The Big Ideas!
- Every moment is new, and the newness of each moment is a miracle.
- Mindfulness is the practice of noticing the miracles in our everyday lives.
- In being mindful, we can touch the peace that exists all around us and within us.
- Conscious breathing is a way to reset our perception of the present moment so that we can see the miracle of what is happening.
There is peace happening in our lives in each moment, if only we can learn to greet it. Life can be painful, and yet there is peace available even within the moment of pain.
These abstract statements may seem impossible to apply to your own crazy life. How can there be peace within pain? What about the really hard stuff?
This book offers the possibility that by making a daily practice of touching joy and peace, we will feel more stable and happy overall—and more able to make a peaceful choice in difficult circumstances. By incorporating small, regular moments of peacefulness into our lives, we nurture ourselves. A tall oak tree can weather a storm because it has been nourished by regular exposure to sunlight and water. In the same way, you can present a peaceful response to a challenging situation when you have nurtured yourself with a regular practice of peacefulness.
Our unconscious stories about ourselves are like old videotapes that we watch again and again. Triggers from the outside world, such as an unkind comment, seem to start those videos playing automatically. If we replay certain stories too often in our minds, they can be destructive. But when a negative video begins to play, you can press the mental “stop” button.
The best way to stop a negative replay is through conscious breathing. We all breathe constantly, but we do it without awareness. Breathing can be used as a tool to reset your mental and physical state, allowing you to start again in a new moment. Conscious breathing involves:
- Noticing the negative replay: “Uh-oh, I’m watching the movie about Despair again.”
- Pressing the mental “stop” button.
- Breathing slowly in and then out, while focusing on a silent mantra. One variation is: “Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain. Breathing out, I feel solid.”
Conscious breathing is also an avenue toward untying our internal knots. Each time we perceive an event as negative, it’s like we tie a small knot in our hearts. The longer the knot remains tied up, the tighter and more uncomfortable it becomes. These knots can be untied in two ways: by using conscious breathing at the time of the incident, so that the knot loosens up immediately; and by gently untying old knots through reflection or meditation.
The author also presents a method of confronting unpleasant situations that allows everyone involved to receive compassion. When someone hurts you emotionally, the situation can be resolved peacefully by using conscious breathing in the moment; scheduling a meeting with the person for a later time when you are calm; reflecting with compassion on your own imperfectness; and then having a conversation with the other person at the scheduled time.
“The more we have suffered in the past, the stronger a healer we can become. We can learn to transform our suffering into the kind of insight that will help our friends and society.”
IMEO (In My Eudamonion Opinion)
In this book, a Vietnamese monk describes Buddhist mindfulness concepts in a simple, direct way as if talking with a friend. Ideas are often introduced through metaphor, and every Buddhist term is clearly explained. The text is basic enough to be understood by older children, but the teachings are substantial and meaningful. This book is an excellent guide to help cultivate compassionate relationships with others and ourselves.
Take action, humanoid!
The following simple practices, based on Buddhist mindfulness teachings, can be easily incorporated into your daily life to increase your sense of peacefulness.
- When you notice you are feeling stressed or upset, practice conscious breathing. Imagine saying this statement with each breath in and out: “Breathing in, I am aware of my heart. Breathing out, I smile to my heart.”
- Touching peace each day allows us to be with pain mindfully when it arises. What sensations or activities make you feel peaceful? (A hot bath, reading a book, walking in nature, etc.) Make a list of at least five peaceful things, and then incorporate one thing from the list into your daily routine.
Touching Peace: Practicing the Art of Mindful Living
Author: Thich Nhat Hanh
Publication date: 1992 (128 pages)