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Total Well-Being: Starting the Search
Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh with ChildrenThich Nhat Hanh, Zen Master and Buddhist monk, was born in central Vietnam in 1926. His work for social justice and peace earned him a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 1967 from Martin Luther King, Jr. Currently, he lives in exile in France, where he continues his writing, teaching, gardening and helping refugees worldwide. He is the author of seventy-five books, including Peace is Every Step.

Gail Harris met with him at Plum Village, the Buddhist monastery he founded in the Dordogne region of France. Known to the retreat participants and students as Thay, Vietnamese for teacher, he offered Body & Soul a number of concrete techniques for bringing meditation and conscious living into our modern lives.

As he explained, mindfulness begins with an awareness of breath. Sometimes, the mind is doing one thing, and the body is doing another. Through conscious breathing, the mind and body can be brought back together again. "It is very important to get back to the present moment in order to touch life deeply, because life is only available in the present," says Thich Nhat Hanh.

Thich Nhat HanhTo practice mindful breathing, "You just become aware of the fact that you are breathing in -- 'right now, I am breathing in -- right now I am breathing out' -- I know that I am breathing out, and I enjoy my in breath and I enjoy my out breath." He adds, "Suddenly, I find I am truly alive, truly present. Our true home is life, and life is in the present moment."

This easy form of meditation can extend to many parts of our daily lives. Mindfulness can be practiced while eating lunch, walking, and washing the dishes. "If you take time to enjoy dishwashing, then dishwashing can become meditation. If you think of the time of washing as the time that you lose... then you lose yourself. It means you continue to lose your life."

Thich Nhat Hanh even suggests meditating while driving. En route, when we focus only on arriving at our destination, red lights can cause anxiety and frustration. Instead, he suggests using a red light as a "bell of mindfulness," which reminds us to return to the present moment. Instead of muttering curses or flooring the accelerator, next time you see a red light, smile at it, and go back to your conscious breathing. It is easy to transform a feeling of irritation into one of pleasure. This same red light becomes a reminder that it is only in the present moment that we can live our lives.

Body & Soul is currently airing Monday-Friday at 7:00pm and 8:30pm on PBS YOU.

Program Description
James S. Gordon, M.D.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Gabrielle Roth
Help Yourself
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