What an honor to be seconded in my assessment of DC residents by Thich Nhat Hanh, famous Zen monk, poet, and peace activist who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by none other than Martin Luther King, Jr. My short review and favorite passages follow:
Though not a Buddhist, I find solace and comfort in his books and meditations on life. My favorite bits of this slim book:
“To practice hugging meditation, you must practice three mindful breaths, then form a lotus flower with your hands. At the same time the other person also prepares in the same way. And when you take the person you love in your arms, you must practice deeply. “Breathing in–I know that he is alive in my arms; breathing out–I am very glad about it.” Three times like that, and you are really there, and the other person is really there too. It is a very pleasant practice, which brings you back to the present moment. Meditating is using the energy of mindfulness so that life will be there as reality; and amid the agitations of everyday life, Buddhist meditation can be practiced very well.” (90)
I love that–hugging meditation. The following made me smile and wish for this to happen in my new city, Washington, DC:
“Relief, peace, well-being, joy, and better relations with others will be possible if we practice mindfulness in our everyday life. I am convinced that everybody can practice mindfulness, even politicians, political parties, even the Congress. This is a body that holds the responsibility for knowing the nation’s situation well, and knowledge of this kind requires the practice of looking deeply. If our elected officials are not calm enough, do not have enough concentration, how can they see things deeply? If they are not able to listen to the people or to their colleagues in the Congress, if they are not able to speak with loving speech, then there will be much left to desired. It is necessary for politicians to practice calm, to practice stopping, and to practice looking deeply.
You who are journalists, writers, citizens, you have the right and the duty to say to those you have elected that they must practice mindfulness, calm, deep listening, and loving speech…Let us imagine that the members of the Congress practiced mindful breathing and walking, deep listening, and calm loving speech. As it is, every time they convene, they quarrel and shoot poison arrows, because very few of those people are capable of calming, of practicing loving speech. The situation is very tense; there is a great deal of hatred and anger and discrimination. How is it possible, in such a state, for people to practice deep looking with the aim of achieving a deep knowledge of the nation?” (92-93)
Indeed. And lastly (fascinating and telling that he mentions Washington, DC’s residents and legislators several times in this book):
“Imagine both people practiing smiling and being calm. If everybody in Washington, DC would practice that, then the capital would be a much better place to live. Calm, peace, and the smile would be there!” (88-89)
See? It’s not just me who thinks this way about this city, one I love despite its lack of smiles and calm.