Practice: Mindfulness As Shown By a Master | iHanuman


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Practice: Mindfulness As Shown By a Master

All of us at Human Kindness Foundation had a rare privilege when we brought the Vietnamese Buddhist master, Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced Tic Not Hon), into his first American prison to talk with inmates and staff about the practice of deep mindfulness. We chose Maryland Correctional Institution at Hagerstown for this special event because Bo had been there recently and had been very moved by the spiritual sincerity and strength of the prisoner community. Many of the prisoners have taken the Alternatives to Violence Project training and have been involved with our books and tapes as well. (Special thanks to Emma Lou Davis, of CCSC in Hagerstown, for coordinating the whole event).
About a hundred prisoners and two dozen staff and volunteers assembled in the chapel for Thich Nhat Hanh's talk. But before he said a word, the teaching had already begun merely by observing his presence, the way he walked into the room, the awareness and concentration with which he conducted himself in every way. Thich Nhat Hanh (called "Thay" informally, meaning "teacher") bases his whole life around the practice of mindfulness: paying utmost attention to everything you do; performing even the most basic tasks, such as walking or breathing or brushing your teeth, with the same quality of attention as if you were delivering a baby or saving the world.
Dr. Martin Luther King twice nominated Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize for his peace work during the Vietnam War - for which he has been in exile from his country for many years now. This elderly monk has seen some of the most horrible and violent situations imaginable, and has responded to them with nonviolence and mindfulness in ways that have affected millions of people around the world. He bears genuine spiritual power and he attributes it all to the simple practice of paying attention to what we are doing. Here are some brief excerpts of his teachings.
[Excerpted from Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh]
Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty-four brand-new hours to live. What a precious gift! We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others. We can smile, breathe, walk, and eat our meals in a way that allows us to be in touch with the abundance of happiness that is available.
Although we walk all the time, our walking is usually more like running. When we walk like that, we print anxiety and sorrow on the Earth. We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the Earth. If we can take one step like this, we can take two, three, four, and five. When we are able to take one step peacefully and happily, we are working for the cause of peace and happiness for the whole of humankind. Walking meditation is a wonderful practice.
When we do walking meditation outside, we walk a little slower than our normal pace, and we coordinate our breathing with our steps. For example, we may take three steps with each in-breath and three steps with each out-breath. So we can say, "In, in, in. Out, out out." "In" is to help us to identify the in-breath. Every time we call something by its name, we make it more real, like saying the name of a friend. If your lungs want four steps instead of three, please give them four steps. If they want only two steps, give them two. The lengths of your in-breath and out-breath do not have to be the same. For example, you can take three steps with each inhalation and four with each exhalation. If you feel happy, peaceful, and joyful while you are walking, your are practicing correctly.
Be aware of the contact between your feet and the Earth. Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet. We have caused a lot of damage to the Earth. Now it is time for us to take good care of her. We bring our peace and calm to the surface of the Earth and share the lesson of love. We walk in that spirit. From time to time, when we see something beautiful, we may want to stop and look at it - a tree, a flower, some children playing. As we look, we continue to follow our breathing, lest we lose the beautiful flower and get caught up in our thoughts. When we want to resume walking, we just start again. Each step we take will create a cool breeze, refreshing our body and mind. Every step makes a flower bloom under our feet. We can do it only if we do not think of the future or the past, if we know that life can only be found in the present moment.

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