I have finished reading a delightful book by Vietnamese-born monk, Thich Nhat Hanh (also known as Thay), who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King in 1967. He currently resides in Plum Village, France. Present Moment, Wonderful Moment is the second book that I have read by Thay.
Present Moment, Wonderful Moment provides practical guidance on how to approach everyday instances mindfully. It covers everything from waking up and brushing your teeth to turning on a computer or cleaning the bathroom. Its beauty is not only in its practicality, but the simplicity and compassionate messages that it conveys. I have enjoyed the couple of books that I have read by Thay also due to the charming Japanese-ink style illustrations that suitably accompany his writing.
The book is a series of gathas: short verses used for recitation to bring mindfulness/meditation practitioners back to the present moment, essentially designed for mindful living. To bring this review to life, I have selected three of the gathas that I particularly enjoyed and am sharing my thoughts on them. It was hard to select only three as there are so many that made me reflect and smile. Thay expands on the meanings of the gathas within his book; the below is my own personal interpretation/opinion.
1. Waking Up
“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion”
If everyone in this world started each day reciting this gatha, I feel the world would be such a better place. Or perhaps we’d even achieve world peace in a day! Each day gives us a very clear signal to start afresh. Whilst we can do so in any moment, nothing signals such a clear opportunity as each fresh new morning. Instead, we often dwell in the past and live with our worries or perhaps live with our daydreams of the future. We miss perfect pockets of moments, which are all present in the here and now for us to explore and enjoy. Due to our fears of the past or for the future, we can cause destruction in the here and now. We are unfocused on what we can impact each second. We could ignore our fellow beings (I’m sure many of us are guilty of this as we message friends or consume media instead of paying attention to our loved ones that are in the room with us…perhaps you’re even doing it now!). Instead, we should be looking at them, each moment spent with compassion and offering our attention and time.
2. The Five Contemplations (abridged)
“This food is a gift of the earth, the sky, numerous living beings and much hard and loving work.”
I really love Thay’s view on food, because it is true! For those of you who follow my blog regularly, you will have read my post on The Mindful Art of Making Tea. There I reference a few things that Thay mentions – how the food (or tea) we consume has grown as a result of the work of the sun, the rain, the earth and air. It is comprised of the elements of our world. Grown for what eventually feeds us. More than that is the amount of work that goes into food preparation. I know there is a vogue these days for eating healthy, organic food rather than processed food. But no matter what food you eat, someone prepared those ingredients after it had grown. More people than the person who has cooked the food in the kitchen have helped in the making of your meal. As much as we should thank our chef for our lunches and dinners (my other half usually cooks dinner each day – I’m very lucky and grateful!), we should also thank the countless other people who helped in the making of the meal and Mother Nature herself for enabling food to grow. We are lucky. So many others are not. So many starve each day.
“In the garbage, I see a rose. In the rose, I see garbage. Everything is in transformation. Even permanence is impermanent.”
This gatha is incredibly beautiful in its poetic truth. It is a reminder of the connectedness of all things and life’s cycle. We are just like a rose. We start as a seed, then we grow in a little shoot, a bud, blooming, and then a rose. And then we begin to wilt and eventually pass. But we do so only in our current form. I personally would want a woodland burial (but it’s up to who I leave behind to take care of that 🙂 ). And it’s because of my belief in this cycle of life. We can believe that after we pass, it is the end. But it isn’t. By returning to the earth we, like the rose, decay. But we also feed the earth. And from the earth feeds the flowers and trees and even little creatures. And those creatures may feed the birds, and so on. So I believe when we pass, it is in this bodily form that we pass. But our energy continues in other forms. We can fly like the birds!
It is also too easy to think that we are immortal until we grow old and feel age set in. But we evolve as each second passes – both mentally and physically. It is important to remember our impermanence so that we make the most of here and now.
I have a pet cat (yes, I’m a cat lady!) and as naughty as she can be, I am always more aware than perhaps with a human, how my time with her will be short. So even though she may scratch and bite me sometimes (playfully most of the time of course), I am almost grateful for it, because it means that she is here and we are spending time together.
Even on the occasion that I squabble with family or friends, when I stop to take a moment, I reflect on how short our time in this form actually is and I try my best to reconcile differences. This is why I think mindfulness and the ‘present moment, wonderful moment’ is so important to be aware of. We only live each second once. Are you going to live that second the best that you can live it?
If you are practicing mindfulness or meditation, Present Moment, Wonderful Moment, is definitely a book worthy of a space on your bookshelf. One word of warning is that there is reference to Buddha and the Buddha Body (Dharmakaya). I wouldn’t say it’s overbearing, but I know some people prefer religion-neutral texts. There also is a whole section related to meditation, so my thought is that this book is probably best suited to those in practice. However, if you’re interested in such topic matter, this a wonderfully light, refreshing and short read. Enjoy!