Friday, 11 October 2013

Happy Continuation Day Thich Nhat Hanh

Today (October 11th) is a very good day to celebrate the life and work of Thay as this was the day he was 'born' 87 years ago. I'm using speech marks here because of course he teaches about continuation and that we do not begin on the day of our birth or disappear into nothingness on the day of our death - we continue in other forms. This is what he says about what we call birth and death -
"Birth and death are only doors through which we pass, sacred thresholds on our journey.
Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek".I am very grateful that I have come to know Thay not only through his many books but also through being on retreat with him, sitting in his presence and learning about interbeing through watching him practice.
He has a very simple message about being in the present moment and enjoying the joys and wonders life has to offer, deceptively simple. It can be only when you return from a retreat and start to put it into practice yourself that you realise how difficult it actually is. Maintaining mindfulness is a moment by moment practice, an on-going practice that requires determination and effort. You can never get to the point of saying 'I have achieved mindfulness' as that would not be mindful! Nonetheless it is a worthwhile practice because being in the present moment opens a door to a whole new world full of vitality and beauty and presence. Below I'm sharing an old poem that I wrote a while back, that doesn't quite fit in with the season of autumn, but is appropriate in recognising Thay's teachings.

True Names

The snowdrops are abundant,
signing both the coming spring
and the lingering snow.
The croci peep like sharpened pencil tips
standing in the crayon box.
Green fingers reach through the decaying leaves
to herald spring and warmer weather
and lighter days.
The curling, drying beech leaves
are still golden.
The black crows caw
against a greying sky,
showing the merest sliver of
pale turquoise
before the rain clouds come.
Everywhere is change.

Everywhere is birth and death
side by side.
Coming and going,
growth and decay,
the old and the new.
Can one be distinguished from the other?
Can one occur without the other?

With each breath
and with each step
I feel alive.
Heat courses through the body,
reddening the cheeks
and the tips of my ears.
Eyes can see the colourful signposts
of the coming spring.
Ears can hear the cry of birds,
the footsteps of fellow walkers.
Heart can gladden at the promise of sunshine
and warm days and the need
for less layers of clothes.

And mind can delight in the underlying stillness
from which it all begins.
The stillness one knows in the
quiet contemplation of a meditation hall.
The same stillness
that you and I welcome
with each sound of the bell.
The silence that our teachers’ teachers
taught us to feel, to know, to enjoy.
That silence is palpable when we
call things by their true names.

© 27/2/11

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