Posts Tagged ‘Thich Nhat Hanh’


I saw this title on Amazon and what amazed me was the name of the author — Thich Nhat Hanh, one of the best known Zen teachers in the world today and a pacifist who encourages  Peace is Every Step.

In very brief meditations, he offers insights on how to turn our disagreements and conflicts into opportunities for growth and compassion.

If we see killing something or someone as a violent thing, this author has a comment on the violence of killing.

He says the Buddha was asked if there were anything he would kill.. “Yes”, said the Buddha. “Killing anger removes suffering and brings peace and happiness. “We ‘kill’ our anger by smiling to it, holding it gently, looking deeply to understand its roots and transforming it with understanding and compassion.”

And I wonder how long does that take and just like the 70 x 70 times we must forgive our fellow human beings and self, how often must it be repeated.


I think of Yoda as the Thich Nhat Hanh of Star Wars!


There is another practice of repetition. If smiling at our anger is too difficult for the moment, we can turn to an easier, softer way as long as we are willing to release our anger. We can employ, short and sweet phrases that are called mantras, saying them aloud or softly to ourselves.

He lists six mantras.

  1. I am here for you.
  2. I know you are there and I am happy.
  3. I feel your pain and I am here for you.
  4. I am suffering, please help.
  5. This is a happy moment.
  6. You are partly right.

I see the power in the sixth statement in particular.

I like this way of fighting.


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Doing dishes

Last week the opening latch on my dishwasher, which has always been difficult, finally went kaput, and just won’t close the dishwasher at all.

We have a call into the repair man, but in the meantime…I have returned to the sink, doing the dishes the old fashioned way — by hand!

I fill the sinks with sparkly hot water, a wash side and a rinse side; submerge my hands and the dishes in the bubbly suds and dunk them for a rinse, then up on the drying towel. I finish the toweling and return the items to the cupboard.

While I am doing this, my thoughts drift back to childhood where it was an “after-dinner” requirement to share the dish washing with my brothers. Today, I put on a favorite CD and the music reminds me of certain times, certain places in my life. Hint: most of my CD’s are, shall we say, “aged”. Other than Justin Bieber, I don’t know the favs of my grandchildren’s generation.

I also pray, in particular right now, for some very large needs of safety and health for a niece and nephew’s family.

I hear bits and pieces of the TV, and interrupt Tom with his TV ears, with “what did they just say?”

But I am also quiet some of the time. And I become centered with the swirling of the dish water and gentle motion. I’m not in a hurry mode in life these days so washing dishes does not make me out of sorts for the other parts of my day.

Practicing the Presence is one of my prayer practices that dates all the way back to Brother Lawrence many centuries ago….he loved finding God in his  monastery kitchen and at the sink.  I am reading “You Are Here” now by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, and like walking meditation, he too sings the praises of mindfulness at the kitchen sink.

Father Jim got back from his thirty day silent “self-directed” retreat at a Benedictine monastery and he told us before Mass this morning how it went. He had so looked forward to it and planned it out. He said he had missed us and was glad to be back. But he had a young priest (I didn’t know they made them that young anymore!) subbing for him today.

Here is how his retreat went: He arrived with a toothache and by nightfall of his first day there, he found himself in a dentist chair getting an extraction. The next morning, he awoke with scabs and a rash all over his face.  It was discovered to be Shingles.

The third day, the head of the monastery pulled him aside and said, he knew that Fr. Jim did not want him to direct his retreat, and that it was obvious that he, himself as he had wished to, was not directing his retreat; he said he thought it best that Fr. Jim just go along with what God seemed to have in mind for him.

So he said he did. He said he had marvelous, close experiences of the presence of God, which he could probably not put into words. But then he cautioned us that we didn’t need to go off to any monastery to find God — we could find him right where we were in our daily life — any time, any day, anywhere.

That’s what I’m doing right now.  I’m doing the dishes.

I’m finding God.

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~Freedom is the basic condition for you to touch life, to touch the blue sky, the trees, the birds, the tea, and the other person.~
-Thich Nhat Hanh-

Freedom is a basic condition my life. Since I live in a country founded on democracy, and I don’t have violence perpetrated on me by hostile powers  most of my freedom is based on my own personal choices in life. This is a blessing but one that I had to learn.

This freedom can be pretty wrangly to come by too, as sometimes it is really difficult to make choices that truly set me free. Right now most of my freedom seems to center around family values, good health choices, and being at peace with simplicity in life, traveling into the “eldership of my life, and being a good citizen of the Earth and my community.

This is ok and it is easy for me to see when I step outside the boundaries. The big clue appears quickly. I simply don’t feel free and I feel the internal discomfort of that when my choices don’t have a particular bottom line: they need to add up to the value that this choice is good for me and it respects all others.

Today, I am not going to work too hard in this blog, so I am not going to elicit examples of this statement. Trust me, however, there are daily events and thinking and actions upon which I must use this measuring stick.

I don’t always get it right, but I get it right more often than I used to!

Recently I read some comments about the “pursuit of happiness,” and a person of Eastern philosophy and culture said, “It is amazing that Westerners have it in their very constitution that they are “free”  in their “pursuit of happiness’.” His take on this was that IF you have to PURSUE happiness, then perhaps you are not FREE.

I think the word, pursue, is interesting in this matter. Pursue has brought about the materialism, consumerism, the “I want more” ism, the Never-enuff-ism and I surely have lived all of these isms.  The trouble and truth of this, however, seems to be that in reality, there is never a period after “pursue.”  You cannot stop…..there is always more to pursue…..hence no period, no ending the sentence!

So, I have cut down on my pursuing. I am doing more realizing. Happiness is already here, abundantly, for those of us who have at least our basic needs met on the Abraham  Maslow hierarchy of needs. And I have noticed when my life or work has touched in the communities of the poor and needy, there is a Spirit within them, ones we may call “the unfortunate” and a happiness they communicate and share when they are being helped, respected or when they are celebrating their faith and joy of the Universal Creator. You can’t miss it.

Today in my walk, I will invite the blue sky to touch me, the birds to sing to me, the trees to blow their gentle breeze on me and I will  greet the others I meet with joy. I will sip my cold tea after my walk in gratitude for the freedom I enjoy this day.

Inner Freedom and  happiness are as exciting as the best Fourth of July Fireworks and Band performances and here they come!

Marine Corps Band on Capitol Hill  Fourth of July

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Well, it is Holy Thursday, and in this holy season from this day until Easter Sunday, I get pretty quiet inside. I ponder the mysteries of Christ, his Passion, death and Resurrection, and like the apostles of His time, I can’t really say I understand it.

My clock points to about the hour I imagine Christ is asking his apostles to stay…and pray with him an hour, but alas sleep overcomes and soon Judas and the Roman soldiers are upon them all.

Now, shocked, the apostles are going to rise to Jesus’ defense, but Jesus, himself, tells them to calm their effort. Just as at the Last Supper, Jesus was telling them, they would not see him in a little while…yet he would be with them always…..

They didn’t “get it.”

In his short life Jesus lived and taught these three things over and over again: Love one another, forgive one another, and oh, by the way “You and I are One, just as the Father and I are One, and I’ve come to do His will.”

“Destroy the temple and in three days I will rebuild it again”? Speaking of life everlasting in so many ways. Yet, it couldn’t be understood. Imagine their total devastation when Jesus would not save himself from the cross! Every year as I enter the sacred scriptures, I want to warn Jesus, “they are coming, they will be here soon. Leave, and save yourself from a torturous night and death.”

But the story never changes.

I understand their need to hide in fear and try to figure out what had just happened and what their next step would be.

Who, today 2,000 years later, understands immortal life — life unending and glorious, not destroyed but transformed. Really, who does?

Jesus did and he did his best to tell us and be a way-shower and show us.  But there is still sadness and silence and soul-searching from Holy Thursday night, through Friday, the day of crucifixion, and the Holy Saturday, commemorating the burial.

Then– Easter dawn; the women and the angel — “He is gone!” Arisen.”

Is this the act that can turn doubt and fear and “not hearing” into understanding or acceptance on faith? Is this the act that will be recorded and travel forward through history that humankind will ponder perhaps to the end of time?

Many other spiritual leaders of our time speak to us of Oneness, a Divine Source, not “out there” but within and speak of immortality as a transformation of some kind. Many people today are listening, trying to understand, finding more agreement even between inter-faith dialogues — that there are Universal Spiritual Truths that are to be acted upon just as there are Laws of Physics and Mathematics.

In fact, the Spiritual Principles, are showing up and being recorded more often now in the fields of Physics, Mathematics and other research arenas.

One of these spiritual leaders is Buddist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, and I recently came across these words of his. Now it may be just me, but it sounds like he is speaking of the same immortality Christ spoke of. See if you agree:

“Some people might ask you, “When is your birthday?”
But you may ask yourself a more interesting question:
“Before that day which was my birthday, where was I?”

Ask a cloud, “What is your date of birth? Before you
were born, where were you?”

If you ask the cloud, “How old are you? Can you
give me your date of birth?” you can listen deeply
and you may hear a reply….

“Looking deeply, you do not see a real date of birth
and  you do not see a real date of death for the cloud.
All that happens is that the cloud transforms into
rain or snow.

There is no real death because there is always
a continuation.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

I think I will take these thoughts into quiet time with me, release them and open to the mysteries of life – and glorious life everlasting.

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By CarbonNYC – David M. Goehring


The City of Kalamazoo, its residents and surrounding law enforcement members, the family and friends of Public Safety Officer Eric Zapata are united today in a large moment of grief, compassion and outpouring of love. Today is the day of the police officer’s funeral. He is the first public safety officer or personnel of the Kalamazoo police force to be gunned down in the line of duty. The loss of young Eric, a ten year veteran, is overwhelming to all concerned.
Nearing the end of his shift last week — one he had exchanged as a favor to a fellow-police officer, — Zapata was a responder to a call for assistance in the Edison neighborhood of Kalamazoo, a location long troubled with a history of safety issues, death and violence. The first officer on the scene was shot at upon approach on the front porch. Then the assailant fled down the alleyway where he encountered  Officer Zapata and shot him in the chest and face with a large firearm. The shooter then  turned the gun upon himself and killed himself. Officer Zapata was taken to Bronson Hospital and expired from mortal wounds.
All media accounts of Eric’s life and mission described it as one of grand service, responsibility, and purpose — to himself, his family, and his friends and community — above and beyond the call of duty.  He lived to make life better, through his humorous outlook on life, his devotion to help others, his compassionate caring for the people he served, often people who lived their lives in dangerous circumstances and far less opportunities to inherit “the good life” than most of us.
All this goodness, wrapped up in one good man, has caused a huge outpouring response from many of us who did not even know him, but became grateful for who he was and what was important to him. We are grateful that he lived his values– which benefitted all of us.
His steps in life were about peace — the peace he achieved through the practice of his Catholic faith; the peace he enjoyed in fatherhood; the peace he found within his mission of law enforcement where turmoil and danger and violence were regular mainstays of his line of work; the peace he found in volunteering his time with youth, building self-image and esteem and human dignity and respect through the practice of martial arts; and the peace of regularly engaging in fun and appreciative things in life.
There are two teachers of peace I read regularly. In my quiet time this morning,  thoughts of Zapata’s funeral and day of honor which lay ahead flowed through this quiet. I picked up  the little blue book of Peace Pilgrim’s “Steps Toward Inner Peace“.  She believed world peace would come when enough people attain inner peace. Her life and work showed that one person with inner peace can make a significant contribution to world peace.
“This is the way of peace,” she said. “Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.” In a nutshell, after a very successful life in the businessworld, she began a spiritual search for the real meaning of life, love and peace — in earnest. And then after a spiritual experience, she followed through on doing what she felt called to do — become a walking pilgrim and sharing with those who would listen to her about the path to true peace.
It starts with peace within the individual. That is where the largest war of all occurs. When that war is won, there will be no wars to fight on the world stage. Between 1953 and 1981, Peace Pilgrim walked over 25,000 miles across this country. Her essential  needs were met during all that time. She was comfortable with all provision given her along the way. She remained healthy and got healthier with each step taken, as she shared, talked and taught along the way.
Vietnam-born Buddist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh, a global peace worker, recognized by world leaders and governments, and spiritual greats, believes that peace is not external or to be sought after or attained. Peace is already present in every step, and if we walk in a way that recognizes this, our life will turn into an endless path of joy.
The Dalai Lama, in his foreward to Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Peace is Every Step” says that attempting to bring about world peace through the internal transformation of individuals is difficult but that it is the only way.
                              “Peace  must first be developed within an individual. And I believe  that love, compassion, and altruism are the fundamental basis for peace.  Once these qualities are developed within an individual, he or she is then  able to create an atmosphere of peace and harmony. This atmosphere can  be extended from the individual to the family, from the family the community, and eventually to the whole world.” (The Dalai Lama)
Peace Pilgrim, Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama, all workers for peace on the large stage, start with the importance of the first individual steps we all must take….like the baby learning to walk. That is where I do my peace work, on the daily small screen of my own life and who and what I encounter during each day.
Some of my steps may be faltering, but some steps are the ones that make me want to try some new steps in another direction as eagerly as the toddler who has tumbled, scoots up and sticks that chubby leg out for the next step with a squeal of joy.
Officer Eric Zapata had peace in the activities and daily living of his life. Today in the liturgy and memorials, he will be blessed to rest in peace. 
The living of peace — that is now for us to continue, in individual ways, in big and small ways, in ways that matter, in ways that make our life and our world a better place to live in for ourselves and others.

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