861st Week: Honoring Thich Nhat Hanh and the Practices He Taught

As I begin this week’s practice, I’m watching a video of yesterday’s memorial celebration for the beloved Vietnamese teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, in Plum Village, France. For those of you who may not have encountered Thay or his teachings, he was a Buddhist monk who brought important and accessible mindfulness teachings to the West, was also advocate for peace and a supporter of Martin Luther King, Jr., who nominated Thay for a Nobel Peace Prize.

As I listen to the chanting of the people of Plum Village, I am reminded of the importance of accessing practices that allow us to access states of being that touch not only into the presence of the Sacred all around us, but also into those internal states that bring us into a deep inner quiet and settled ease. What I’d like to offer for this week’s practice is an adapted version of a very simple and direct meditation that Thay offered to us early in his teachings. It has stayed with me over the years as one of the most direct and effective ways to settle and find a sense of inner presence. As I weave his teaching into the following practice, I apologize for whatever changes I’ve made in this practice that may inadvertently not accurately reflect Thay’s intention, words or teaching.

  • To begin, find a place where you can sit comfortably, with your spine erect, if possible, and adequate support under you. If you aren’t able to sit, find whatever position works best for you that allows you to be both alert and comfortably settled.
  • Follow the next out-breath down into your natural internal landing place, your deep home base. Rest there for a few moments.
  • Next, notice how your body receives the support offered by the surface under you, perhaps settling even a bit more now.
  • Drawing on the teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh, now offer yourself the following way to breathe with deepened awareness:

    As you breathe in, say to yourself, “Breathing in, I arrive.”

    As you breathe out, say to yourself, “Breathing out, I am home.”
  • Give yourself the gift of several breaths in this way and notice the quality of your experience. 
  • When you have finished with these breaths, take some time to be present with the resonating tone of your experience. Take as long as feels right for you in this moment.
  • Then, bring your awareness back to the presence of the surface supporting you and begin to gently orient yourself to the environment around you, listening to whatever sounds may be present, whatever fragrances might come into your awareness, and open your eyes if you haven’t already taking in the textures, shapes, and colors around you.

To complete this practice in the coming week, notice what happens if you offer yourself Thay’s in-breath and out-breath practice at least once a day. I find that I call on it whenever I want to settle and need a bit of extra support in doing that. I also find that I find refuge in this practice when I need to rest.

As with all these practices, be sure to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through without your having to do anything about them. And, as always, please allow whatever mixed feelings may accompany your experience, as they are a natural aspect of your underlying wholeness.

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