Thoughts of (and for) Thich Nhat Hahn: Reflections on Mindfulness and Family Living

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Last week the esteemed mindfulness teacher Thich Nhat Hahn had a stroke. Countless around the world wish him well in his recovery. The latest news is that he seems stable and responsive.

In the West, mindfulness has evolved into a secular practice, meant to be accessible to all and appropriate for schools and even governments. But the practice of mindfulness evolved from centuries of refinement within Buddhist culture, translated later by various emigrant teachers. Thich Nhat Hahn is one of the most beloved, an enduring and lively source of wisdom, inspiration, compassion and grace for people around the globe.

Practicing mindfulness means taking the time to pay attention, to appreciate, to get out of our seemingly fixed and frequently habitual ways of living. We more skillfully live our lives as we hope and as we choose. That benefit transcends spirituality and religion.

The ideas behind mindfulness also transcend its recent step into pop culture. So while mindfulness is a word that’s everywhere right now, the word itself doesn’t really matter much. Mindfulness represents something but changes nothing; being mindful changes an awful lot. What will be left behind if the headlines pass is that simple fact.

Thich Nhat Hahn has said it better than most for longer than I have been alive, though. So here are a few quotes about mindful family life to consider while wishing him a complete recovery….


“Sometimes we eat but we aren’t thinking of our food. We’re thinking of the past or the future or mulling over some worry or anxiety again and again. So stop thinking about your business, about the office, or about anything that isn’t happening right now. Don’t chew your worries, your fear, or your anger. If you chew your planning and your anxiety, it’s difficult to feel grateful for each piece of food. Just chew your food.”
How to Eat

“When people’s bodies and minds are relaxed, they are much less likely to speak or act in violent ways. We also can access many insights and a wellspring of energy we haven’t had since childhood. Women and men throughout history have accomplished seemingly impossible things. The truth is, there’s no limit to the positive changes we can make for ourselves and for our society through mindfulness meditation. We just need to begin, where we are, right here, right now.”Huffington Post

“If in a family, if there is one person who practices mindfulness, the entire family will be more mindful. Because of the presence of one member who lives in mindfulness, the entire family is reminded to live in mindfulness. If in one class, one student lives in mindfulness, the entire class is influenced.”The Miracle of Mindfulness