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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Happiness is the Way

May 27, 2013. 69-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Hong Kong Coliseum. The sangha is on the spring Asian Tour and this talk is given in English with consecutive translation into Chinese. This is the Public Talk.

Thay has a few questions to ask the audience and the questions might touch something very deep in you and provide you with insight to see the way to go. Allow the question to penetrate into your heart.

  • Are you in love? 
  • Are you still in love? 
  • Do you want to reconnect with the person you used to love? 
  • Do you think that he or she is happier than you are now? 
  • Do you have the time for each other or are you both to busy? 
  • Have you been able to preserve your freshness and beauty for yourself and for the other person? 
  • Are you capable to offer him or her freshness and beauty everyday? 
  • Do you know how to handle the suffering within yourself? 
  • Are you able to help handle the suffering in the other person? 
  • Do you understand your own suffering and the roots of that suffering? 
  • Are you able to understand the suffering in the other person? 
  • Do you have the capacity to help the other person suffer less? 
  • Have you learned the way to calm down your painful feelings and emotions? 
  • Do you have the time to listen to yourself, your suffering, your difficulties, and your deepest desire? 
  • Do you have the time to listen to him or her and help him or her to suffer less? 
  • Do you know the Buddhist way of restoring communication and bringing about reconciliation? 
  • Are you capable of creating a feeling of joy and happiness for yourself? 
  • Are you capable of helping the other person to create a feeling of joy and happiness? 
  • Do you really think you have a clear spiritual path to go? 
  • Do you have the feeling of peace and contentment within yourself? 
  • Do you know to nourish your love everyday? 
  • Have you ever met a person who is truly happy? 

During the most recent retreat at the YMCA camp in Hong Kong, we learned about walking meditation. How can we arrive with every step in the here and the now. We also learned how to breatha and sit in order to transform our suffering. In order to understand and recognize the suffering in ourselves and the other person. We only need a short time of practice to gain understanding.

What is compassionate listening and loving speech? How can we create reconciliation?

Making the Five Precepts relevant to our time. The precepts and noble eightfold path are based on the insight of Right View and allow you to transcend all discrimination.

The first training is protecting life. The second is about true happiness. Next we have true love. We’ve already touched on deep listening and loving speech, the subject of the fourth. The last training is about consumption. We cover the Four Kinds of Nutriments.

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The Other Person

May 24, 2013. 84-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Hong Kong. The sangha is on the spring Asian Tour and this talk is given in English with consecutive translation into Chinese. The theme of the retreat is Happiness is the Way.

Thay has a few questions to ask the audience and the questions might touch something very deep in you. It is about the “the other person” in your life.

Are you in love? Are you still in love? Do you want to reconnect with the person you used to love? Do you think that he or she is happier than you are now? Do you have the time for each other or are you both to busy? Have you been able to preserve your freshness and beauty for yourself and for the other person? Are you capable to offer him or her freshness and beauty everyday? Do you know how to handle the suffering in yourself? Are you able to help handle the suffering in the other person? Do you understand your own suffering and the roots of that suffering? Are you able to understand the suffering in the other person? Do you have the capacity to help the other person suffer less? Have you learned the way to calm down the painful feelings and emotions? Do you have the time to listen to yourself, your suffering, your difficulties, and your deepest desire? Do you have the time to listen to him or her and help him or her to suffer less? Do you know the Buddhist way of restoring communication and bringing reconciliation? Are you capable of creating a feeling of joy and happiness for yourself? Are you capable of helping the other person to create a feeling of joy and happiness? Do you really think you have a clear spiritual path to go? Do you have the feeling of peace and contentment within yourself? Do you know to nourish your love everyday?

It is possible to create a meditation hall on a bus or train and then use the time to nourish and heal yourself. You can use the exercises from the Anapanasati Sutta. The first exercise is to become aware of your in-breath and your out-breath. We can cultivate energy to help heal and nourish. The first energy is mindfulness. This energy can be cultivated with just one in-breath. The second energy we can generate during breathing is concentration. The third energy is insight. This is a kind of vision/wisdom that will help liberate you from suffering. This is enlightenment itself – it can come in just a few seconds! To be alive is a true wonder, a true miracle.

I am alive. Stop the thinking. Enjoy breathing.

The second exercise is to follow your in-breath and your out-breath all the way through. With the third exercise, you become aware that you have a body. Next we calm our body and release the tension and restore peace. Even if we only have a few minutes, we can use these exercises to restore ourselves. Generating joy is the fifth exercise. Next we become aware of the painful emotion that in us – we don’t try to run away from our pain. From here we calm down the pain.

Understanding suffering always bring compassion. We can restore communication with the other person and end suffering.

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Ambassador of the Buddha

April 6, 2013. 92-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Mahachulalungkornrajavidyalaya University in Bangkok, Thailand. The sangha is in the 5-Day Applied Ethics Retreat as part of the spring Asian Tour. The talk is given in English with consecutive translation into Thai. This is the second talk.

Inviting the bell. The bell is the ambassador of the buddha to our home. How do we use the bell in our home? How do we listen to the bell? We can use the sound to calm our feelings. Using a breathing room along with the bell in your home environment. Listening and using the bell has been of great help to many families.

The story of Henry and his transformation of using mindfulness in the classroom. How he enjoys his class and his students. The whole school benefited from his incorporation of mindfulness. He wrote a book and became a dharma teacher.

How do we help the students suffer less? Compassionate listening and loving speech. Transform our classroom into a family, into a sangha. No Buddhist terms are needed. Then you can build a sangha of teachers. Using loving speech is a tool for teachers. How do we listen?

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Miracles of Reconciliation

August 11, 2011. 60-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from War Memorial Gym at University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this the third talk of the retreat.

Today we continue with the Noble Eightfold Path. Right Speech. Deep listening. The purpose of deep listening is to allow the other person, or group of people, to have a chance to speak out. Maybe nobody has listened to them and you may be the first person. They can empty their heart. Compassion can protect you, even if the other person is full of accusations, bitterness, and wrong perceptions. When we sit down and listen, we can follow our in breath and out breath to help the other person suffer less. The is the role of a bodhissatva. Every one of us has the seed of compassion inside. We can all benefit from this discipline of deep listening – we all have the seeds of compassion and understanding.

The dharma talk comes from the living experience of the teacher. The best way to listen to a dharma talk is not with your intellect – send your intellect on vacation and allow the dharma rain to penetrate the soil and it will water the best of the seeds in us. One of those seeds is awakening; enlightenment.

Right Diligence has four aspects. We need a little understanding of our mind in order to practice  true diligence. The mind has two layers: store consciousness and mind consciousness. The practice of diligence is to not allow those negative seeds inside of our store consciousness to manifest. In Buddhist psychology, there are 51 varieties of seeds. A seed can manifest as a mental formation.

The talk is available below.

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