Nourishing Awareness
in Each Moment 
Thich Nhat Hanh

  

One cold, winter evening I returned home from a walk in the hills, and I found that all the doors and windows in my hermitage had blown open.  When I had left earlier, I hadn't secured them, and a cold wind had blown through the house, opened the windows, and scattered the papers from my desk all over the room.  Immediately, I closed the doors and windows, lit a lamp, picked up the papers, and arranged them neatly on my desk.  Then I started a fire in the fireplace, and soon the crackling logs brought warmth back to the room.

Sometimes in a crowd we feel tired, cold, and lonely.  We may wish to withdraw to be by ourselves and become warm again, as I did when I closed the windows and sat by the fire, protected from the damp, cold wind.  Our senses are our windows to the world, and sometimes the wind blows through them and disturbs everything within us.  Some of us leave our windows open all the time, allowing the sights and sounds of the world to invade us, penetrate us, and expose our sad, troubled selves.  We feel so cold, lonely, and afraid.

Do you ever find yourself watching an awful TV program, unable to turn it off?  The raucous noises, explosions of gunfire, are upsetting.  Yet you don't get up and turn it off.  Why do you torture yourself in this way?  Don't you want to close your windows?  Are you frightened of solitude--the emptiness and the loneliness you may find when you face yourself alone?

Watching a bad TV program, we become the TV program.  We are what we feel and perceive.  If we are angry, we are the anger.  If we are in love, we are love.  If we look at a snow-covered mountain peak, we are the mountain.  We can be anything we want, so why do we open our windows to bad TV programs made by sensationalist producers in search of easy money, programs that make our hearts pound, our fists tighten, and leave us exhausted?  Who allows such TV programs to be made and seen by even the very young?  We do!  We are too undemanding, too ready to watch whatever is on the screen, too lonely, lazy, or bored to create our own lives.  We turn on the TV and leave it on, allowing someone else to guide us, shape us, and destroy us.  Losing ourselves in this way is leaving our fate in the hands of others who may not be acting responsibly.  We must be aware of which programs do harm to our nervous systems, minds, and hearts, and which programs benefit us.

Of course, I am not talking only about television.  All around us, how many lures are set by our fellows and ourselves?  In a single day, how many times do we become lost and scattered because of them?  We must be very careful to protect our fate and our peace.  I am not suggesting that we just shut all our windows, for there are many miracles in the world we call "outside."  We can open our windows to these miracles and look at anyone of them with awareness.  This way, even while sitting beside a clear, flowing stream, listening to beautiful music, or watching an excellent movie, we need not lose ourselves entirely in the stream, the music, or the film.  We can continue to be aware of ourselves and our breathing.  With the sun of awareness shining in us, we can avoid most dangers.  The stream will be purer, the music more harmonious, and the soul of the filmmaker completely visible.

We may want to leave the city and go off to the countryside to help close those windows that trouble our spirit.  There we can become one with the quiet forest, and rediscover and restore ourselves, without being swept away by the chaos of the "outside world."  The fresh and silent woods help us remain in awareness, and when our awareness is well-rooted and we can maintain it without faltering, we may wish to return to the city and remain there, less troubled.  But sometimes we cannot leave the city, and we have to find the refreshing and peaceful elements that can heal us right in the midst of our busy lives.  We may wish to visit a good friend who can comfort us, or go for a walk in a park and enjoy the trees and the cool breeze.  Whether we are in the city, the countryside, or the wilderness, we need to sustain ourselves by choosing our surroundings carefully and nourishing our awareness in each moment.
    

Lucidly and beautifully written, Peace Is Every Step contains commentaries and meditations, personal anecdotes and stories from Buddhist Nhat Hanh's experiences as a peace activist, teacher, and community leader. It begins where the reader already is (kitchen, office, driving a car, walking in a park) and shows how deep meditative presence is available now. Nhat Hanh shows how to be aware of relationships with others and of the world around us, its beauty and also its pollution and injustices. Through deceptively simple practices, Peace Is Every Step encourages the reader to work for peace in the world as he or she continues to work on sustaining inner peace by turning the "mindless" into the mindful. Peace Is Every Step is a useful, and necessary, addition to any Buddhist studies or self-help reference shelf.

You can find out more about the book by clicking on the cover!

   

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