Yesterday I had the great pleasure of attending a Dharma Talk with Thich Nhat Hanh at the Pasadena Civic Center. The experience was very calming, moving, inspirational, touching, and resonating. Over the two and half hours, there was a guided meditation, chanting monks, and the Dharma Talk by the revered master.
The guided meditation began right at the event’s start time. However, about 15% of the audience had not taken their seats yet. I was joining in the meditation and found the opening of doors, ringing of cell phones, and hustle and bustle of the crowd distracting. And then I realized how, in a way, this was such a perfect example of the training of mindfulness. Though we can usually find a quiet spot when we’re meditating, the world doesn’t stop moving. Mindfulness would be easy if at any time we could just pause everything going on around us, but we can’t. So everything else going around this guided meditation was representative of that ever turning world, and a great reminder that mindfulness doesn’t by any means mean that we can stop all that. It means that in the midst of that, we may still find our center.
Thich Nhat Hanh’s talk was exquisite. He took his time in a way I’ve never seen a speaker do. He was absolutely present and clearly gave careful consideration in choosing each of his words. It was very peaceful. He discussed the powers of mindfulness and varying techniques for practicing mindfulness. He incorporated ideas from the Buddhist and Christian perspectives, something I always appreciate in his books. For as he has said, “Until there is peace between religions, there can be no peace in the world.” I really think religious tolerance is such an important issue right now that merits great attention.
He encouraged us to each appreciate the wonder that is life. He emphasized the importance of the here and now. (For a great example on how to attain a deep understanding of always being here and being in the now, I recommend the novel Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman).
He discussed pain, and encouraged us to “tenderly embrace it” as one would a crying baby.
He reflected on the beauty of the lotus flower, and explained how the beautiful flower does not, cannot, exist without mud. He said the lotus is filled with “non-lotus” things. You can see the sunlight, the rain, the water, the mud in the lotus flower. If you take those things away, there is no lotus. And the same is true of happiness. You cannot have happiness without suffering. The image of the lotus is one I have been drawn to lately, and this made it resonate even deeper for me.
He also reflected on the cloud, indicating that it can never die. The cloud never disappears. It may transform into rain, into snow, but it does not die. The same is true of us.
After his beautiful talk, some other monks shared some information, and one introduced us to the Wake Up Movement, “a world-wide network of young people practising the living art of mindfulness.” One of their recent activities was a flash mob meditation in London!
All in all, it was a beautiful afternoon, and I feel blessed that I was able to attend. I have been reading his books for the last several years and am seeing a profound impact on my outlook, peace of mind, and general attitude. He’s published over one hundred books, so I’ve got lots more to enjoy!
And here are some related links I would like to share. Enjoy. Namaste.
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