Thursday, 20 December 2007

Peaceful Focus

I've been feeling kind of scattered and unfocused these last few weeks. There are lots of things going on leading up to Christmas, and while Gord and I have largely opted out of the consumerism part of western tradition for this holiday, there has still been a lot to do and seemingly not enough time to do it. Work has also been very busy and more stressful than usual.

A respite for me over these last few weeks has come in the form of a beautiful little book I bought not long ago by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. The book is called "Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life." (You can read an excerpt of this lovely book here.)

The basic premise of the book is that there can be no such thing as world peace until there is personal, individual peace. And that personal peace is accessible to everyone all the time, through the practice of mindful awareness:
Peace is present right here and now, in ourselves and everything we do and see. The question is whether or not we are in touch with it. We don't have to travel far to enjoy the blue sky. We don't have to leave our city or even our neighborhood to enjoy the eyes of a beautiful child. Even the air we breathe can be a source of joy.
The rest of the book goes on to describe how a person can achieve mindfulness in daily life, whether we are breathing, driving, working, or dealing with unpleasantness. The interconnectedness of all things is described, and a discussion undertaken about how, if we are going to dislodge the roots of war, we need to live in harmony with all things, to "inter-be."
We need harmony, we need peace. Peace is based on respect for life, the spirit of reverence for life. Not only do we have to respect the lives of human beings, we have to respect the lives of animals, vegetables and minerals. Rocks can be alive. A rock can be destroyed. The Earth also. The destruction of our health by pollution of air and water is linked to the destruction of the minerals. The way we farm, the way we deal with our garbage, all these things are related to each other.
Throughout the book Thich Nhat Hanh describes the simple things we can each do, everyday, to work towards a more peaceful state. Things like sitting still and paying attention to our breathing, or totally concentrating on whatever we are eating at the moment, or stopping when we hear the sound of a church bell or even the honking of a car horn and really listening to it.

So when things get hectic, and stressful, and I'm worried if this world can ever get its act together, this little book has reminded me that I can experience peace right now, and contribute to world peace a little bit each day. That gives me a measure of comfort in this season that is that is supposed to be all about peace and good will.


Simply Authentic said...

i was assigned this book as an undergrad in one of my theology courses. i remember thinking it was great, but i don't know that i read the whole thing back then. however it's one of the few college books i kept, so i obviously should open it up and read it! i actually felt called to read it a few weeks ago, so the fact that you just posted about it only solidifies it! hope you are well!

Theresa said...

Hello S.A.! It is a book of powerful simplicity - very compelling and inspiring. I hope you enjoy your re-reading of the book - I know I will be re-reading portions of it regularly. Have a blessed Christmas!

Correne said...

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that book. I read it last year, and I read a few more of his books. They are just so soothing to read.

I found your blog because of a comment you left on Crunchy Chicken. I'm Correne from Label-Resistant Life (I'm so proud that you actually linked to my blog, even though I have been silent for months.)

I am really impressed by the letters you wrote. They are very good.

Take care!

Theresa said...

Hello Correne! I have been wondering how you have been doing - glad to see you back in the blogosphere! I really liked reading your blog and I still check it regularly to see if you have posted anew.

Thanks for the compliment about the letters :) I've got to get going on typing and posting the response I got from Premier Ed Stelmach, who, oddly enough, I saw in the grocery store yesterday. I guess Premiers need groceries too!