I've been reading Thich Nhat Hanh's works a lot recently. When everything seems to be this raging maelstrom of pain, anger, frustration, and loss, his words seem to be a rock that, while I may not be able to cling to, I can see and head towards.
And that counts for a lot.
Mom gave me this book to read. I read it along with Reconciliation, also by Thich Nhat Hanh. The second is about looking inward, the first also about looking inward, but also about looking outward to another, a person, or a group. It's about being gentle with ourselves, understanding that suffering is all around us, and that anger is manifestation of that suffering. We suffer, but so do our opponents.
I don't know, the book might not arrive in the right place at the right time for the next person who reads it. It arrived when I needed it. It is a calming book, I've already read twice. I'll be turning to this copy again, I'm sure.
I strongly recommend this book. If you need a copy, let me buy you one.
Usually when we are angry with someone we are more interested in fighting with them than in taking care of our own feelings.
We “kill” our anger by smiling to it, holding it gently, looking deeply to understand its roots and transforming it with understanding and compassion.
Sometimes when we attempt to listen to another person, we can’t hear them because we haven’t listened to ourselves first. Our own strong emotions and thoughts are so loud in our heart and in our head, crying out for our attention, that we can’t hear the other person. Before we listen to another, we need to spend time listening to ourselves.
When you practice compassionate listening, it’s important to remember that you listen with only one aim, and that is to help the other person to suffer less.
The ability to apologize sincerely and express regret for the unskillful things we say or do is an art.
When you express regret, do so unconditionally. Don’t make excuses for having committed the mistake.
When someone else offers us an apology, accept it and offer understanding and forgiveness in return.
When you feel upset or angry, it’s important not to do or say anything.
The Buddha said, “Nothing can survive without food” — not even love. Without nourishment, your love will die.
If you continue to suffer, it’s because you feed your suffering every day.
Sometimes, the person we want to reconcile with is far away and we feel we have lost the chance to mend our relationship.
One of the deepest teachings given by the Buddha is that we should not be too sure of our own ideas. Don’t be fooled by your perceptions. Even if you are sure you are seeing clearly, check again. Keep an open mind. Be ready to let go of your views.
Sometimes we have the impression that someone intentionally wants to make us suffer. Believing this, we get very angry, even despairing, and we want to hurt that person in return, firmly convinced they are a threat to us. War is a product of this kind of misunderstanding and of fear on a large scale.
When we’re angry with someone, and we’ve tried many ways but have still not been able to resolve the difficulty, we can try offering the other person a gift. We prepare the gift in advance, when we’re happy, calm, and solid, and we hide it, ready for the time when we may need it. We don’t wait until we’re already angry because then we won’t feel like doing it. Then, when we’re angry, we can get it out of hiding and give it to the other person.
Part of acknowledging suffering is acknowledging we need help. It is much easier to practice compassion if you have the energy and support of a community. A community helps us not lose hope.
Creating happiness is an art. Living together is an art. Even with a lot of goodwill, you can still make the other person very unhappy. Goodwill is not enough. We need to know the art of making the other person happy.
Of course we have made mistakes. Of course we have not been very skillful. Of course we have made ourselves and the people around us suffer. But that does not prevent us from improving, from transforming, from beginning anew.
The Buddha said that if you have not suffered, there is no way you can learn. We learn by making mistakes.
Usually, when we lose something or someone, we begin to suffer. But while that something or someone is still there, we don’t appreciate them. Everything is of the nature to change. When we understand this, we appreciate the other person more deeply and we can do something today to make them happy, because we know tomorrow may be too late.
War is the fruit of our collective consciousness. If we wait until another war is imminent to begin to practice peace, it will be too late. Peace begins here, now.
Sometimes we’re eating a meal and we don’t even know who’s there eating with us. Our loved one is there physically but it’s as if she’s not truly there. To love someone, you need to be there one hundred percent. The mantra “I am here for you” says that I care about you, I enjoy being in your presence. It helps the other person to feel supported and happy.
Sometimes we forget about impermanence. We think that our loved one will be with us forever and we forget how precious her presence is in this moment.
Sometimes we are criticized. We do need a certain amount of feedback in order to help us progress, but it’s important not to be caught in the criticism and become paralyzed by it. You can say the mantra to yourself or out loud, “You are partly right.” It means: “Yes, I do manifest that unfortunate characteristic sometimes, but I am much more than that.
Beginning Anew is a practice to help resolve conflict or a difficulty when it arises. To begin anew is to look honestly at ourselves, at what we have thought, said, or done that has contributed to the conflict.
1. FLOWER WATERING We look deeply to see the positive qualities in the other person and express our appreciation for them. Share at least three positive qualities that you have observed in them and things for which you feel grateful. Be as concrete as possible. Sometimes we may need to water someone’s flowers for a long time to heal the relationship and build trust
2. SHARING REGRETS We may mention any unskillfulness in our actions, speech, or thoughts that we have not yet had an opportunity to apologize for.
3. EXPRESSING HURT We may share how we felt hurt by another, due to their actions, speech, or thoughts. Before expressing a hurt, be aware that most of our perceptions are wrong. Often our difficulties and pain originate in the past, in early childhood.
4. ASKING FOR SUPPORT When we share our difficulties with the other person, we help them understand us better.