object of knowledge. To see is to see something. To hear is to hear something. To be angry is to be angry over something. Hope is hope for something. Thinking is thinking aobut something. When the object of knowledge (the something) is not present, there can be no subject of knowledge. When we practice mindfulness of breath, then the knowledge of breath is mind.
Every object of the mind is itself mind. In Buddhism, we call the objects of mind the dharmas. Dharmas are usually grouped into five categories: bodily and physical forms, feelings, perceptions, mental functionings, and consciousness.
The table’s existence is possible due to the existence of things which we might call “the non-table world”: the forest where the wood grew and was cut, the carpenter, the nails and the iron ore, etc. A person who looks at the table and can see the universe is a person who can see the way. You meditate on the assembly of the five aggregates in yourself in the same manner. You meditate on them until you are able to see the presence of the reality of one-ness in your own self, and can see that your life and the life of the universe are one. If the five aggregates return to their sources, the self no longer exists. Each second, the world nourishes the five aggregates. The self is no different from the assembly of the five aggregate themselves. The assembly of the five aggregates plays, as well, a crucial role in the formation, creation, and destruction of all things in the universe.
When your mind is liberated your heart floods with compassion: compassion for yourself, for having undergone countless sufferings because you were not yet able to relieve yourself of false views, hatred, ignorance, and anger; and compassion for others because they do not yet see and so are still imprisoned by false views, hatred, and ignorance and continue to create suffering for themselves and for others. Now you look at yourself and at others with the eyes of compassion, like a saint who hears the cry of every creature in the universe and whose voice is the voice of every person who has seen reality in perfect wholeness.
For beginners, I recommend the method of pure recognition: recognition without judgment. Feelings, whether of compassion or irritation, should be welcomed, recognized, and treated on an absolutely equal basis; because both are ourselves.
It is important to practice mindfulness of one’s own self – that is, to protect and care for one’s self, not being preoccupied about the way others look after themselves, a habit of mind which gives rise to resentment and anxiety.
We ought to listen to music or sit and practice breathing at the beginning of every meeting or discussion.
Remember that there is only one important time and that is now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person you are with, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future? The most important pursuit is making the person standing at your side happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.
Half-smile when you first wake up in the morning.
See that you are at the same time your life and your death; that the two enemies are not enemies but two aspects of the same reality.
Compassion for the person you hate or despise the most
See whether his views and insights are open and free or not, and whether or not he has been influenced by any prejudices, narrow-mindedness, hatred, or anger. See whether or not he is master of himself. Continue until you feel compassion rise in your heart like a well filling with fresh water and your anger and resentment disappear.
See that awakened people, while not being enslaved by the work of serving living beings, never abandon their work of serving living beings.
If you want the tree to grow, it won’t help to water the leaves. You have to water the roots.
There is a very strong connection between the way one breathes and the way one responds to the world around.