Thich Nhat Hanh was a great teacher, a Buddhist monk and close friend of Thomas Merton, a peacemaker whose wisdom has inspired us , and countless others across the world, to appreciate every moment, to pause and breathe before moving forward. To keep perspective and keep going, however hard the journey, and find peace and joy however great the struggle.
In honor of this wise and wonderful Buddhist monk who died last month, we share his tips on breathing mindfully and exercises to cultivate focus and calm attention.
- As you breathe in, say to yourself, “Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.” And then, “Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.” After some time, shorten it to “in” and “out.” Keep your mind on your breath and you’ll begin to feel more peaceful and gentle.
- Head to the countryside to meditate in peace to avoid being swept away by the world’s chaos.
- Remember you can breathe anywhere, from your office chair, your car, or even the grocery store.
- Use a bell to focus on mindfulness. There aren’t many Buddhist temples in the West. However, there are many churches. So when the bell rings, I say, “Listen, listen.” Then breathe out and say, “This wonderful song brings me back to my true self.” If you don’t have a bell, use any sound you’d prefer to remind you to pause.
- Adjust your position Remember, we meditate to cultivate peace and joy, not physical strain. When we experience pain or numbness, our body’s trying to tell us something.
- Eat mindfully. Focus your awareness on family and food.
- Walk simply to walk, not to arrive. Walking is a form of meditation. As you walk, become aware of your breathing and be present in the moment. When we take each step peacefully and happily, we are working toward peace and happiness for all humankind.
- Remove the barrier between “practice and “non-practice.” When you meditate for half an hour per day, that time should be counted toward the entire 24 hour period. Likewise, one smile and one breath should benefit the entire day.
- Be aimless. The idea here is not to put something in front of you and rush toward it, as is common in the West. Everything is already right in front of you. Don’t focus on arriving anywhere. Take peaceful steps instead.
- Set up a “breathing room” in your home. Decorate it simply and not too bright. You may want to add a bell, a few cushions or chairs, and a vase of flowers. Every time you feel upset or need a moment to yourself, go to that room and breathe mindfully.
Rest in peace, TNH.