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Peace Is Every Breath

Peace Is Every Breath  by Thich Nhat Hanh

We need spiritual practice. If that practice is regular and solid, we will be able to transform the fear, anger, and despair in us and overcome the difficulties we all encounter in daily life.

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The really good news is that spiritual practice can be done at any time of the day; it isn’t necessary to set aside a certain period exclusively for “Spiritual Practice” with a capital S and capital P. Our spiritual practice can be there at any moment, as we cultivate the energy of mindfulness and concentration. No matter what you’re doing, you can choose to do it with your full presence, with mindfulness and concentration; and your action becomes a spiritual practice.

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Waking up this morning, I smile: Twenty-four brand-new hours are before me. I vow to live each moment fully and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion. You may like to say the verse as you lie there in your bed, with your arms and legs comfortably relaxed. Breathing in, you say the first line; breathing out, you say the second.

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Please try practicing slow walking meditation and see for yourself. As you breathe in, take a step and say, “I have arrived.” We have to invest 100 percent of our body and our mind in our breathing and our step, to be able to say we have arrived and we are home. If your mindfulness and concentration are solid, you can arrive 100 percent and be completely at home wherever you are. If you have not yet really come back home 100 percent to the here and now, then don’t take another step! Just stay right there and breathe until you can stop the wandering of your mind, until you really have arrived 100 percent in the present moment. Then you can smile a smile of victory, and take another step, with the phrase “I am home.”

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Buddhism teaches that joy and happiness arise from letting go. Please sit down and take an inventory of your life. There are things you’ve been hanging on to that really are not useful and deprive you of your freedom. Find the courage to let them go. An overloaded boat is easily capsized by wind and waves. Lighten your load, and your boat will travel more quickly and safely. You can offer the precious gift of freedom and space to your loved ones, but only if it is truly there in your own heart.

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If you’re angry at someone for having made you suffer, and you’re about to say or do something hurtful in retaliation, please close your eyes, breathe in a long, deep breath, and contemplate impermanence: Feeling the heat of anger right now, I close my eyes and look into the future. Three hundred years from now, where will you, where will I, be?

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understanding is first of all being able to see the sources of pain and suffering in oneself and in the other person.

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We should ask ourselves: Have I been able to understand the difficulties and the suffering of that person yet? Have I been able to see the sources of that suffering? If the answer is not yet “yes,” then we need to make more of an effort to understand. “My son, my daughter, do you think I’ve understood your difficulties, your stresses, and suffering well enough? If not, please help me understand you better. I know that if I haven’t really understood you, then I can’t really love you and make you happy. Please, help me. Tell me about the difficulties and the pain inside of you.”

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In Buddhism, we learn that if we can understand our own suffering, we easily will be able to understand the suffering of others. So we should come back to ourselves first and get in touch with the suffering inside of us, and not give in to the urge to run away from it or numb ourselves into forgetting about it.

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We should use our mindfulness to remind ourselves that when we offer someone our practice of deep listening, we do it with the sole aim of helping them empty their heart and release their pain. When we can stay focused on that aim, we can continue to listen deeply, even when the other person’s speech may contain a lot of wrong perceptions, bitterness, sarcasm, judgment, and accusation.

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In Buddhism, the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (also known as Quan Yin in Chinese, Kannon in Japanese, or Quan The Am in Vietnamese) is the specialist in listening with loving-kindness and compassion. Here is a recitation for this practice, from the daily chanting book we use in Plum Village: We invoke your name, Avalokiteshvara. We aspire to learn your way of listening in order to help relieve the suffering in the world. You know how to listen in order to understand. We will sit and listen without any prejudice. We will sit and listen without judging or reacting. We will sit and listen in order to understand. We will sit and listen so attentively that we will be able to hear what’s being said and also what’s being left unsaid. We know that just by listening deeply, we already alleviate much pain and suffering in the other person.

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When the energy of irritation or anger arises, as practitioners we should immediately come back to conscious breathing and do some walking meditation, to produce the energy of mindfulness so we can recognize and take care of that anger. Breathing in, I know anger is manifesting in me. Breathing out, I’m taking good care of this energy of anger in me.

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If, after twenty-four hours of practicing like this, we still have not found our way out, we need to let the other person know what’s going on. If we’re not able to do this calmly in person, we can write a note. We should say three things: 1. I’m angry with you, and I want you to know it. 2. I am doing my best to practice. 3. Please help me.

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Adjusting Your Posture Meditation: Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.

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Walking Meditation: 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.

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Drinking Tea Meditation: This cup of tea in my two hands, mindfulness held perfectly. My mind and body dwell in the very here and now.

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Ending the Day Meditation: The day is ending, our life is one day shorter. Let us look carefully at what we have done. Let us practice diligently, putting our whole heart into the path of meditation. Let us live deeply each moment in freedom, so time does not slip away meaninglessly.

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Five Mindfulness Trainings:

1. Reverence for life

2. True happiness

3. True love

4. Loving speech and deep listening

5. Nourishment and healing

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