Dear friends, in Plum Village France, where we live and practise, every time we hear the sound of the bell, we stop our thinking, we stop our talking, and we go back to our in-breath, and breathe mindfully - and at least 3 times. In. Out. And that practise is called listening to the bell of mindfulness. When you hear the bell, you naturally stop your thinking. It has become a habit. You naturally stop your thinking, and you focus your attention on your in-breath, and you enjoy breathing in. And when you breathe in mindfully like that, you bring your mind home to your body. And you become fully alive in the here and the now. It takes only 3 seconds in order to bring the mind home to the body, and establish ourselves in the here and the now. And when your are well established in the here and the now, you can get in touch with life. First of all (5 Skandhas): And you get in touch with the wonders of life around you. The energy of mindfulness has the power to heal, to transform.

When you love someone, you have the tendency to offer him or her something. You want to make him or her happy. And you are inhabited by the energy of love. And that is why you have the desire to make him or her happy. As I have said, love has the power to heal, to nourish, to bring happiness, and to transform suffering. And the practise of mindfulness can produce love. The real elements of true love can be produced by the practise of mindfulness. And when you have that love in you, you are alive, you are peaceful, you are happy, and you can make the other person happy. Usually, when we want to make the other person happy, we want to give him or her something. We may write a poem for him, for her. Or we may cook something good and give to him or to her. Or you may go to the market and buy something. But the most precious thing you can give him or her, is not something you can buy from the market, it is not something that you can buy with money - it is your true presence. You have to be there for him and for her, if you truly love him or her. And in order to be there, you need the practise of mindfulness. And what you want to offer your beloved one is your true presence. How can you love, if you are not there? True love means to be there for him or for her. And to be there is a practise.

In the Buddhist tradition, when you begin to breathe in mindfully, you bring your mind home to your body. And when mind and body are together, you are truly there. In our daily life, very often, our body is there, but our mind is not there. We are not truly there. It is impossible to love, if you are not there. So practise mindful breathing, bring your mind home to your body, can help you to be there. Our in-breath, our out-breath, is something like a bridge linking mind and body. And the moment when we pay attention to our in-breath, and breathe in mindfully, we bring our mind home to our body, and we are there - in just 2 or 3 seconds. And you can go to your beloved one, looking in his or her eyes, and you can say: Darling, I am here for you. Your presence is the most precious gift, that you can make to your beloved one.

There is an 11-year old boy, who is unhappy, because his father is not there for him. His father is a very rich businessman, successful businessman too. But he does not have time for himself, for his wife, and his son. That day he said: My son, tomorrow will be your birthday, right? Do you want anything? I will buy it for you. The young man did not know how to answer. He did not need anything. His father can afford to buy anything he wanted, but he did not need anything. He needed one thing. The presence of his father. From time to time is father is there at home, but his mind is not with his body. So the young man has the impression, that he does not really have a father. So after some reflection he said: Daddy, it is you that I want! And if the father knows the practise of mindful breathing, he will begin to breathe in mindfully, and it takes only 3 seconds for him to be there - body and mind together. And looking into the eyes of his son he said: Darling, I am here for you. It is very easy. Everyone can do that.

To me, to love means to be there for your beloved one. And to be there, for me, is not a willing intention, a desire, that is a practise. In order to be there, you need to breathe in mindfully, and bring your mind home to your body. Or you may like to practise walking meditation, mindful walking. While breathing in you make 1 step or 2 steps. And you become aware of the step you make. You are touching life in the present moment with your foot. One step alone can bring you home to the here and the now, and be fully present in the here and the now. There are many ways of practise, that can help bring our mind home to the body, so that we can be established in the here and the now.

When you breathe in mindfully, and look at a flower like this one. You have an opportunity to get in touch with this flower deeply. You are mindful that the flower is there. Mindfulness is the kind of energy, that allows us to know what is there, what is happening in the here and the now. When you practise mindful breathing, the object of your mindfulness is your in-breath. Your in-breath is something that is happening in the here and the now. And you may like to enjoy your in-breath also. When you breath-in, and using the energy of mindfulness generated by your in-breath, you can recognise that flower as existing. And you get in touch with that flower. And if your mindfulness is strong enough, powerful enough, you are concentrated on the flower, and you get the insight: that that flower is a wonder, a wonder! And you may see that the flower belongs to the kingdom of god, or the pure land of the Buddha.

And when you get in touch with flower, you get in touch with the kingdom of god. And you get in touch with god, because god is always with his kingdom. And you may get the insight, that the kingdom of god is available in the here and the now. You don't have to look for it in the future or somewhere else. You don't need to die in order to go to the kingdom. In fact, you have to be very alive in order to do so. And to be alive, to be fully present in the here and the now, you need only to breath-in mindfully, and it takes 2 or 3 seconds. So the kingdom of god is available to you, because you have the power, the capacity of being mindful. And the insight you get is: the kingdom is available in the here and the now. And you would like to make yourself available to the kingdom. And to make yourself available to the kingdom, that can be done very quickly: just breathe in mindfully, or making a step mindfully.

And then when you practise: Breathing in, I am aware of my body. This is the 3. exercise recommended by the Buddha in the Sutra of Mindful Breathing (Ānāpānasati Sutta): Breathing in, I am aware of my body. Mindfulness of the body. You know that your body is there. And while breathing in like that, you bring you mind home to your body - and there you are: alive, present. And you may discover, that your body also belongs to the kingdom of god. Your body, like that flower, is a wonder. And you can touch the kingdom of god also in your body. You don't have to go far, and in the future, in order to get in touch with the kingdom of god. Mindfulness allowed us to be alive and to touch the wonders of life, inside of us, and around us. And many of these wonders have the power to heal, to nourish. And you don't have to go to a temple in order to practise mindfulness. Walking from the parking lot to your office, you may enjoy the practise of mindful walking, you may like to enjoy every step, touching the wonders of live. That is something all of us can do.

Years ago, we offered a retreat for congressman in Washington DC. They have a hectic life. And they need the practise of mindfulness in order to release the tension, to relax, and to be in touch with life. Years after the retreat, they continued to practise mindful walking, and several of them wrote us, and said that from their office, where they work, to the place where they cast their vote, they always practise mindful walking and stop all thinking - just walking. And they say, that they survive that hectic life just by mindful walking.

So from the parking lot to your office, you may like to do like that: you stop all your thinking, and you enjoy every step. Walk in such a way, that every step can bring you freedom, can bring you solidity, freedom and healing. Many of us use the practise of mindful walking to heal ourselves. When you breathe in mindfully, and focus your attention on your breath, when you make a step mindfully, and focus your attention on your step, you release the past, you release the future, you release all your projects, because your mind has only one object: that is your in-breath, or your step. One in-breath or one step can set you free! Free from the worries and the uncertainties about the future, free from the regret and the sorrow concerning the past. The past may a prison, the future may be a prison, if you are subjected to regret, sorrow, fear, uncertainty. But when you focus your attention on your in-breath, you release everything. So one breath, one in-breath, set you free, one step made in mindfulness set you free. And when you are free, your body has regained its power to heal itself. And your mind also.

I have said in the beginning that, when you love someone, you would like to offer him or her the best thing you have. The best thing, the most precious thing you have, is your presence. But your presence may have a higher quality: And the practise of mindfulness helps you to retain your freshness, to cultivate more peace, more solidity.

There is a practise for children called Pebble Meditation. There are 4 Pebbles. And children practise like this:
  1. The 1. Pebble represents a flower. Breathing in, I see myself as a flower. Breathing out, I feel fresh. The human being is a kind of flower. And if we do not know how to practise, and then we will lose our freshness, and we do not have much to offer the person we love. So practising mindful breathing or walking can restore your freshness, your flowerness. It is something possible. Releasing the worries, the fear, the anger, and restore your freshness. It is something that we can do, while sitting or walking. The children practise: Breathing in, I see myself as a flower. You don't have to imagine ourselves as a flower, because the human body, the human being, is very beautiful. It is real flower. Look at a child. Look at her face. Her tiny hand, his tiny foot, is a real flower. It is beautiful when the child sleeps, it is beautiful when the child is awake and plays. And we are born as flowers. And it is possible for us to preserve our flowerness, our freshness, our beauty.
  2. The 2. Pebble: Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain. A mountain represents stability and solidity. A person cannot be a happy person unless she has some stability, he has some stability. And the practise of mindful breathing, mindful sitting, mindful walking can always help us to cultivate more stability and solidity. And our solidity, our stability is something we can offer to the person we love. If we are too unstable, if we are not solid, we are not happy, and the other person suffers also because of that. So cultivating stability and solidity is something you can do.
  3. Breathing in, I see myself as still water. Breathing out, I reflect things as they truly are. When you are calm, you are not victims of wrong perceptions. You are not victims of anger and fear, because you are calm enough. You don't imagine things. So breathing in, breathing out, or practising walking, you can cultivate peace, calmness, tranquility. A person who does not have enough peace in himself, herself, cannot be a happy person. So cultivating peace in oneself is something we can do with the practise of mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful sitting. And when you have peace in you, you have something to offer him or her.
  4. Breathing in, I see myself as space. Breathing out, I feel free. If we do not have enough space in our heart, we have so much worries and fear and anger, we are not happy. And that is why the practise is to bring more space into our hearts and around us. A person cannot be a happy person unless she has some freedom, some space in herself or around her. So to love means to offer space. And if you do not have space in you, how can you offer your beloved one this space?
That is why the practise of mindfulness, whether that is mindfulness of breathing, or walking, or working, or eating, always helps us cultivate these values, these energies. Or we can cultivate our beauty, our freshness. We can cultivate more of our stability and solidity. We can cultivate more the energy of peace, calmness. And we can always cultivate more the element of freedom in us. So when you look at your beloved one, and you say: Darling, I am here for you. - that is great gift. Because your presence has the element of freshness, of stability, of peace and of freedom - the best kind of gift you can make to him or to her.


That presence generated by the practise of mindfulness, of breathing or walking - that presence is for you first, for us first, and then for the other person. We have to be truly present, because love always begins with oneself. If you are not capable of loving yourself, of taking care of yourself, you will not have the capacity to love the other person, and take good take of him or her. And that is why loving oneself is the foundation for loving the other person. And there are practises that everyone can do in order to care for oneself, in order for us to be able to care for the other person and for the world.

The Buddha proposed many easy, simple practises the everyone can do. Like the 1. exercise of mindful breathing: Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out. You recognise your in-breath, you recognise your out-breath, and since you have your in-breath as the object of your mind, you release everything else, you are free. Very simple exercise and the effect is great: it set you free, just 3, 4 seconds of breathing-in. And you don't need to practise many months and many years in order to see the effect. The first few minutes, when you begin the practise, you can see the outcome right away. Breathing in, if you pay attention only to your in-breath, and then you can release, end the past, end the future, and all your projects. And the process of healing begins, right away!

The 2. exercise of mindful breathing is: Breathing in, I follow my in-breath from the beginning to the end. I follow my in-breath all the way through. Your in-breath may only last for 3, 4, 5 seconds, but while breathing in, you are fully concentrated on your in-breath. And you may enjoy breathing in, because breathing in is something enjoyable too. You don't have to suffer while breathing in. If you suffer while breathing in, you are not practising correctly. Because life is a lot of suffering already in life, why do you have to practise in order to suffer more?! So, whether it is the practise of mindful breathing, or mindful walking, mindful sitting, we do it in such a way, to give you pleasure and happiness. The practise is pleasant, should be pleasant. And when the energy of mindfulness and concentration are powerful enough, you always get an insight. The insight can help liberate you from your afflictions, like fear, anger, jealousy, despair and so on.

There are 3 kinds of energies that can be generated by the practise of mindfulness:
  1. The 1. energy is mindfulness (Sati), which allows us to become alive, to become present in the here and the now, and to be aware of what is happening in the here and the now.
  2. And the 2. kind of energy is the energy of concentration (Samādhi). When you are very aware, when you are very mindful of something, you are naturally concentrated on that. If you are aware, if you are mindful of your in-breath, you will be concentrating on your in-breath. So that is the meaning of the 2. exercise: Breathing in, I follow my in-breath all the way through. So mindfulness can become powerful because of the concentration that is born from the practise of mindfulness.
  3. And when mindfulness and concentration are together, are powerful enough, you always get the 3. energy: the energy of insight (Paññā). Insight in this case does not come from thinking, but from mindfulness. And during the time of practising mindfulness and concentration, you don't need to think, you may like to stop the thinking altogether. Insight is the outcome of non-thinking.
When we breath in mindfully and with concentration, we may discover many things. We may discover the fact that we are alive. Many do not know that they are alive. They are there, but they are not alive, because they do not have mindfulness. So there is a very simple exercise: Breathing in - mindfully - I feel alive. And that is the truth. If someone is not alive, she cannot breath in anymore. So breathing in mindfully, you get the insight, that you are alive. And to be alive is the most wonderful thing. It is a miracle. It is the greatest of all miracles to be alive. And just 2 or 3 seconds breathing in can bring you that insight, that you are alive, and you touch the miracle of being alive. And when you breath out you can celebrate the fact that you are alive. So happiness is possible, joy is possible, just by one in-breath and one out-breath, and it is nourishing and healing.

And breathing in mindfully like that helps you to touch many conditions of happiness, that have the power to heal, and to nourish in us and around us. Suppose we breath in and we become mindful of our heart: Breathing in I am aware of my heart. Generating the energy of mindfulness, you use that energy of mindfulness to recognise the presence your heart. You kind of embrace your heart with the energy of mindfulness. And you can discover the fact, that your heart still functions normally. That is already an insight. And it is wonderful to have a heart that still functions normally. There are those of us who only wish for that. And their deepest desire may be just having a normal heart like that. So breathing in, and having our heart as the object of our mindfulness, we can feel grateful to our heart. And that is one of the conditions of happiness that we are having. And when the Buddha teaches the practise of mindfulness of the body, he advises us to get in touch with all parts of the body, and smile and recognise these parts of the body.

There is an exercise of deep total relaxation that we will try today. We put ourselves in the lying position, and we begin to breath in and out mindfully, and recognise parts of our body. Its like a scanning our body, not with X-ray, but the ray of mindfulness. You recognise your eyes. Breathing in, I am aware of my eyes. Breathing out, I smile to my eyes. Recognising the presence of your eyes. And you may get the insight that - well - my eyes are still in good conditions. A paradise of forms and colours is available to me, just because I still have eyes in good condition. You need only to open your eyes in order to touch the paradise of form and colour. That is another condition of happiness.

And we go through the body, and we recognise every part of the body. And when we come to a place that is a little bit ailing, we may like to stop longer, and embrace with compassion and tenderness the part of the body that is ailing. That practise of being aware of the body, can help heal the body. You can still continue with your medicine, but to relax our body, to embrace tenderly that part of your body with mindfulness is a practise, can accelerate, can help very much the healing, can make the healing happen more quickly. The 3. exercise: Breathing in, I am aware of my body. is part of that exercise. And the 4. exercise is: Breathing in, I release all the tension in my body. The body has the power to heal itself only if we allow it to do that.

When an animal in the forest gets deeply wounded, she knows what to do. The animal finds a quiet place and lies down. She knows deeply that resting is the only way to heal. The animal does not think of looking for food, or running after an animal. She knows that the best thing is to just lie down, because the body has the natural tendency, natural power to heal itself.

We human beings, we used to have that kind of wisdom, but we have lost our capacity to rest. We have worked our body too hard. We have accumulated a lot of tension in our body, and make it more difficult for our body to heal. We only count on medicines and other kinds of means. So the 4. exercise of mindful breathing is every helpful. It helps us to be aware of our body. And our mind becomes embodied again, and helps the body to release the tension. And when the tension is released, the body recovers that capacity to heal itself. So the practise of mindful sitting with relaxation, the practise of mindful walking, the practise of mindful breathing while lying down, can be very helpful, it can heal.

And we do not have to set aside time in order to do that. Just, as I said, walking from the parking lot to the office you have a time to practise: releasing the tension, and enjoying every step, and every breath, and touching the kingdom of god around you and inside of you. The only thing is that there should be someone to remind you to do it. You may understand it perfectly but you don't do it.

We live as a community. Our root practise centre is in France, but in North America we have Deer Park Monastery in southern California, Escondido. And we have the Blue Cliff practise centre in the state of New York. And we live as a four-fold Sangha: monks, nuns, and lay-practitioners. And we practise together and we remind each other to practise. When we listen to the bell, hundreds of us listen to the bell together. When we sit together, and talk together, we do that together. And breathing together, walking together, sitting together, we generate a very powerful collective energy of mindfulness, concentration, and compassion. And that helps heal us.

When you find yourself in an environment filled with that kind of energy: peace, mindfulness, compassion, you get the healing very easily and quickly. I think a corporation can organise also as a practise community. There are times when you can sit together, breath together, walk together, release the tension together. And together we can generate that kind of collective energy, that is very nourishing and healing. Our retreats of mindfulness are always attended by teenagers and children. And there are practitioners who bring their babies. Although the babies do not understand the Dharma talk, but if they find themselves in an environment, that is so peaceful, so compassionate, they get the nourishment, they feel it. So everyone can profit from the practise.

In a practise centre, when you need to move from one place to another place, you always apply the techniques of mindful walking, no matter how short or how long the distance is. The practise is to arrive in the here and now with every step. And touching the wonders of life with every step. And while we walk, we do not talk, and we do not think. When we stop our thinking, our talking, we touch life more deeply, so that we can get the nourishment and the healing. And when... Let us enjoy breathing together.


When you eat your breakfast, you have a chance to practise mindfulness of eating. You don't have to think about your projects, your work. Every moment of breakfast is an opportunity for us to get in touch with the wonders of life. Today we will have a chance to share a meal together in mindfulness. Holding a piece of bread, you may like to stop your thinking, and look deeply into the piece of bread. Mindfully you breath in, and you may get in touch with the fact, that the piece of bread, that you are holding, contains the whole universe! There is the sunshine, that helped the wheat to grow, there is the cloud, that provided rain for the wheat to grow, the earth is in there, time, space, and everything of the cosmos has come together, in order to help produce that piece of bread. And that insight you can get in just a few seconds of looking mindfully at that piece of bread. If you keep thinking about the past, or the future, or your projects, you miss the bread. You miss the kingdom of god, that the bread is bringing to you. And when you put the piece of breath in your mouth, you may like to enjoy just chewing the bread. Getting in touch with the wonders of life. Instead of chewing your projects, your worries, your fear, you stop all your thinking. You just enjoy eating your breakfast. And that is a practise. You don't need to set aside time for practising.

When you take a shower, that is time to practise mindfulness. You may enjoy your mindful breathing, and become aware of the water, of your body, and you can create the joy and happiness while taking a shower. The essential is to stop thinking. The thinking will carry you away, and does not allow you live that moment of life. René Descartes said that: I think, therefore I am. I am not very sure of that. Because if you think so much, you go around your thinking. Your thinking may not be productive at all. It carries you to many realms, and makes you worry more, angrier, and so on. So if you are carried away by your thinking, you are not there. That is why: I think, therefore I am not there. It is better to stop the thinking in order to be there.

When we brush our teeth, we may choose to brush our teeth in such a way, that makes freedom, and joy, and happiness possible during the time of brushing our teeth. I may take 2 minutes, or 3 minutes, and the essential is to stop your thinking, even if you have a lot of things to do - stop your thinking, and enjoy brushing your teeth. When I brush my teeth I usually touch the fact that I am over 80, and still have some teeth to brush, and that is enough to make me happy. Brush your teeth in such a way, that freedom is possible, joy and happiness be possible during the time of tooth-brush. That is a challenge. And I know you can do it. Do not think about your work, your projects. Just enjoy being there and brush your teeth. That moment, you can live it deeply also, because you can always touch the wonders of life, the kingdom of god, in the here and the now.

We used to distinguish between time for work and free time. Let us change our way of thinking. Suppose you have some free time. And if you do not know how to make use of your free time, your time is not truly free. If you keep thinking, and worrying, that time does not make you happy. That time is not for working of course, but you continue to think about it, you continue to worry about, and that thinking is not productive. It is very important to learn how to release, and to be fully in the moment.

And watering the vegetable garden, in the backyard, you may like to be fully present with that. Cooking breakfast, you may like to make breakfast cooking into a session of meditation. You can enjoy every minute of breakfast making. You don't try to do it quickly in order to have breakfast. Or doing the dishes. You can enjoy deeply every second of doing dishes. And don't have to try to finish quickly in order to do other things. We have the tendency to rush, to finish quickly with with what we are doing. It has become a habit. And with mindfulness of breathing, you can recognise that habit, and then help you to stop being carried away by that kind of attitude.

Suppose you are washing dishes, and you want to finish in order to sit down, and enjoy a cup of tea. With the practise of mindfulness, you can make the time of dish-washing a beautiful time also, a joyful time, when being fully alive. And if you are not capable of doing so, when you finish washing dishes, and sit down, and hold the cup of tea, you will think of other things - you will not be able to enjoy your tea. You are always carried away. You are not capable of living your live in the present moment. And mindfulness helps us to live deeply every moment of our daily life. And we need some training in order to do so. If we have a chance to live with a community of practise, and then we get that habit of living deeply each moment of our daily life.

In Buddhist meditation, we know that insight is the factor, that can help us transform afflictions like anger, fear, despair. Insight is the kind of energy that can liberate us. And we know that insight is not the outcome of thinking. We have the thinking mind, but our consciousness is more then the thinking mind. In Buddhism we speak of store consciousness. And that is something much bigger than our thinking mind. Imagine an iceberg in the ocean. The part that we see above the water is very small. But the part in the water is huge. Store consciousness is like that. Our mind consciousness is very small. That part of consciousness is always with the body. It has the capacity to retrieve information. It has the capacity to process information. And it has the capacity to preserve, to conserve information. And mind consciousness is the upper level of consciousness. Mind consciousness sometimes can stop operating, like in the case: you sleep without dream. Your mind consciousness stops completely, if you do not have dream in your sleep. There is a kind of meditation concentration called Nopess[?] perception meditation. And when the practitioner goes into that meditation his mind consciousness stops operating also. And we talk about realm of life where there is no mind consciousness, there is only store consciousness.

Suppose we look at a tree. We know that somehow there is consciousness in the tree, because the tree knows how to gather information, to process information, to get the nourishment, to react, to survive. Consciousness is in a tree. But the tree does not seem to have, doing a lot of thinking. There is a Vietnamese poet who says that: Well, next life, I would like to be a pine tree. So that I don't have to think. To think makes me suffer too much.

In the Zen tradition mind consciousness is the gardener, and store consciousness is the land, it is the garden. The gardener can prepare the land, plant the seed, water the seed. But it is store consciousness, it is the land, that can produce the flower and the fruit of enlightenment. So practising meditation we don't count on mind consciousness alone, we count mostly on store consciousness. Mind consciousness has to play the role of the gardener. It has to work the land, and plant the seed well, and cover up, and water. That is all. The insight, the discovery, what we find out, is not the work of mind consciousness, it is the work of store. And many scientific discoveries have been done in that: not by the thinking, the thinking mind, but by the unconscious, unconscious mind.

So it is possible for us to entrust the task to our deeper consciousness. We have to pose the question to ask the question correctly. In Zen Buddhism we call that Koan. Suppose the teacher gives you the Koan: Everything comes home to the one. Where the one will go, have to go? Or: What is the sound of one hand? All these are devices. This kind of question that we entrust to store consciousness. The important thing is to ask the right question very clearly, and to entrust the question to store consciousness. And after having done that, the gardener may like to do other things.

There is a Buddhist scholar in America. One time I told him that I enjoy gardening. I enjoy planting lettuce and things like that. And I say that, when the lettuce does not grow well, you don't blame the lettuce, but you feel that if the lettuce grow well or not well, it is the gardener who is responsible. And he said: Thay, you should not spend your time growing lettuce, because you can use your time to write poems. Because he liked my poetry. I told him: Dear friend, if I do not grow lettuce, I can not write these poems. It is because I am capable of growing lettuce, that is why I can produce a poem like that.

So washing your dishes, enjoying washing the dishes, stop the thinking, and get the pleasure in washing the dishes, is a way to support store consciousness to bring about insight. Brushing your teeth mindfully, and enjoy brushing your teeth, do not think about your project, do not try to find the solution with your thinking mind. And that is the practise. Non-thinking is the secret of the success. And that is why the time, when we are not working, that time can be very productive, if we know how to focus on the moment, and enjoy every moment of our daily live. And if we know how to do that, we will not be victims of stress, anxiety, depression, and so on. That is one aspect of the problem. The other aspect of the problem is, that the time called work time, we can handle it in such a way, that we can enjoy, that it can bring us pleasure. There is a way not to be under pressure. There is a way in order to enjoy really what you are doing as work.

We in Plum Village, we do a lot of things. We want to succeed in what we do. We offer many retreats of mindfulness everywhere, in many countries, Europe, Asia, America, Australia. We organise days of mindfulness, sessions of practise, we organise retreats for health professionals, school teachers, young people, and so on. We want to succeed in our work also. But we learned how to do the work in such a way, that we will not be victims of pressure and stress. Many monks and nuns, who are excellent Dharma teachers, they enjoy cooking, they enjoy cleaning, they enjoy gardening, and they consider these things as important as the other kind of work. We learned how to enjoy rearranging the cushions in the meditation hall. We enjoy growing vegetables, and everything we do, we put all our heart and mind in it, and we try to do it in such a way, that freedom and joy and brotherhood and sisterhood become possible.

There are times when we sit together in a meeting, but we don't talk about work. We have a weekly meeting called meeting of happiness. And in the meeting you just remind each other, that we have so many conditions of happiness available. It may take 2 hours, 3 hours, just with one cup of tea, and we nourish each other with the practise of mindfulness. We remind each other, that we are very lucky people - that we have so many conditions of happiness available right in the here and the now, we don't need to go and look for more conditions of happiness. And that is every nourishing. And I think that in a corporation, this is possible also. And many of the practise in the practise centre can be used in the life of a corporation.

Every time we organise a retreat, 6 days or 7 days, we see many people transform. The practise is simple enough for everyone to do. The practise of mindful breathing, mindful sitting and walking, releasing the tension in the body, everyone can do. And when you are able to reduce the tension in your body, to release the tension in your body, you also can reduce the amount of pain in your body, including necrotic pain. Because the pain and tension they go together. If you can release tension, you can reduce the pain. And the basic practise of mindful breathing, to be aware of your body, and to release the tension in your body, you can do it several times a day. Many of our brothers and sisters have programmed a bell of mindfulness in the computer. And every 15 minutes, the bell reminds us to stop, and to enjoy breathing in and breathing out - the bell of mindfulness.


The practise helps us to touch the conditions of happiness in the here and now, so that we can generate a feeling of joy at any moment we want. And that is not too difficult. If you go back to your body, if you bring your mind home to your body, and establish yourself in the here and the now, your will realise that conditions for your happiness are more then enough, and happiness is possible right in the here and the now. So to generate a moment of joy is possible, to generate a moment of happiness is also possible for a practitioner, no matter where and when.

And the practise of mindfulness also helps us to recognise a painful feeling, a painful emotion, when they manifest. A painful feeling, we try, we have the tendency to try to run away from it. We want to cover it up by consumption. If we listen to music, if we read magazines, if we eat, maybe it is not because these things bring us a lot of happiness, but because we don't want to get in touch with the suffering. We want to cover it up with consumption. Obesity is the outcome of that. You have the feeling of loneliness, despair, anger, worries in you, and you do not know how to handle, and that is why you want to forget, to run away. And one of the ways is to just consume. So music, magazines, food, are there in order to help you to cover up your suffering. You do not solve the problem.

But the practise consists in going home, and take good care of that pain: Breathing in, I am aware of the painful feeling in me. There is the energy of pain of course. But as a practitioner you generate the energy of mindfulness and concentration, and with the second energy you recognise the first energy. Hello there my little pain. I know you are there. I will take good care of you. So like a mother, holding her baby, when the body suffers, the practitioner generates the energy of mindfulness and concentration, and go home, and take care of the painful feeling, or the painful emotion in him or in her, and get a relief.

So many young people are not capable of handling a strong emotion. And they believe that the only way to stop suffering is go and kill themselves. That is why so many young people commit suicide everywhere. But we know very well that an emotion, whether it is strong, however strong it is, it is only an emotion. And we are much more that an emotion. We don't have to. An emotion that is something, that comes, and stays for some time, and finally will have to go away. Why do we have to die, because of just one emotion? That is what you can remind yourself, when an emotion manifests in you. And if you know the practise of mindful breathing, mindful walking, generating the energy of mindfulness, you can very well recognise and embrace that emotion, and you are save. An emotion is like a storm coming. And there are ways in order to stand, and not to allow the storm to blow you away.

The practise of deep breathing, in a position of sitting or laying down: focus your attention on the rise and fall of your abdomen. And just that, stop all the thinking. Because the more you think, the stronger the emotion can become. Stopping the thinking. Bring your mind down to the level of the navel, and breath in deeply, and become aware of the rise and fall of your abdomen, and stay in that position, and continue, and your emotion could not do anything to you. And after 5 minutes, 10 minutes or even half an hour, the emotion will go, and you will survive it. And next time, when it comes, you will do just that. It is easy enough. We should train ourselves only a few times every day. If we know how to do it for a few minutes, and then after a few weeks it will become a habit. And when the emotion manifests you will remember to practise. And you are no longer afraid of an emotion.

So when the baby suffers, the mother should be there, in order to pick up the baby, and hold the baby tenderly. The mother does not know what is the cause of the suffering of the baby, but the fact that she is holding the baby tenderly, can already make the baby suffer less. Because the energy of tenderness begins to penetrate into the baby, that brings a relief. And after having held the child for a few minutes, the mother may find out what is wrong with the baby, and she can change the situation easily. The same is true with a practitioner. In the beginning, she does not know what is the root of that pain, that emotion. But the fact that she is able to hold it tenderly, without an attempt to run away, can already bring a relief. And with a little more of concentration and mindfulness, we can discover the nature, the roots of our emotion, and that will help transform the emotion and the pain.

And if adult, father, mother, school teachers know how to do that, they will teach the young people how to do it. It is easy enough to learn. And therefore, a practitioner of mindfulness is capable of: All these things can be learned. And we hope that in the future, these kinds of practises can be taught in school at every level. We are trying to do that. We have met with school teachers in many counties, and they all agree, that this is something they must learn, and bring into the classroom, and help the young people.


The miracle of transformation and healing always happen in our retreats. During this North American tour, we have offered a retreat in Vancouver for 800 people, after that another retreat for more than 900 in Colorado, and we just finished one in Southern California, Escondido for 700 people. And the miracle of transformation and healing always happened. And using the practise of compassionate listening and gentle speech, many people are able, are capable of restoring communication and reconcile. And there are those of us, who can use our mobile phone to practise listening with compassion, and using loving speech in order to reconcile with those who are at home, who are not in the retreat. And we have been offering so many retreats like that in the world, and seen that the effect, the result, the foot of the practise, we are encouraged in this practise. That is why as monks and nuns and lay practitioners, we are going to continue, because that brings us a lot of happiness.

And we want to share the practise, and to help many people to suffer less. And that is why we want also success. But our success, our willingness to succeed, does not remove us from the present moment. Our practise is to, is to be grounded always in the present moment. We know that the future is made only of one element: that is the present moment. And if we take of the present moment the best way we can, it means that we have done everything we can do for the future. And that is our practise: to be there in the here and the now, and do our best with that, and do not let the worries, the projects, carry us away.

I think many are successful in their career, but many have become victims of their own success. They are not happy. Happiness is not the aim. When we do something, we want to succeed. But is it worthwhile to continue, if that success does not bring happiness? And many have become victims of their own success. And although they succeed in their enterprise, but happiness is not there. They have no time to love, to live their life. They have no time for themselves, they have no time for their beloved one.

I know a successful businessman in Germany. His name is Frederick. He is only 40. He is a very successful businessman. But his wife Laura suffers very deeply, because of loneliness, because Frederick did not have the time, even for himself, and for her, and for their son. She tried to suffer less by doing human talent work. She tried to forget her loneliness by going to school and get another degree. But that did not help. And she cried during the night. And he said that: Darling, no-one can replace me now. I have to wait 3, 4 years, before I can find someone to replace me, and then we will have more time for ourselves and for our son. For the moment, no-one can replace me. And that promise was never been fulfilled, because 6 months later he got killed in an accident, car accident. He was so busy, that when his wife was hospitalised, he could not have the time to go to the hospital. And even when his son Phillip was hospitalised, he could not go to the hospital, because his time, his energy is sucked by the will to succeed. And you know what happened: only 3 days after his death, they found someone to replace him. And Frederick is still alive. There are many Frederick among us. And many Laura are among us. We have to wake up from that. We have to learn how to change our way of life in order to be, to be truly alive. And the practise of mindfulness helps us bring real love, real happiness to our life.

There are 4 elements of true love (Brahmavihāras), that mindfulness can help generate:
  1. The 1. element of true love is loving kindness, Maitrī. That is the capacity to make another person happy. And we have already learned that, if we cannot make ourselves peaceful, fresh, and happy, we cannot make another person happy. The practise of mindfulness helps restore solidity, freedom, piece, and freshness to us, so that we can, we have the capacity to make the other person happy.
  2. The 2. element of true love is compassion, Karuṇā. That capacity of understanding the suffering and help remove it. If you love someone, you should understand the suffering in him or in her, and you should be able to help transform that, remove that. And that you can do only after you have done it for you. You have fear, anger, despair in you, and if you do not know how to transform it, how can you help your beloved one to do the same? So understanding the suffering inside, and bring a relief and transformation, is very crucial for love. And then you will be able to help your beloved one transform the suffering. So that is the 2. element of true love: the capacity to help someone suffer less.
  3. And the 3. element of true love is joy (Muditā), because true love always generate joy for you and for the other person. If both of us cry during the process of loving, that is not true love. True love should bring joy every moment of our daily life. And mindfulness can help doing that.
  4. And the 4. element of true love is inclusiveness (Upekṣā). In true love, there is no longer any frontier between you and your beloved one. Your suffering is his suffering. His happiness is your happiness. And there is a perfect way of understanding between the two of you. And together you can serve and help many people. True love is the kind of love that always grows. It has no frontier. And practising true love, you begin to embrace everyone, the whole planet, and bring a lot of joy to you.
And that is why we have to know where we go. If love is our destination, and then we have to sacrifice other things, that are not love, like: Because there are those, who have plenty of these things, and who suffer very deeply.

And when I was ordained as a monk at the age of 16, my teacher gave me the Dharma name: Nhất Hạnh, which means: one action - you do only one thing. You don't do many things at the same time - mono-tasking. And I tried to live according to this teaching. I want to transform myself. I want to help people be happy. Because I know that, if people are happy, I can be happy also. And that is why Buddhist meditation is made of 2 elements: the 1. element is concentration. You focus your attention just on one thing. Otherwise your concentration is not powerful enough to get a breakthrough, and get a insight. And concentration can be practised, not by thinking, but by: That will make the concentration more and more powerful, and your store consciousness will bring, will offer the insight, that you need. And that is why the 1. element of Buddhist meditation is Samādhi concentration, and the 2. is Vipassanā. It means looking deeply. You concentrate on just one thing. And you only look deeply into that one thing. And that is the technique, is secret of bringing up insight.

I think concerning information, we know that, we have the feeling, that we are overwhelmed by information. We don't need that much information. We just need a few. And there are basic information, that we should maintain alive. Because there are many things we know, but we never but into practise. So your happiness does not depend on how much information you have, but how, what kind of information, that you have, and how you put into practise that kind of information. And basic information is: that we are alive. Breathing in, I know I am alive. And breathing out, I can touch all wonders of life in me and around me in this moment. And that can cultivate my happiness, that can make me an instrument of love, and I can help, I can love.

So let us have the rest of our time for a few questions. Thank you.




(Question 1:)
Hi. Oh, it works. Thank you for being fully present here for us. I have a question about mindful walking. I am pregnant, so when I am walking, my hip really hurts, and my knees, they all hurt. So if I do mindful walking, does that means I focus on my painful knees, and my painful hips, and shouldn't I just think about something else and get distracted?

You may join us sitting on a chair, and someone can push you, and you can profit from the collective energy of peace and joy. And you do walking meditation with your feet later, but now you can sit on a chair and have someone push you. This is possible.

So this is not the right time for me to do mindful walking?!

I think at least you can enjoy a few steps. You can always enjoy a few steps. But when it becomes difficult, tiring, you can stop.

Thank you.


There are practitioners of meditation who could not walk. But they like to join us during walking meditation. They bring along their wheelchair, and they enjoy the Sangha, and the collective energy generated by the practise.

(Question 2:)
Hello. This one works here. So, my name is Alex Aris. I am working at Google. And so, my question is not necessarily my question, but it could be maybe a typical Googler. But I think this is very relevant. So you said: if you practise mindfulness, this is good, but I am thinking, how we can apply this in Google. So I think a typical Googler would think about, well, you know, if I practise mindfulness, then I think I am going to lose a lot of time. Because you mentioned, you know: But there are many people, who use their laptops while eating. So and then, they would be concerned: what am I gonna do, that I am gonna be losing a lot of this time. And even if they are not concerned that they will be losing their time, they will be concerned that other people will think that they are spending too much time eating breakfast, or doing other things, and not thinking about their projects. And so: What will my team think about me? What will the performance review be about me? So will they say he didn't spend enough time and so on. So how do you, you know, reply to these concerns, thinking if we would apply this in Google.

I have said that: usually our thinking may be not very productive. Our thinking is sometimes very productive, but not always productive. And our thinking may lead us away. That is one thing I said. And thinking is not the only way to succeed in finding out, what you want to find out. The 2. thing I said is that: while you are brushing your teeth mindfully, and eating your breakfast mindfully, although you do not think about it, but your store consciousness continues to work on it. You have to rely on your store consciousness. If one day you can invent something, that is the work of store consciousness. And many famous scientists have reported that their insight came, when they did not think.

Thank you.

(Question 3:)
Thay, here, my name is Ming. I don't do anything and I hope to do even less when I grow up. My question for you: For me, you are a simple perfection, as a practitioner - in my opinion, and I find that very inspiring. But ironically, I find most inspiring, when you are not perfect. And the example of that is: I read in your books somewhere, that there was a moment, when you got angry at somebody, and than you got almost so angry, you almost wanted to stand up and shoot the guy, but you didn't, because you are a symbol of peace. And I found that very inspiring, because to me I said: even Thich Nhat Hanh has anger. And so my question is, I want you to talk a little bit about your imperfection. And hopefully your imperfection will inspire all of us.

This is a very important question. The problem of happiness and suffering, the problem of perfection and non-perfection is the same. When I speak about the kingdom of god, I say that: the kingdom of god is not a place, where there is no suffering, to me. Because many people believe, that the kingdom of god should be a place, where there is no suffering. But according to this teaching and practise, if there is no suffering, there will be no happiness. It is like, when you grow a lotus flower, you need the mud. If there is no mud, there is no lotus. So happiness is made of, we all know that, when you are happy, it means that you have understanding, love, and compassion. Without understanding and compassion, you cannot be a happy person. And understanding and compassion arise only out of suffering. When you begin to see the suffering in someone, and when you see that that person is helpless, he does not know how to handle suffering inside of him, he is a victim of his suffering and he make people around him suffer, including you. The moment when you begin to see that truth, and understand the suffering in that person, compassion arises in you. Understanding brings about love and compassion. And when you have compassion, you don't want to punish him anymore. Before that, you suffer, you are angry, but now because you have seen the suffering, you have understood the suffering, you are motivated by the desire to help him to suffer less. It means that you have made use of the suffering, in order to create understanding and compassion. We know that, without understanding and compassion, no happiness is possible. That is why, we know also, that in the kingdom of god there is suffering. Where there is no suffering, no mud, there is no lotus flower. Where there is no suffering, there will be no understanding and compassion.

So my definition of the kingdom of god is: the place where people know how to make good use of suffering, in order to create understanding and compassion. It is like if we know how to make good use of the mud in order to produce beautiful lotus flowers. So happiness and suffering they lean on each other to manifest. Anger is a kind of mud. Despair is a kind of mud. And if you allow that mud to overwhelm you - well - you suffer. But if you know the practise, and then you can make good use of anger, and despair, in order to create peace and happiness. As a organic gardener, you know how to make good use of the garbage. You can create compost from the garbage, in order to nourish flowers and vegetables.

The same thing is true with suffering and happiness. Thanks to the fact that you have suffered, that you have ingredients in order to make happiness. Looking embracing, looking deeply at that suffering, embracing deeply that suffering, understanding arise, and you can create joy and happiness. That is why suffering plays a role in the making of happiness. What is wrong with the practise is that, when suffering is there, and if you do not know how to handle suffering, that is wrong. But it is not wrong to have suffering. To have suffering, and if you know how to make good use of the suffering, in order to create happiness, that is something good. So we you have to distinguish between good practise and bad practise. If it is normal that a human being has craving, has anger, has frustration, worries. But if that human being knows the practise of mindfulness, he or she will be able to make good use of that, and transform it into something else, like peace and understanding. So without suffering, without having anger, and sadness, and despair, how could you create peace, happiness and non-fear?

It is like the left and the right. If the left is not there, the right can not be there. And if politically you are on the left, you should not try to make the right disappear, because if the right disappears, you disappear at the same time. So we should that have that non-dualistic way of looking at things. It is because you have anger, despair, suffering, that you have a chance to transform them into something better, peace, happiness and love.

(Question 4:)
Thay, hello. Thanks for being here. I as a person who has struggled with depression in the past, so I am wondering if you have anything in particular to say about mental illnesses, and how mindfulness can play a role in helping people who struggle with that. Thanks.

Mental illness is like another kind of illness. They have their roots. Suppose we speak of a depression. Depression does not come by itself alone. If we look deeply into the depression, we see the roots of depression. The Buddha said that: Nothing can survive without foot. Your love, no matter how beautiful your love is, if you do not know how to nourish your love, to feed your love, it will turn to be something else latter on, like hate and anger. So love needs foot. Suffering also. Your depression also needs foot in order to be alive.

We have lived in such a way, we have consumed in such a way, that make depression possible in the present moment. The way we have lived our daily life, in the last 6 months for instance, the kind of nutriments we have got, like fear, anger, despair, and we do not know how handle these. We have allowed them to be accumulated for a long time, that is why the depression has become a reality. The Buddha said that: What has come to be there, if you know how to look deeply, and to identify the source of foot, the source of nutriment, that has brought it in, after you have seen the roots and the source of nutriment of what has come to be, you already begin on your path of transformation and healing. Because if you know how to identify that kind of nutriment, that have brought your depression, you know how to cut that source of nutriments. And if you stop consuming that kind of nutriment, you deprive your depression of foot, and your depression will have to die in a few weeks, or in a few months. So that is why learning the art of mindful living, we will not continue to ingest the kind of foot, that we have.

The Buddha spoke about 4 kinds of nutriments (Āhāra Sutta):
  1. edible food,
  2. sense impressions, the kind of food that you consume not by the mouth, but by eyes, ear and mind. There are many toxic things that we consume in our daily life.
  3. And the 3. kind of food is volition. Your deepest desire, your deepest intention, is the food.
  4. And also the 4. kind of nutriment, which is collective consciousness. If you live in a place, where there is a kind of collective energy of fear, anger, craving, hate, you consume.
That is why refraining from consuming nutriments that are toxic, you deprive your depression of foot, and your depression will have to die in a few weeks. That is why all mental illness are like that also. We have allowed ourselves to in the toxic environment. We have allowed ourselves to consume items, that contain craving, anger, fear, despair, that is why these symptoms of mental illness have appeared. And the way we deal with our sickness: we try to suppress them. When the suffering comes up, we do not allow them to come up, we try to suppress them, by the way of consuming, we want to cover them up. And we create a situation of bad circulation in our consciousness. And that is why symptoms of mental illness begin to appear. But if you know how to practise mindfulness: And that is why the practise of mindfulness can be very healing. Physically and also mentally.


(Question 5:)
Thank you so much for coming, and reminding us how easy it can be, to be happy and peaceful and loving. My question follows on something, that you said early on, regarding meditation as a combination of mindfulness, concentration, and then insight that arises. My question is about the insight. Having achieved an insight through meditation, does one expend effort to act on that insight, or does one simply hold the insight in mind, and allow this natural circulation that you speak of to transform the mind?

Insight can be maintained and nourished. Like insight can come just in the present moment. Like in the exercise of mindful breathing: Breathing in, I feel alive. So you touch the insight, that you are alive. And to be alive is a miracle. And that is why, when you breath out, you can enjoy, you can be happy, you can celebrate the fact that you are alive. But the practise of concentration can keep the insight alive. And if the insight is alive, happiness continues to be. If you allow the insight to go away, your happiness may go away also.

It is like the insight of inter-being. A father, looking deeply into his son, sees that he is fully present in every cell of his son. And if the son looks into himself, he can see that in every cell of his body, his father is fully present. And he gets the insight of father and son inter-are. You cannot remove father from son. You cannot remove son from father. That is the insight of inter-being. And when the insight of inter-being between son and father is alive, anger is impossible, because when you get angry at your father, you get angry at yourself. You are a continuation of your father. If there is a young men, who says that: I hate my father. I don't want to have anything to do with that person. It means that that young man does not have the insight of inter-being. He does not know that his father is in him, and it is impossible to remove his father from him. If he removes his father from him, he is no longer there. And if that insight is in him, he knows that he has to reconcile with his father in him. Because to say that: I do not want to have anything to do with that person. is nonsense, because you are his continuation, you are him. How can you say that you do not have anything to do with him? To say that means you do not have the insight of inter-being. And the insight of inter-being not only liberates you from suffering, but shows you the way to behave, in order for harmony, for love, for happiness to be possible.


(Question 6:)
Hello. Thank you very much for your tender and conscious comments. One of the things, one of my passions, is working with children. And I had the opportunity to be in India last year working with small children. And I was amazed at how, no matter what they have been through, they had this joy, and this compassion, and feeling of connection with community, even to the point, where they would write on our hands: When the world gives you a 1000 reasons to cry, show the world you have a million reasons to smile. And I found it so beautiful. One of the thing I do is work with children in yoga, and visualisation, and creative play, and I find children in our community are already starting to multitask, and looking at the digital community, and getting very fragmented in minds. And one thing that I find works very very well is teaching through stories. And I was wondering if you had a sweet story, that we may be able to share, even with our own children, helping to illustrate the power of mindfulness, or joy, compassion, maybe one of your favourites.

When I was small, I saw the drawing of a Buddha on the cover of a Buddhist magazine. The Buddha was sitting on the grass, very peaceful, very happy. And I wished I can be someone like him, because around me people are nervous, unhappy. So the first time, when my school organised an outing, climbing a mountain, I was very excited, because we learned that there was a hermit practising on the mountain in order to become a Buddha. I had not seen a hermit before, so I was very enthusiastic climbing. And we were organised in groups of 5 boys and of 5 girls. And many hundreds of us where climbing the mountains. We did not know how to practise walking meditation. We tried to climb as quickly as possible. And half the way, we drank all our water. We were very thirsty, when we came to the top of the mountain. And the worst thing was, that I learned, that the hermit was not there. Perhaps he has heard that 500 students are coming. It is not quiet enough for him, so he, maybe he had hidden himself somewhere in the mountain. So when we were given the order to display our pick-nick and eat, I alone ventured in the wood, hoping that I can see the hermit. And I hear the sound of water dripping, and I followed, and I discovered a very beautiful natural well. The water was very limpid. And you know that I was very thirsty. I am so happy, I kneeled down, and cup the water, and drink. And suddenly a thought came to me: I believed that the hermit has transformed himself into a well. So that I can have a private audience with him. And when you are small, and when you have read many fairy-tales, you believe things like that. And after I have drunk the water, I felt so peaceful, so happy, so fulfilled, that I did not feel any desire at all. Even the desire to meet the hermit as a person. And as I was very tired, I lay down, and I felt into a very deep sleep. I did not know how many minutes I slept, but when I woke up, I did not know where I were. It took time to remember, that the other boys were waiting for me. I left the place with a lot of regret. And I had to leave my beloved well and to go down. And in my mind, there is a sentence coming up: I have drunk the most delicious water in the world. And when I were back with the other children, I did not have the intention to tell them the story, that I have met the hermit in the form of a well. It sounds like, if I tell them - well - I lose something. My experience was kind deep spiritual experience, I wanted to keep by myself, to keep it long. And later on, when I grew up, I had the hope, that everyone I meet will have the chance to meet his hermit also in their lifetime. Maybe you have met your hermit, but you have not recognised him. Your hermit may not be a well, but may be a rock, or a tree, or a child, or a mountain. But once you have got the hermit, you know where to go. And you begin your spiritual life, that can help you to overcome difficulties and find peace. And that is one of the stories I like to tell children, who come to Plum Village to practise.

Thank you very much.