Core Practice

How To Love a Pot Without a Lid

The headline for this week comes from my saving a page on the computer with that title. It is a combination of the title of Thay’s book ‘How to Love’ and an extract I had chosen from it called ‘A Pot Without a Lid’. At first I thought it had turned out just a bit odd but as the ‘pot without a lid’ is a metaphor for the ‘sense of lack’ we experience, and as we are practising being open to meeting even that with understanding, maybe putting the two together isn’t so silly after all.

All of this arose from preparing for our Mindful Morning on Saturday 10th February – and as the closest of our meetings to Valentine’s Day, it seemed a good chance to explore love through Thay’s teaching and practice. The plan was to include calligraphy, Love Meditation and the reading.

1. Calligraphy:

reverence calligraphy

2. Love Meditation:

Meditation – Love, Loving Kindness, Metta

May I be peaceful, happy and light in body and spirit.
May I be safe and free from injury.
May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.


May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I be able to recognise and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.


May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.


How to practice the meditation (advice from the PLum Village Chanting and Recitation Book:  To begin, sit still and calm your body and your breathing. Sitting still, you are not too preoccupied with other matters.

Begin practising this love meditation on yourself (‘May I be peaceful…’) because until you are able to love and take care of yourself, you cannot be of much help to to others.

After that, practise on others: (‘May he/she/you/they be peaceful…’)
first on someone you like,
then on someone neutral to you,
then on someone you love,
and finally on someone the mere thought of whom makes you suffer. After practising metta meditation, you may find you can think of them with genuine compassion.

Metta meditation is really a daily practice over an extended period (no doubt a lifetime) but many of us find it makes some difference right from the start.

We can spend a whole 20 minute meditation on practising love solely for ourselves. Alternatively we can move on to include others as a focus during one sit. We may find that a focus on ourselves changes our outlook generally and so already everyone benefits. The thing is to keep doing the practice and notice any difference.

The version above is Thay’s; it is a little longer and more detailed than others you may be familiar with. One or two people commented on Saturday how helpful they found the slow, steady repetition. I don’t know if instructions appear anywhere but I have noted where I added bells; I followed twelve breaths after each sound of the bell as is sometimes recommended for other guided meditations.

3. The Reading

Well, we didn’t quite get to that on Saturday. We took a break for lunch, after which one of our group mentioned he had brought along a Chinese violin because he had been struck by the music in the film ‘Walk With Me’ and we decided to hear his playing of a Chinese song. We, in turn, were struck by the instrument’s haunting tone.

There seems to me no better way of being in the moment than improvising; inspired by the film and our theme for the day we chanted the Avalokiteshvara Chant accompanied by the Chinese violin. So there we were, having nurtured our loving kindness, developing and sending out our compassion to the world through music and chanting created spontaneously. It doesn’t get much better, really.

So finally…

making its appearance on the website…

the aforementioned pot…

From ‘How To Love’ by Thich Nhat Hanh.

 ” Very often we feel like a pot without a lid. We believe that our lid is somewhere in the world and that if we look very hard, we’ll find the right lid to cover our pot. The feeling of emptiness is always there inside of us.

When we contemplate the other person, sometimes we think we see what we feel we lack. We think we need someone else to lean on, to take refuge in, and to diminish our suffering.We want to be the object of another person’s attention and contemplation. We want someone who will look at us and embrace our feeling of emptiness and suffering with his or her energy of mindfulness.

Soon we become addicted to that kind of energy; we think that without that attention, we can’t live. It helps us feel less empty and helps us forget the block of suffering inside.

When we ourselves cannot generate the energy to take care of ourselves, we think we need the energy of someone else. We focus on the need and the lack rather than generating the energy of mindfulness, concentration, and insight that can heal our suffering and help the other person as well.

Which brings us full circle – back to the calligraphy and the Love meditation. Enjoy the practice.







One thought on “How To Love a Pot Without a Lid

  1. The Mindful Morning sounds lovely – wish I could have been with you.
    Metta practice is profoundly affecting but remains one of the hardest for me: why is it so hard to wish good things for yourself?


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