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The Miracle of Mindfulness

An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

By Thích Nhất Hạnh
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thích Nhất Hạnh
Synopsis

The Miracle of Mindfulness (1975) explains how practicing the ancient Buddhist art of mindfulness can help improve our well-being and our lives. Using typical examples from our daily life, these blinks demonstrate how we can all get more from the present, and start to appreciate the miracle of life again.

Key idea 1 of 7

Live each moment of your life by keeping your mind on the task at hand.

In the 1940s, when Thích Nhất Hạnh was a novice monk at Tu Hieu Pagoda monastery in Hue, Vietnam, he was often handed the unenviable task of standing in the kitchen on a cold winter’s day, cleaning the dishes for around one hundred other monks. This was made even more laborious by the fact that he had no soap to use – only ashes, husks of rice and freezing water.

Since then, the monastery’s kitchen has been equipped with hot running water, soap and scourers. The novice monks can do the dishes quickly, and relax with a cup of tea to reward themselves afterward.

But surprisingly, instead of viewing these modern upgrades as an improvement, the author views them as a problem for today’s novice dishwashers.

Why?

Because he believes that doing dishes simply because you want them to be clean is the wrong way of approaching this task. The right way to wash up is to clean the dishes purely for the sake of cleaning the dishes.

If we hurry through the dishes like a boring chore to be endured, with our minds already looking ahead to the cup of tea waiting for us when we’re finished, then we cannot possibly be cleaning the dishes for the sake of cleaning them. Moreover, we cannot be fully alive while undertaking this task. It’s impossible for us, as we stand in front of the sink wishing away the time, to appreciate the wonder that is life. That’s because we’re neither conscious nor mindful of our bodies, our movements, or the thoughts that we’re experiencing in those precious moments of doing the dishes.

Instead, we’re already living in the future, sitting at the table with that cup of tea. In other words, you’re not really cleaning the dishes at all. In fact, once you get to that cup of tea, your mind will already be focused on still other matters, only dimly aware of the taste of the tea in your mouth. So, again, you will be ripped away from the present, into the future, unable really to live even a few moments of your life.  

But there is a better way. The Sutra of Mindfulness, an ancient Buddhist text, teaches us that whatever we find ourselves doing at any given moment, we must be fully conscious and mindful of it. Let’s learn more about this idea in the following blinks.

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