“As an island unto myself, Buddha is my mindfulness, shining near, shining far. Dharma is my breathing, guarding body and mind.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
We should practice in order to touch the Buddha and the Dharma several times a day, in our daily lives. The Sangha is also available. First of all the five elements within us — form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness, the five Skandhas–may be in disharmony with each other when you don’t practice.
Illnesses, disease, are born when the five elements are in contradiction, in disharmony. But when you begin to practice mindfulness of breathing, the energy of mindfulness generated from the practice of mindful breathing begins to reorganize the Five Elements.
The Five Elements begin to come together and operate in harmony, and that is a Sangha, the Sangha within. Sangha means harmony, a community living in harmony. So we look into our person, and we recognize the five elements of our person. The physical aspect is form, and then there are the feelings, the perceptions, the mental formations and the consciousnesses. Under the supervision and the guidance of mindful breathing the Five Elements begin to come together and operate in harmony.
Your territory begins to be surveyed by mindfulness, and you know how to restore peace and harmony within your kingdom of the Five Elements. The Sangha is inside, it is not only around you, but it is inside. Therefore, when you go back to the island of self with mindfulness, you have a wonderful refuge. In difficult moments, you should be able to dwell in security in that kind of island. Make it available, learn to enjoy and to make use of that island within yourself. That is the recommendation made by Buddha when he was eighty.
Suppose there is a storm raging-you don’t mind, because your house is solid. You close all the doors and windows, and although the wind is blowing fiercely outside, and there is rain and thunder, you still feel safe within your home. The island of self is like that. You have to practice, to learn, in order to allow that shelter, that island within yourself to appear for your use. During your daily life, learn to dwell in that safe island of mindfulness within you. Then you will be protected from provocations, you will be protected from anger, and from despair.
There are many elements around you that are ready to invade you, to attack you and to deprive you of your peace and stability. So you have to organize in order to protect yourself, and to build up the practice of dwelling in that island of self is the practice recommended by the Buddha.
In the position of sitting, of walking, while you are doing the cooking, or the washing, please learn to dwell in that island of self, and feel safe when you do these things. When you need to go out of the house you can still carry that island of self with you, and everywhere you go you will feel safe, because you have a safe island to protect you.
Nothing can assail you anymore, because you have that island of self, available every moment. During your sleep that island is also available. Before going to sleep, you can go back to that island and feel comfortable there. No one can remove that island of safety from you.