This glorious, down-to-earth, and practical book draws together all the practices the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh has developed over the past 60 years as a teacher and Zen master. Many of these are mentioned in our reviews and excerpts from his books. He is, of course, featured on our website as one of our Living Spiritual Teachers.
Thich Nhat Hanh defines mindfulness as "the energy of being aware and awake to the present." We can practice wherever we are or whatever we are doing walking, sitting, working, eating, talking, or thinking. The Buddha called mindfulness the source of happiness and joy. And so it can be for us as we pay attention to our breath, slow down, and are fully present, giving ourselves completely to whatever presents itself to us in the moment.
In a section titled "Daily Practices," Thich Nhat Hanh begins with "Conscious Breathing" and ends with "The Five Mindfulness Trainings." Here you will find this short mindfulness verse, called a gatha, to recite as you open your eyes in the morning:
"Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion."
The author also shares other gathas, such as this one to use brushing your teeth:
"Brushing my teeth and rinsing my mouth,
I vow to speak purely and lovingly.
When my mouth is fragrant with right speech,
a flower blooms in the garden of my heart."
In a section on "Eating Practices," Thich Nhat Hanh covers Mindful Eating, The Five Contemplations, The Kitchen, and Tea Meditation. Under the umbrella of "Physical Practices," he presents Resting and Stopping, Deep Relaxation, and Mindful Movements.
You will find practices on Beginning Anew, Peace, Hugging, and Writing a Love Letter in a section on "Relationships and Community." Thich Nhat Hanh comments: "The book Flowers in the Garden of Meditation contains histories of different Zen masters. One master says, if a monk gets angry, he should not keep his anger over more than one night. In Vietnam, children say, 'Be angry, sad, or annoyed for five minutes.' We have the right to be angry or sad, but five minutes is enough." He includes a wonderful practice that demonstrates how to be present with anger when it bubbles up.
Thich Nhat Hanh covers a variety of subjects under "Extended Practices" including pieces on Solitude, Silence, Lazy Day, Touching the Earth, and more. The final section contains material on "Practicing With Children." He wisely observes: "When we practice good communication, parents and children will share their lives as friends, and that is the only way to find true happiness." He then explains practices for loving speech and deep listening.
This prolific Zen Master tutors us in the art of everyday spirituality. He is the premier teacher of mindfulness practices which cover all dimensions of our ordinary lives. That is why we highly recommend this resource to you and put it among our selections of The Best Spiritual Books of 2009!