|Sitting Like a Mountain|
During a Question & Answer session at the retreat, Thầy* reflected on how to stay involved in social activism and positive social change, while at the same time not burning out or giving in to despair. He answered, "My name, Nhất Hạnh, means 'Just One Thing.' Find just one thing to do, and do that with all of your heart. That is enough."
When I heard this, I immediately noticed my initial thought-response: "What a minute, Thầy, how can you say that? You write books, you do calligraphy, give dharma talks, lead retreats, organize an international sangha, speak out for social change, meet with world leaders... You do so many things, not just one thing!"
As I looked more deeply into the teaching, I began to receive a different message. I saw that when Thầy is giving a dharma talk to the sangha, he is fully there with us, 100%, unburdened in that moment by any of his other projects. When he is walking, he is just walking. When he is writing, he is just writing. I believe that this is one way he keeps his joy and compassion alive, and protects himself from burnout and despair.
|Thay and Sangha, Walking Meditation|
Since returning to Vancouver, I've been trying to practice Just One Thing. That first Monday morning, as I was brewing my coffee, I felt a familiar pang of "back-to-work" anxiety as I began automatically running through my mental to-do list. I noticed it, breathed and smiled, and returned my full attention to the simple act of brewing coffee. The same thing happened again as I was cutting an apple for breakfast. And again as I shaved and brushed my teeth.
One challenge for me about mindfulness practice, is that it demands constant attention, endless repetition, to be awake to life in every moment. One wonderful thing about mindfulness practice is that every moment is an opportunity to be awake, to be free. Every moment. This moment. This is it.
|Thay Giac Thanh's Stupa in Morning Fog|
|Stupa, with Meditation Hall in Distance|
See more photos on my Flickr set
- text & photos by Dzung
(*"Thay" means "Teacher" in Vietnamese, which is the affectionate and respectful title for Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.)