This month I am reviewing the classic guide to mindfulness: The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. Mindfulness is an approach to living that can be really useful during times of uncertainty and isolation, which many of us are currently experiencing due to the coronavirus pandemic.
I first read this book many years ago and put some of the concepts into practise. I recently picked it up again and was struck by how much the approach can really support me now, during this challenging time and want to share this with you now.
About Thich Nhat Hanh
Born in Vietnam in 1926, Thich Nhat Hanh became a Buddhist monk at the age of 16. During the Vietnam war (1955-1975), he worked to help those around him who were suffering. He founded the Engaged Buddhism movement and the School of Youth and Service (a grass roots relief organisation). In the 1960’s he went to the USA to teach Comparative Religion and Buddhism. He was exiled from Vietnam in 1967, following his nomination for a Nobel Peace prize for his response and actions during the Vietnam war. In the 1970’s he started teaching in Paris and in 1982 he established Plum Village in the south of France. This monastery is open to this day and welcomes people from around the world, of all religions, to retreat to practice mindfulness and meditation.
The English pronunciation of his name is: Tik · N’yat · Hawn.
Miracle of Mindfulness
This book originated as a letter, written by Thich Nhat Hanh in Vietnamese in 1974, and was first published in 1975.
The Miracle of Mindfulness is easy to read, with simple-to-apply concepts. You can read it in one sitting, or take the approach that I recommend: read a section, put the book down to one side and practice what you have just read. Then return to the book for the next small section, practice and keep coming back to it. I feel that you can only really learn mindfulness by doing it, not by reading a book!
This delightful book is full of stories and practical exercises that you can do at home, to give practical experience of mindfulness. I really love the clear explanation about how to use the breath as a tool for mindfulness.
There are seven main chapters, including one titled “The Miracle is to walk on Earth”. In this chapter Hanh describes how the breath is a bridge, a way to be present. In another chapter titled “The almond tree in your front yard”, the focus is interdependence and he explores how we are all interconnected. He shares techniques that help to remove the cloak of false views and opinions (which hinder our recognition and ability to see how we are all interdependent and connected), to experience a reality of non-discrimination. Yes, it takes practice, but everyone can get a glimpse of this. At the end of the book is a selection of Buddhist sutras (also called “aphorisms” – observations that contain a general truth) and exercises in mindfulness.
It is now available in hardback and paperback editions, on Kindle and also an audiobook.
You can find more information about Thich Nhat Hahn and his approach to mindfulness on his website: Plum Village (external link). There is also information on how you can go on retreat to Plum village for a week or longer.
There are many videos on YouTube, where you can listen and watch him speaking about a wide range of topics, like “healing is possible at every moment” or “The art of being peace”. You can also find some lovely guided visualisations to relax and centre yourself with. Simply search for: Thich Nhat Hanh.
Read it for yourself
This book is one to have on your shelf and keep returning to it, particularly in times when you feel uncertain or disconnected. You can order your own copy of The Miracle of Mindfulness here on Amazon (external link).
Note: La Crisalida Retreats are an Amazon Associate and earn from qualifying purchases.
Meditation and mindfulness at La Crisalida
Here at the retreat we offer daily meditation sessions, usually first thing on a morning, in which we offer different techniques that you can try. One morning includes focusing on your breath, in a similar approach to that described in this book. For guests who want to look into mindfulness in more detail, we also offer a special mindfulness workshop each week, giving you exercises to practice and experience. We also integrate mindfulness into our yoga practice and encourage you to take a mindful approach to the walks and other quiet times.
By applying the concepts described in this book by Thich Nhat Hanh, you too can experience the Miracle of Mindfulness for yourself.