These are my favorite passages about Mindfulness, Compassion, and Conflict Resolution with the great Thich Nhat Hanh. RIP
“WHEN YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE Usually when we are angry with someone we are more interested in fighting with them than in taking care of our own feelings. It’s like someone whose house is on fire running after the person who has set fire to their house instead of going home to put out the flames. If we don’t go home to take care of our anger, our whole house will burn down. But if we can pause for a moment, we have a chance to acknowledge our anger, embrace it and look deeply to see its true roots. If we can take care of our own anger instead of focusing on the other person, we will get immediate relief.”
We “kill” our anger by smiling to it, holding it gently, looking deeply to understand its roots and transforming it with understanding and compassion.”
“Angry words and actions hurt oneself first and hurt oneself most of all.”
“Your anger is the wounded child in you. Why should you fight your anger? The method is entirely nonviolent: awareness, mindfulness, and tenderly holding your anger within you. Like this, your anger will transform naturally.”
“MAN IS NOT OUR ENEMY The roots of discrimination, conflict, and war are not to be found outside us. They are within our own way of thinking and looking at the world. The real enemy is our ignorance, our attachment to views, and our wrong perceptions. With looking deeply and the practice of compassionate dialogue, we can transform misperceptions and anger into understanding and love, just as a gardener can transform compost to grow beautiful flowers and vegetables.”
“THE ART OF APOLOGIZING The ability to apologize sincerely and express regret for the unskillful things we say or do is an art. A true apology can relieve a great deal of suffering in the other person. Once we realize that we may have said or done something to make another suffer, we can find a way to apologize as soon as possible. If we can, we should apologize right away and not wait. We can talk to the other person directly, or if they’re not there we can call them on the phone, or even send a note. There is no need to wait until the next time we meet. A straightforward apology can have a powerful effect. We can just say, “I am very sorry. I know I was unskillful. I was not mindful or understanding.” We don’t need to justify or explain what we said or did, we just apologize.”
“STILLNESS IS THE FOUNDATION OF UNDERSTANDING When we observe or listen to other people, we often don’t see them clearly or really hear what they’re saying. We see and hear our projections and prejudices instead. Even if a friend gives us a compliment, we find it difficult to receive their kind words. Most of the time, our mind, thoughts, and feelings aren’t calm. They’re like the water in a muddy lake, which can’t reflect the sky because it’s been churned up by a storm. If we’re not calm, we can’t listen deeply and understand. But when our mind is calm, we can see reality more clearly, like still water reflecting the trees, the clouds, and the blue sky. Stillness is the foundation of understanding and insight. Stillness is strength.”
“When you produce loving thoughts, speech, and actions, these nourish your love and help it grow strong. Suffering also requires food to survive. If you continue to suffer, it’s because you feed your suffering every day. Thoughts, conversations, films, books, magazines, and the Internet are sensory foods that we consume. If we don’t carefully choose what we consume, these things can water the seeds of anger, fear, violence, and discrimination within us. If you stop feeding your suffering, it will also die.”
“HOW CAN I HELP? Sometimes you believe that you are doing something out of love and in the service of another person’s happiness. But if you don’t act from a place of deep understanding of the other person, your actions may actually be making them suffer. If you don’t understand the suffering, the difficulties, and the deep aspirations of another person, it’s not possible for you to love them. Love is understanding; without understanding we cannot speak of true love. A person should be able to ask another person: “Do I understand you well enough?” That is the language of love. If you are sincere, the other person will tell you about their suffering. When you have understood their suffering, you can provide the food of love.”
“WHAT WILL MAKE US SAFE? Very often in a conflict, we believe the problem is the other person or group. We think it is all their fault and that if they would just stop doing what they are doing or being the way they are, we would have peace and happiness. So we may be motivated by the desire to destroy the other side. We may wish they didn’t exist. But looking deeply, we know that we are not the only ones who have suffered—they have also suffered.”
“When we take time to calm ourselves down and look deeply into the situation, we can see that we are co responsible, that we have co-created the conflict by our way of thinking, acting, or speaking, either individually or as a group or nation. We can look deeply to see our own part in the difficulty that has arisen and accept responsibility. When we see how we have contributed to the conflict, our heart opens again and dialogue becomes possible.”
“ARE YOU SURE? Many arguments and conflicts come about because we are so sure of our own thoughts and perceptions. One of the deepest teachings given by the Buddha is that we should not be too sure of our own ideas. Don’t be fooled by your perceptions. Even if you are sure you are seeing clearly, check again. Keep an open mind. Be ready to let go of your views.”
“UNTYING KNOTS IN A RELATIONSHIP When you are in a new relationship, both people are still light, and have few knots. Misunderstandings are easy to clear up right away. But when we let things build up, many knots accumulate and we don’t know where to begin untying them. To protect each other’s happiness, we need to become aware of and communicate about our internal knots as soon as they arise. One woman told me that just three days after her wedding she already had a number of knots inside but she kept them from her partner for thirty years. She was afraid that if she told him, there would be a fight. We can’t be truly happy without real, open communication. When we are not mindful in our daily life, we plant seeds of suffering in the very person we love the most.”
“The young girl replied, “But master, I see it differently. I think that if I take good care of myself and you take good care of yourself then we’ll both be safe, able to support each other, and to continue making a living.” The little girl understood the true nature of interbeing. There is no discrimination, no separation.”
“When you take good care of yourself, you are taking care of the other person. Looking after ourselves means looking after others. How do we look after ourselves? By practicing mindfulness. By knowing what is going on in our body and mind. We bring our mind home to our body and establish ourselves firmly in the present moment. We bring our awareness to our breathing and relax our body. Taking care of our strong emotions and learning to recognize our wrong perceptions, we discover the roots of our suffering.”
“ONE ARROW CAN SAVE TWO BIRDS When you remove the conflict within yourself, you also remove the conflict between yourself and others. One arrow can save two birds at the same time—if the arrow strikes the branch, both birds will fly away. First, take care of yourself. Reconcile the conflicting elements within yourself by being mindful, looking deeply, and practicing loving kindness and compassion toward yourself. Then, reconcile with the people closest to you by understanding and loving them, even if they themselves sometimes lack understanding.”
“MEDITATION ON THE FIVE-YEAR-OLD CHILD A five-year-old child is vulnerable and can get hurt very easily. We have all been a five-year-old, and that child is still alive inside us. In this meditation, you go home and touch the five-year-old child in you, the child who may be deeply wounded and who has been neglected for a long time. Sitting and breathing, perhaps looking at a photo of yourself at age five, you can say, “Seeing myself as a five-year-old child, I breathe in. Smiling to the five-year-old child, I breathe out.” The next step is to imagine the person who you perceive as causing your suffering as a five-year-old child. It can be helpful to imagine your parents as five-year-old children. You can say, “Breathing in, I see my father as a five-year-old child. Breathing out, I smile to the five-year-old child that was my father.” We may have an image of our father as an adult, but we forget that he was once a little boy whose feelings were also easily hurt. If it helps, find a photo of your father as a small child and look at it. Breathe in and out and smile at your father as a five-year-old child.”
“LOVE LETTER If you have difficulties with someone in your life, you might spend some time alone and write a letter to him or her. Give yourself three hours to write a letter using loving speech. While you write the letter, practice looking deeply into the nature of your relationship. Why has communication been difficult? Why has happiness not been possible? You may want to begin like this, “My dear son, I know you have suffered a lot during the past many years. I have not been able to help you—in fact, I have made the situation worse. It is not my intention to make you suffer, my son. Maybe I am not skillful enough. Maybe I try to impose my ideas on you and I make you suffer. In the past I thought you made me suffer, that my suffering was caused by you. Now I realize that I have been responsible for my own suffering, and that I have made you suffer. As your father, I don’t want you to suffer.” Spend three hours, even a day, writing such a letter. You will find that the person who finishes the letter is not the same person who began it. Peace, understanding, and compassion have transformed you. A miracle can be achieved in twenty-four hours. That is the practice of loving speech.”
Davidson Hang is currently in Sales at Cheetah Digital which is a Marketing technology company located in NYC.
Davidson is an avid networker, personal growth- life and business coach.
He loves spreading the love and regularly helps people create and design the life they want for themselves.