It took about twenty minutes of scrolling, but I found the post 🤸‍♀️🤸‍♀️🤸‍♀️

My friend text’d me last Friday night to tell me that Thich Nhat Hanh had died. I thought he died a year ago. I saw later that he was 95. I am certain he is very much ‘alive’.

The retreat I mention in this post was a silent, vegan Buddhist retreat that I thought was a five day workshop for educators on Mindfulness.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mindful Consumption…Thich Nhat Hanh

My favorite book is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  When I read it for the first time it was as if she had been the editor of my inner life – a life that hadn’t been articulated that well.  In the first part of the book she wrote something so simple…it went something like this: ‘If the world religions would all come together and combine (she might have used a different word) their beliefs, wouldn’t that bring us closer to what we’re all looking for?’  That’s grossly summarized…but it really made sense to me.  If we had an inclusive approach to our collective ideas about ‘wondering’ (as opposed to absolute knowing) perhaps things might be a bit more peaceful.

This summer I attended a retreat called ‘Mindfulness in Education.’  After I signed up for the retreat I found out that Thich Nhat Hanh was going to be the person leading the retreat.  If you begin practicing mindfulness it doesn’t take long before a google search leads you to a book by Thich Nhat Hanh or Jon Kabat Zinn.  What I didn’t know was that Thich Nhat Hanh was a Zen master and that Zen Buddhism was a lifestyle encapsulated at these retreats.  I’m certain that is somewhat misstated, but it was a cultural immersion for certain.

Anyhow, I am going to attempt to summarize a lesson I was taught at the retreat.  I am going to do this ‘free-style’ from my own assumed interpretation of what I learned. I do not practice any form of Buddhism (in fairness, ‘mindfulness’ comes from a principle within the Buddhist philosophy) and my first true experience with the philosophy/religion was this past August at the retreat.  I have no intentions of claiming the religion.  I have no desire to claim any religion at this time in my life.  I claim peace within my being…compassion in my heart.  TNH is really just a global peace activist cleverly disguised as a buddhist monk (wink).

TNH taught about ill being (suffering) and well being, and a path that leads either way.  He talked about the power of meditation, or ‘looking deeper.’  He said that when you look deep into your suffering or ill being you will find well being…one cannot be without the other.  When the source of nutriment is cut off from ill being, well being will present itself. He said ‘nothing can survive without food.’ He shared four different ways we feed our ‘being’:

1. Edible food.  He mentioned the amount of grain used to feed animals and to make alcohol that could feed our entire nation.  I eat meat and drink alc…well, wait…he didn’t say anything about grapes.  Anyway, it makes you think.  Are our food choices feeding the path toward well being or ill being? ‘Eat in such a way that grows compassion in our hearts not pain.’

2.  Sensory Impressions.  This is everything we take in through our senses.  All forms of media and technology would obviously be included.  Are we intoxicating ourselves by our consumption…by what we choose to ingest through our eyes and ears?  He tells a story of a cow with skin disease that has lost its defense against harmful toxins from the outside.  He says that when we practice mindfulness and look deeper it acts as our skin and protects us from things that cause harm.

3.  Volition.  He defined volition as our deepest desire.  What do you want to do with your life? He drew a continuum with one side being violence, anger, and despair (money, sex, power) and the other side compassion and understanding (protecting children and nurturing the earth).  What are we feeding when we dig into the deeper parts of our hidden desires?  Or are we neutral?  What part do we play in contributing to the collective energy on our planet?  ‘The mind of enlightenment is to protect and help humanity and other living beings.’

4.  Consciousness.  I interpreted this as self awareness…’living deeply in the present moment.’  He talked about individual, mental, and stored consciousness.  Stored consciousness being in the past…that we have a habit of going into the past and suffering all over again and again: ‘the past becomes a prison…films of past suffering being shown over and over in the dark corner of consciousness.’ He speaks of the danger of a society that inhabits the collective energy of fear, anger, and despair.  Practice breathing and calming to find nourishment in the present moment.  (It’s a great idea to seek mental health support as you explore the ‘dark corner’ and allow yourself some time to work through what the body may have internalized as ‘trauma’).

TNH says that mindful consumption through ‘right view’ is the way out.  He speaks of an eight fold path that begins with mindfulness that nourishes concentration and insight to lead to a right view.  Right view then allows for right action, right thought, and right speech which all contribute to our livelihood and what we choose to do with our life and ‘selective watering’ – the seeds we choose to water (feed).

Understanding and compassion can heal the world.
Look deep within.
Nourish the self.