“You might well ask: Then how are we to practice mindfulness?
My answer is: keep your attention focused on the work, be alert and ready to handle ably and intelligently any situation which may arise—this is mindfulness. There is no reason why mindfulness should be different from focusing all one’s attention on one’s work, to be alert and to be using one’s best judgment. During the moment one is consulting, resolving, and dealing with whatever arises, a calm heart and self-control are necessary if one is to obtain good results. Anyone can see that. If we are not in control of ourselves but instead let our impatience or anger interfere, then our work is no longer of any value.
Mindfulness is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves. Consider, for example: a magician who cuts his body into many parts and places each part in a different region—hands in the south, arms in the east, legs in the north, and then by some miraculous power lets forth a cry which reassembles whole every part of his body. Mindfulness is like that—it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh from The Miracle of Mindfulness
Written in 1975, The Miracle of Mindfulness is one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s earliest books. (We’ve also covered Peace Is Every Step, Fear, and Silence.)
This book was originally written as a long letter to one of the main staff members of Hanh’s School of Youth for Social Service in South Vietnam in 1974—encouraging him during very challenging times to continue their work of “engaged Buddhism.”
At the time, Hanh was living in a monastery in France—in exile from Vietnam. As I read the book I was struck by the parallels between a few other books we’ve featured: Seneca wrote part of On the Shortness of Life while in exile from Rome; while James Stockdale wrote Courage Under Fire after spending years in a North Vietnamese prison. Although they played very different roles, each played those roles very, very well.
This beautiful little book is packed with Big Ideas. (Get a copy here.) I’m excited to share a few of my favorites so let’s jump straight in!
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