our life a work of art


you are my sky


Thich Nhat Hanh

After a retreat in southern California, an artist asked me, “What is the way to look at a flower so that I can make the most of it for my art?” I said, “If you look in that way, you cannot be in touch with the flower. Abandon all your projects so you can be with the flower with no intention of exploiting it or getting something from it.” The same artist told me, “When I am with a friend, I want to profit from him or her.” Of course we can profit from a friend, but a friend is more than a source of profit. Just to be with a friend, without thinking to ask for his or her support, help, or advice, is an art.
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drink your tea


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Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.

– Thich Nhat Hanh




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Some excerpts from a transcription of the dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh: “Looking deeply into the nature of things”:

Thay True Nature of Things

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The six notions: coming/going, birth/death, being/non-being cannot be applied to reality. Reality is free of these six notions. When we plant the seed of corn and the corn plant sprouts, it is only a continuation, not a birth.

Salvation – emancipation and freedom by insight, looking deeply can be achieved using techniques and methods. We practice looking deeply so we can get the insight. That insight will help transform the suffering in us and other people. The insight is needed to transform anger.

Looking at the anger I have for my father or my mother, I can recognize that I am the continuation of my father, of my mother: that is a FACT. Reconcile with him, with her, inside yourself – “You didn’t know how to handle your suffering, so you became a victim of your own suffering, and we, your children, suffered.” Now I have the conditions to do better. I know how to work to transform the afflictions in me. “I vow to do better.” Otherwise I will transmit the suffering, the affliction, and the habit energies to my children and to others.

We want to see the true face, the true nature, the true origin of ourselves.

Looking deeply we find out there is no beginning and no ending. I am not the same person I was yesterday but I am also not a totally different one. The person yesterday and the person today are neither the same nor a different entity – they “inter-are”.




Four Layers of Consciousness



Thich Nhat Hanh: The Four Layers of Consciousness

The Inner Workings of Our Minds

Abhidharma, Buddhism’s map of the mind, is sometimes treated as a topic of merely intellectual interest. In fact, says Thich Nhat Hanh, identifying the different elements of consciousness, and understanding how they interact, is essential to our practice of meditation.

The Vietnamese Zen Master, Thuong Chieu, said:

When we understand how our mind works, our practice becomes easy.

To understand our minds, we need to understand our consciousness.

The Buddha taught that consciousness is always continuing, like a stream of water. Consciousness has four layers. The four layers of consciousness are mind consciousness, sense consciousness, store consciousness, and manas.

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calming mindful breathing


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Thích Nhất Hạnh:

I have a breathing exercise that I would like to offer you. I’m sure that if you follow this exercise in difficult moments, you will find relief.

Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.

Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

Breathing in, my breath grows deep.

Breathing out, my breath grows slow. Continue reading

Poems for Mindful Breathing


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Gathas by Thich Nhat Hanh

(short poems to accompany your in- and out-breath):

In, out.

Deep, slow.

Calm, ease.

Smile, release.

Present moment, wonderful moment.


Do not pursue the past.

Do not lose yourself in the future.

The past no longer is.

The future has not yet come.

Looking deeply at life as it is in the very here and now,

the practitioner dwells in stability and freedom.


As an island unto myself,

Buddha is my mindfulness,

Shining near shining far,

Dharma is my breathing,

Guarding body and mind,

I am free.

As an island unto myself,

Sangha is my skandas,

working in harmony.

Taking refuge in myself,

coming back to myself,

I am free.


Breathing in, I go back

To the island of myself.

There are beautiful trees,

There is water, there are birds,

There is sunshine and fresh air.

Breathing out, I feel safe.


The mind can go in a thousand directions,

but on this beautiful path,

I walk in peace.

With each step,

a gentle wind blows.

With each step,

a flower blooms.



Using gathas in our daily practice makes it easy and enjoyable. Gathas are Zen poems that we can memorize and recite silently to ourselves as we practice mindfulness of breathing. Gathas are simple and can be used to accompany any activity. This is a wonderful gatha. We can use it when our mind is confused, when we don’t know the right thing to do, when we’re in a dangerous situation or beginning to panic. When we come back to the breath, breathe mindfully, and recite this gatha, our mind will be calmed immediately. Once we feel stable, we’ll be able to see clearly what we should and should not do in order to improve the situation.

Coming back to take refuge in the island of the self is the teaching the Buddha gave when he was eighty years old. He knew that after he entered nirvana there would be many disciples, both monastic and lay, who would feel lonely and that they had lost their place of refuge. So he taught that inside us there’s an island where we can take refuge. When we feel lost, lonely, sad, hesitant, in despair, when we don’t know what the correct thing to do is, we can come back to that island and have safety.

That island is our stable mind. That island is not a place outside of us. One breath can bring us back to that island immediately. In each person there are the seeds of stability, freedom, and non-fear. It’s these seeds that make a place of refuge for us and protect us. When we take refuge in our island, we’re taking refuge in something real, not in some abstract idea or vague notion about the future. We can use this gatha when we do sitting meditation or walking meditation. Whether we’re sitting, standing, walking or lying down, we can practice coming back to take refuge. Breathing in, we can say, “coming back to take refuge.” Breathing out we can say, “in the island of myself.”

Coming back to take refuge

In the island of myself.

Or we can say:

Coming back

Taking refuge

The island

Of myself.”

(Thich Nhat Hanh, Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go, p. 195)