Be Free Where You Are, Thich Nhat Hanh:
Dear Friends, I wrote the following poem during the war in Vietnam after the town of Ben Tre was bombed by the United States Air Force. Ben Tre is the hometown of my colleague, Sister Chân Không. The U.S. forces destroyed the entire town because there were five or six guerrillas there. Later on, one officer declared that he had to bomb and destroy Ben Tre to save it from Communism.
This poem is about anger.
I hold my face in my two hands.
No, I am not crying.
I hold my face in my two hands
to keep my loneliness warm—
two hands protecting,
two hands nourishing,
two hands preventing my soul from leaving me in anger.
I was very angry. It was not just my anger, but the anger of a whole nation. Anger is a kind of energy that makes us and the people around us suffer. As a monk, when I get angry, I practice caring for my anger. I don’t allow it to cause suffering or to destroy me. If you take care of your anger and are able to find relief, you will be able to live happily with much joy.
The Energy of Liberation
To take care of my anger I bring my attention to my breathing and look deeply inside myself. Right away I notice an energy there called anger. Then I recognize that I need another kind of energy to take care of this anger, and I invite that energy to come up to do that job. This second energy is called mindfulness. Every one of us has the seed of mindfulness within us. If we know how to touch that seed, we can begin to generate the energy of mindfulness, and with that energy, we can take good care of the energy of anger. Mindfulness is a kind of energy that helps us to be aware of what is going on. Everyone is capable of being mindful. Those of us who practice daily have a greater capacity for being mindful than those who do not. Those who do not practice still have the seed of mindfulness, but its energy is very weak. By practicing just three days, the energy of mindfulness will already increase. There can be mindfulness in anything you do. While you are drinking a cup of water, if you know that you are drinking water in that moment and you are not thinking of anything else, you are drinking mindfully. If you focus your whole being, body and mind, on the water, there is mindfulness and concentration, and the act of drinking may be described as mindful drinking. You drink not only with your mouth, but with your body and your consciousness, too. Everyone is capable of drinking his or her water mindfully. This is the way I was trained as a novice. Walking mindfully is possible anywhere you are. When you walk, focus all your attention on the act of walking. Become aware of every step you take and don’t think of anything else. This is called mindful walking. It is wonderfully effective. By doing this, you will begin to walk in such a way that every step brings you solidity, freedom, and dignity. You are the master of your own self. Anytime I have to go from one place to another, I practice walking meditation—even if the distance is only five or six feet. Climbing up the stairs, I practice walking meditation. Going down the stairs, I practice walking meditation. Boarding an airplane, I practice walking meditation. Going from my room to the toilet, I practice walking meditation. Going to the kitchen, I practice walking meditation. I do not have any other style of walking—just mindful walking. It helps me very much. It brings me transformation, healing, and joy.
When you eat, you can practice mindfulness. Mindful eating can bring you a lot of joy and happiness. In my tradition, eating is a deep practice. First, we sit in a stable position and look at the food. Then, mindfully, we smile at it. We see the food as an ambassador that has come to us from the sky and from the Earth. Looking at a string bean, I can see a cloud floating in it. I can see the rain and the sunshine. I realize that this string bean is a part of the Earth and the sky. When I bite into the string bean, I am aware that this is a string bean that I have put into my mouth. There is nothing else in my mouth—not my sorrow or my fear. When I chew the string bean, I am just chewing a string bean—not my worries or my anger. I chew very carefully, with one hundred percent of myself. I feel a connection to the sky, the Earth, the farmers who grow the food, and the people who cook it. Eating like this, I feel that solidity, freedom, and joy are possible. The meal not only nourishes my body, but also my soul, my consciousness, and my spirit.