"Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet."
~Thich Nhat Hanh from Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
photo by Luis Sarabia (Taken with Instagram)
Thich Nhat Hanh, Tornadoes, and Being Present in the Moment
by Joe DePlasco, guest contributor
This past Sunday, I had the great pleasure of sitting next to Mary Emeny at a dinner in Amarillo, Texas where we were showing highlights of Ken Burns’ upcoming film, The Dust Bowl. Mary, I later learned, is prominent in the arts and environmental communities in Amarillo. When I asked someone else at the table what Mary did, she responded, “She makes Amarillo worth living in for the rest of us.”
During our chat, Mary spoke about her trips to Vietnam as a young woman and, specifically, her work with Buddhist monks there on behalf of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk. (Vietnam came up because Ken Burns is working on a film about the war in Vietnam.)
The Great Bell Chant: A Meditation
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
This video is a compassion meditation of sorts, featuring the words and voice of one of our most enduring guests, Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. I wonder if this short film can’t serve as a sort of loosely guided meditation in its own right. If you have several minutes, use this video as a guided meditation. After you’re finished, reflect on your experience and comment on these questions:
- How did the sound of the bell and the words of Thich Nhat Hanh help you in focusing your attention?
- In what ways did the cinematography of sweeping, aerial vistas and intimate portraits aid you in your focus of nature and fellow people?
- Did you find that Phap Niem’s fluid chanting helped you in letting go and being more aware of the compassion inside you?
- How did/didn’t the combination of visuals and audio help guide you in this exercise? Did you find them more distracting then helpful?
And, if you’re looking for a more aural focus, try this four-part bell meditation with Arthur Zajonc.
We don’t have to schedule a trip to the monastery to enjoy the benefits of stopping for bells of mindfulness. We can use many ‘ordinary’ events in our daily lives to call us back to ourselves and to the present moment. The ringing of the telephone, for example: many of my students pause to breathe in and out mindfully three times before they pick up the phone, in order to be fully present to themselves and to the person calling them. Or when we are driving, a red light can be a wonderful friend reminding us to stop, relax, let go of discouraging thought patterns and feel more space inside.
—Thich Nhat Hanh, from his interview in Friday’s Huffington Post.
I greatly appreciate Marianne Schnall’s line of questioning here. She could’ve gone philosophical on us, but she didn’t. She’s seeking advice on how to better understand and operate in this frenetic, always-connected world we live in. How do we vacation and relax? How do we prioritize our relationships with people and our electronic gadgets? These are real questions we are all struggling with in the most ordinary of ways. Which reminds me of this quote that I almost featured:
"Relationships are like a forest: it takes a long time to build up precious trust, but one really thoughtless act or remark can be like a lighted match that destroys everything."
Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Dharma Talking with Cheri Maples
» download (mp3, 12:53)
Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer
I recently caught up with dharma teacher Cheri Maples, who appeared in our 2003 program "Brother Thay: A Radio Pilgrimage with Thich Nhat Hahn." Back then, Maples was a police captain (later an assistant attorney general) in Madison, Wisconsin. She spoke with Krista about what it means to be a compassionate cop who practices mindfulness awareness on the job.
We’ve re-aired “Brother Thay” seven times (!) since its inaugural broadcast, and noticed that people consistently resonate with Maples and her personal story. Maples was in town recently to deliver a dharma talk (PDF) so I decided to go and see what’s changed in her life since she and Krista last spoke.
Maples reflected on the surprising ways in which her life changed course after she accepted an invitation from Thich Nhat Hahn to travel together to Vietnam in 2007. The following year, the Zen master formally ordained her as a dharma teacher through a ceremony called "The Transmission of the Lamp." She is no longer employed by the state, but she’s still involved with the criminal justice system through a new organization she co-founded called The Center for Mindfulness and Justice.
Maples drew a standing-room only crowd for her dharma talk that evening. She spoke about gratitude, joy, wonder, tenderness, and mystery. Here’s something I jotted down that stuck with me: “The hell in your life is the compost of your enlightenment.”
The heart of Buddhist practice is to generate our own presence in such a way that we can touch deeply the life that is here and available at every moment.
Out of the Dojo
Shiraz Janjua, Associate Producer
Some months ago, one of our listeners pointed me to The Ultimate Black Belt Test, a surprising, rigorous training regimen for martial arts teachers that combines intense physical training with transformative ethical practice. Members of the UBBT program have to fulfill such varied requirements as walking for 1,000 miles and undertaking an environmental clean-up project.
I was so intrigued by the idea, what with my own practice of martial arts during my teens, that I decided to speak to the founder of the UBBT, Tom Callos. He’s written and spoken about his reverence for Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hahn and architect Samuel Mockbee, two model people who have brought social engagement into their respective practices.
In this narrated video, featuring an interview with Tom Callos playing over the beautiful photographs of Bill Whitworth, we explore this rigorous program and see some of its own engagement in the world.
Buddhist Slime Mold
Rob McGinley Myers, Associate Producer
It’s been a pretty cold, wet, desolate spring so far in Minnesota. I went for a walk the other night and it seemed more like autumn than spring, with the wind on my face and the scent of dead leaves in the air. But as I passed under a tree I suddenly noticed buds breaking out all over the branches. It felt like a tiny miracle.
I had just recently listened to our upcoming show with Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, and seeing those buds made me think of what he says about being mindful.
"When you breathe in, your mind comes back to your body, and then you become fully aware that you’re alive, that you are a miracle and everything you touch could be a miracle — the orange in your hand, the blue sky, the face of a child."
I was looking for a video to illustrate my own sense of wonder about the world coming back to life, and discovered this, which I find equally creepy and beautiful. It’s not exactly an image of spring, but it reminds me that all living things are breathing. We just have to pay attention to realize it.
(video by sesotek/Vimeo)