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Tag Archives: Thich Nhat Hanh

From The Irony of American History

Although Reinhold Niebuhr his book The Irony of American History, I think it speaks to each person’s and each collective’s history.

As I read this and his autobiography, I wondered what it means to be a refugee, to seek refuge, and be an immigrant. My family traces its roots in Canada to the mid 1600’s and Kathy traces her’s to the latter part of the 1700’s. On both sides of our family, our ancestors could not expect what was to come for them and us.

Parker Palmer and Allan Watts speak of faith, which allows each of us to step into the future, without understanding what that brings. My ancestors, coming from France, did not know the risks and opportunities that lay ahead. They had faith in what was to come, without knowing what was to come.

What is to come in my life is emerging through the lives of each person that follows. Thich Nhat Hanh writes we are an amalgam of our ancestors. We are individuals that emerge within a collective that is both present and absent in our daily lives. Who we are is a result of product of virtue and love we receive from others. Who we are is not accomplished alone. It is an act of compassion and faith; an act of forgiveness that we will do what is proper.

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.
Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.

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Silently Blooming

via Silently Blooming

Shobna provides a beautiful images and Thich Nhat Hanh‘s quote about silence. Parker Palmer says that community and solitude form a paradox. They do not exist without one another.

It is in moments of solitude I find meaning in living in community. What I share in common with others far outweighs what makes me different although the differences are essential to what makes each of us unique beings.

It is in moments of silence I look at my life as if it were a mountain revealing its story through the striations it formed throughout its existence. In silence, my life takes on meaning. It is there that my relationships take form and mean more than they did in the busyness of the day.

Mountain's Layers

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.

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.

 

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