Category Archives: Basic Practices

Enjoy Each Mindful Breath

Thich Nhat Hanh - Key West - 1997The date is November 2, 1997 and the sangha is holding a mindfulness retreat in Key West, Florida with the theme of Buddhist psychology. This is the first talk (100-minutes) where Thay introduces the attendees to the basic practices of mindfulness. It’s a wonderful teaching covering breathing, sitting, walking, and silence.

We begin with a basic introduction, along with instructions, to the practice. How can we practice mindful breathing? Why is mindful breathing important? Breathe, you are alive. How do we practice sitting meditation? When we sit, don’t struggle. Breathing and sitting can both be very enjoyable. Sitting is not to become someone else but to be aware that you are alive. This is enlightenment.

Do we know how to allow our body to rest? Do we know how to trust our bodies in order to rest?

To worry too much has become a habit for us? We have learned to worry too much. This energy of worry has become to strong and preventing the healing of our body and spirit. We also have a habit of rushing and restlessness. Buddhist meditation can help us deal with these habits of running and worry.

It is possible to live happily in the present moment. The boat of mindfulness can help us not to sink into the river of suffering. The energy of mindfulness that we can generate within us that we cultivate through meditation.

In addition to our meditation practice, we also have a sangha. What is the sangha? The sangha is another component of the boat that supports you to not sink into the river of suffering. Our brothers and sisters are a source of support. Sitting together. Eating together. Walking together. Breathing together.

The practice of mindfulness is, first of all, the practice of going back to the here and now. Our habit energies are obstacles to our going back to the here and now. The address of happiness, peace, and stability is the here and now.

Instructions for walking mediation. I have arrived. I have arrived. I am home. I am home.

Instructions for eating meditation and eating together in community. This too is an opportunity for being aware of our breathing and it is a moment of practice. A moment of joy. There is no waiting.

Listening to a dharma talk. This is an opportunity for the most precious seeds to grow in us. We don’t need to use our intellect. Allow the dharma rain to fall on your consciousness.

A short teaching on the historical and ultimate dimensions followed by Thay leading everyone with a song – “I Have Arrived, I am Home.”

The last topic is on the practice of purification of speech. How do we practice with silence during the first four days of the retreat. In the retreat, we will use a notebook to write down the things that we want to say – we can observe the habit energy in us. We can also use the notebook to communicate with others if it’s absolutely necessary. Learning to observe your feelings and ideas during this period of silence. Do you know how to observe and look deeply at your feelings? We can train ourselves to recognize and embrace our feelings.

The conditions of our lives don’t have to make us suffer and we can transform the situation.

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Geese Flying South

Thay Reading a TextOur talk today is from 16-years ago and begins with a reading, first in English by a nun, and then in Vietnamese by Thich Nhat Hanh. It is 23 January 2000 and the sangha has gathered in the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village for a dharma talk during the winter retreat. The talk is in English.

The main talk begins with Thay sharing an article from a magazine about geese flying south. This story is used to illustrate the wisdom of the animal kingdom and they know about how important sangha is for the individual. There are things that are difficult to do alone but will be easier with the sangha. Why is important to eat with the sangha? Why is important to walk with the sangha? How does your sitting with the sangha help both you and the sangha?

We learn more about sitting meditation, the miracle of walking with the Buddha, and living in community within the monastery. Living in these 24-hours. Even how to enjoy brushing our teeth.

Below is a general outline of the topics covered in this talk.

0:00 English Reading
7:44 Vietnamese Reading
15:00 Geese Flying South and Sangha
26:00 Walking with the Buddha
37:08 Sitting in the Meditation Hall
40:48 The Miracle of the Orange
52:07 Everything is the Practice
56:40 How to Sit
1:05:43 Listening to the Bell

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How to Sit

In this short audio clip from 2000, Thay instructs us how to sit. We will be posting the complete talk in a few days. If you’d like to listen to the complete talk today, by supporting our online offerings, join our patron program. Or, simply wait a few days. Enjoy the weekend.

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This Moment, Only Once

The audio archives contained here will continue to grow and change moving forward. In addition to sharing Thich Nhat Hanh talks from the archives, we will also share current talks from senior dharma teachers from our community. This rich and lively talk was given in the Assembly of Stars Hall in Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, on Thursday May 21, 2015, as part of the community’s Spring Retreat.

Thay Phap Hai

Thay Phap Hai

Brother Phap Hai (Brother Dharma Ocean) offers some challenging questions to help us energize and focus our practice and truly arrive in ourselves in the present moment.

What is the “seed sound” of the Plum Village practice “I have arrived, I am home”? What is the difference between knowledge and insight? What is the original meaning of the word “Path” in Buddhism? Have you actually ever “seen” the Dharma? If you saw the Buddha today, what would you ask?

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Solidity and Freedom – German Retreat

The first dharma talk of the Nourishing Happiness in our Hearts retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbrol, Germany. The talk is given in English with simultaneous translation into German. The talk was given on August 13, 2014 and both the audio and the video are available below.

Topics

  • Story of the corn seed.
  • The realm of Dharma. Everything is a wonder.
  • The kingdom of God and the cosmos.
  • Living happily in the present moment.
  • Three kinds of energy; Mindfulness, insight, and concentration.
  • The art of happiness – being able to generate a feeling of joy and a feeling of happiness.
  • The art of suffering.
  • Interbeing
  • Elements of meditation
  • Freedom and walking meditation.

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What is Man?

From the Assembly of Stars Meditation Hall at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. This is the third week of the annual Summer Opening retreat at Plum Village. This short 45-minute talk on July 20, 2014 is in English with a focus on our action. Both the audio and the video are available below.

What is man? What Sartre said is very close to Buddhist teachings. Action. Karma. There are three aspects. (1) Thinking. Your thought is an action. It is an energy. We practice in such a way so to produce good thoughts. (2) Speaking. This is the second form of action. Words can kill and destroy or bring beauty and full of non discrimination, understanding, and forgiveness. We should produce speech that can heal. (3) Body action. Acting. With our body we can help with our efforts. How we consume. Are the totality of our thoughts, speech, and action.

Mindfulness can shed light on our action. When we walk with the sangha, we are using these three aspects. We can be fully concentrated in our steps with these three aspects to arrive fully in the here and now. I have arrived. And we see we have enough conditions to be happy? Arriving 100% in the here and the now with concentration. How do we enjoy life in the present moment? With our next step we can say “I am home.”

I have arrived.
I am home.
I am solid.
I am free.
In the ultimate I dwell.

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I Have Arrived. I am Home.

From the Assembly of Stars Meditation Hall at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. This is the second week of the annual Summer Opening retreat at Plum Village. This short 47-minute talk is in English with a focus on arriving in the present moment with walking meditation. Both the audio and the video are available below.

I have arrive. I am home. We have spent so much of our time running and looking for something. We can learn to stop and see the wonders of life in the present moment.  We may miss our appointment with life. Mindfulness helps us enjoy the present moment.  The purpose of the practice is to always go home to the here and now. If you live like that, you can have peace and joy.

Teaching on the practice of the “waking up” gatha. Other verses are mentioned, including a “walking” gatha. Arriving in your true home. With each step we have solidity and freedom.

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Stepping into Freedom

From the Assembly of Stars Meditation Hall at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. This is a day of mindfulness between the close of the 21-Day Retreat and the Summer Opening. The sangha is preparing for an ordination ceremony for monastic novices on July 2 followed by summer opening on July 4. This 80-minute dharma talk is dated June 29, 2014. The focus of the talk is on the monastic life. Both the audio and the video are available below.

Where can we focus our attention when starting to breath mindfully? The tip of the nose versus the abdomen. We stop our thinking and are fully aware. No thinking is a secret of success. We can enjoy being alive in the here and now.

What is the object of our mindfulness when we walk? How can we touch reality? Thay tells the story of a 13th century king in Vietnam who practiced very well as a lay person. How can we practice everyday? Touching the ground of reality with every step and not lose ourselves by daily life.This kind of walking can be very healing.

The triple training is mindfulness, concentration, and insight. These three work together. These are three of the eight elements of the noble path – the Noble Eightfold Path. They also exist in the Five Powers (the other two are faith and diligence). This is the heart of Buddhist practice. The practice of mindfulness can also be seen concretely in the practice of the precepts and that is why we usually use the words “mindfulness” trainings. The precepts are the 5 trainings for the lay students (and the 14 for the Order members), the 10 precepts for novice monastics, 250 precepts for monks, and 380 for nuns (Some may ask why the nuns practice more? Is that not discrimination? The nuns created their own precepts). Each precept guarantees a zone of freedom. The precepts are seeking freedom. But we need to live mindfully. Thay recently wrote a new calligraphy. “Each Precept Guarantees a Zone of Freedom”.

There is joy in practicing and reciting the precepts. The manual we use for training the novices is called “Stepping into Freedom” (and is available from Parallax Press). The practice of the precepts is also the practice of mindfulness and is connected with mindful manners (outlined in the manual). “Be beautiful. Practice the Precepts.” Thay discusses some of the mindful manners for monastics.

The manual has four parts. The first part is a set of verses – the essential of the daily vinaya practice. The second part is the ten novice precepts. The third section is mindful manners – many chapters on this. The fourth part is a beautiful text to remind monastics why they are a monk or a nun. The book was originally in Chinese from more than 400 years ago. It has been updated by Plum Village. In the Christian monastic tradition, they have some of the same precepts.

Thay shares further of the big commitment to become a monastic. It is like a marriage. You are part of a sangha and you can realize your dream of helping people. To practice as a monk or nun is easier than a lay student because you have the support of the sangha.

This is a happy and beautiful moment.

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Four Energies and Mindful Educators

Thich Nhat Hanh along with the monks and nuns of Plum Village are on their first tour of Spain this month. An Educators Retreat at the University of Barcelona and this is the first talk providing an orientation to the practice taught by Thay. The date of the recording is May 9, 2014. The audio and the video are both available below.

We begin with an introduction to the practice of breathing and the role it plays in mindfulness practice.There is an energy of mindfulness that is born during the time we are breathing. Life is available in the present moment because the past is already gone the future has not yet come. To go home to the present moment is easy…breath in mindfully. We can get in touch with our body when we are breathing mindfully. Our body is the first wonder of life. Maybe when we get in touch with our body, we may notice tension in our body. If we notice this tension while breathing, we can release this tension while breathing out. If we learn to do this well, then we can learn to transmit this to our students. There is another energy of the practice called concentration. This energy is born from the energy of mindfulness. It let’s us focus. (Editor’s Note: short skip in the recording here) The third energy is insight. Insight arises from concentration and mindfulness. The French novelist Camus spoke of this through the story of the prisoner. Breathing in, I know I am alive. This is already an insight and it is a true miracle. Mindfulness allows us to live deeply each moment we are alive and has the power to liberate us.

Conditions of happiness. Can we see all the conditions of happiness right here in this moment? We can begin with mindfulness of our eyes. A good practitioner of mindfulness should be able to create a feeling of joy and a feeling of happiness at any moment. The practice of walking is another method to discover a moment of happiness. I have arrived.

True happiness is made of mindfulness, concentration and insight. And this will bring compassion, love, and joy.  This is the art of living. With this practice, you can also handle a painful feeling or emotion. Many of us consume in order to not encounter our suffering. We are afraid of our own suffering. Mindfulness can help you know how to suffer. How do we do this? We can use mindfulness to not be overwhelmed by the pain inside. We can recognize and embrace the pain. Once we learn this practice, we can do the same for our students and help our students to suffer less as well.

Understanding will always bring about compassion. Compassion is the fourth kind of energy and has the power to heal and transform anger. Once we know our own suffering transformed, how can we help another person to suffer less.

Thay draws a circle representing the school teacher. How do we work with difficult aspects in our school environments. We can start with our loved ones, then our colleagues, and finally our students. The first thing to do is going home to ourselves through the practice of mindful breathing and mindful walking. We can do this with the support of co-practitioners.

Instruction on walking meditation, mindful eating, and listening to the bell.

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The Breathing Room

This talk from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Thursday, March 27, 2014. The talk on this day is in English.

14:44 The Breathing Room
22:54 Inviting the Bell
33:10 Conditions of Happiness
43:30 Mindfulness of Suffering

Thich Nhat Hanh begins with a recollection of a retreat for children. During walking meditation, we proposed they use “yes, yes” and “thanks, thanks” for each of their steps. We can say yes and feel thankful. There are so many things we can say yes to. We can appreciate these things – our body, our eyes, etc. With our eyes we can see the blue sky and the mountains. The practice is breathing in, I am aware of my eyes and am grateful they are in good condition. We do the same with other parts of our body. Like our heart. With this awareness, we can take better care of our body and allow it to be restored. In the “Sutra on the Contemplations of the Body” the Buddha taught us how to look at all the parts of the body. We use mindfulness to project light onto every part of our body. This can bring us happiness, love, and compassion. Thay provides more instruction on this practice.

If you are a leader of a corporation, you may wish to incorporate and offer a session of total relaxation. This is not a loss of time. The same can be done by a school teacher for the students. Parents too, if they know the practice, can offer a session for the family. In a civilized society this can be very good. We can also create a tiny meditation hall in the home; a space where the bell can be located and we can practice in a safe space. Every time you feel restless or confused or irritated, we can walk to that place – the breathing room – and stop all the thinking and calm our body and mind. Thay recalls a story of how to open/close the door when he was a young novice that he then relayed to Thomas Merton.

In our small breathing room, we should also have a bell. This is a territory of mindfulness. There are four lines to learn when inviting the bell after we breath in and out three times before Inviting the Bell. Thay teaches us how to invite the bell and why mindful breathing is so important.

There are many conditions of happiness. In Buddhism, we have many versus to help us practice mindfulness. For example, for when turning on the water faucet. Are you aware of your conditions of happiness? Teaching continues on how this related to the breathing room and why it’s important for the family. This is the art of happiness.

This is part of the 7th & 8th mindfulness exercises in the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Mindful Breathing. We should not run away from our suffering. We can learn from our suffering. This ties right into the Four Noble Truths. We can learn to listen to our suffering without fear without running away through consumption. With mindfulness we have the energy to take care of our suffering.

The practice of looking and listening deeply. Meditation is the time to look and listen to understand our suffering. This brings about understanding and compassion. If you know how to suffer, you suffer much less. You cannot take happiness out of suffering and cannot take suffering out of happiness.

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