This week’s focus is to think of someone who inspires you to be more kind.


When I saw this instruction for week #6 of the Kindness Challenge, I didn’t have to think any further than Thich Nhat Hanh (for pronunciation click here.)

Thich Nat HahnThis Zen Master was introduced to me by a friend and I was immediately drawn to his gentle, quiet wisdom. While I have no great knowledge of Buddhism, he certainly inspires me to learn more. 

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese monk, a renowned Zen master, a poet, and a peace activist. He was born in 1926 in central Vietnam and became a monk at the age of 16. He has devoted his life to spreading the message of mindful living. Nominated for the Nobel Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1967, he is the author of many books, including the best-selling The Miracle of Mindfulness. 

Thich’s approach has been to combine a variety of traditional Zen teachings with insights from other Mahayana Buddhist traditions, methods from Theravada Buddhism, and ideas from Western psychology to offer a modern light on meditation practice. 

He has also been a leader in the Engaged Buddhism movement (he coined the term), promoting the individual’s active role in creating change. 

On November 11, 2014, a month after his 89th birthday, and following several months of rapidly declining health, Thich suffered a severe stroke. Although he is unable to speak and is paralyzed on the right side, he continues to offer his peaceful, serene presence to his community. As much as his health allows, he participates in meditations, celebrations, and ceremonies.

For further biographical information click here.

 


While some of Thich’s pronunciations can be a bit hard to understand, just listening to him has a calming effect. He uses simple stories from his own life to illustrate the concepts of mindfulness and kindness. I found him to be a wonderful example of what it means to be compassionate to yourself and others. As I’ve said in recent posts, in order to show kindness to others you must be able to show it to yourself.

He explains how easily we get caught up in our busy lives and how this leads us to lives of distraction. He talks about living in the past and hanging on to regret, as well as worrying about the future. Both of these practices cause us to miss out on the present and the beauty of living. 

His teachings on mindful living illustrate how important the mind-body connection is to better living and better health.

The Art of Mindful Living is a great example of Thich’s skill as a story teller and a reassuring friend. If you need to escape the business of life and quiet your mind for a bit, give him a listen!

Kindness Challenge – Week #6


Advertisements

Happy Places

As I sit here on the pier, on Sunday morning, enjoying a cup of joe, I’ve finally figured out why the beach is my happy place.

FullSizeRender

Because everyone here is happy.

This place represents vacation and leisure time, unlike the rest of the world that we live in. Of course, I’m referring to work, the grocery store, gas station, post office, drug store, dry cleaners, and the multitude of other places, where people are hurrying around living their lives in overdrive. And I’m no exception. I get just as caught up in the chaos as everyone else, forgetting to stop and “smell the roses…”

The other folks on the pier are enjoying breakfast and I get an occasional whiff of bacon. I hear their laughter and easy conversation, as they lounge in their chairs the way people do when they’ve got nowhere to be.

Farther out, at the end of the pier, some folks are casting their lines into the water, hoping to catch the evening’s dinner. 

IMG_3954

The sun is shining brightly from a clear, blue sky, causing the waves to sparkle. On those glistening waves, a group of surfers are paddling furiously, trying to catch the next good one. They are young and lithe, sporting skin the color of coconuts. 

On the beach below me is a volleyball game and I’m pleased to see that the four players are middle-aged. They’re pretty skilled with the ball and look like locals. There’s something about the way they focus intently on the game and each other; totally ignoring the two tourists who observe nearby.

The rest of the beach is dotted with various people: runners, walkers, bicyclers, sun worshippers, children playing in the sand, older couples hidden behind paperback books, and an assortment of others, all enjoying the beautiful December weather in Florida.

Despite being diverse and doing different activities, they all have one thing in common:

They’re relaxed and connected and able to really be in the moment.

And that is why it’s a happy place. There’s none of the usual distractions or aggravations. No one has deadlines to meet. Except for the occasional crying baby, everyone appears to be in good spirits. They’re either on vacation or retired. Even the locals are upbeat and friendly, which may be the result of a steady diet of Vitamin D.

Being in the moment is very difficult to do in our modern world. We’re constantly multi-tasking in order to get everything done. We’re so busy thinking about what’s next that we’re not in the now. Meditation and Yoga are booming with people wanting to learn how to relax. They teach us how to focus on our sensory perceptions and nothing else. We have to completely clear our minds of all the clutter and that’s not easy to do. Just ask anyone whose tried it!

IMG_3945

Any destination can provide a restful, leisurely atmosphere. Whether it’s the beach, or the mountains, or even a metropolitan area. The only requirements are that people must be willing to pack the right attitude and leave the stress of daily living at home.