Thích Nhất Hạnh, Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet, global spiritual leader, and peace and human rights activist, and one of the most beloved Zen teachers in the world, celebrated his 90th birthday last month.
He has published more than one hundred books on meditation, mindfulness and Buddhism, poems and children’s stories, and more. I’ve read a number of his books, including the popular Being Peace, Peace Is Every Step, and The Miracle of Mindfulness, and love the simplicity with which he conveys the concept of mindfulness. He is gentle and humble, but his words are powerful, and inspiring. His key message: When we practice mindfulness, we can live happily in the present moment, and this is the only way to peace, within us and in the world.
Here are some of my favorite mindfulness quotes from Thích Nhất Hạn–or Thay–as he is fondly known–some are like mini-stories, sweet to read, with a pleasant takeaway.
Inspiring Quotes on Mindfulness from Thích Nhất Hạnh
- Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.
- Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.
- To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.
- People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.
- Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.
- Because you are alive, everything is possible.
- When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.
- Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.
- Smile, breathe and go slowly.Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.
- Many people think excitement is happiness…. But when you are excited you are not peaceful. True happiness is based on peace.
- Through my love for you, I want to express my love for the whole cosmos, the whole of humanity, and all beings. By living with you, I want to learn to love everyone and all species. If I succeed in loving you, I will be able to love everyone and all species on Earth… This is the real message of love.
- The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.
- Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.
- My actions are my only true belongings.
- Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.
- If you love someone but rarely make yourself available to him or her, that is not true love.
- You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.
- Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.
- For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.
- By eating meat we share the responsibility of climate change, the destruction of our forests, and the poisoning of our air and water. The simple act of becoming a vegetarian will make a difference in the health of our planet.
- Our own life has to be our message.
- We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness.
- The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.
- Suffering is not enough. Life is both dreadful and wonderful…How can I smile when I am filled with so much sorrow? It is natural–you need to smile to your sorrow because you are more than your sorrow.
- I promise myself that I will enjoy every minute of the day that is given me to live.
- The source of love is deep in us and we can help others realize a lot of happiness. One word, one action, one thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring that person joy.
- Freedom is not given to us by anyone; we have to cultivate it ourselves. It is a daily practice… No one can prevent you from being aware of each step you take or each breath in and breath out.
- Enlightenment is always there. Small enlightenment will bring great enlightenment. If you breathe in and are aware that you are alive—that you can touch the miracle of being alive—then that is a kind of enlightenment.
- Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive.
- It is possible to live happily in the here and now. So many conditions of happiness are available—more than enough for you to be happy right now. You don’t have to run into the future in order to get more.
- People suffer because they are caught in their views. As soon as we release those views, we are free and we don’t suffer anymore.
- Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.Life is available only in the present. That is why we should walk in such a way that every step can bring us to the here and the now.
- When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?
- To be loved means to be recognized as existing.
- Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.
- We have to continue to learn. We have to be open. And we have to be ready to release our knowledge in order to come to a higher understanding of reality.
- Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty-four brand-new hours to live. What a precious gift! We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others.
- Compassion is a verb.
- Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos — the trees, the clouds, everything.
- Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible.
- “Tea is an act complete in its simplicity.
When I drink tea, there is only me and the tea.
The rest of the world dissolves.
There are no worries about the future.
No dwelling on past mistakes.
Tea is simple: loose-leaf tea, hot pure water, a cup.
I inhale the scent, tiny delicate pieces of the tea floating above the cup.
I drink the tea, the essence of the leaves becoming a part of me.
I am informed by the tea, changed.
This is the act of life, in one pure moment, and in this act the truth of the world suddenly becomes revealed: all the complexity, pain, drama of life is a pretense, invented in our minds for no good purpose.
There is only the tea, and me, converging.”
- Each time you look at a tangerine, you can see deeply into it. You can see everything in the universe in one tangerine. When you peel it and smell it, it’s wonderful. You can take your time eating a tangerine and be very happy.
- If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future -and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.
- There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. (Also attributed to Dr.Wayne Dyer – but does it matter?)
- Take my hand. We will walk. We will only walk. We will enjoy our walk without thinking of arriving anywhere.
- Be Yourself. Life is precious as it is. All the elements for your happiness are already here. There is no need to run, strive, search, or struggle. Just Be.
- What you are looking for is already in you…you already are everything you are seeking.
- You have an appointment with life, an appointment that is in the here and now.
Which of these inspiring quotes on mindfulness resonated with you? Tell me in the comments!
I love the one about tea. Of course, I interchange it with coffee–I feel it encompasses everything we need to know about being mindful.
Zen calligraphy images are from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book “The Way Out is In”