I recently read this book, The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. The author is a Vietnam Buddhist monk and He has dedicated his life as a peace activist and to finding peaceful solutions to any conflict. In his book, he focuses more on the practical elements of Buddhism. The main message of the book is that to be happy and at peace, you must learn to live in the present moment. That’s where mindfulness comes in. This book teaches the ancient Buddhist practice of mindfulness and how living in the present will make you happier. In this summary, I’ll share with you three key lessons that I learned from the book.
Key Lesson #1: Each moment keep your mind on the task at hand
In the winter of 1940 when Thich Nhat Hanh was a new monk at a monastery in Vietnam, he would wash dishes of hundreds of monks that lived there. Standing in the kitchen, freezing water and he didn’t even have soap. Since then the kitchen has been upgraded and now new monks can easily wash the dishes and have a cup of tea after that. But the author sees this as a problem. He says doing the dishes simply because you want them to be clean is the wrong way of doing it. The right way is to wash the dishes just for the sake of washing them. If we hurry through the dishes just to make them clean, our mind is already looking ahead to the cup of tea waiting for us when we’re finished. We’re already living in the future. Then we cannot possibly be cleaning the dishes for the sake of cleaning them. And once you get to that cup of tea, your mind will already be focused on still other things. You won’t even taste the tea. And this cycle goes on. You are never present and always look to the future, unable to really live even a few moments of your life. But there is a better way. Mindfulness teaches us that whatever we find ourselves doing at any given moment, we must be fully conscious and mindful of it. Conscious of our bodies, movements, thoughts, and feelings we experience in each moment.
Key Lesson #2: One way to practice mindfulness is to breathe in a mindful way
As we said mindfulness means ensuring that your consciousness is focused on the present moment at any given time, instead of looking to the future or dwelling on the past. But how can we achieve such a state? One way is through our breathing. When you find your mind distracted, just take a deep breath in and focus on the air as it enters your body. Become aware of the sensations in your body. Breath is like a bridge, connecting your consciousness to the present and uniting your scattered thoughts with your body again. Start by taking 10 to 20 deep conscious breaths at a time and you will build up your mindful breathing over time and feel more alive and present at the moment.
Key Lesson #3: Meditate on how everything is connected
We usually see the things in the world as separate from each other but a Buddhist monk sees everything connected. For example, to you a table might just be a table, having nothing to do with the world around that table. A monk, however, will see that table totally different. After all, this table came out of the world it’s surrounded by. Without the tree it’s made of, the sun and rain that nourished the tree, the carpenter who shaped it, and even the toolmaker who built the carpenter’s saw, this particular table wouldn’t exist. All of these tiny things worked together for that table to exist. This is true for everything in this world and this example shows how things are interdependent. But we tend to forget this fact and see ourselves as separate beings. This false view of the self is the source of anxiety and suffering. To overcome this narrow view, we should make it a habit to regularly meditate on the fact that things are connected. Remember this, There is nothing that doesn’t matter and everything affects everything else.
So in summary, when we are mindful, and deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace, and love. Each moment of our lives no matter how small like washing the dishes is an opportunity to work toward self-understanding and peacefulness.