In this beautiful and lucid guide, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh offers gentle anecdotes and practical exercise as a means of learning the skills of mindfulness--being awake and fully aware. From washing the dishes to answering the phone to peeling an orange, he reminds us that each moment holds within it an opportunity to work toward greater self-understanding and peacefulness.
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The subtitle is "an introduction to the practice of meditation." That's a bit misleading. This is a lot more than a value-free manual. The introduction tells us this the main text was originally a long letter from Thich Nhat Hanh to a fellow Buddhist monk in Vietnam in the midst of the war in 1975. Hanh, exiled from Vietnam, worked against the war and was nominated by Martin Luther King for the Nobel Peace Prize. Translated into English under his supervision by a friend, you can't sever this from it's Buddhist context. There's a lot about Buddhist philosophy here--even a discussion about such issues at the "naive" depiction of the faith in Hesse's Siddharta. The last chapter consists of a "Selection of Buddhist Sutras" (which I found impenetrable). The writing is lucid, but even though written in deceptively simple language, a lot of the concepts are pretty sophisticated and I think take repeated reading to really understand. Mind you, this isn't an introduction to Buddhism per se. This isn't the place to find an overview of the religion and the focus is on meditation and "mindfulness." Hanh's concept of meditation and mindfulness doesn't necessarily mean what you do in a lotus position while going "ohm." He means by it living in the moment and fully alert even as you drink tea or wash dishes. "Mindfulness frees us of forgetfulness and dispersion and makes it possible to live fully each minute of life." Not that he doesn't see a place for more formal meditation, and he provides several practical exercises, particularly focusing on the breath. "Our breath is the bridge from out body to our mind... it alone is the tool which can bring them both together."My introduction to meditation actually was in the mandatory Religion class in my Catholic high school. I remember feeling silly as we were directed to go "ohm." Later I'd be reintroduced to the practice when I took Yoga classes. I remember feeling frustrated as I was told to clear my mind of all thought--which I thought impossible. So it was interesting and useful that it's not what Hanh directs. He says rather when you have thoughts during meditation, you acknowledge the thought--or feeling. "The essential thing is not to let any feeling or thought arise without recognizing it in mindfulness, like a palace guard who is aware of every face that passes in the front corridor." It's an interesting and useful book if you're curious about meditation and Buddhism, written clearly and succinctly--the main text of the book is only about a hundred pages. Although to get much out of it means reading with mindfulness--repeatedly, slowly, taking notes--and practicing the exercises. And in that regard, I think it does help to do it with others rather than just try to work through the book by yourself.more
If you like books by Thich Nhat Hanh, then I think this is an excellent book. It is not the best introduction to mindfulness practice, but it provides an excellent feel for the underlying concepts. As described in the forword, this book is translated from materials that Thich Nhat Hanh was sending to monks serving during the Vietnam war while he was exiled. For those from the Christian tradition, it has some of the characteristics of the various "letters", but I think this is far more accessible. I recommend most people skip the second half of the book; I think re-reading the first half is a better experience.more
A couple years ago I found myself sitting in the back seat of a truck beside a person I met the night before while bumming a ride back to my van after an semi-aborted canoe trip. After learning I was a pastor he asked, “what’s your view on meditation?” I know the answer I was taught in Bible College. Christian meditation is a filling of the mind with scriptures, where Eastern-style meditation is a wicked emptying of the mind where who-knows-what can enter. My back-seat companion convinced me to look into things a little further. The Miracle of Mindfulness is the result of that conversation.This short and simple work describes the fullness of life available to us when we slow down and notice everything around us. And we start to take notice by following our breath. It’s really that simple. Slow down, breathe deep, and focus on every breath you take. The world opens up before you. Since most of our lives are spent reacting to stimulus around us, and stress has become an epidemic, this is some good advice.I should comment on the relationship between Buddhism and Christianity. I know many Christian readers see nothing good in other world religions. In my view, other world religions are human attempts on the basis of natural revelation to understand the divine. Why should we not learn where there’s wisdom to be found? As they say, all truth is God’s truth.I was encouraged by Thich Nhat Hanh’s respectful tone whenever he spoke of Christians. I’ve started to integrate small breathing exercises into some of my morning devotions. It’s amazing how seven deep breaths will clear my mind to receive God’s Word.Of course, there were parts of this book more directly related to Buddhism that I found difficult. The selection of Buddhist Sutras at the end, and some of metaphysical views on human nature were misguided.Following the breath, while not an end in itself, is a good means to experience eternal life in God’s multifaceted creation.more
The Miracle of Mindfulness is a good introduction to a very specific thing, unfortunately that thing is a very small part of Buddhism and meditation. Simply put Zen Buddhism is the radical branch of Buddhism, while the other schools are off debating long doctrines and esoteric practices Zen practitioners will be contemplating Koans like “’What is the Buddha?’ ‘Three pounds of Flax.’” The point of the whole practice of Zen is to bring the Buddha back into the world, Nhat Hanh spends a lot of time on this, which is helpful – if you are trying to understand Zen. Unfortunately, this book is really only an introduction into Zen practice, and not even zen meditative practice at that (one school on Zen, Soto, will literally spend whole sutras on just breaking down sitting meditation).From what couple chapters I have read “Mindfulness in Plain English” by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana is a far better guide to meditation than this book. Thich Nhat Hanh has written stuff I like, but this is more about Zen practice in general than meditation, hence three stars.more
Unfortunately, I had to read this book in Danish translation, since the library wouldn't get it for me in English (I can't buy all the books I read). The English version is a translation from the Vietnamese, the author Thich Nhat Hanh being a Buddhist monk who wrote the book in 1974 as a letter to a teacher at a social school in South Vietnam from his exile in France.The book exhorts the reader to mindfulness, i.e. to live in the "now", as Echart Tolle directs us to do, and explains how to do so. When you do the dishes, you don't do so to get them clean, but just for the sake of doing them. You do them with mindfulness and love for the process.The author's words (even in translation) are imbued with peace and calm, and I found myself reading the book more slowly than I otherwise might have done.Thich Nhat Hanh's text is inspiring and useful. Its essence is his advocacy of the importance of breathing exercises in order to obtain mindfulness, and innumerable of these are found in a subsequent section on mindfulness exercises as a whole.A chapter enlightens us about the author Nhat Hanh who at the time of writing what turned into the book was committed to explaining to the Americans the necessity of stopping the bombings and killings in his country. He is a poet and Zen Master.The final sections of the book are devoted to a selection of buddhist Sutras, which I couldn't really make head or tail of.But all in all, an admirable book - a good introduction to mindfulness meditation.I will now be trying to obtain other works of this author, preferably some that have not been translated into Danish, so I have a better chance of getting hold of them in English, for instance, "The long road turns to joy".more
A good introduction to meditation and mindfullness. About half the book was written by Hanh, the rest are writings from other sources that may be on interest to those going full blown gonzo into Buddhist Zen practice but adds little for the beginner.more
It teaches the valuable art of not only how to live well but how to live with acute perception. Simple lessons, huge benefits.more
This book is truly a gem. It teaches a lesson that I have to revisit about every five years. It is not a religious book, and doesn't require a belief in any particular religion. Instead, it is a way of enriching one's life by fully stepping into it instead of watching it, or waiting for it to occur.more
What is going on...RIGHT NOW? How much of our lives do we miss because we not paying attention? (I once stole away from a stressful situation by going to the beach for a few hours. While I was on the beach I day dreamed about...how peaceful it would be to be to be laying on the beach!) Thich Nhat Hanh gives us a few tools to help us reclaim who we are, right now. Not who we want to be, or who we think we are. This book may take you to a place you have rarely been--the present.more
My favorite book about meditation technique. Accessible and patient, reading this book calms the mind.more
I can't get this book out of my mind, but I suppose that is the point. I read this book on a plane ride to Europe where I travelled alone. Mentally, I was introduced to a practice of applying a new consciousness to all things--beginning with one of the most simple, yet challenging: breathing. I love Thich Nhat Hanh and believe that anything he writes, no matter how concise becomes a manifestation of peace and wisdom. It does not matter which of his texts you choose because the teachings are essential and deepen with experience and meditation on life in light of this text. I find that the miracle of this book is that I continue to return to it as I reflect on everything I learn and experience in this life.more
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