Breathe, you are alive: Thich Nhat Hanh

by Leah McClellan

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Peace is present right here and now, in ourselves and in everything we do and see. The question is whether or not we are in touch with it. ~Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step

In 1991, fresh out of college, I discovered Thich Nhat Hanh on a bookshelf in the bookstore where I worked.

Thich Nhat Hanh—Thây, or teacher, as students and followers call him—is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, poet, scholar, and peace activist who lives in Plum Village, a Buddhist community he founded in France.

From the Plum Village website:

Thich Nhat Hanh’s key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live in the present moment instead of in the past and in the future. Dwelling in the present moment is, according to Nhat Hanh, the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.

Thây himself wasn’t actually sitting on a bookshelf, of course, when I first started learning about him and reading his books. But as far as I’m concerned, he might as well have been. I can still see the book in my mind, how it was positioned, and the bookshelf it was on in that little bookstore so many years ago.

The dandelion on the cover of Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life caught my eye.

Such a simple flower, hated by so many as an intrusive weed but beautiful in its simplicity, was the perfect adornment for simple but life-changing words. I bought Peace is Every Step and read it from cover to cover many times. Since then, I’ve read many more of Thây’s books, and a few years ago I found that he has an online presence.

You can read more about Thich Nhat Hanh at Plum Village Meditation Practice Center and you can follow him on Facebook.

You can also listen to Thây and watch his talks on video.

Here is his first talk from the “Together We Are One” retreat at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, California. I chose to share this talk because, in it, Thây explains some of his most basic teachings on breathing and mindfulness.

Hello, My Anger from Plum Village Online Monastery on Vimeo.

If you haven’t listened to him before, you may find his accented English difficult to understand at first. But it doesn’t take long to become accustomed to his rhythm and pronunciation and laugh at his jokes. As serious as he is in many ways, I find his sense of humor and warmth delightful as he explains his teachings in simple, easy-to-understand terms.

If you can’t see the video, here is the link: Hello, My Anger

I hope you enjoy watching and listening to Thich Nhat Hanh as much as I do.

Have you read any of Thich Nhat Hahn’s books? Listened to his talks? What do you think? Comments are always welcome.

Photo credit: cygnus921

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