I read this book when I was reading How to Fight. Both books were written by Thich Nhat Hanh. Reading the two books concurrently or immediately sequentially was impactful, many of the lessons reinforced, strengthened.
The reconcilliation of the book's title is about restoring good relationships with the small, often powerless person we were as a child, about accepting the past, and about recognizing the present for what it is and not what we imagine or want it to be.
There are aspects of Buddhism that I struggle with, mostly the ones around ignoring recurring thoughts and anxieties when meditating. This book has some of that, but also instructs us to work with the anxieties originating from childhood trauma (of whatever cause, of whatever intensity, of whatever reason, no matter how small).
This is where the healing can begin: accepting the lack of power we had as a child, reminding ourselves we are now adults, processing the past, and moving forward.
I believe this book is worth reading. Unfortunately, the book won't help if the reader isn't open to the ideas, isn't in a place to heal. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. This book was a teacher for me.
The Buddha said that all of us have the seed of fear, but most of us suppress it and keep it locked in the dark. TO help us identify, embrace, and look deeply at hte seeds of fear, he offered us a practice called the Five Remembrances. They are:
- I am of the nature to grow old. I cannot escape old age.
- I am of the nature to have ill-health. I cannot escaple ill-health.
- I am of the nature to die. I cannot escape dying.
- All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them. I cannot keep anything. I come here empty-handed, and I go empty-handed.
- My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the groun on which I stand.
We practice the Five Rembrances so that the seed of fear can circulate. We must invite it up to be recognized, to be embraced. And then when it goes back down again, it becomes smaller.
There's a small distinction between joy and happiness. Suppose we travel across the desert and run out of water and become very thirsty. Suddenly we see an oasis in front of us. We know that there will be trees and a lake from which we can drink. That awareness brings us joy. We know we will have the opportunity to rest and drink the water, that feeling is called joy. When we arrive at the oasis and we sit in the shade of the trees, kneel down, cup our hands, and drink the water, that is happiness. Joy has something of an element of excitement in it.
When we recognize that our suffering is based on images instead of current reality, then living happily in the present moment becomes possible right away.
Each of us needs a certain amount of suffering in order to grow up, to understand, and to cultivate our compassion, joy, and happiness. Our joy and happiness can only be recognized against the background of suffering.
If we have a tendency to go back to the past and live the painful memories of the past, we have to be aware that we and our inner child are going back to the past to live that experience again, that fear, and that desire. It has become a habit, and we don't want to do that. It doesn't help.
Instead, we talk to the inner child. We invite her to come up, to come out and to make acquaintance with life in the present moment. To stay in the present moment is a practice, it's a training. As long as we're established in the present moment, we don't suffer the trauma of the past. In the present moment we can realize that there are so many wonders, so many positive connections.
Only by living my life, by my actions, by my speech, can I prove to myself that I have a good cause, the cause of peace and reconciliation. When we can do this, then that kind of suffering will not bother us anymore.
Suffering is made of misunderstanding, anger, hatred, ignorance. If we count on others to dissipate these kinds of causes for us, we may have to wait for a long time. We have to go deeper and make use of our concentration and insight to see that people around us suffer because of their way of thinking, their way of acting, their way of speaking. And if we suffer like them, we won't be able to help them. So we have to work it out, to transform our suffering, to bring about our insight and compassion in order to help them later on. With that kind of attitude, that kind of understanding, we don't suffer anymore because we now have insight and compassion.
"The essential thing is that you have not done it, you have not done what people condemn you for doing. You know very well that you have kept your precepts
"So this is our practice. One day, by the way you live your life, by the way you practice, misunderstanding will vanish. Things like this do happen in the world. And if you have understanding and compassion you don't have to suffer. There are groups of people who are jealous, who try to create circumstances that will smear our prestige. Such people must suffer a lot from their jealousy in order to do such a thing. So we have to deal with them with compassion. With your practice, someday you may be able to help them wake up and see that what they've done is not worthy of people on a spiritual path."
Master Linji, the great ninth-century Chinese Zen master and founder of the lineage of Plum Village, was fond of saying "remove the object." The object is the person or situation we're thinking about, the story. So the practice is to remove the object and come back to the body and feelings. Stay with the energy, let go of the thinking. By following the energy back into our body and feelings, we can find the internal knots, embrace them tenderly, let the tension there unwind and release itself, and we can heal. It's a little like learning how to ride a bicycle. You can sit on it, someone can push you a bit, but at a certain point you know you can ride. "I got it, I got it!"