Peace of Mind Becoming Fully Present

In Peace of Mind, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that integrating body and mind is the only way to feel truly alive in each moment.

peace of mind book cover

  Reprinted from Peace of Mind: Becoming Fully Present (2013) by Thich Nhat Hanh with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California. www.parallax.org

If you have an unpleasant feeling, a feeling of sadness, fear, worry, or despair, you may think you don’t have the capacity to return home to be in touch with that emotion, to manage and embrace it. You want to run away from it—and you have many ways to run away, like magazines, books, music, food, the Internet, or busily strategizing—so you won’t be in touch with your body and mind. Mind and body are alienated from each other, and this makes us sick.

When some catastrophe happens, when you have a painful feeling in your body, when something isn’t going well, when you have a strong emotion, mindfulness will help you to be aware of it, and you will be able to do something to soothe and calm that pain. Mindfulness puts you in touch with the positive things, and it can also help you be present and skillful with things that are unpleasant.

You may have anger. Anger can ravage your mind and body. But if you can breathe mindfully, come back to the present moment, and get in touch with your body and with your feelings and embrace them, there is already some relief. “Breathing in, I know that anger is in me. Breathing out, I embrace my anger.” There’s already a difference. If we don’t practice mindfulness and embracing, then there’s just the anger, that one energy, in us. Left to its own devices, that energy can push us to say and do things that will cause damage.

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So when the anger comes up, you practice. You practice mindful breathing, and you generate the energy of mindfulness.

Breathing in, I know that anger is there in me.
Breathing out, I embrace the anger in me.

There’s the energy of anger, but there’s also the energy of mindfulness being produced, which is recognizing and embracing the anger.

The energy of mindfulness embraces and calms the anger: “My little anger, I am here for you; I’m going to take good care of you.” Mindfulness will help you to handle the suffering. The essential thing is to light up your mindfulness and to have that second energy that can recognize the suffering or the anger and patiently and tenderly embrace that pain. Then two energies will be operating, the suffering energy and the mindfulness that recognizes and embraces that suffering. If you practice in this way you will obtain relief very quickly. That is the second function of mindfulness. First of all, with mindfulness we can nourish and heal ourselves with positive things. Secondly, with mindfulness we can embrace and relieve our suffering.

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Thich Nhat Hanh
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