Thich Nhat Hânh was one the most important spiritual leaders of all time. His efforts in promoting peace and mindfulness were highly praised. Even Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. called him “an apostle of peace and nonviolence”.
It’s no wonder then that there are mourners the world over after the recent passing of Thich Nhat Hanh.
The powerful lessons that he has left behind can bring solace.
Be present in this moment
In recent years, living in the moment has been a popular mantra. While we all agree that it is important to live this way, few people actually understand how to do so.
Hanh’s gentle approach to mindfulness reminds us that peace is always available.
As he said, “feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
Thinking of emotions as clouds and thoughts as passing clouds allows us to see things differently. It is no longer necessary to believe all thoughts or allow yourself to be entangled in obsessive thought. Instead we can gain control and perspective by separating ourselves from our feelings, and allowing them to come and go.
Stop suffering and start living
Thich Nhat Hanh stated that to truly live mindfully we need to let go of all our pain. Unfortunately many people would rather suffer and continue to live in pain than go into the unknown.
Hanh understood a lot about suffering. Hanh spent 39 years in exile from Vietnam after he travelled from Vietnam to Europe and the U.S. to protest war. He didn’t become bitter and carried on his peaceful work all around the world.
“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering,” said Hanh, “Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”
Our worries, anxieties, fears and regrets might feel familiar – and therefore safe – but to free ourselves and live in the present moment, we must let them go.
This means that we must be strong with ourselves. Negative thoughts can be allowed to pass. Then, gently return to the moment.
Every day is a good day
Naturally, there are fears and worries in today’s world. Enjoying every day might seem hard in time’s like these. Hanh insists that every moment should be enjoyed.
“I promise myself that I will enjoy every minute of the day that is given me to live,” he said.
It’s worth remembering, our days are not guaranteed. Happiness is a decision we each make every day. Knowing this is an incredible insight. As we are able to let our thoughts go, so can we choose to be happy every day no matter what.
Silence can be powerful
It’s noisy in our world. If we aren’t obsessively scrolling on our phones, we’re replying to emails, taking calls or streaming drama shows. Each hour of the day, we receive notifications from multiple sources. It is becoming increasingly hard to switch off. Silence may be our key to bettering our lives.
Hanh believed so strongly in the power of silence he authored a book on it – one that had a lasting impact on my life.
“Silence is essential,” he said. “We need silence just as much as we need air, just as much as plants need light. If our minds are crowded with words and thoughts, there is no space for us.”
It is possible to be silent and hear the inner voice of our souls by practicing silence. Silence can help us find inner peace and knowledge.
It has the potential to improve our concentration, decision-making, focus and even our mental well-being. Hanh says that silence can be created even in chaotic situations, as silence is a result of our inner silence.
Bring your breath back
If you know anything about mindfulness, you’ll have undoubtedly heard about coming back to your breath. Hanh understood that it went beyond a meditation practice. It is an anchor that allows us to live fully in the moment by connecting with our breath.
“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again,” he said.
It’s uncommon for most of us to even consider our breath on a daily basis, let alone use it as a way to calm our minds. Even if you only focus on your breathing for a few moments, it can make a big difference in relaxation and mental clarity.
Passing is a comfort.
Having now passed, Thich Nhat Hanh’s view of death feels more relevant than ever. He wrote one of his books. No Fear. No Death. He relates that he was afflicted for one year after his mother’s death. After having a vivid dream about his mother that night, he went outside to walk under the moonlight. As he walked he realised she had never truly left him – that was a concept his mind had created.
“From that moment on, the idea that I had lost my mother no longer existed. All I had to do was… feel the breeze on my face or the earth under my feet to remember that my mother is always with me, available at any time.”
In a world that fears death, Hanh’s thoughts are comforting. Perhaps one of the greatest teachers of mindfulness and peace hasn’t left us at all.
The first appearance of The Most Powerful Lessons Thich Nhat Hanh Teach Us appeared on Addicted 2 Success.