Tag Archives: Breathing

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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The Embodied Mind

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Sunday, February 9, 2014 and is the twenty fourth (and final) talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. This is an English translation, available below, by Sr. Tue Nghiem.  Following this talk the monastery will have lazy days followed by a monastic retreat. We will not have new talks again until early March.

0:00 Guided Meditation by Thay
10:58 Remembering Thay Phap Y
18:45 Exercises of Mindful Breathing
1:05:50 Study on 30-Verses

A story of our older monastic Brother Phap Y who has recently died. Though he had been sick a long time, he died very quickly on February 6 and we are very happy. He came to Plum Village as a novice from the Tibetan tradition and has since been a trusted and loved dharma teacher. We are reminded that this body is not me and I am not limited by this body. I am life without boundaries. And I continue in the river. In Plum Village we see Thay Phap Y as an older brother who has lived with our sangha for 20-years and he was 75-years old when he died.

We practice to have peace in our body. We recognize that we have a body. Breathing in I know I have a body. At that moment the body has a mind. The embodied mind. When the mind and the body are one then we truly have life. If we continue, we can release the tension in our body. Breathing in I release all the tensions in my body. I  These are the third and the fourth exercises from the sutra on the full awareness of breathing. Breathing in, I know I breath in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out. This is the first exercise. It is to recognize the breath only. Breathing in, I follow my in breath all the way to the end. This is the second exercise. Following the breath. No thinking. Just breathing. We stop the mental discourse. These exercises bring us a lot of freedom. A practice of reconciliation between body and mind. When we have peace, then we can generate joy. It can also bring peace to our feelings. A practitioner is someone who knows how to practice this art. Can we generate peace, joy, and happiness in each step? We learn to cultivate good habit energies while we are here at Plum Village. When we have these energies, then we can nourish the people we love with these energies too. We can generate happiness right here and right now. With these four exercises we generate mindfulness, concentration, and insight.

Happiness is connected to suffering. We can make use of the suffering to make happiness. This connection between happiness and suffering is of an organic nature. Managing our suffering is also an art just as generating happiness is an art. If you know how to suffer, then you suffer less. The fifth and sixth exercises are generating joy and generating happiness.  In the present moment, we can recognize the conditions of happiness. The three energies of mindfulness, concentration, and insight can be very powerful.

The seventh exercise is recognizing our suffering. Maybe our suffering had roots in the body or roots in our perception. When suffering surfaces, the practitioner should be present to recognize. Simple recognition. How do we recognize our pain? The second aspect is to embrace the suffering/pain. We embrace it with mindfulness. The third aspect is to calm the suffering. This is the eighth exercise.

Anybody can do these practices. You don’t need to be Buddhist. We can transmit these exercises to parents and two children. We should share these exercises with teachers so that it can be included in our schools to help our young children.

Returning to the study of the 30 verses for the remainder of the talk.

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Mindfulness in Our Everyday Lives

September 1, 2013. 118-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, New York during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is a public Day of Mindfulness when approximately 1400 people came to Blue Cliff to learn about the practice.

  • What is a dharma talk?
  • How to listen?
  • What is walking meditation?
  • Our True Nature
  • What is mindful eating?
  • Healing our suffering
  • Chanting (from 33-minutes to 49-minutes)
  • Conditions of happiness
  • Art of Suffering
  • Understanding and compassion
  • Effortlessness
  • Practice of mindful breathing
  • Joy and happiness
  • Deep listening and loving speech
  • Wake Up Schools
  • What is mindfulness?
  • Four Mantras

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Using our Breath brings Mindfulness

June 9, 2013. 100-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbrol, Germany. The talk is given in English with simultaneous translation into Dutch. This is the fifth dharma talk of the Dutch Retreat on the theme Understanding Our Emotions.

We do not need to call ourselves a Buddhist to practice Buddhism. We can use practice verses, little poems, to help us with our practice. Thay shares a number of these verses for us to memorize.

Mindfulness is an energy that lets us do at least two things. The first is to be there – to be truly here in the present moment. The second is to be aware of what is going on – such as your in breath. We can use mindfulness to take care of the body. In the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing, the Buddha gave a set of exercises on mindfulness of the body.

  • Aware of my breath
  • Follow your in breath all the way to the end
  • To beware of your body
  • Release the tension in the body

These are simple exercises and anyone can practice. After we take care of our body, we can move on to our feelings.

  • Generate a feeling of joy
  • Generate a feeling of happiness
  • Awareness of the painful feeling
  • Calm the painful emotions

After the body and the feelings, we move to taking care of the mind. In particular, working with mental formations. What is a mental formation? Thay also shares a little about the Shining Light Ceremony and how we can use this with our practice.

  • gladdening the mind
  • aware of mental formations
  • concentrating the mind
  • liberating your mind

The last four exercises of the sutra have to do with the objects of mind. We conclude with teachings on birth and death, being and non-being.

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The Uncultivated Mind Brings Suffering

October 25, 2012. 105-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is enjoying the Autumn Retreat and this is a Day of Mindfulness.

Last week we learned about the Four Kinds of Nutriments and having to do with the Fifth Mindfulness Training.

Power. Some people think if they have power, they will be happy. It takes a great deal of understanding. The mind of love; of enlightenment. Bodhicitta. This comes from the practice of mindfulness and concentration. Understanding your own suffering helps you understand the suffering of others around you. I’m the family and in the nation. Love and understanding. Understanding is the foundation of love. The mind left uncultivated will bring lots of suffering. We need a spiritual dimension in our daily life. This is our practice. Bodhicitta is a tremendous source of energy.

Mental formations. There are mental formations that make us suffer, but they can be transformed.
Samadhi. Maintaining awareness.

Meditation on impermance. We have to keep this alive in us. Treasure the moments we have. Impermanance is a characteristic of life.

The Three Doors of Liberation. Concentrations. Emptiness. Signlessness. Aimlessness. This teaching includes an exploration of birth and death. Being and non-being. Impermanance. Non-craving. Nirvana.

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Sitting is an Art

October 7, 2012. 105-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh at Plum Village. The sangha is enjoying the Autumn Retreat and this is a Day of Mindfulness.

Thay begins his talk today with reminiscences from Vietnam in the 60s. Forty-six years ago, Thay was invited by Cornell University to give a series of lectures on the conditions in Vietnam. The Vietnamese were fighting each other with foreign ideologies and foreign weapons. We were not allowed to use our voices for peace, but there was a peace movement in Vietnam. Thay wrote a book of poems and a book, Lotus in the Sea of Fire, that needed to be published and distributed underground. We also trained many social workers to help orphans and children. Those supporting peace were often threatened and murdered. We need a spiritual dimension in our life so we don’t lose ourselves to despair and to help sustain us.

What do you do when you’re practicing sitting meditation? Sitting isn’t “doing” but it’s more about “being” – harmony, joy, and healing are possible. Sitting is an art. There is no need to do anything. Mind and body must be together to live in the preset moment. One mindful in-breathe may be enough to come home. We don’t need to worry about the future. Teaching on mindfulness of body – it is a wonder, a mystery.

The Kingdom of God. Dharmachaya. The body of the cosmos. Suchness. Reality as it is. We cannot use our notions to describe God. This is available in the here and the now.

Exercises on mindful breathing. Enlightenment is not far away; it can be immediate with mindfulness. Breathing in you can have enlightenment. No thinking. No planning. No fear. Then your concentration becomes stronger. Brings insight to transform our suffering and bring happiness. This is not prayer, this is practice. Happiness does not depend on the outside, it depends on our way of looking at things.

Walking on Mother Earth. Samskara. Formation. We calm down the body formation.

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Our Spiritual Body Should Grow Everyday

May 4, 2012. 92-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet in Plum Village during the 12th annual Francophone Retreat. The talk is given in French with English translation. This is the final dharma talk.

We begin with a teaching on the Four Noble Truths and the noble eightfold path. We spend quite a bit of time on Right Concentration. A review of the exercises of mindful breathing is included. As part of these teachings, we learn of birth and death. being and non-being. Three Doors of Liberation.

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Creating a Spiritual Practice

April 29, 2012. 55-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh during the 12th annual Francophone Retreat. Thay says we have become a big family. The talk is given in French with English translation. This is the first dharma talk.

Creating a spiritual practice. Drinking tea is a spiritual practice. Becoming one with your in breath can create freedom; freedom from our worries, anxiety, etc. The things that make life difficult. You can touch the present moment with mindful breathing.

We can use our breathing to cultivate our spiritual practice. Our mindfulness. What is happening in the present moment.

Recognizing our breathing.
Following our breathing

We continue learning the next six exercises of mindful breathing.

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Dharma Talk Francophone Day 1 from Plum Village Online Monastery on Vimeo.

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Cultivating Happiness with the Bell

April 6, 2012. 115-minute dharma talk given at The University of Nottingham by Thich Nhat Hanh. The sangha is on the UK and Ireland Tour and this is the first dharma talk for the Cultivating Happiness Family Retreat. The recording begins with a couple of practice songs before Thay enters the meditation hall followed by 10-minutes of chanting.

At 18-minutes into the recording, Thay gives a talk for the children present at the retreat. Cultivating happiness. We begin with a story of a teacher who implements coming back to oneself in the classroom by breathing and resting together. The practice helped the students and teacher in the classroom. The teacher used a bell in a classroom, so Thay teaches us about inviting the bell and how to be a bell master.

At 56-minutes into the recording, we begin the primary talk. The focus of our talk is on mindful breathing. This has to do with our suffering and our happiness. Exercise #5, from the Sutra on Full Awareness of Breathing, is cultivating joy, followed by #6 on cultivating happiness and #7 is to recognize a painful feeling and #8 is calming the painful feeling.

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I Send My Heart Along with the Sound of this Bell from Plum Village Online Monastery on Vimeo.

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True Peace and Happiness

March 29, 2012. 73-minute talk from the Royal Festival Hall in London, England. The sangha is on a tour of the United Kingdom and this is the first public event. The recording here is the main talk of the evening activities.

We focus our attention on our breath. One in-breath is enough to bring enlightenment. The teaching is from the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing – we look at the first eight exercises.

Near the end, a few questions are taken from the audience. (1) When you live in the here and now, do you actually forget the past? (2) How do you resolve someone pushing in front of you on the Tube? (3) How can I practice with pain I have caused someone in the past? (4) How do you practice with forgiveness?

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