‘Mindfulness is a kind of energy that can help bring our minds back to our bodies so that we can be established well in the here and now, so that we can get deeply in touch with life and its many wonders and truly live our lives. Mindfulness allows us to be aware of what is going on in the present moment - in our bodies, in our feelings, in our perceptions, in the world.
We know that the morning is beautiful - the hills, the mist, the sunrise. We want to get in touch with that beauty and allow it into our hearts. We know this is very nourishing. But sometimes an emotion or feeling comes up that prevents us from enjoying what’s happening in the here and now. While another person is able to let the mountains, the glorious sunrise, the beauty of nature penetrate fully into his body and mind, we are blocked by our worries, our fear, and our anger, and the beauty of the sunrise cannot really enter us. Our emotions prevent us from getting in touch with the wonders of life, the kingdom of God, the Pure Land of the Buddha.
What should we do in these circumstances? We think we have to remove that feeling or emotion to be free again, so that the beautiful sunrise can penetrate us. We consider our fear, anger, and worries as enemies. We think that without them we would be free, and that these feelings get in the way so we cannot receive the nourishment we need.
It is in moments like this that we stick to our mindful breathing and gently recognize our afflictions, whether anger, frustration, or fear. Suppose we are feeling worry or anxiety. We practice, “Breathing in, I know that anxiety is in me. Breathing out, I smile to my anxiety.” Maybe you have a habit of worrying. Even if you know it’s neither necessary nor useful, you still worry. You’d like to ban worry and get rid of it, because you know that when you worry you can’t get in touch with the wonders of life and you can’t be happy. So you get angry at your worry; you don’t want it. But worry is part of you, and that’s why when your worry comes up, you have to know how to handle it tenderly and peacefully. You can do it if you have the energy of mindfulness. You cultivate the energy of mindfulness with mindful breathing and mindful walking, and with that energy, you can recognize and tenderly embrace your worry, fear, and anger.
When your baby suffers and cries, you don’t want to punish him or her, because your baby is you. Your fear and anger are like your baby. Don’t imagine that you can just throw them out the window. Don’t be violent toward your anger, your fear, and your worries. The practice is simply to recognize them. Continue to practice mindful breathing and mindful walking; then, with the energy generated by your practice, you can recognize intense feelings, smile to them, and embrace them tenderly. This is the practice of noviolence with your worries, fear and anger. If you get angry with your anger, it is multiplied ten times. This is not wise. You already suffer a lot, and if you get angry with your anger, you will suffer more. A baby may not be pleasant when she cries and kicks, but her mother picks her up tenderly and holds her in her arms, and the mother’s tenderness penetrates the baby. After a few minutes, the baby feels better and may stop crying.
It’s the energy of mindfulness that empowers you to recognize your pain and sorrow and embrace them tenderly. You feel some relief, and your baby is quiet. Now you can enjoy the beautiful sunrise and allow yourself to be nourished by the wonders of life around you as well as inside you.’
- Thich Nhat Hanh, Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm.
A horse suddenly came galloping quickly down the road. It seemed as though the man had somewhere important to go.
Another man, who was standing alongside the road, shouted, “Where are you going?” and the man on the horse replied,
“I don’t know! Ask the horse!”
Explanation: This is a short but well-known Zen story with a powerful meaning behind it. The horse symbolizes our habit energy. The story explains the way we usually live, at the mercy of our old habit energies which have been established not by our intentional actions, but by our surroundings and mindless activity.
‘If you have a loved one who is facing death, she may be very afraid. If you want to help your friend, you have to learn to cultivate your own nonfear. Nonfear is the basis of true happiness, and if you can offer nonfear, you are giving that person the best kind of gift. If you can sit solidly with your friend during those difficult moments, you can help her die peacefully without fear. Nonfear is the cream of the Buddha’s teaching.
Practicing meditation, we can generate the energies of mindfulness and concentration. These energies will lead us back to the insight that nothing is really born or dies, We can truly remove our fear of death. When we understand that we cannot be destroyed, we are liberated from fear. It is a great relief. Nonfear is the ultimate joy.
If we have fear, we can’t be completely happy. If we’re still running after the object of our desire, then we still have fear. Fear goes together with craving. We want to be safe and happy, so we begin to crave a particular person or object or idea (such as wealth or fame) that we think will guarantee our well-being. We can never fully satisfy our craving, so we keep running and we stay scared. If you stop running after the object of your craving - whether it’s a person, a thing, or an idea - your fear will dissipate. Having no fear, you can be peaceful. With peace in your body and mind, you aren’t beset by worries, and in fact you have fewer accidents. You are free.
If we can model the ability to embody nonfear and nonattachment, it is more precious than any money or material wealth. Fear spoils our lives and makes us miserable. We cling to objects and people, like a drowning person clings to any object that flows by. By practicing nonattachment and sharing this wisdom with others, we give the gift of nonfear. Everything is impermanent. This moment passes. The object of our craving walks away, but we can know happiness is always possible.’
- Thich Nhat Hanh, Fear, Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm.
The ego loves problems, it doesn’t want to let go of problems. It will
do everything in its power to convince you that the problems are real. This is
what happens right up to your last breath. The alternative? Turn toward the ‘face before you were born’.