Cooking Our Potatoes

Excerpt from “Peace is Every Step” by Thich Nhat Hanh

Anger is rooted in our lack of understanding of ourselves and of the causes, deep-seated as well as immediate, that brought about this unpleasant state of affairs.

Thanks to the illuminating light of awareness, after practicing mindful observation for a while, we begin to see the primary causes of our anger. Meditation helps us look deeply into things in order to see their nature.

If we look into our anger, we can see its roots, such as misunderstanding, clumsiness, injustice, resentment, or conditioning. These roots can be present in ourselves and in the person who played the principal role in precipitating our anger. We observe mindfully in order to be able to see and to understand. Seeing and understanding are the elements of liberation that bring about love and compassion.

The method of mindful observation in order to see and understand the roots of the anger is a method that has lasting effectiveness.

We cannot eat raw potatoes, but we don’t throw them away just because they are raw. We know we can cook them. So, we put them into a pot of water, put a lid on, and put the pot on the fire. The fire is mindfulness, the practice of breathing consciously and focusing on our anger. The lid symbolizes our concentration, because it prevents the heat from going out of the pot. When we are practicing breathing in and out, looking into our anger, we need some concentration in order for our practice to be strong. Therefore, we turn away from all distractions and focus on the problem. If we go out into nature, among the trees and flowers, the practice is easier.

As soon as we put the pot on the fire, a change occurs. The water begins to warm up. Ten minutes later, it boils, but we have to keep the fire going a while longer in order to cook our potatoes. As we practice being aware of our breathing and our anger, a transformation is already occurring. After half an hour, we lift the lid and smell something different. We know that we can eat our potatoes now. Anger has been transformed into another
kind of energy—understanding and compassion.

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Neither Same Nor Different

Excerpt from “Buddha Mind, Buddha Body” by Thich Nhat Hanh

sun and moon as oneBuddhist teaching guides us to look at things as neither the same nor different. This way of seeing things is something that can be experienced.

When our father was born he was very small. As he grew up, he became bigger and changed in many ways. He hasn’t been the same person throughout his life, but he’s not two persons either.

So looking into the reality; we see the truth of “neither the same nor different.”

You are his daughter and you ask the question “Am I one with my father, or am I a totally different person?” The teaching is clear, you are neither the same nor a different person from you father; you are a continuation.

So dualist thinking is misleading and can encourage a belief that good and evil are enemies and that good needs always to be fighting evil. This kind of theology causes a lot of suffering and destruction.

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Transforming Feelings

Excerpt from “How to Deal with Negative Emotions in 5 Mindful Steps” by Gavril Nikolaev

Step #1

Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us that the first step in dealing with negative emotions is to recognize them.

Anticipate the tide by observing the feeling arising in you and acknowledging that at this moment you’re angry, sad, resentful, anxious.

Seeing that you’re in the grip of a negative feeling is a powerful first step in the healing process.

The first step in dealing with feelings is to recognize each feeling as it arises. The agent that does this is mindfulness. In the case of fear, for example, you bring out your mindfulness, look at your fear, and recognize it as fear. You know that fear springs from yourself and that mindfulness also springs from yourself. They are both in you, not fighting, but one taking care of the other. — Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step

Step #2

Once you see the tide of negative emotions, the next step is not to turn away from it, but face it directly.

You might be frightened at first. The habitual response is either let the feeling control you or try to suppress it. Both are destructive and useless.

When you muster the courage to face the feeling directly, you’ll realize that it’s only the feeling.

It’s not you.

It is best not to say, “Go away, Fear. I don’t like you. You are not me.” It is much more effective to say, “Hello, Fear. How are you today?” Then you can invite the two aspects of yourself, mindfulness and fear, to shake hands as friends and become one. Doing this may seem frightening, but because you know that you are more than just your fear, you need not be afraid. As long as mindfulness is there, it can chaperone your fear. (…) Although your mindfulness may not be very powerful in the beginning, if you nourish it, it will become stronger. — Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step

Step #3

Once you’ve merged with the feeling, try to be comfortable with it. Don’t let resistance take over and break the healing chain.

This is a perfect opportunity to practice mindful breathing. As you breathe in and out, you calm your mind and body.

You may also notice feeling taking refuge in the body and manifesting as tension in your chest, pounding sensation in your head, clenching fists and so on.

As you notice this tension, gently calm it with the power of awareness and gentleness.

You calm your feeling just by being with it, like a mother tenderly holding her crying baby. Feeling his mother’s tenderness, the baby will calm down and stop crying. The mother is your mindfulness, born from the depth of your consciousness, and it will tend the feeling of pain. A mother holding her baby is one with her baby. — Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step

Step #4

Now that you’re concentrated, calm and see your negative feeling, it’s time to let it go.

But how exactly can you do that?

This step might be difficult if you don’t practice meditation or just started your journey. But here’s how it works.

When you let the feeling be, you let it go. There is no resistance in you, only clear seeing, understanding, and even compassion for yourself and your feeling.

…you feel at ease, even in the midst of fear, and you know that your fear will not grow into something that will overwhelm you. When you know that you are capable of taking care of your fear, it is already reduced to the minimum, becoming softer and not so unpleasant. — Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step

Step #5

By letting negative feeling be and releasing it, you gain the ability to look deeply into what caused it.

You will discover that the root of negative feelings and unhappiness lies in your perceptions and certain beliefs that are deeply rooted in your subconsciousness.

Ask yourself why are you holding on to those beliefs and perceptions. Do you really need to control everything?

The answer will reveal itself to you once you ready.

This is a process similar to psychotherapy. Together with the patient, a therapist looks at the nature of the pain. Often, the therapist can uncover causes of suffering that stem from the way the patient looks at things, the beliefs he holds about himself, his culture, and the world. (…) The same is true when we use mindfulness to transform our feelings. After recognizing the feeling, becoming one with it, calming it down, and releasing it, we can look deeply into its causes, which are often based on inaccurate perceptions. As soon as we understand the causes and nature of our feelings, they begin to transform themselves. — Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step

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Flower Insights

Excerpt from “Peace is Every Step” by Thich Nhat Hanh

One day the Buddha held up a flower in front of an audience of 1,250 monks and nuns.  He did not say anything for quite a long time.  The audience was perfectly silent.  Everyone seemed to be thinking hard, trying to see the meaning behind the Buddha’s gesture.

Then, suddenly, the Buddha smiled.  He smiled because someone in the audience smiled at him and at the flower.  The name of that monk was Mahakashyapa.  He was the only person who smiled, and the Buddha smiled back and said, “I have a treasure of insight, and I have transmitted it to Mahakashyapa.”

That story has been discussed by many generations of Zen students, and people continue to look for its meaning.  To me the meaning is quite simple.  When someone holds up a flower and shows it to you, he wants you to see it.  If you keep thinking, you miss the flower.  The person who was not thinking, who was just himself, was able to encounter the flower in depth, and he smiled.

That is the problem of life.  If we are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment, we miss everything.  When a child presents himself to you with his smile, if you are not really there—thinking about the future or the past, or preoccupied with other problems—then the child is not really there for you.  The technique of being alive is to go back to yourself in order for the child to appear like a marvelous reality.  Then you can see him smile and you can embrace him in your arms.

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Washing the Dishes

Excerpt from “At Home in the World: Stories and essential teachings from a monk’s life” by Thich Nhat Hanh

When I was still a novice at Tu Hieu Pagoda, washing the dishes was hardly a pleasant task. During the annual Rains retreat all the monks would come back to the monastery to practice together for three months, and sometimes we were only two novices who had to do all the cooking and wash all the dishes for well over one hundred monks.

There was no soap. We had only ashes, rice husks, and coconut husks, and that was all. Cleaning such a high stack of bowls was a difficult chore, especially during the winter when the water was freezing cold. Then we had to heat up a big pot of water before we could do any scrubbing. Nowadays with liquid soap, special scrub pads, and even hot running water it is much easier to enjoy washing the dishes.

To my mind, the idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you aren’t doing them. Once you are standing in front of the sink with your sleeves rolled up and your hands in the warm water, it is really quite pleasant.

I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands. I know that if I hurry in order to be able to finish so I can sit down sooner and eat dessert or enjoy a cup of tea, the time of washing dishes will be unpleasant and not worth living. That would be a pity, for each minute, each second of life is a miracle. The dishes themselves and the fact that I am here washing them are miracles!

If I am incapable of washing dishes joyfully, if I want to finish them quickly so I can go and have dessert or a cup of tea, I will be equally incapable of enjoying my dessert or my tea when I finally have them. With the fork in my hand, I will be thinking about what to do next, and the texture and the flavor of the dessert, together with the pleasure of eating it, will be lost. I will be constantly dragged into the future, miss out on life altogether, and never able to live in the present moment.

Each thought, each action in the sunlight of awareness becomes sacred. In this light, no boundary exists between the sacred and the profane.

I must confess it takes me a bit longer to do the dishes, but I live fully in every moment, and I am happy. Washing the dishes is at the same time a means and an end. We do the dishes not only in order to have clean dishes, we also do the dishes just to do the dishes, to live fully in each moment while washing them, and to be truly in touch with life.

Washing the dishes

Is like bathing a baby Buddha.

The profane is the sacred.

Everyday mind is Buddha mind.

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What is “Heart Mind”?

Excerpt from “Your Heart Mind: Your source for inspiration, super intelligence, and personal performance!” by Metaphysics For Life

For nearly five thousand years, attention has been focused on the brain as the seat of human intelligence and even consciousness.

illustration of heart chakraScientific research reveals that the human heart is thousands of times more powerful and influential than the brain in sending signals and information to the rest of the human body.  The human heart communicates with the brain and body using hormones, the nervous system, and an electromagnetic field generated by the heart. The brain also generates an electromagnetic field, but it is much smaller and much less powerful than the heart field.  The heart field envelopes the entire body and extends fifteen feet or more out into the surrounding environment.

It has been proven that our emotional state has a direct and powerful impact upon the heart, and this impact influences the quality of information sent by the heart to the brain.  When our emotional state is one of inner peace, gratitude, contentment, or other positive feelings, the brain receives signals that promote the ability to focus, solve problems, perform physical and mental feats, and that enhance creativity, intuition, and even spiritual awareness.

It turns out that the Heart pumps much more than just blood.  It also pumps hormones throughout the body that regulate many functions, including thought and perception in the brain.  The electromagnetic field that envelopes the body creates a kind of localized environment that has been proven to influence the behavior of DNA in our cells.

Most unusual of all, however, is the ability of the Heart Mind to convey actual ideas, information, and images to the brain, where these signals are converted into words, pictures, sounds and other forms that we can use to communicate, create, and relate to each other and our world.

Each of us, as we access the Heart Mind and receive this mysterious inner guidance, can experience the true nature of this very real and tangible connection.  What is it that we are connected to?  We all “know” what it is by direct experience.  It is an infinite intelligence, a source of unlimited energy and abundance, a reservoir of so-called “past” experience and knowledge – all waiting for us when we take the time to focus on our Heart and open the gateway to Infinite Awareness.

Theoretical Physics – especially Quantum Physics – is beginning to help us understand on a mental level that this infinite field of energy and information really does exist.  It is not just an idea, fantasy, or fairy tale made up to explain some personal mental and emotional experience.  Using math and technology, scientists are beginning to form measurable hypotheses that can be tested, confirmed, and shared amongst colleagues and the greater population. Much of this research is being conducted at the Institute of Heartmath, but it also taking place at the Resonance Project in Hawaii,  The Monroe Institute, and elsewhere.

If we can prove that the Heart is connected to a field of infinite energy and information, inner guidance, wisdom, and even inner peace, then just as most human technology has been inspired and shaped by examples in the natural world, the technology of the Human Heart could lead to a new level, a quantum leap, in our technology, our society, and how we live with each other and in our world.

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Meeting Thầy’s Life Force

Excerpt from Deer Park Monastery post on May 06, 2019 titled “Meeting Thay’s Life Force” by Sister Dang Nghiem

Thay at Root TempleI had the opportunity to see Thầy at the root temple, Từ Hiếu, on March 16, 2019. Thầy was eating breakfast when I walked in. He looked at me intently as I knelt with joined palms. “Dear Thầy, I am Dang Nghiem, your child and disciple,” I said. Thầy nodded several times. I settled on the floor by his feet as Thầy returned to his breakfast. Occasionally, Thầy looked into my eyes with his Zen Master’s penetrating gaze, and I smiled brightly in return. It seemed Thầy was checking, “Are you here?” and my smile confirmed, “Yes, I am absolutely here!” At one point, Thầy held out his left hand to me. I held Thầy’s hand with both of mine. I closed my eyes and breathed mindfully as I felt the softness and warmth emanating from Thầy’s hand. The stillness in our connection was profound.

Thầy eats each morsel of food slowly and mindfully. He closes his eyes while chewing, alternating from his left jaw to his right jaw consistently. Although his food is puréed, Thầy takes around 45 minutes to finish each meal. There is much wisdom in Thầy’s mindful eating. Because he chews on both sides, muscles on both sides of his face are exercised, and thus his face remains proportional, relaxed, and serene. Moreover, chewing the food carefully allows Thầy to swallow small quantities, preventing him from choking and getting pneumonia. Thầy has a good appetite and appreciates his food thoroughly. While Thầy eats, one Brother sits on his right to assist. At least two or three Sisters also eat with Thầy. The two Sisters who cooked that day join in to see how Thầy likes the food and decide what to cook for his next meal. Twenty-four monastic Brothers and Sisters take turns caring for Thầy. Sisters cook, and Brothers attend to Thầy’s needs. These Brothers and Sisters care for Thầy with so much joy, attentiveness, and tenderness that I cried out of gratitude, happiness, and reassurance. Day or night, every gesture Thầy makes is acknowledged and responded to. Deep love and affection flow between teacher and disciples. The transmission continues uninterrupted.

“Right away, I realized Thầy is not simply trying to hold on to life for our sake. Thầy’s vitality is potent, and he continues to experience life in the deepest way.”

One morning some of us Sisters wanted to make lotus tea for Thầy to see. To start, we each placed a gigantic lotus leaf on our head, held a lotus blossom by the stem, and walked slowly one by one in front of Thầy’s window. Thầy watched us pass, with interest and amusement. Then, settling outside his room, we filled each lotus bud with black tea, wrapped it in a lotus leaf, placed the stem in a bucket with water to pull water into the tea, and finally, froze them all so the tea could absorb the lotus fragrance. At one point the attendant brought Thầy to the door in his wheelchair to watch. I was afraid Thầy could not see well through the glass door, so I gently opened it and spoke through the slit door: “Would a Sister bring it closer for Thầy to see?” Immediately, I felt Thầy’s hand on my right elbow. His clutch was sudden, firm, and powerful, like thunder! It was a moment of profound stopping for me. When I turned around, Thầy was already wheeled away. I was stunned because I did not expect that Thầy could reach out that quickly. Moreover, I was in touch directly with Thầy’s steady, powerful life force. Right away, I realized Thầy is not simply trying to hold on to life for our sake. Thầy’s vitality is potent, and he continues to experience life in the deepest way.

 

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