Below is a short discussion inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh on this episode of the On Being podcast.
Our internal work flows to our external world. If we learn how to focus on the present, see with compassion, and commit to maintaining communication, we can foster healthy relationships and remove barriers dividing humanity.
In this episode of On Being, Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh (or “Thay”, as he’s known to his students) talks about the individual as the path to peace.
How? Thay says that it can be done through how we use our minds, our eyes, and our words.
- How we use our minds. When we focus on the present moment, we open our awareness to life’s inherent suffering. When we see suffering as part of the process to peace, we can learn to accept and transform it.
- How we use our eyes. Once we appreciate that suffering is inherent to human life, we don’t sulk in our own pain, instead we use it to recognize struggles of others. Consequently, we can look at them with understanding and compassion. We can see that those we disagree with are suffering just as much. When we see that we’re fundamentally connected, we can overcome our differences.
- How we use our words. When we see that we’re all dealing with the same suffering, we can talk our differences out, and focus on working through our common problems together. We can navigate through our disagreements, as long as we commit to constant and honest dialogues.
When we focus on the present, we can widen our perspective to deepen our understanding of life’s suffering. We can use this deeper understanding to see the world as connected through suffering. We can talk through our differences knowing we’re fundamentally connected. And when we do that, we can change the world for the better. We can move towards more peace on a grand scale.
the distilld lessons
These are the distilld lessons from the On Being podcast episode with Thich Nhat Hanh.
Mindfulness is focusing our mind on us and the world around us. Be aware, but don’t get distracted. Be conscious, but not worried.
Breathing reconnects the mind to the body. It’s the easiest and one of the most effective tools for mindfulness. When overstimulated by distractions, or forced to divide attention, take deep breaths so you shift focus back to yourself.
Find your Zen. It can be a sport to practice, a dish to cook, or a floor to mop. Immerse yourself in an activity that demands so much of your attention that you have none left for distractions.
Confront suffering instead of avoiding it. It's not an alternative to healing; it's its source. Only by confronting suffering can you learn to transform it.
See with a fresh set of eyes. You’d be surprised by what you find. If you look at the world — warts and all — with compassion, you’ll be able to see beyond destruction and division. Helping will make more sense than fighting.
Brave the conversations. Even the difficult ones. Especially the difficult ones. Different people have different views, but our humanity makes us the same. Communicating helps us tap into what connects us, so we can overcome what divides us.
The peace inside us is what fuels our compassion for others. When we understand each other, we can heal one another. Just as we are together in suffering, we are united in healing as well.
World peace starts from within. From us, as the individual.
- Breathe when you’re distracted. Breathing restores the mind-body connection. It lays the groundwork for mindfulness. When you breathe mindfully, you shift focus inward.
- Engage in activities that clear your mind. Drown distractions out by performing anything that demands so much attention from your mind that it has none left for distractions.
- Confront suffering instead of avoiding it. Mindfulness also focuses on the pain, fear, and anger you feel inside. Lean into this suffering, so you can transform it into something good.
- Look at the world with compassion. Suffering is universal. The pain you go through is not that different from the pain others have. When viewed this way, helping others makes more sense than fighting.
- Talk and reach out to people. Don’t cut people off just because of differences in opinion. Have the hard conversations. Then move forward together.
For a more in depth conversation, the distilld lessons (extended) are here.