Our Mindful Mornings have started again after a summer break with an inspiring call to practise from Thay. Below is the reading we enjoyed together, adapted slightly from ‘The Art of Living’ by Thich Nhat Hanh.
Please enjoy your practice!
Scientists tell us that to live is to learn. For millions of years our species has been learning…to adapt to our environment.
If we want to survive in our fast-paced society that is overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, fear and despair, we have to learn how to deal with it.
Human beings evolved from Homo habilis to Homo erectus before we became Homo sapiens. Some people have spoken of the new species called Homo conscius – humans with the capacity of being mindful.
There are two ways to adapt to our current situation. The first is to find ways to protect yourself. The way you think, the way you breathe, the way you walk are kinds of protection. Thanks to the energy of mindfulness, concentration and insight, you can survive in a stressful, toxic environment and thanks to your understanding and compassion, you don’t contribute to making it any worse.
As a member of the Homo conscius species, the fruit of your learning will be inscribed in every cell of your body and be transmitted to future generations. They, in turn, will profit from our experience, so they will not only be able to survive challenging situations but also be able to lead happy and fulfilled lives….
There is so much suffering caused by stress, depression, violence, discrimination and despair, and we need a spiritual practice.With a spiritual practice we will be able to adapt and survive. By living with solidity and freedom, we can transmit mindfulness, concentration, insight, joy and compassion to others. This is our legacy, our continuation body, and we hope future generations will inherit our life’s offering.
But suppose you adapt in a different way. Seeing everyone around you so busy, you try to be even busier in order to keep up. You might be successful for a time, but in the end, this adaptation is self-destructive, for you as an individual and for the species as a whole.
In today’s society we are so busy we don’t even have time to take care of ourselves. We’re not at ease with ourselves. We find it difficult to take care of our body, feelings and emotions. We’re afraid of being overwhelmed by our suffering and so we run away from ourselves. This is one of the defining characteristics of our civilisation.
But if we run away from ourselves, how can we take care of our pain? If we can’t take care of ourselves, how can we take care of the people we love? And how can we take care of Mother Earth? She has the capacity to nourish and heal us, but we are running from her and even causing harm and destruction. Technology is allowing us to become ever more adept at running away from ourselves, from our family, and from nature.
There needs to be a revolution, a kind of gentle revolution, a kind of awakening, in each of us. We need to rebel. We need to declare, “I don’t want to continue like this! This is not a life. I don’t have enough time to live. I don’t have enough time to love.”
Once we have started a revolution in our own consciousness, it will bring about radical change in our family and community.
When we stop to breathe, we are not wasting time. Western capitalist civilisation says “Time is money” and we should use our time to make money. But time is more precious than money. Time is life. Coming back to our breathing and becoming aware that we have a wonderful body – this is life.
We need to wake up from a long dream. It is possible to live differently. Can you see that you already want to live differently?
Time is not money. Time is life and time is love.
With collective awakening, things can change very quickly. That is why everything we do should be directed toward bringing about collective awakening. Humans can be hateful, mean, and violent but we also have the ability, with spiritual practice, to become compassionate and protective toward not only our own species but others too – the ability to be awakened beings who can protect our planet and preserve her beauty. Awakening is our hope. And awakening is possible.
We need to shake ourselves awake so we can change our way of living, so we have more freedom, more happiness, more vitality, more compassion, more love.
We have to reorganise our life so we have time to take care of our body, our feelings, our emotions, our loved ones, and our planet.
Taking care of ourselves and others is the kind of adaptation we want to pass on to future generations. We have to remove the pressures that society puts on us.
We have to resist. Simply our way of walking is a way of reacting: “I refuse to run. I resist. I will not lose a single moment or a single step. I reclaim my freedom, peace, and joy with every step. This is my life and I want to live it deeply.”