Anyone who has read his amazing books knows that spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh has a profound ability to make us feel deep appreciation for the moments we live.
He reminds us over and over again that being happy doesn't involve waiting for some future event to arrive, or in acquiring some object or satisfying some desire. Thai -- the name he uses -- shows us that joy is right here in this very moment we take our next breath. Happiness lies in the ability to be mindful of all of the joy and mystery of life. One of his many quotes is this one:
"Breathing in, I calm my body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. This is the present moment, this is a wonderful moment."
Indeed, every moment of life is a miracle.
On Sunday, I had the good fortune (along with about 1500 other people) to spend the morning with Thich Nhat Hanh, who was in retreat at the Blue Cliff monastery in Pine Bush, N.Y. I have always loved Thich Nhat Hanh's books and messages, but I wasn't sure what to expect of him as a speaker. I was astonished at Thai's ability to make so many of us in the huge crowd smile. He reminded us that we can be in contact with joy simply by taking the time to focus on the in-and-out of breathing and so many other of life's mysteries.
Many of us who crowded into the monastery on Sunday to hear the humble 87-year old Vietnamese monk speak were smiling during the entire presentation.
He has the remarkable capability of communicating profoundly moving ideas in simple words and images. While acknowledging that life inevitably involves suffering and loss, he makes us see that peace and joy lie in appreciating (being mindful of) so many of life's everyday activities.
At the end of his talk, Thai invited all of us to take a mindful walk. I was sitting with friends in a tent outside the monastery hall, which was packed and overflowing. But it turns out that our tent seats were ideal. As Thai proceeded to lead the mindful walking, he headed directly toward us, and came so close that we fell right in step only a few feet behind him. While the skies were threatening rain, and the rumbling of thunder filled the air, we made our way around the Blue Cliff's beautiful grounds.
And then, Thai stopped, and sat down, and prepared to give a blessing.