Some things are inevitable, aren’t they?
The challenging situations, difficult people, overwhelming emotions, and all other lovely byproducts of modern life.
You might even feel the inclination to accept it all and admit that suffering can’t be avoided either way.
But is it the right approach to life or your ego trying to find another excuse to be unhappy and miserable?
What if I told you there is a book that will help you go through a difficult time in your life, feel calmer and happier in your daily routine, and feel a deeper connection to everything around you?
A book with a simple and direct approach to teaching very powerful spiritual truths.
Enter Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh.
In this post, I’ll share nine lessons that this book has taught me so you can decide if you would like to read it yourself.
1. Find a Way Out of This Unconscious Pattern
You go through life hoping for a better future and doing everything you can to realize your dreams.
It doesn’t matter if in the process you ruin your health or make people around you unhappy.
Everything is sacrificed in the name of doing and achieving.
Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us that all you need is already in you.
Stop waiting and hoping for something better to come your way. Instead, enjoy the journey itself by practicing awareness of small things, like sitting, walking, or eating. Let these actions be aimless and self-contained.
When I think deeply about the nature of hope, I see something tragic. Since we cling to our hope in the future, we do not focus our energies and capabilities on the present moment. We use hope to believe something better will happen in the future, that we will arrive at peace (…). Hope becomes a kind of obstacle. If you can refrain from hoping, you can bring yourself entirely into the present moment and discover the joy that is already here. — Thich Nhat Hanh
2. Learn the Right Way to Start Your Day
What’s the first thing that goes through your mind when you wake up in the morning?
I bet you feel rushed and stressed. You grab your phone, go through notifications, and start mentally rehearsing all the things you need to do that day.
In other words, your day is finished before it even started. As time flies by, you go through this cycle again and again. Life becomes dull and uninspiring.
Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us to wake up with a smile and experience the richness of life in our immediate surroundings.
How can you remember to smile when you wake up? You might hang a reminder—such as a branch, a leaf, a painting, or some inspiring words—in your window or from the ceiling above your bed, so that you notice it when you wake up. (…) Smiling helps you approach the day with gentleness and understanding. — Thich Nhat Hanh
3. Use This Simple Technique to Calm Your Anxious Mind
Can you recall what happens when you start overthinking every little thing?
You get paralyzed with indecision, focus on unlikely outcomes, and start looking for excuses to justify bad choices.
As an antidote, Thich Nhat Hanh recommends practicing conscious breathing. As you breathe in and out, say to yourself “In” and “Out.” This technique helps you slow down and keeps your mind on your breath.
According to the method of conscious breathing, when we breathe in and out, we stop thinking, because saying “In” and “Out” is not thinking—“In” and “Out” are only words to help us concentrate on our breathing. If we keep breathing in and out this way for a few minutes, we become quite refreshed. We recover ourselves, and we can encounter the beautiful things around us in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here. — Thich Nhat Hanh
4. Use Distractions to Your Advantage
We live in a world full of distractions. The most common of them is the one we’re carrying around all the time — our smartphone.
A recent study shows that on average we check our smartphones 50 to 75 times per day. Quite a discouraging number if you ask me. So what should you do?
You can’t throw out your phone, but you can use it to be more present rather than distracted. It’s a habit that you can start developing right now. Each time you get a notification from your phone, wait 3 seconds (or 3 rings if it’s a call) before reacting and use that time to be conscious of what you’re doing.
As Thich Nhat Hanh puts it:
I recommend that the next time you hear the phone ring, just stay where you are, breathe in and out consciously, smile to yourself, and recite this verse: “Listen, listen. This wonderful sound brings me back to my true self.” (…) When the phone rings for the third time, you can continue to practice breathing and smiling, as you walk to the phone slowly, with all your sovereignty. You are your own master. — Thich Nhat Hanh
5. Sit by the River of Feelings
How often do you lose your temper and let feelings and negative emotions dictate your actions in the heat of the moment?
We all can remember times when we overreacted to someone else’s unkind remark and said something hurtful in response.
These reactions are automatic and hard to control. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us that we can become free of this pattern by identifying these feelings and letting them pass by on their own. In particular, he uses the analogy of a river:
In us, there is a river of feelings, in which every drop of water is a different feeling, and each feeling relies on all the others for its existence. To observe it, we just sit on the bank of the river and identify each feeling as it surfaces, flows by, and disappears. — Thich Nhat Hanh
6. Ask the Right Question
The best approach to tackling any problem is to find the underlying cause and work out the solution.
Sounds harmless and straightforward, isn’t it? Thich Nhat Hanh says that this approach can greatly contribute to your unhappiness.
You develop a mental habit of looking for flaws and imperfections and think that everything needs fixing.
But what if you start asking the opposite question? What if you start looking for feelings, perceptions that are wholesome, refreshing and healing?
We should learn to ask, “What’s not wrong?” and be in touch with that. — Thich Nhat Hanh
7. Untie the Knots
Whenever something bad happens in your life, a “knot” is tied inside of you. Since these knots are very subtle, they stay undetected and can become tighter and stronger over time.
During meditation you may uncover some of these knots in the form of repressed thoughts and emotions.
By becoming aware of them, you gain the chance to untie them once and for all. For example, you can ask yourself the following questions: Why did I react this way? Why do I have these negative feelings toward this person? Why do I keep repeating the same destructive patterns in my life?
Instead of avoiding your thoughts and feelings, you can learn to transform them with the power of mindfulness.
If we do not untie our knots when they form, they will grow tighter and stronger. Our conscious, reasoning mind knows that negative feelings such as anger, fear, and regret are not wholly acceptable to ourselves or society, so it finds ways to repress them (…). But our internal formations are always looking for ways to manifest as destructive images, feelings, thoughts, words, or behavior. The way to deal with unconscious internal formations is, first of all, to find ways to become aware of them. — Thich Nhat Hanh
8. Reconnect with the Source
One of the primary reasons of unconscious living is the loss of contact with nature.
Most of us live in little boxes called apartments made from cement, metal and hard wiring.
Our bodies are strained by the lack of movement. Our lungs are full of polluted air. Our senses are bombarded with an endless stream of stimuli. It becomes harder and harder to find a minute to just stop and be.
Tik Nat Han teaches us that essential part of mindful living is reconnecting with Mother Earth. It’s vital to go outside the city and spend time in nature. The healing process will start by itself if you reconnect with nourishing elements of our planet.
Nature is our mother. Because we live cut off from her, we become sick. — Thich Nhat Hanh
9. Practice the Art of Interbeing
As you go deeper and deeper into your meditation practice, you’ll start to realize certain truths beyond common sense or logic.
You’ll feel an inner connection to everything around you — even inanimate objects. Sounds strange, right?
Well, that’s what Tik Nat Han calls the interbeing. It’s a state of consciousness when all barriers of separation are gone, and you start to see that everything is one.
“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, inter-be.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
Take the First Step Today
I know what you’re thinking. These are all beautiful sentiments, but I can’t practice them because it’s difficult with my current lifestyle and circumstances.
But is that really true? I firmly believe that you can make a conscious choice to change something in your life for the better. And this book shows you how to do it.