I was first introduced to a recorded meditation by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, or “Thay” as he is lovingly referred to by his students, in 2007. A friend gave me his CD with a meditation on family and within a couple minutes of listening to it I started crying.
Thay’s words came right into my heart. It was as if he was a sweet long lost grandparent I had been searching for my entire life. I listened to that meditation for two years before finally making it to one of his retreats.
In 2009, I drove down to Thay’s monastery in Escondido, California from my then home of Portland. I had been on a number of small meditation retreats, but never something with a teacher this well known and never in a community of monastics. Driving down the narrow dirt road to the center, I experienced one of the most peaceful drives of my life. In a very real sense, I felt like I had finally come home.
What I love most about Thay’s teachings is that they are accessible and practical. He gets right to the heart of the issue. He brings the issue to light with loads of love and the type of kindness one might expect from a man who has been a monk for over 72 years. Just being in his presence is life changing.
Since practicing Thay’s teachings for the last seven years, I have come to understand myself in profound ways, have learned the subtleties of my mind, and have become a better healer and teacher.
While I could probably write a book on everything I have learned from Thay and his community, in keeping with his gift for making ancient Buddhist dharma applicable to modern life, I have condensed seven years of practice into four teachings that you can incorporate into your life today.
No.01 // Practice the Art of Listening
One of my favorite quotes from Thay is that “the greatest gift you can give someone is your true presence.” The first time I heard that it cracked my heart open. I realized at my core all I ever wanted in life was to be seen and heard. In our crazy day-to-day lives, actually listening to the people around you is a tremendous gift.
How many times have you checked your smartphone in mid-conversation, drifted off in your mind someplace else while someone was talking to you, or tried to multi-task during one on one time with family or friends?
Learn to become a better listener. It will serve you well in all aspects of your life. It’s also a powerful reminder that we are valuable and that our full, undivided attention can help change the world. Imagine what life could look like if more people were truly seen and heard on a daily basis?
No.02 // Practice the Art of Mindful Eating
The first time I ate mindfully was on a meditation retreat and it shook me to my core. Up until that moment I was living in pure emotional eating bliss, or so I thought. Learning how to slow down, paying attention to my food, and eating without distractions (phones, computer, driving, in a heated conversation) has helped me take care of myself in ways I didn’t even know that I needed to. Eat one meal a day in silence for a week and see what comes up for you. It’s a total game changer!
No.03 // Practice the Art of Speaking
As the saying goes, if you don’t have anything nice to say keep your mouth shut. Seems simple enough but how are you honestly practicing this in your life? It’s not just about keeping quiet when you might feel like telling someone off, for cutting you off in traffic. The art of speaking has to do with an energy exchange. For thirty days practice only saying things out loud that lift you up and raise the vibration of the people around you. This practice is pure gold.
No.04 // Practice the Art of Mindful Living
Thay always says that we can bring mindfulness into every aspect of our lives. For years, I thought mindfulness was a practice that was just for when I sat on my meditation cushion or got on my yoga mat. Going on retreats with Thay and his community, I learned that it was possible to be mindful of anything and that there is joy to be found in the art of mindful living.
“Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing. We bring our body and mind into harmony while we wash the dishes, drive the car or take our morning shower.”
Practice being mindful in all areas of your life. Notice what changes when you bring your full attention and being into each moment. Over the years, a consistent mindfulness practice has helped me become a much happier person and has given me a true feeling of freedom that I never imagined possible.
Which one these practices are speaking to you right now? Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone and apply some of these teachings to your life today? Please check in and let us know how it goes!
Photo by: Wonderlane