The Zen Master
* Please note that this blog was originally written in 2017, and though Thich Nhat Hanh has passed away, his Buddha Presence is with us now more than ever, on each mindful breath *
"Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky.
Conscious breathing is my anchor."
Thich Nhat Hanh
Back in the early 90's', a friend gave me a book by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh called, Peace is Every Step. At that time, I had been on the spiritual path for over 10 years, and was already a seasoned meditator, though I hadn't tasted any kind of real Stillness in my own life. As I read the Masters words, I remember thinking, 'can living with peace and joy actually be this easy?' After all, he basically only taught two practices; being present in the here and now and mindful breathing. Of course, that sounded way too simple for my very complicated mind, so while I enjoyed the book, and 'learned' a thing or two from it, off I went to continue my search for something more elusive and mysterious that I was sure was going to lead to the 'enlightenment' that I craved.
Over the next 10 years or so, as I careened from one teaching to the next, I would occasionally buy the latest book by Thay (as Thich Nhat Hanh is known by his students. The word means teacher). Each time I read one of these books, I noticed that he kept coming back to the two teachings he had written about all those years earlier: mindful breathing and present moment awareness. In fact, I remember thinking, 'he just writes the same book over and over and puts a different title on it!'
Yet, they're finally came a time when I found myself very open to the simplicity of the Masters teachings, a time when I was completely exhausted from all of the decades of 'seeking', and ready to come home to the ease of the present moment. I heard Thay's teachings with fresh ears and, more importantly, opened to his simple practices with a new-found curiosity and receptivity. As I practiced, I began to realize the truth for myself; that indeed, there were really only two practices necessary to be awake to the truth of who and what we are (our Buddha Nature); mindful breathing and present moment awareness. I saw for myself that, when I am absorbed in the breath I am taking right now, I can be no other place than right here. In these two practices, I discovered the Stillness and Presence that is at the heart of an awakened life, and let go of the mistaken belief that they're was something else that I needed to know.
I invite you to make this discovery for yourself by taking some time to practice these two essential teachings in your own life. Sit still and anchor to your own 'buddha breath', and have a look around you with fresh, open eyes. It's always Now, isn't it? Asked yourself the great Zen question, "At THIS moment, is there anything lacking?" Let go of trying to 'think' your way into a deeper understanding of who you are, and simply BE who you are right Now. What you just may discover is that everything is available to you right here, on this very breath, in this very moment, and there's nothing else you need to know. In this simplicity, you just may realize the truth of this old Zen saying for yourself:
"In Zen, everything is obvious.
There is no 'next'.
There is only this, right Now.
The question is always "Are You Here?"