“This is something everybody can do. Don’t underestimate yourself: you have the ability to wake up. You have the ability to be compassionate. You just need a little bit of practice to be able to touch the best that is in you,” wrote great Zen master and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, pointing to our shared ability to be present, alive, and fully awake in the here and now. “Enlightenment, mindfulness, understanding, and compassion are in you. Very simple practices — such as meditative walking, mindful breathing, or washing dishes mindfully — make it possible for you to leave hell and touch the positive seeds that are within you.”
For most of us, our meditation practice is bound to a quiet place in our home, in our mind, in our soul. A place we hold dear and sacred, away from the daily rush with its noise and stresses. But so often, we let it slip out of our minds that meditation is essentially a life practice, something that is intended to be integrated into our daily activities, no matter where we are and how we feel. Its essential aim is to make us deeply aware of our human condition, more resilient, and more open to other people and the simple wonders of nature around us, so simple that we learned to ignore them and not pay attention to their healing power.
This is what author Roxane Marie Galliez and illustrator Seng Soun Ratanavanh explore with exquisite tenderness in Thank You, Miyuki, a splendid children’s book about mindfulness, simple wisdom of connecting to nature, and attention as an essential form of meditation that everyone can practice, regardless of their age.
The story opens with Grandpa silently sitting in meditation when his granddaughter Miyuki, playful and joyfully curious as ever, interrupts him to offer him a cup of tea that she made just a few minutes ago.
Thank you, Miyuki, but I just want a moment to meditate.
What’s meditate? Is it a game? Teach me! I want to meditate, too!
Grandpa regards Miyuki with delight, gives her a kiss, and takes on her generous offer of tea. As he drinks it, he pays close attention to all the flavors Miyuki describes and savors it as if it were a rare tea. Then he silently stands up and heads towards the garden, and Miyuki follows him excited and intrigued at the same time.
When do we start to meditate, Grandpa?
Grandpa takes Miyuki’s hand, and together they watch the bees hovering, the stones standing still, the grass slowly growing.
On their way back, Grandpa stops to smell a rose before it closes. Miyuki smells the rose too and then asks again:
But Grandpa, when will we meditate?
Miyuki, we have meditated all day long. When we walked on the path in silence, admiring the garden, the bees, the stones, and the grass, we meditated.
And when we smelled the rose we meditated?
Grandpa, we have meditated!