Individual Peace

"Being Peace" and"Peace at Every Step", books by Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese Zen master, describe approaches to meditation, and more generally to being at peace and appreciating life. The books do not advocate a regimen of practice, as in daily sitting or chanting or mantras or moving or martial arts, although these may be implicit. Instead, they offer a variety of practical approaches to living in the present moment with attention to one's relationships, as well as to one's breathing, thoughts, attitudes, and so forth.

It is easy to get caught up in chasing after the future. Thich Nhat Hahn says, in "Being Peace" (p. 6) that "we tend to be alive in the future, not now. We say, "Wait until I (grow up and) finish school ... and then I will be really alive". After we have it (our degree), and its not easy to get, we say to ourselves, "I have to wait until I have a job in order to be really alive." And then after the job, a car. After the car, a house. After that, children, and after that, retirement. We tend to postpone being alive to the future, the distant future, we don't know when."

To approach living with personal peace and appreciation, we must retain our independence and integrity in the process. One can "just practice" in whatever way seems appropriate, without any gaining ideal.

Meditation facilitates becoming more fully awake to live in the present, and deepens appreciation of the sacred within everyday life.

There are however some pitfalls in this-meditation may be motivated by a possibly unconscious faith that the meditator can get better, or "succeed" (e.g., in satori, realization, enlightenment, or becoming a "Master"). In desiring success the meditator is unlikely to stay in the present moment, much less approach an ultimate moment. Moreover, as a model for success, one hypothesizes an ideal person, say Thich Nhat Hahn, who no longer has the feeling that he must succeed or be recognized, but instead lives fully in each moment and participates completely in each relationship. Whether accurate or not, this ideal creates a burden of guilty and shame for not living up to our ideal. If we pursue the ideal, hoping for enlightenment, we can become even more deluded.

Thich Naht Hahn's small book "Be Still and Know" includes "Peace is all around us, in the world and in nature, in our bodies and our spirits. Once we learn to touch this peace, we will be healed and transformed. It is not a matter of faith; it is a matter of practice."


Poems, Mind and Meditation

Mind and Meditation