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Tag Archives: Thich Nhat Hanh

The Meeting

A couple of weeks ago I was out for one of my daily walks. We live in neighbourhood that is well inside the city, so what happened was a surprise. A deer was on one of the lawns. It saw me, but by the time I had my cell phone and camera out is was two blocks away. Just the same, it was an unexpected moment to bethoroughly enjoyed.

The deer’s unexpected appearance reminded me of what Thich Nhat Hanh says about the ordinary being part of the extraordinary. We just have to remain open.

When I am quiet,

When I just am,

Openings appear;

Something shows itself.

In those ordinary moments,

Miracles appear,

Making the moment (extra)ordinary,

The enjoyment exceeds itself.

We took this picture in Waterton Lakes National Park. I walked around a corner and one of the young ones was within arm’s length, but separated from the doe. I stayed still, until mother and child reunited.

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Miracles

Again, today I jotted some notes in a small coffee shop while sipping tea. I thought how  counsels that each moment reveals the extraordinary. When we are mindful and sensitive to those moments we lift them up and they are miracles happening around us all the time.

I taught a student who had Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. He was a sweet young man and I made sure I was at school to greet him each morning as he got off the bus. One morning, he got off the bus and was wearing a fedora. I greeted by saying “hi boss!” I told him looked like Frank Sinatra. He had no idea who that was, so I found videos and played Frank Sinatra. Whenever that student wore his fedora, I greeted him as the boss. He smiled as it seemed to mean something more than ordinary.

When I am not attentive and mindful, I miss many opportunities. It reminds me of Maya Angelou‘s quote: “A friend may be waiting behind a stranger’s face.”

What do I walk past?

It seems ordinary in passing;

Yet, looking deeper

I see it:

The (extra)ordinary.

The ordinary unfolds

Revealing its extra-ness

Its depth and breadth

Richness hiding in plain sight.

A moment holds miracles

Waiting to show themselves off

Asking to be seen with new eyes

Sharing their more-ness.

I took this picture in Glacier National Park. The driftwood was polished and on the beach of the lake we were hiking around. What do I not see and hear? It is in the story of how this driftwood ended up here.

Our True Heritage

I am reading The Art of Communicating by Thich Nhat Hanh to remind myself of to listen mindfully to others. When I am fully present to the other, I show compassion and understanding for their suffering.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes beautiful poetry, which reminds me to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. This poem reminds me that, when I am present, I experience the cosmos and its precious gems with all my senses.

In the busyness of living, I miss hearing birds singing, the pines chanting, and smiles of those around me. When I am happy, I share that with the world.

The cosmos is filled with precious gems.

I want to offer a handful of them to you this morning.

Each moment you are alive is a gem,

shining through and containing earth and sky,

water and clouds.

It needs you to breathe gently

for the miracles to be displayed.

Suddenly you hear the birds singing,

the pines chanting,

see the flowers blooming,

the blue sky,

the white clouds,

the smile and the marvelous look

of your beloved.

You, the richest person on Earth,

who have been going around begging for a living,

stop being the destitute child.

Come back and claim your heritage.

We should enjoy our happiness

and offer it to everyone.

Cherish this very moment.

Let go of the stream of distress

and embrace life fully in your arms.

Active Life

I am reading The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work, Creativity, and Caring by Parker Palmer. Parker included a number of quotes from The Way Chuang Tzu by Thomas Merton, including this poem.

The poem reminds me of how I can misplace my priorities and they can overwhelm me. In the research I did for my dissertation, each teacher described how it was essential to step back from their practices and reflect. Each of them described how human relationships were at the heart of their teaching. How they each responded to their relationships was an expression of who they are as a person and teacher.

In the third stanza, Thomas Merton asked questions about people’s relationship with work. I think the first question is essential. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote about weeds as essential to a gardener’s work. When we lose ourselves in activity without time to pause and reflect on what it means to care for ourselves and others as we create, we lose ourselves as the poem points out. When we are attentive and mindful, we nurture the soul, beginning with our own.

If an expert does not have some problem to vex him,
he is unhappy!
If a philosopher’s teaching is never attacked, she pines
away!
If critics have no one on whom to exercise their spite,
they are unhappy.
All such people are prisoners in the world of objects.

He who wants followers, seeks political power.
She who wants reputation, holds an office.
The strong man looks for weights to lift.
The brave woman looks for an emergency in which she
can show bravery.
The swordsman wants a battle in which he can swing
his sword.
People past their prime prefer a dignified retirement,
in which they may seem profound.
People experienced in law seek difficult cases to extend
the application of the laws.
Liturgists and musicians like festivals in which they
parade their ceremonious talents.
The benevolent, the dutiful, are always looking for
chances to display virtue.

Where would the gardener be if there were no more
weeds?
What would become of business without a market of
fools?
Where would the masses be if there were no pretext
for getting jammed together and making noise?
What would become of labor if there were no superfluous objects to
be made?

Produce! Get results! Make money! Make friends!
Make changes!
Or you will die of despair!

Those who are caught in the machinery of power take no joy except
in activity and change–the whirring of the machine! Whenever an
occasion for action presents itself, they are compelled to act; they
cannot help themselves. They are inexorably moved, like the ma-
chine of which they are a part. Prisoners in the world of objects,
they have no choice but to submit to the demands of matter! They
are pressed down and crushed by external forces, fashion, the mar-
ket, events, public opinion. Never in a whole lifetime do they re-
cover their right mind! The active life! What a pity!”

Faith

Source: Faith

Thich Nhat Hanh writes wonderful and spiritual poetry. Shobna’s post shared a poem about faith and how it evolves daily, perhaps moment-by-moment.

In living with other people we each find faith that is not fixed and set by rigid rules and laws. In this way, we discover “joy, freedom, peace, and love” that is part of living life fully.

When we experience living fully, we engage in conversations that do not answer questions, but raise new questions. We create a dialogic world to share with each other.

 

When Death Comes

Although the title sounds eerie, Mary Oliver‘s poem is about how we can live life. To live a life as fully as she describes, we can seek to be mindful and attentive to each moment as we live through it.d

Several years ago, Kathy and I drove out to pick up her mother who had a form of non-verbal dementia. It was about 5:30 AM and the sun was just peeking up over the horizon as we drove into it on the way home. As I drove, I felt a movement beside me and turned to see my mother-in-law smiling and pointing at the fields with freshly cut hay laying on the fields. Even thought she did not speak, the moment somehow spoke to her as it reminded her of days on the farm during haying season.

Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that we find the extraordinary in the ordinary. That experienced reminded me of what I might otherwise take-for-granted: a beautiful morning in the company of others.

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measles-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

A Smile Can Make A Difference

Happy Wednesday! Remember to smile, not only for yourself, but to bring happiness to others. Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Source: A Smile Can Make A Difference

I know it is not Wednesday, but a smile can improve the moment and day of each person we encounter. Our smile might be the only ray of sunshine that enters the day of another person.

Also, smiles raise questions about what we are thinking. I recall several years ago being asked by a principal what I was smiling about. I was not happy with his actions that day, but I reached down inside and found a smile.

Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that we find the extraordinary in the ordinary. When we are mindful and present in each moment, we can do that and smile in ways that make our lives and those of others better.

 

 

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