Thich Nhat Hanh
Peace Is Every Step. The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
Every day, when we open our eyes after our slumber, we receive the gift of 1,440 minutes of a new day. Almost 90,000 brand new moments, each of which can become a spark of joy. You do not have to walk or travel far to feel joy. Right now, you can feel it by breathing deeply, tasting food, absorbing sunlight, walking on soft ground, or listening to birds singing outside your window. The key is to understand that THIS moment is all you have, it is your only reality, and it contains everything you need to live.
However, we are much better at preparing for life than living it. We study at university, expecting a successful career, only to become disappointed in it. We save money, and then come to understand that money in the bank did not bring happiness. We long for summer in winter, and for the weekend on Monday. But while we are this waiting stage, we do not live.
This book is a reminder:
▶life is what is happening right now;
▶happiness is only possible now;
▶life is happiness.
The basis of happiness is attention to the world. Mediation develops our ability to become more attentive to the joys of life. It is important to make meditation a part of your everyday life. And, there is nothing difficult about it at all.
1. A smile is your first chance for joy. When smiling at something, we realize and acknowledge the joy of the world available to us at this moment. Anything can be a reason for a smile: kind words, a delicious breakfast, or a ray of sunshine pouring through the window. Have you noticed that you smile too rarely? Create a smile reminder for yourself and arrange it so that you see the reminder as soon as you wake up. It can be a simple drawing or a piece of paper with some kind words. When you open your eyes and see the reminder, you will immediately remember the first reason for joy. And after a while, smiling will become a habit.
2. Breathing is your second chance for joy. It is the source of life to which we turn almost every moment. Every day we inhale and exhale 20 thousand times, our lungs pass 12,500 liters of air through their cavities, a process that goes absolutely unnoticed. Meanwhile, we cannot hold out without air for a couple of minutes. Once we fall ill even with a slight cold, we immediately feel how much we need breathing. Why wait for an illness if you can feel the joy of breathing right now?
Breathe mindfully: feel each inhalation and exhalation fully. Here is a most simple exercise: as you breathe in, mentally say to yourself, "I am aware that I am inhaling"; as you breathe out, say, "I am aware that I am exhaling." You do not have to pronounce these phrases in full but can shorten them to the words "inhale" and "exhale".
Breathing connects your body and soul. As you focus on your breath, you begin to feel how your mind is calming down. Thich Nhat Hanh practices mindful breathing every day. In his house, he wrote on the wall, "Breathe: you are alive!" Mindful breathing is the foundation of his technique.
Focusing on breathing is the easiest way to immerse yourself into the present moment. While focusing on each inhalation and exhalation, you cannot fall back into the past or become absorbed in worries about the future. You can breathe and be aware of the fullness of your breath only here and now. You stop thinking, which is a relief, because "thinking" in the ordinary sense can be an endless annoying radio in your head that broadcasts nothing but worries. You can reinforce this beautiful "thoughtless" feeling by repeating to yourself, "I am breathing, I am calming down, I am smiling, and this moment is beautiful."
The sound of a temple bell reminds Buddhists about the need to feel and be in the present. When they hear it, monks always pause and focus on their mindful breathing. You can choose any sound that will bring you back from the world of restless thoughts to reality: the singing of birds, car horn honking outside the window, or even the cry of your cat signifying that it is glad to see you!
You can focus on your breathing anywhere and anytime: at home, on your way anywhere, or in the office. You also can do it in any position: while walking, laying, standing, or sitting. However, the sitting position is recognized as the most balanced. Buddhist monks meditate in the lotus position. The important thing is that your body should be comfortable and not a single unpleasant sensation should prevent you from concentrating on inhaling and exhaling.