Being Peace, by Thich Nhat Hanh
I have owned Thich Nhat Hanh's book, Being Peace*, since the nineties and have referred back to its wisdom on many occasions. The author has been described as
"a cross between a cloud, a snail, and a piece of heavy machinery - a true religious presence".
Born in Vietnam in the 1920's, Thich Nhat Hanh became a monastic monk at sixteen. He left the monastery to work for peace during the Vietnam war and brought worldwide attention to the voiceless, Vietnamese war victims. His peace activism, highly regarded books and poetry have made Thich Nhat Hanh a globally renowned spiritual leader.
Thich Nhat Hanh is credited for introducing mindfulness to Westerners. I could not have imagined, when I first read Being Peace, the current state of mindfulness in this country. From the Marine Corps to companies such as Nike, General Mills, Target, Aetna and Google; mindfulness is being embraced across the country. Companies are encouraging employees to sit and do nothing and offering training to find out how and why.
The words of Being Peace first apppealed to me with its relatable, simplistic message. Though, initially, I did struggle due to the seemingly childlike approach to complex issues of violence and suffering. It's taken more years of living to understand that his approach is both complex and profound.
The message, published in 1987, speaks to us of today's challenges.
"Humankind has become a very dangerious species. We need people who can sit still and be able to smile, who can walk peacefully. We need people like that in order to save us.
You are that person."
"To suffer is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life."
"Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby."
"You are more than your sorrow".
Read to Discover
Feelings vs Perceptions
I often repeat this poem by Thich Nhat Hanh in my classes.
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment.
I know this is a wonderful moment.
When you smile, you begin to disrupt anger. When you intentionally breathe in and out, it brings you to the present moment instead of getting caught in the past or future.
Part of a poem called:
And those who love you
will behold you
across ten thousand worlds of birth and dying.
I will go on with bent head,
knowing that love has become eternal.
On the long, rough road,
the sun and the moon
will continue to shine.
Walk slowly just for the sake of walking, not to get somewhere quickly. Take each step in peace. It's the beginning of taking many steps of action toward peace.
Offering a Gatha
A gatha is a short phrase to keep you in the moment during daily tasks.
Before starting the car,
I know where I am going.
The car and I are one.
If the car goes fast, I go fast.
Feelings vs. Perceptions
We are said to have three categories of feelings: pleasant, unpleasant and neutral. Thich Nhat Hanh says he disagrees. a neutral feeling can become pleasant; so can an unpleasant feeling.
When you feel neutral, you can smile and breathe and transform your state into well being. When you consider an unpleasant feeling, perhaps work, consider how you would feel if someone said you could not work at all. The author says this is a very clever way to enjoy life.
There is a beautful inscription on the outside of Zen monasteries' meditation halls:
"Don't waste your life." Our lives are made of days and hours, and each hour is precious. Have we wasted our hours and our days? Are we wasting our lives?"
The seven practices of reconciliation:
1. Face-to-Face Sitting
2. Remembrance - Each side remembers and recites the whole history of the conflict.
3. Non-stubbornness - Doing your best to exhibit willingness for reconciliation and understanding.
4. Covering Mud with Straw - Both sides say something to de-escalate the feeling in the concerned parties.
5. Voluntary Confession - Each side reveals their shortcomings.
6. Decision by Concensus
7. Accepting the Verdict
*The illustrations in this book were created by Mayumi Oda specifically for this book.