In the face of global warming, pollution, environmental degradation, and the decline of the species, we can heed the call of mindfulness which Buddhist monk, poet, scholar, and human rights activist Thich Nhat Hanh has been proclaiming for many years. It is time to wake up and "to start learning how to live in a way that a future will be possible for our children and grandchildren." We must heed the teachings of the Five Mindfulness Trainings, which the author outlines and interprets in this small book.
Thich Nhat Hanh makes it clear that interbeing links us with all our brothers and sisters on the planet since we all share the same earth, air, water, and sun. He points out how the choices we make when we sit down to eat have large consequences for the health and well-being of the world. But the way we are currently consuming, the way we are driving our cars, and the ongoing destruction of the earth's natural resources are leading us "to the end of our civilization."
This realization leads us into great fear. Buddhists emphasize that the way of achieving inner peace about the demise of our world is by coming to terms with impermanence. Thich Nhat Hanh presents "The Five Awarenesses Exercise":
Breathing in, I know that I am of the nature to grow old.
Breathing out, I know that I cannot escape old age.
Breathing in, I know that I am of the nature to get sick.
Breathing out, I know that I cannot escape sickness.
Breathing in, I know that I am of the nature to die.
Breathing out, I know that I cannot escape dying.
Breathing in, I know one day I will have to let go of everything and everyone I cherish.
Breathing out, there is no way to bring them along.
Breathing in, I know that I bring nothing with me except my actions, thoughts, and deeds.
Breathing out, only my actions come with me.
This practice enables us to accept the fragility of life on this planet and to start now to act to bring about real change in our global ecological situation. Thich Nhat Hanh makes a very good point of not reacting in anger to those we perceive as villains:
"The energy we need is not fear or anger, but the energy of understanding and compassion. There is no need to blame or condemn. Those who are destroying themselves, societies, and the planet aren't doing it intentionally. Their pain and loneliness are overwhelming, and they want to escape. They need to be helped, not punished. Only understanding and compassion on a collective level can liberate us."
Thich Nhat Hanh closes this paperback with "Practices for Mindful Living" which includes eight gathas, The Five Awarenesses Breathing Exercise, Deep Relaxation, The Five Earth-Touchings, and the Earth Peace Treaty Commitment Sheet.