A lifetime of mindfulness

Paige Zezulka, Managing Editor

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, friend, poet, and the “father of mindfulness” passed away on Jan. 22 at the age of 95. 

The name may be familiar to some, as his many famous quotes filter through social media feeds often, such as: 

“It is my conviction that there is no way to peace- peace is the way.”  

“Mindfulness allows you to live deeply every moment that is given you to live.”  

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”

Or you may not have heard about him at all. And that’s okay. But it is time that you do. 

Hanh advocated peace and the practice of mindfulness since the age of 16. His teachings have reached around the globe, from the east to the west, benefiting communities far and wide. 

From being a teacher, an artist, an author of many books, to creating his own everlasting monasteries such as Plum Village, this human’s impact on this earth is far from slim.

In the 1960s Martin Luther King Jr. noticed him and nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize back in the Vietnam War era. During this time, Hanh’s efforts working with the westerners, influencing peace instead of violence and ultimately opposing the Vietnam war, got him exiled from his own country, Vietnam, for 39 years. 

This didn’t stop Hanh. He instead, led the Buddhist delegation towards the Paris Peace Talks in 1969, which ended the war. 

Though, this passage is not meant to be solely surrounding the life of Thich Nhat Hanh. I think what he would prefer me do instead of praising his life accomplishments, he’d rather I spread his teachings of compassion, mindfulness and peace to the reader. 

I first heard of the term mindfulness when I was a junior in high school. I dated a boy whose parents practiced Buddhism. I remember receiving a book from them by OSHO, an Indian Mystic, who really opened my eyes to the world we live in and religion in general. 

Ever since then, I’ve been completely in the hands of oneness. Oneness meaning, we as people, as animals, as this Earth, as this universe, are collectively bound by love and a united consciousness. 

Though, for many people they do not see existence as such. Egos get in the way. Society gets in the way. Money, power, greed and suffering get in the way. These are all examples of layers that coat our true selves and make it difficult to be mindful. What lies underneath these heavy layers, is a pure consciousness that flows with peace, love, and enlightenment. There lies a being that when still, can see. 

Awareness is the first step to becoming enlightened. Today, you have begun to peel back that first layer. Think of a lotus flower, each layer of its pedals being peeled back one by one. The center, the stillness, the oneness is where you want to reach, complete mindfulness.

Though meditating is a recommended way to go inwards and find your center, there are many ways a person can be mindful throughout their days without being in a criss-cross meditative state. 

Thich Nhat Hanh shared ways of the art of being mindful in people’s everyday lives such as, being mindful breathing, walking, doing the dishes or even brushing your teeth. 

I would suggest starting small and beginning to do daily tasks one at a time. 

When you do your homework assignment, just focus on that assignment. When you drink water, be mindful you are drinking water. Be a mindful eater. When you bite into an apple, instead of just munching it down right away, take some time to notice its color, feel the texture on your lips as you bite in, hear the crunch it makes as it enters your mouth and taste the sweet flavor that is left on your tongue. 

When you hear a song on the radio, take a moment to sit back and really hear what it shares to you. When you go to the park, take a seat on a bench, close your eyes and feel the gifts that surround you. Let your senses do what they are meant to do: enhance your existence. 

When you begin to slow down and be mindful of your actions, your thoughts, and your overall existence, you will begin to see a difference in yourself and your surroundings. You will begin to feel lighter, at peace, in love, and at-home with yourself than ever before. 

Listen to Hanh when he said, “Many of us have been running all our lives. Practice stopping.”

You never know what a moment can bring. 

Though, it may seem simple, it can be difficult to be mindful. Let’s face it, life gets in the way. But even just a few times a day of being mindful can make a huge impact on a person’s wellbeing. So don’t give up! 

Remember, not only will practicing mindfulness benefit YOUR body, mind and soul, but it will also benefit other humans, other creatures on this planet, and the environment in which we inhabit.  

So, imagine everyone being mindful for just a couple moments a day. Think about the difference it can make. It’s as if we have the power to change the world.

That is what Thich Nhat Hanh wanted others to see. That is why he taught mindfulness and advocated peace for his life’s mission. I believe he has created a ripple effect of love and peace that will linger throughout time, but it’s up to us to keep the ripples flowing.