It made my day last week to learn how many readers really enjoyed the philosophies and practices of my "professor" Thich Nhat Hanh.
So this issue is an invitation to savor a simple act, inspired by Thich's wise teaching (and a fond remembrance of Eleanor Roosevelt's famous line-
"A friendship is like a teabag. It's only when it gets into hot water that you find out how strong it is)
Here's hoping today's edition catches you just in time for tea,
"Until there is peace between religions, there can be no peace in the world."
-Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step
"Drinking things in and keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos." --Thích Nhất Hạnh, Practicing the Art of Mindful Living
"For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them." -- Thích Nhất Hạnh, Being Peace
(A creative compilation of Thich's related writings on the art of drinking tea)
Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky.
Conscious breathing is my anchor.
Drink your tea reverently,
as if it is the axis on which the earth revolves -
slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.
Tea is simple: loose-leaf tea, hot pure water, a cup.
I inhale the scent, tiny delicate pieces of the tea floating to the surface.
You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea.
Only in the awareness of the present-
can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup...
can you savor the aroma, taste the sweetness, appreciate the delicacy
If you touch one thing with deep awareness, you touch everything.
Anxiety, the illness of our time,
comes primarily from our inability to dwell in the present moment.
If you are ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future, you will completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea.
You will look down at the cup, and the tea will be gone.
Life is like that. Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky.
Conscious breathing is my anchor.
When I drink tea, there is only me and the tea.
The rest of the world dissolves.
There are no worries about the future.
No dwelling on past mistakes.
The past is finished.
Learn from it and let it go.
The future is not even here yet.
Plan for it, but do not waste your time worrying about it.
Worrying is worthless.
When you stop ruminating about what has already happened,
when you stop worrying about what might never happen,
then you will be in the present moment
I drink the tea, the essence of the leaves becoming a part of me.
I am informed by the tea, changed.
This is the act of life, in one pure moment-
There is only the tea, and me, converging.
Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky.
Conscious breathing is my anchor.
Breathing in, there is only the present moment.
Breathing out, it is a wonderful moment.
-Thích Nhất Hạnh (arranged and adapted by yours unruly, Rob Peck)
Today I am practicing peace, and rather than fight fire with fire, putting on water and brewing loose leaf tea.
I'd like to introduce you to two of my heroes. One from the West. One from the East, (and no, I won't say who I like best!)
But I welcome you to guess either of their full names, and win this week's grand prize (drum roll please) a deluxe, first class cabin for two, all expenses paid 3 week Carribian cruise on.... Gullible Travels!
In other words, go ahead and guess just for the jest of it. Hint- one is fairly well known, and within a small circle justly famous.
Here's hoping after today's issue you'll see- and feel, why.
Warmly (the operative word these days),
"I would not look upon anger as something foreign to me that I have to fight. I have to deal with my anger with care, with tenderness, with nonviolence....Compassion is a verb." --Thích Nhất Hạnh, Being Peace
"The past is finished. Learn from it and let it go... The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don't wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy." -- Thích Nhất Hạnh, Touching Peace: the Art of Mindful Living
"The true miracle is not walking on water or walking in air, but simply walking on this earth... Be aware of the contact between your feet and the earth. When we walk like we are rushing, we print anxiety and sorrow on the earth. Better to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the earth.... Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet." --Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step:
'Kind Management' is a form of personal insurance that replaces the need for urgent care with relaxed self caring. Practicing 'kindfulness' aligns our deeds with our creeds, in a way that's guided by an inner compass not an external clock.
You know you've got good 'Kind Management' when you stop checking your phone, and start giving the gift of undivided attention. Because when it comes to being a good ally, there's no present like the time.
And when it comes to good 'Kind Management', there's no tool for staying in the present moment like meditation. My teacher- and for my music, the king of 'Kindfulness', is Thich Nhat Hanh.
A Vietnamese Buddhist monk- with a decidedly western wit, his first sentence at a seminar for a bunch of Silicon Valley overachievers was "Don't just do something, sit there." Whereupon,Thich smiled, and told them- "Sometimes we are smiling because we are happy, and sometimes we are happy because we are smiling."
Then he guided them through a two sentence meditation- "Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile." Apparently one C.E.O. was so shocked to discover that something as simple as smiling could increase his face value, Thich had to laughingly warn him he was "becoming vulnerable to joy".
Which reminds me of one of Thich's poetic gems- "My joy is like spring-,so warm flowers bloom in my hands." What a muse that man must have. In books like PEACE IS EVERY STEP- The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, his gentle spirit helped my busy brain ease it's burdens. Over time I developed a practice of 'Kindfulness' that built on his guided visualization techniques.
Here's a short 3 breath sample:
Breathing in deeply, I relax my lungs
Breathing out slowly, I release my shoulders
Breathing in deeply, I feel my stomach soften
Breathing out slowly, I feel fear falling away like autumn leaves
Breathing in deeply I fill my heart with warm sunshine
Breathing out slowly, I smile serenely
There you have it, a simple, 3 sentence Kindfulness practice suitable for all ages, borrowed from a Budhist monk, and brought to you by a juggling jew!
Today I'm welcoming Thich Nhat Hanh's peaceful spirit to put me in a kind-full state of mind, and guide my feet to walk lightly on the earth.
Ok I just gotta get this out the way. Hip, hip hooray for the Pats last second interception!! Talk about a goal line pick in the nick of time) If you were rooting for the Seahawks, my condolences. And if you could care less about the NFL (National Football Lunacy) my congratulations for concentrating on more vital matters than Deflate-Gate and avoiding wardrobe malfunctions. My excuse for watching Sunday's Superbowl Spectacle is simple. I live in New England- and nothing gets my neighbor's going like seeing the hometeam snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on national television. Here's hoping today's story of a small scale triumph has a similarly bonding effect, Rob PS Still hoping If you've done or witnessed a kindness you'll drop me a quick note, and join me in co-creating The Kindness Chronicles. (Which sure beats the Daily Disgraces, and Holy Horror Headline leads that bleeds in Mass Media Miseries!)
Age makes our bodies shrink - and our stories lengthen.
"I still can't get out from under my father's shadow. He's really tall, so maybe I'll just ask him to move over a few feet."... "He's a year shorter than me, but he's a foot younger. I love him like the brother of an only child." -- Jarod Kintz, Love quotes for the ages. Specifically ages 18-81.
"My ideas aren't afraid of height." - Harmony Letters by Leena Ahmad Almashad
"There are such things as desirable difficulties." -- David & Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
It happened again today. This was the third time the big guy bullied me speechless in the Y pool and I'd had it! When I got out of the pool my body was chilled but my mind was fuming. I walked into the shower room and there he was, dripping wet.My first impulse was to sock him straight in the nose and say "Serves you right, you big arrogant a-hole!" He looked down at me quizzically. I reconsidered.
I gazed up at his angular chin. One glance at his beady eyes and my reptilian brain wanted to strike him with semantic venom. "Hey behemoth, who died and made you lifeguard? And since when do you get to name the tune for how fast other members have to swim?" He wrapped a towel across his massive chest. I muzzled my mouth. But I didn't move. I know the truism that revenge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Still, I had to say something.
Sentences swam in my bloodstream. "Hey buster I'm sick and tired of your put downs. How dare you speak poorly about me to other swimmers. You got no damn business bitching about my slow speed. I've got just as much right as you to use the lap lane, you big blow hard!"
I looked up at him, towering a foot taller than me and prayed for a sling shot. Dying to retaliate for being so unjustly accused, my competitive instincts flared. I knew I could beat him in a race. I'd timed a lap against him and my crawl stroke was faster by a yard. I'll show the big lout who's a slow swimmer. I pictured my Goliath covered in humble pie. In mid mental savoring of sweet revenge, my heart abruptly put me on a less poisonous path.
I stuck out my hand and said, "I don't think we ever met. Hi, I'm Rob." The giant eyed me hesitantly. Then he gave me a puzzled shake, and said with a slightly Slovakian accent. "I'm Milan." I nervously wanted to reply "Really? I thought it was Goliath." I opted for of pragmatism and the most affirming statement I could muster. "Good to meet you Milan. You sure keep yourself in great shape."
My Goliath's brow furrowed. Clearly he hadn't expected a complement from David. He replied "Well, I don't know about that. I'm no spring chicken, but I try to exercise regularly." I smiled at him and said- "It shows." Milan hesitated for a second, then slowly smiled back. I told him "Keep up the good work!" and stepped into the shower.
The hot water complemented the warm feeling I had inside. I felt sure that by simply introducing myself and finding something positive to say, I'd pleasantly surprised the big guy. And hey, who needs a slingshot when you can kill Goliath with kindness. If nothing else, the encounter defused some tension. And with any luck it also humanized us, and made it less likely that Milan would demonize me to other swimmers. I figured it was a good first step, and was glad to leave it at that.
I dried off, gathered my swim stuff, and walked into the locker room. The man at the stall right next to mine was Milan. One part of me knew I should simply nod, and quit while I was ahead. But when he greeted me with a smile, the other part lurched into phase two of Truth & Reconciliation. "Milan, I was thinking about my swim today, and I'm guessing my slow backstroke can sometimes feel frustrating for you, no?"
Again caught off Guard, Milan's jaw tightened. He looked down at the floor and shook his head. He kept his eyes down and confessed. "Yes, it's true. I'm sorry Rob. I've been impatient, and reacted angrily. I know I need to find a better way to adjust."
I wanted to reply "That's big of you." But I opted to put my small hand on his large shoulder, and say "Thanks, I appreciate that." For an awkward moment neither of us spoke. Then I added "That adjustment goes both ways big fella. From now on, when I touch the back end of the pool I'll look out for you. If you're close behind, I'll wait at the wall, and let you go ahead of me."
Milan's head popped up and his eyes flashed with excitement. "On the back end, maybe so. But on the front wall, no way! I know when you swim on your stomach you go plenty fast." Then, he added with a grin: "I bet when you swim crawl, I'm the one slowing you up."
Bingo! Reconciliation- AND vindication! What a combo. Now instead of wishing for a slingshot, I was glad to see Goliath standing tall. Knowing I'd gotten more than I bargained for, I grinned back, and by way of reply offered a high five. Despite my palm barely extending above his forehead, Milan managed to give it a glad slap.
Then it was Goliath's turn to surprise David. "This is amazing for me Rob. I'm so hot tempered. I never have this kind of conversation. But you are so calm, and such a caring person. The way you deal with conflict... you could make Arabs and Jews find peace!" We both laughed, and shared another "vertically modified" high five.
My new pal picked up his Gym bag and turned to leave. I waved goodbye, and gave him a last laugh. "Today, Milan. Tomorrow- the Middle East!"
Today I'm warmly recalling there's two good reasons to take the high road; less traffic, plus, you can't beat the view!
PS Please tell/send me a kindness you heard about, and forward this story and invite to others.Together, we can share small gifts with great heart- and a kindmind.