Meditations for Mindful Living

Thich Nhat Hanh composed these short meditations to help us bring awareness, peace, and joy to the simple activities we may take for granted, like drinking a glass of water, washing our hands, or taking out the garbage. 

Turning on the Water

Water flows from high mountain sources. Water runs deep in the Earth. Miraculously, water comes to us and sustains all life.

Even if we know the source of our water, we often take its appearance for granted. But water is what makes all life on Earth possible. Our bodies are more than 70 percent water. Our food can be grown and raised because of water. Water is a good friend, a bodhisattva, which nourishes the many thousands of species on Earth. Its benefits are infinite. Reciting this gatha before turning on the faucet or drinking a glass of water enables us to see the stream of fresh water in our own hearts so that we feel completely refreshed. To celebrate the gift of
water is to cultivate awareness and help sustain our life and the lives of others.

Looking at Your Empty Bowl

My bowl, empty now, will soon be filled with precious food. Beings all over the Earth are struggling to live. How fortunate we are to have enough to eat.

When many people on this Earth look at an empty bowl, they know their bowl will continue to be empty for a long time. So the empty bowl is as important to honor as the full bowl. We are grateful to have food to eat, and with this meditation, we can vow to find ways to help those who are hungry.

Serving Food

In this food, I see clearly the entire universe supporting my existence.

When we look at our plate, filled with fragrant and appetizing food, we should be aware of the bitter pain of people who suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Looking at our plate, we can see Mother Earth, the farm workers, and the tragedy of the unequal distribution of resources. We who live in North America and Europe are accustomed to eating foods imported from other countries, whether it is coffee from Colombia, chocolate from Ghana, or fragrant rice from Thailand. Many children in these countries, except those from rich families, never see the fine products that are put aside for export in order to bring in money. Before a meal, we can join our palms in mindfulness and think about those who do not have enough to eat. Slowly and mindfully, we breathe three times and recite this gatha. Doing so will help us maintain mindfulness. May we find ways to live more simply in order to have more time and energy to change the system of injustice that exists in the world.

Recycling

In the garbage, I see a rose. In the rose, I see the garbage. Everything is in transformation. Even permanence is impermanent.

Whenever we throw something away, whether in the garbage can, the compost, or the recycling, it can smell terrible. Rotting organic matter smells especially terrible. But it can also become rich compost for fertilizing the garden. The fragrant rose and the stinking garbage are two sides of the same existence. Without one, the other cannot be. Everything is in transformation. The rose that wilts after six days will become a part of the garbage. After six months the garbage is transformed into a rose. When we speak of impermanence, we understand that everything is in transformation. This becomes that, and that becomes this. Looking deeply, we can contemplate one thing and see everything else in it. We are not disturbed by change when we see the interconnectedness and continuity of all things. It is not that the life of any individual is permanent, but that life itself continues. When we identify ourselves with life and go beyond the boundaries of a separate identity, we shall be able to see permanence in the impermanent, or the rose in the garbage. 

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