I continue to resonate with the passing of Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh and the powerful teachings he brought to the world via his practices of mindfulness, of constantly returning to the present moment, and of his acknowledgment and acceptance of the complexities of our inherent and inescapable wholeness as human beings.
For quite a while now, I’ve focused on wholeness and self-acceptance as being central to a sense of well-being, supporting clients (and myself!) to acknowledge and accept aspects of themselves that aren’t what Buddhists would call “skillful”. I encourage clients (and myself here, as well) to also acknowledge and accept the aspects of themselves that are gifts to their well-being and quality of life. This acknowledgement can sometimes be even more difficult than looking at what we experience as negative in ourselves.
From Thich Nhat Hanh: Your mind is like a piece of land planted with many different kinds of seeds: seeds of joy, peace, mindfulness, understanding, love, and more; seeds of craving, anger, fear, hate, forgetfulness, and more. These wholesome and unwholesome seeds are always there, sleeping in the soil of your mind. The quality of your life depends on the seeds you water. If you plant tomato seeds in your gardens, tomatoes will grow. Just so, if you water a seed of peace in your mind, peace will grow. When the seeds of happiness in you are watered, you will become happy. When the seed of anger in you is watered, you will become angry. The seeds that are watered frequently are those that will grow strong.
For this week’s practice, I invite you to notice what seeds of your wholeness you regularly water. Notice which seeds/aspects of your wholeness you feed. Where do you place your attention? What’s your style of expressing yourself with your self-talk and in your relationship to the world around you? Bringing awareness to this kind of practice offers the possibility of choice. If you discover that you water seeds that bring distress, disappointment, or other forms of painful suffering, notice what it’s like to shift your attention to something that is soothing, comforting, beautiful, or in some other way nourishing to you. This doesn’t mean to ignore feelings that need attention and validation. Instead, it’s more about how many of us have developed automatic ways of focusing our attention on watering “seeds” that lead to unhappiness or suffering.
As with all these practices, please remember to bring curiosity as your constant companion and to be mindful of mixed feelings that may arise. An important aspect of this practice is to notice and not indulge in self-criticism or negative self-judgment. Watering these seeds in our garden is a common habit and leads to so much suffering for so many people. So, when judgments arise, please practice patting them gently on the head, allowing them to move on through without your having to do anything with or about them. Remember that the stream of consciousness never stops, so judgments will arise and move on naturally, if allowed to do so. If you find it’s a challenge to let them move through, notice what it’s like to make a conscious choice to shift your attention to something else, something more helpful, and that will then allow the negative judgments to move on through.
And, most of all, please allow yourself to accept and embrace your wholeness, with all its aspects. We can’t take anything out of our wholeness. The key is to learn to orient ourselves to those aspects that offer us, among many other things, a sense of well-being and greater ease.