You need the practice of mindfulness to bring your mind back to the body and establish yourself in the moment. If you are fully present, you need only make a step or take a breath in order to enter the kingdom of God.
“And once you have the kingdom, you don’t need to run after objects of your craving, like power, fame, sensual pleasure, and so on. Peace is possible. Happiness is possible. And this practice is simple enough for everyone to do.
— Buddhist teacher and writer Thích Nhất Hạnh in an interview with Oprah
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
I see Buddhist leader Thich Nhat Hanh as the real “Superman.”
Not in the sense that the tiny monk is a comic-book hero type, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but rather in the sense of being so stress-free as to be almost other-wordly.
Thich is a Buddhist monk, teacher and writer who courageously made his name as a peace activist in his native Vietnam during the war years there before he left for 40 years in exile. The 89-year-old Buddhist was nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr., for the Nobel Peace Prize.
For some reason he’s not as famous as his Tibetan Buddhist contemporary The Dalai Lama, but he’s quite well known at that. I actually became best acquainted with his spirituality and teachings in 2003, when my supervisor in chaplaincy at Methodist Hospital in Dallas gave me a copy of Thich’s 1992 bestseller Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life. (My supervisor was an ordained Assembly of God preacher. Who says Pentecostals don’t read?)
That book inspired me to re-read the monk’s wonderful 1997 book examining the striking similarities in the teachings of Jesus and Buddha–Living Buddha, Living Christ. I had read it in a world religions class in seminary but appreciated it, and all the Vietnamese monks teachings, more on the second reading.
I raise all this up to you, dear reader, because Thich said a couple of things in an interview with Oprah a few years ago–it recently was re-broadcast on her network–that has stuck with me. It’s in this Q & A:
OW: Do you meditate every single day?
TNH: Not only every day, but every moment.
OW: So, in a moment where you are perhaps going to miss a plane, or be late for an appointment, or something is causing you to be stressful, you do what?
TNH: Go back to my breathing and try to be in that moment deeply. Because there is a possibility to handle every kind of event and the essential is to keep the peace in yourself.
As one who’s always had an abiding interest in Buddhism I’ve coped with a lot of stressful circumstances with that old-time Buddhist mindful breathing. But I’ve tried in recent years to be ever-mindful of the monk’s assertion that “there is a possibility to handle every kind of event.”
To my way of thinking as a Christian this comports with the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8: 26-28 about all things working for the good in the end:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
In times when I’m so stressed out that it’s hard to even pray I try remember, first of all, to get in touch with my breath and “come back home to myself,” as Thich says–to get back in the present moment where God and I are most at home together.
If I think back to times when I missed a plane or ran a frantic hour late for an important appointment, I’m reminded that everything worked out. I lived to see another day, for gosh sakes.
I lived through it and somehow or another everything worked out, even if I didn’t necessarily see it working out for good at the time.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear,” Jesus says in one of my favorite gospel scriptures in Matthew 6.
“Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—-you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Take a deep breath.
This too shall pass.
One way or another, everything today is going to be all right.
Quite possibly for the good.