"It isn’t necessary to throw away your tradition, faith or family. Keep everything and introduce mindfulness, peace and joy into it. Your friends will see the value of mindfulness through you–not through what you say, but through your being."
Thich Nhat Hanh
These five books if read and studied can provide a basic understanding of the meditative practice; however, it is always important to find a sangha near that practices in the Plum Village Thich Nhat Hanh tradition and to find a teacher within that sangha who can guide you in your meditation practice.
All these Essential Mindfulness Practices have the same basic purpose: to bring our minds back to our bodies, to produce our true presence, and to become fully alive so that everything happens in the light of mindfulness. Each practice in itself is very simple. We breathe in and we breathe out; we make a step in mindfulness; we listen deeply to the ones we love and look closely at the beauty around us. But these simple practices can help us touch our true nature of no birth and no death and no separation.
If we want peace in ourselves and in our world, we have to practice. If we don’t practice, we don’t have enough of the energy of mindfulness to take care of our fear and anger and the fear and anger of our loved ones. Mindfulness practice is essential for our survival, our peace, and our protection. I hope that at least some of the practices in this book resonate with you. All of us, as well as our families, our society, and our world, need the wisdom and insight that comes from practicing mindfulness and looking deeply.
Start A Sangha
Building a Sangha is like planting a sunflower. We need to be aware of which conditions will support the flower’s growth and which conditions will obstruct its growth. We need healthy seeds, skilled gardeners, and plenty of sunshine and room to grow. When we engage in Sangha building, the most important thing to remember is that we are doing it together. The more we embrace the Sangha, the more we can let go of the feeling of a separate self. We can relax into the collective wisdom and insights of the Sangha. We can see clearly that the Sangha eyes and hands and heart are greater than that of any individual member of the Sangha.
We have the opportunity to help build our Sangha in every moment, by participating in activities of the Sangha and contributing our energy and insights. To sustain our own practice when we leave the practice center, we need to know how to build a Sangha. Let us be active in establishing connections with those around us. When we realize our true nature of interbeing, we naturally seek to connect with others by sharing our practice and seeking the support and guidance of our fellow practitioners.
Thay instructs us to be energetic in the practice of mindfulness. The past is finished and the future is uncertain, only in the present can we discover the miracle of life. Living in this spirit, we are already valuable members of our Sangha. We will know how to engage in the continuous process of building a refuge for many beings.
Thay encourages us all to be Sangha builders, following the footsteps of the Awakened One, who was a great Sangha builder. When we are able to live and practice in harmony in a small community, we can then share this harmony with the larger Sangha, our family and friends, our co-workers, and our co-practitioners. When there is joy in the practice of Sangha building, then we know that we doing it correctly.
Please use The Sangha Handbook to learn more about Facilitating a Sangha Gathering, Guidance for Sangha Activities, Recitation Texts, and Practices. You may also wish to contact the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation about receiving the Sangha in a Box startup kit for sangha building.
Each moment of daily life is an opportunity to arrive in the present moment. Gathas are short verses that we can recite during daily activities to help us return to the present moment and dwell in mindfulness. As exercises in both meditation and poetry, gathas are an essential part of Zen Buddhist tradition. Using a gatha doesn’t require any special knowledge or religious practice. Some people like to memorize a favorite verse that they enjoy coming back to again and again. Others like to write the verse down in a place they are likely to see it often. Further, those who are inspired to do so are invited to create their own gathas to support their practice in specific situations.
Here is a selection of gathas that you can use right now in different contexts of your daily life:
Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
and to look at all beings with the eyes of compassion.
Brushing Your Teeth
Brushing my teeth and rinsing my mouth,
I vow to speak purely and lovingly.
When my mouth is fragrant with right speech,
a flower blooms in the garden of my heart.
The mind can go in a thousand directions.
But on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.
With each step, a gentle wind blows.
With each step, a flower blooms.
Laying in Bed
Resting in the ultimate dimension,
using snowy mountains as a pillow
and beautiful pink clouds as blankets.
Nothing is lacking.
In gratitude, we offer this incense
To all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
Throughout space and time.
May it be fragrant as earth herself,
Reflecting our careful efforts,
Our wholehearted awareness,
And the fruit of understanding slowly ripening.
May we and all beings be companions
Of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
May we awaken from forgetfulness
And realize our true home.
Talking on the Telephone
Words can travel thousands of miles.
May my words create mutual understanding and love.
May they be as beautiful as gems,
as lovely as flowers.
Driving a Car
Before starting the car
I know where I am going.
The car and I are one.
If the car goes fast, I go fast.
This cup of tea in my two hands,
mindfulness held perfectly.
My mind and body dwell
in the very here and now.
Washing the Dishes
Washing the dishes
is like bathing a baby Buddha.
The profane is the sacred.
Everyday mind is Buddha’s mind.
Sitting or Walking Meditation
I have arrived,
I am home
In the here,
In the now.
I am solid,
I am free.
In the ultimate