It was 1994 and I was in the midst of a health crisis when I discovered the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. Or should I say, his teachings found me. To this day I believe that his book, Peace Is Every Step, saved my life. Since then, Thay has been the wisest of teachers for me and I always keep one of his books close at hand.
"In the rush of modern life, we tend to lose touch with the peace that is available in each moment."
All those years ago, I had lost my peace. In fact, I didn't know how, in the midst of a crazy busy life, peace was even possible. Chronic illness and anxiety had taken over. My life felt completely unmanageable. Yet reading Thay's words again and again created an opening and somehow, miraculously, the light broke through and healing began.
Relief poured in from the simplest of teachings:
You only have to do one thing at a time.
This teaching sounded incredulous to me. The relief it brought was remarkable and many tears flowed. This concept--doing just one thing with full and present attention—marked the beginning of my (now) nearly 30-year-journey with mindfulness.
Lately, I've been returning to one of his most well-known Gathas. It holds a potent invitation for me, for living in these times when presence for one's deep self may be difficult to access. There is so much that can pull us away from our innate peace.
Breathing in, I calm my body
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.
I understand during times that feel chaotic and uncertain, breathing out with a smile might be difficult. Even more challenging might be embracing this moment--just as it is—as a wonderful moment. But I do it anyway. You can too.
Why is this moment wonderful? Because we are awake, we are here, we are alive. What a gift it is to be alive! Thay writes:
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
This morning I engaged in a lovely practice: honoring Thay's invitation to be fully present on the earth with peace in my heart, no matter what is happening in the world. I sit with a photo of one of his works of calligraphy. I randomly open the book I've chosen to any page and allow its ambient message to flow through me. Today, it was this:
I've adopted "meditation calligraphy practice" for many reasons but key among them is to stay close to Thay's wisdom even though he has made his transition from this earth. Since his passing I feel his presence and the impact of his teachings more than ever. It is as if, in his death, his essence exploded into a trillion rose petals floating through the atmosphere, showering us with loving presence and compassion. Indeed, it is a miracle to be alive, to be the recipient of this. And, hopefully, to pay the transmission forward.
May it be so for you. May Love hold us all ...
a calm, open-hearted space of welcome & service.
I'm glad you're here. Welcome to this space of exploration, deepening understanding & the practice of presence across traditions.
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Dr. Janice Lynne Lundy (PsyD, DMin, MPC)
is The Gerald May Professor of Spiritual Direction & Counseling at the Graduate Theological Foundation. She is an interspiritual director/mentor, educator and counselor who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for nearly thirty years.