A book written by a great Buddhist monk of the 20th century offering some great advice to the novice or the advanced practitioner of mindfulness.
This book is comprised of letters that Thich Nhat Hanh sent to his practicing Buddhist monks in Vietnam from exile in France during the Vietnam war.
So the practice is centered around mindfulness in order to keep the peace in yourself and around others in times of struggle.
One phrase the author uses to invoke mindfulness is simply “Wash the dishes to wash the dishes” or “eat a tangerine to eat a tangerine.” So often we want to get the dishes over with and move on to the next thing, or don’t even think about eating a tangerine while we eat it.
But that’s not living life now.
What we all have to come to grips with is the fact that life is lived right now, not in your head, and not in the past or the future. This is it!
It sounds like I’m rehashing the same old mindfulness advice.
But the reason it gets so rehashed is that it’s MUY IMPORTANTE.
It creates genuine fulfillment in your life. For example, whenever I’m say eating or riding my bike and I’m in a negative thought loop, I’ll notice it and switch to noticing my physical experience.
I’ll notice the wind in my face, the sound of the tires, the mouvement of my legs. Immediately I feel better.
Mindfulness is also super important for noticing emotions.
Most people in society completely override their emotional body. But the thing is, you can’t live life in your head. Your body tells you a lot more about where you truly are in your life than your mind ever could.
Developing mindfulness of emotions may take some work, but it pays off. You get to see that negative emotions aren’t really that bad after all. Also, you will be forced to be more honest with yourself about what you feel.
Finally, mindfulness helps break down the concepts your mind makes about reality. You think that feeling and sound are separate. Is that true? What separates them? What separates the knower of the sound from the sound?
Back to the book.
The first half talks about mindfulness as a general topic, provides some anecdotes, and is just a pleasant read.
The second half gives the reader a plethora of exercises in mindfulness. How to do a day in mindfulness, counting the breath, making tea mindfully, visualizing a pebble (I like this one). Even a few contemplations for more existential purposes, such as contemplations on interdependence or who you were before you were born.
It was very interesting reading this knowing that he was writing to people who were in the middle of a war. It reminded me of a documentary on Tibetan Buddhism that I saw. The Dalai Lama was talking about a conversation he’d had with a monk who was sent to the Chinese gulags when they took over Tibet. The monk starts:
“Dalai Lama, sometimes I was afraid I would lose myself.”
“Lose what, your life, your sanity?”
“No, lose compassion towards the Chinese.”
These people are true heroes. Massive respect for them.
So the moral of the story is: mindfulness. Start now.
Not a bad book at all. But if this post was enough of a kick in the ass to get you to be more mindful, the book will only be a bonus.
“I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. All is miracle.”