After seeing so many beautiful Thich Nhat Hanh quotes, I was curious to see what wisdom this Vietnamese Buddhist monk, peace activist and author had to offer in his books. Right from the very first page of the first book that I read (more info on that below!), I could not help but be charmed by the simplicity in which he puts ideas across.
[image via plumvillage.org]
It can be all too easy for writers of topics such as mindfulness and Buddhism to get carried away by the seriousness of it all. As a secular person who is interested in the non-spiritual aspects of mindfulness, meditation and peaceful living, I struggle with books that are ‘preachy’. Being told that there is only one path to enlightenment is, well, very unenlightening for me. My own personal views are rooted in the concept that every single one of us is blessed with the right to have our own beliefs, and that no one can ever take those beliefs away from us or try to force their own beliefs on us.
When I came across the term ‘part time Buddha’ in Hanh’s writing, I had to smile. I like the idea that we can learn from teachings across all faiths and philosophies, without closing our minds to new or different ways of thinking. I also think that mindful living should be something that EVERYONE can benefit from – whether you are a full time Buddha or simply doing your best to live a life that has more meaning.
Before I share my thoughts on the books that I have been reading, here is a bit of background on Thich Nhat Hanh.
About Thich Nhat Hanh
Martin Luther King once called him, “An Apostle of peace and nonviolence.” Born in 1926 in Vietnam, Hanh is a spiritual leader, activist for peace, poet and Zen master who currently resides at Plum Village Mindfulness Centre in France. Through mindfulness, he teaches that peace, happiness and fulfilment are all possible when we are able to live in the present moment.
In his time, he has been a major advocate for peace, an author of many books, a creator of calligraphy and a scholar. He forged the way for Engaged Buddhism, which gave rise to social activism within the philosophy. He travels around the world, bringing his message of mindful, peaceful living.
Thich Nhat Hanh Books on Mindfulness
The first book that I read was Work – How to Find Joy and Meaning in Each Hour of the Day. This book applies mindfulness practices to the workplace, focusing on how work can become more meaningful through simple, daily moments of gratitude.
As a busy freelancer, it is all too easy for work to consume my life. I work hard at keeping a healthy balance, but it is often a challenge to remember to stop and breathe when deadlines are in full swing, clients are needing help and time seems to never be on my side. Because I already had a fair amount of understanding on mindful living, I found this book to be a good refresher that added to my knowledge.
In the book, Hanh teaches the importance of deep listening, understanding, compassion and love, along with the value in making time each day to be present. From the moment of waking up, to the rituals of getting dressed, having breakfast, getting down to work, dealing with client and co-workers and leaving work to come home at the end of the day. He includes a number of exercises, mantas, analogies and anecdotes that further add to the book.
At just 120 pages or so, it is a fairly easy read, too – along with his beautiful writing style, this makes the book a pleasure to read. I finished it fairly quickly and found myself putting a lot more thought into my daily actions. As he points out, we see things as chores that do not always have to be chores. All of those little moments that we so often waste by willing the work day away can be put to use by truly appreciating the instead.
If you are looking for guidance within your career path or you are looking to learn how to bring mindfulness into your small business or freelance work, this is well worth a read.
The book that I am currently reading is The Art of Power. This book focuses on a different kind of power to the one rooted in corruption, greed and material wealth. Instead, it looks at some greater, far more meaningful powers – faith, diligence, mindfulness, concentration and insight.
I am still early into the book, but so far, I am enjoying the concept of power being something far greater and more life-changing than the need for control, dominance and possessions.
It can be applied to leaders in the corporate world, as well as anyone else who wants to gain understanding into the power we all have inside ourselves. Some reviewers mention it being a bit ‘preachy’, others say that this is not their favourite book written by Hanh and others still have found great value in what he writes in the book. Until I finish it, all I can say is that so far, I think that it as valuable as Work from a mindful way of thinking.
Whether you are a full time or part time Buddha, we could all do with some inspiring reads that help us reach a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us. If you are interested in exploring mindfulness a bit deeper, then I can certainly recommend reading some Thich Nhat Hanh.