Mindfulness Practices from Thich Nhat Hanh
To Reduce Stress & Anxiety
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk in the Zen tradition. He is an author, teacher, peace activist and so much more. He founded Plum Village, in France, a monastery and practice centre that has grown to be the largest of its kind in Europe.
His book, Peace is Every Step, was my first introduction to Mindfulness. I discovered it while living in New York; stressed, impatient, angry and wondering where I was going in my life. I was stuck working in a media company, at a marketing job I hated. I drank too much to assuage my discontent. His simple, yet profound practices, opened me up to new possibilities, to new ways of being in the world and of engaging with my life. I believe he was the catalyst to making some amazing changes that have forever transformed my entire life. I am forever indebted and grateful to him.
I used to walk home from yoga class on the Upper East Side to my apartment repeating “Inhale, I know that I am breathing in. Exhale, I know that I am breathing out”. Amongst the chaos of the streets, the honking of the cars, the jostling of the people, I found a peace within myself I never knew was there or even dreamed was possible.
Last night, my husband and I watched the film Walk With Me, a documentary on mindfulness featuring Thich Nhat Hanh. No description I give here can really encapsulate the film, so I just encourage you to see it for yourself. It felt like a 90 minute mindfulness journey which had such a profoundly quieting effect on me, by the time I left, the onslaught of sounds outside the theatre was deafening.
I’ve moved through today re-invigorated by mindful practices. Walking with awareness of my feet on the earth, listening to the birds in the trees, engaging in conscious breathing and it feels like coming home.
I cried at how numb I sometimes am moving through life. I cried at how asleep I feel I am even while awake. I cried at how simple it is to wake up and really live. To release stress and anxiety and to feel alive and free.
“This technique can help you keep your mind on your breath. As you practice, your breath will become peaceful and gentle, and your mind and body will also become peaceful and gentle....Our breathing is our link between our body and our mind. Sometimes our mind is thinking of one thing and our body is doing another. By concentrating on our breathing, we bring mind and body back together, and become whole again.” (Thich Naht Hanh, p. 8)
This can be done anywhere, anytime - walking down the street, in your car, on the bus, washing dishes or sitting in meditation.
Start to breathe with awareness on your in breath and your out breath. As you breath in, say to yourself “Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.” As you breath out, say “Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.” Just that. You could even just say “In” as you inhale and “Out” as you exhale, you don’t even need to recite the whole sentence.
Find the breath whenever you need to re-encounter the present moment.
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