Recently, a group of us have been watching Thich Nhat Hanh [roughly pronounced Tik N’yat Hawn] on YouTube. He is a Zen Buddhist monk originally from Vietnam. Rather than taking a passive approach to the conflict there, he became an activist, organizing students to rebuild villages, hospitals and so forth. He speaks at least 7 languages, studied comparative religion at Princeton, and was nominated by Martin Luther King for the Nobel Peace prize after he persuaded King to go public against the Vietnam War, an event that galvanized the peace movement in the US.
On the first day talk of a 5 day retreat for Israelis and Palestinians at the Plum Village centre in France, he reviews the principle and practice of mindfulness, being present to what is here, now.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkDWWwdNKeM (11 parts)
He gives the example of breakfast, of starting your day with presence. Be present to the preparation and consumption. Have no rush. Even the simple act of making tea becomes a ceremony in presence. Our group observed how when we are not absorbed in another time, we become much more aware of the body.
The body offers great intelligence to what it needs if we are to listen – and not throw it off with overeating and stimulants. If we are not present, we get drawn into the dramas and do things like eat for comfort or distraction. Just the simple act of being present to the food we eat will mean better quality eating and correction of things like weight problems.
We can apply this to any area of life. Remembering to be present steps us through some of the illusion, making choice and change simple. Making happiness much simpler. We can ask, where I am I? Caught in a story I’m retelling myself? In the past or future or the present? Is the attention mostly about moving away or moving in? If there is a push to move away, where is this arising from? What is the feeling behind that? It becomes like an inquiry.
Once it is more habit, questions are not necessary You may be amazed how much of your life is an escape adaptation. Shopping centres are built as escape vehicles. Some technology caters to that. Your iPod – is it for escape or presence? Your cell phone? This blog? (laughs)
Now, don’t go and use this to make it wrong. There is nothing wrong with giving yourself a rest, of stepping out of your life for a few minutes. But this is a way you can step more deeply. Instead of stepping into dream, you can step deeper into truth. And therein is happiness and peace. It is home.
Thich Nhat Hanh suggests a walking meditation. Step slowly with your breath and think:
I have arrived
I am home
In the here
In the now
I am solid
I am free
In the ultimate I dwell
They even have a song for it to help you remember. But as he suggests, if you only remember the first 2, that is enough. Even to do this 3 minutes and it will be a reality. Enjoy heaven on earth now, he suggests.