Someone asked me, ‘aren't you afraid about the state of the world? ‘I allowed myself to breathe and then I said, ‘what is most important is not to allow your anxiety about what happens in the world fill your heart. If your heart is filled with anxiety, you will get sick, and you will not be able to help.’ There are wars - big and small - in many places, and that can cause us to lose our peace. Anxiety is the illness of our age. We worry about ourselves, our family, our friends, our work, and the state of the world. If we allow worry to fill our hearts, sooner or later we will get sick.
Yes, there is tremendous suffering all over the world, but knowing this need not paralyse us. If we practice mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful sitting, and working in mindfulness, we try our best to help, and we can have peace in our heart. Worrying does not accomplish anything. Even if you worry twenty times more, it will not change the situation of the world. In fact, your anxiety will only make things worse. Even though things are not as we would like, we can still be content, knowing we are trying our best and will continue to do so. If we don't know how to breathe, smile, and live every moment of our life deeply, we will never be able to help anyone. I am happy in the present moment. I do not ask for anything else. I do not expect any additional happiness or conditions that will bring about more happiness. The most important practice is aimlessness, not running after things, not grasping.
We who have been fortunate enough to encounter the practice of mindfulness have a responsibility to bring peace and joy into our own lives, even though not everything in our body, mind or environment is exactly as we would like. Without happiness we cannot be a refuge for others. Ask yourself, what am I waiting for to make me happy? Why am I not happy
right now? My only desire is to help you see this. How can we bring the practice of mindfulness to the widest spectrum of society? How can we give birth to the greatest number of people who are happy and who know how to teach the art of mindful living to others? The number of people who create violence is very great, while the number of people who know how to breathe and create happiness is very small. Every day gives us a wonderful opportunity to be happy ourselves and to become a place of refuge for others.
We don't need to become anything else. We don't need to perform some particular act. We only need to be happy in the present moment, and we can be of service to those we love and to our whole society. Aimlessness is stopping and realising the happiness that is already available. If someone asks us how long we need to practice in order to be happy, we can tell her that she can be happy right now! The practice of aimlessness is the practice of freedom.
Copyright Thich Nhat Hanh. Used by permission. The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching. From ‘ Here and Now’, (the Community of Interbeing magazine).
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who was in Vietnam during the Indochina wars between 1946 and 1989. He was the leading peace activist during the wars and therefore is able to speak with deep understanding.
Thank you to Jon Bagust for submitting this piece. Jon invites you to come along to St Mark's on any Tuesday between 12.15 - 14.00 in order to share the practice of Mindfulness@Lunchtime; Mindfulness as taught by Thich Nhat Hanh.