look into your hand


This is another short chapter from Thich Nhat Hanh’s newest book, his memoirs, called At Home in the World. It is a meditation on endless life. It strikes a strong chord in me because when I was about twenty years old I once had a remarkable vision of the eternity and infinity of life while captivated by the intricacy and aliveness of my own palm


I have a Vietnamese friend, an artist, who has been away from his homeland for nearly forty years. He hasn’t seen his mother in all this time. When he misses his mother, all he has to do is look at his hands and he feels better.  His mother, a traditional Vietnamese woman, could only read a few characters and had never studies Western philosophy or science. Yet before he left Vietnam, she held his hand, and told him, “Whenever you miss me, look into your hand, my child. You will see me immediately.” For nearly forty years now, he has done just that and has looked into his hand many times.

The presence of his mother is not just genetic. Her spirit, her hopes, and her life are also present in him. Looking at his hand, he can penetrate deeply into the reality of beginningless and endless time. He can see that thousands of generations before him and thousands of generations after him are all him. From time immemorial until the present moment, his life has never been interrupted, and his hand is still there, a beginningless and endless reality.

Sometimes when I practice calligraphy, I invite my mother, my father, or my teacher to draw the circle with me. Drawing the circle together, I touch the insight of no self, and it becomes a deep practice of meditation. The meditation, work, joy and life become one.

We can find the presence of our father, our mother, and our ancestors in every cell of our body. Not only meditation but science also tell us this. Out parents are not only outside of us. Whenever we are able to breathe mindfully and calm our body and mind, our parents in us are breathing mindfully and calming themselves at the same time. If we are able to generate a feeling of joy and compassion, our parents in us also experience that joy and compassion.

Our parents may never have been fortunate enough to practice mindfulness and transform their suffering. Looking at them with the eyes of compassion, we can share with them our own joy, peace, and forgiveness.

source: Thich Nhat Hanh, At Home in the World, p. 156 -7


Please support Parallax Press, the editing house that Thich Nhat Hanh founded and which printed this beautiful book: At Home in the World





3 thoughts on “look into your hand

  1. Thank you Tomas for sharing this. Such a simple practice. I rarely think to invite my ancestors into my life to assist me with my day but this is also a very useful “take-away” from this piece. In this season, my mother’s joy or music is always with me. Alia

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