Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk and the author of more than thirty books, including Being Peace (Parallax Press). He lives in France.
Walking in mindfulness brings us peace and joy, and makes our lives real. Why rush? Our final destination is only the graveyard. Why not walk in the direction of life, enjoying peace in each moment, with every step? There is no need to hurry. Enjoy each step. We have already arrived.
When we learn to stop, we begin to see, and when we see, we understand. Peace and happiness are the fruit of that understanding. In order to be with our friend, a flower, or our co-workers, we need to learn the art of stopping.
The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty available now.
If you look into this sheet of paper, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in it. Without a cloud, there can be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Inter-being” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, “to inter-be.”
On the wooden board outside of the meditation hall in Zen monasteries, there is a four-line inscription. The last line is, “Don’t waste your life.” Our lives are made of days and hours, and each hour is precious. Have we wasted our hours and our days? Are we wasting our lives? These are important questions. Practicing Buddhism is being alive in each moment. When we practice sitting or walking, we have the means to do it perfectly. During the rest of the day, we also practice. It is more difficult, but it is possible. The sitting and the walking must be extended to the non-walking, non-sitting moments of our day. That is the basic principle of meditation.
Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby. To suffer is not enough. We also need to be in touch with the wonders of life. They are within us and all around us, everywhere, any time. Does it require a special effort to enjoy the blue sky? Do we have to practice to be able to enjoy it? No, we just enjoy it. We don’t need to travel to China in order to enjoy the sky.
In order to rally people behind them, the governments need an enemy and are very ready to approve that. They want us to be afraid in order for us to rally behind them. They want us to hate in order for us to rally behind them. And if they do not have a real enemy, they would invent one in order to mobilize us.