Dear Still Water Friends,
In the mid-1970s a number of Westerners worked with and studied with Thich Nhat Hanh in Paris. In The Miracle of Mindfulness, published in 1976, Thich Nhat Hanh shared with his Western students the importance of mindfulness throughout the day.
In my small class in meditation for non-Vietnamese, there are many young people. I’ve told them that if each one can meditate an hour each day that’s good, but it’s nowhere near enough. You’ve got to practice meditation when you walk, stand, lie down, sit, and work, while washing your hands, washing the dishes, sweeping the floor, drinking tea, talking to friends, or whatever you are doing: “While washing the dishes, you might be thinking about the tea afterwards, and so try to get them out of the way as quickly as possible in order to sit and drink tea. But that means that you are incapable of living during the time you are washing the dishes. When you are washing the dishes, washing the dishes must be the most important thing in your life. Just as when you’re drinking tea, drinking tea must be the most important thing in your life. When you’re using the toilet, let that be the most important thing in your life.” And so on. Chopping wood is meditation. Carrying water is meditation. Be mindful 24 hours a day, not just during the one hour you may allot for formal meditation or reading scripture and reciting prayers. Each act must be carried out in mindfulness. Each act is a rite, a ceremony. Raising your cup of tea to your mouth is a rite. Does the word “rite” seem too solemn? I use that word in order to jolt you into the realization of the life-and-death matter of awareness.
This Thursday evening, after our meditation period, our program will focus on the importance and richness of everyday mindfulness practices. We are fortunuate to have with us this week Sr. Peace from Plum Village. She lived and worked here in the Washington area for many years prior to moving to Plum Village and committing her life to the practice. She was ordained as a nun in 2007. She will open our program with a reflection on her own every day practice.
You are invited to be with us.
Below is a related excerpt from from a 1999 Plum Village Dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh.
Special Alert: The Wake Up Tour is coming to Washington, DC, on Saturday, October 29th. It is a special day of mindfulness for young people, ages 17-35, offerred by monastic students of Thich Nhat Hanh. The event will be at Georgetown University and is free, but space is limited. For more information or to register, go to http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=270873982952693 .
Embracing Ourselves, Embracing Our World Workshop, Sunday afternoon, November 6, 2011, in Columbia, Maryland
Deepening Our Practice–Bringing More Joy, Understanding, Love, and Compassion into our Lives, 5 Saturday mornings, November 5 – December 17, 2011, in Takoma Park, Maryland.
Living Our Practice: Still Water Fall Community Retreat, November 11-13, 2011, at the Charter Hall Retreat Center, Perryville, Maryland.
The Means are the End
from a Dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh on Dec 5, 1999 in Plum Village, France.
Last time we discussed about means and ends and we learned that in the practice of Buddhism there is no distinction between means and ends and means should be considered to be ends by themselves. This is a very strong practice and we should be able to rely on the Sangha in order to do it.
When you go to the Buddha Hall or to the Dharma Hall you know that you have something to do there: sitting meditation, or listening to a Dharma talk, or cleaning the hall but going there is also a practice. You are requested to sweep the meditation hall in mindfulness, you are supposed to sit beautifully when you listen to a Dharma talk, you are supposed to be concentrated, to be mindful during your sitting meditation so the practice takes place in the meditation hall, but we should know that the practice also takes place during your walking there.
That is why we should try to be practicing during the time we walk to the meditation hall and if you succeed in every step you take then the sitting meditation, or the Dharma talk, or the cleaning of meditation hall will be a success.
Because we have the habit of wanting things to be done that is why we tend to neglect, to underestimate the value of the means.
At this time of autumn, I usually rake the leaves in the hermitage. I do this every three days or so and I use a rake. I know that raking the leaves is to have a clean path in order to walk, to do running meditation and so on; I run every day at least two times -I practice mindful running and I rake the leaves in that way (mindfully). Raking the leaves is not only to have only a clean path to run or to walk, but raking the leaves is just to enjoy raking the leaves. So I hold the rake in such a way that I can be happy and solid during the time of holding the rake. And every movement I do I want to make it into an act of enlightenment, an act of joy, an act of peace, so I am not in a hurry, because I see that the act of raking is as wonderful as having a clean path. I would not be satisfied with less than that. Every stroke I make should bring me joy and solidity and freedom. I should be entirely myself during the act of raking the leaves and raking the leaves is no longer a means to arrive at an end that is called having a clean path.
And you don’t need to wait for a long time; if you can make one stroke like that, one movement like that, fully investing yourself into the act of raking the leaves then you will be rewarded right away. That is a perfect piece of art that you make because each movement is a work of art.
The same is true when you practice walking. Each step you make should be a perfect work of art, each step can bring you solidity, sovereignty because you do not walk like a slave, you walk like a free person. You walk like a Buddha because you have wanted to be a disciple, a daughter or a son of the Enlightened One, you want to be his continuation, that is why you are capable of making a step with sovereignty, you are fully in control of yourself. You are fully present in the here and the now and you enjoy that step.
So walking meditation is not to arrive in the meditation hall. To arrive at the meditation hall is what you want, but you want more than that, because you arrive at the meditation hall several times a day and sometimes ten or twenty arrivals like that don’t make any difference. So, one step is enough for you to arrive. I have arrived! With one step.
That is our practice but there is a habit energy that prevents you from doing so. You are used to running to believe that happiness is not possible here and now, happiness is possible only in the future. That kind of belief, that kind of habit energy has been there for a long time, transmitted by many generations of ancestors and coming to Plum Village is to have a chance to see it; that you are governed by your habit energy, by the tendency to run all the time. You are not capable of being in the here and the now in order to touch the wonders of life that are available.
We have plenty of chances to practice. You wash your dishes, you sweep the ground, you tend the garden, there are many things that you can do, but don’t do it the way they do it in the world. Make it into a practice, a good practice and you will be rewarded right away and you know that you are dealing with your habit energy. The habit energy says, quick, quick, go, quick, quick, do it right away! The deadline is close but the practice is telling you the opposite thing, don’t run, enjoy it, the here and the now is the only thing you have, happiness cannot be possible outside the here and the now, so you have two things contradicting each other and that is why the word training means that you slowly get over the habit energy and give yourself another habit energy that is good. The habit energy that you want to cultivate is the capacity to be in the here and the now and live every moment of your daily life deeply. Rake the leaves, enjoy it! Cook the breakfast! Enjoy fully the act of cooking. Wash the dishes! Enjoy fully the act of washing.