Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the most beloved Buddhist teachers of our time. His impact spans decades and generations. Hanh first gained recognition as a peace activist in the 1960s for his anti-war efforts, and for delivering the teachings of mindfulness to the west. His simplified Buddhist philosophy focusing on mindfulness and compassion has changed the hearts and minds of thousands over the years. He is truly a living legacy.
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen master, and prolific bestselling author on myriad topics including mindfulness, meditation and Buddhism. One of Hanh's books that I return to often is How to Sit -- the first book in the Mindfulness Essentials Series that provides a wonderful introduction to the practice of mindfulness meditation.
Today, Hanh's teachings are more relevant than ever. His wisdom seems to answer the soul-searching questions that haunt so many of us. Hanh believes that to solve the world's problems (as well as our own) we must master the art of "deep listening." This practice involves remaining present with the person or people you are in conversation with, and to listen with ultimate compassion -- allowing them to "empty their heart." You should not offer advice or your perception of their pain he advises, just listen. When you listen in order to understand fully, it lessens the suffering of others. This mindfulness practice can be transforming -- I see it work wonders with leaders and their colleagues time and time again. It is also effective at home when contentious issues arise with family members, a partner or friend. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey Hahn maintained that he believes deep listening may even allow us to resolve major conflicts that lead to war or terrorism.
At 92 years-old, Thich Nhat Hanh has returned to his home country of Vietnam and currently resides at the temple where he trained as a young man. His legacy and peaceful influence in the world will undoubtedly live on forever. Below is a compilation of Hanh's sage teachings. Try to focus mindfully on each one and, as Hanh would say, remember to "smile, breathe and go slowly."
On living in the moment:
"No one has ever lived in the past or the future, only the now."
"Every one of us already has the seed of mindfulness. The practice is to cultivate it."
"We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize."
"When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love."
"Sitting in meditation is nourishment for your spirit and nourishment for your body, as well."
"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves -- slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future."
"My actions are my only true belongings."
"The energies of mindfulness, concentration and insight can liberate us from our anxiety and worries. We let go of the past and the future and come in touch with the wonders of the present."
"If we are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment, we miss everything."
On happiness, peace and love:
"When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?"
"There is no way to happiness -- happiness is the way."
"You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free."
"To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don't need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself."
"Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion."
"We have to learn to live our life as a human being deeply. We need to live each breath deeply so that we have peace, joy and freedom as we breathe."
"The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don't wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy."
"Patience is the mark of true love. If you truly love someone, you will be more patient with that person."
"We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness."
"Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything -- anger, anxiety, or possessions -- we cannot be free."
"The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers."
On communication and change:
"For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them."
"People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar."
"Our own life has to be our message."
"Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today."
"To think in terms of either pessimism or optimism oversimplifies the truth. The problem is to see reality as it is."
"Buddhism teaches that joy and happiness arise from letting go. Please sit down and take an inventory of your life. There are things you've been hanging on to that really are not useful and deprive you of your freedom. Find the courage to let them go."
"Anger is like a storm rising up from the bottom of your consciousness. When you feel it coming, turn your focus to your breath."
"We have to continue to learn. We have to be open. And we have to be ready to release our knowledge in order to come to a higher understanding of reality."
"When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That's the message he is sending."
"Because you are alive, everything is possible."
"Listening to and understanding our inner sufferings will resolve most of the problems we encounter."
"Usually when we hear or read something new, we just compare it to our own ideas. If it is the same, we accept it and say that it is correct. If it is not, we say it is incorrect. In either case, we learn nothing."
"Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor."