Teachings of Mindfulness: Love is Being There
How mindfulness practice can help us make time to love
Date: September 19, 2023
Author: Thich Nhat Hanh
Photo courtesy Shambhala Publications
In the context of Buddhism, to love is above all to be there. However, being present is not an easy feat; it requires training and practice. If we are not fully present, how can we truly love? Being there, being present, is an art—a form of meditation that brings our true presence to the here and now. This raises the question: Do we have time to love?
Thich Nhat Hanh shares a moving anecdote about a wealthy father who asks his 12-year-old son what he would like for his birthday. The boy, recognizing that his father’s role keeps him constantly busy, yearns for nothing more than his father’s presence. The father’s wealth becomes an obstacle to love, as it consumes his time and energy, leaving little room for his son and wife. If the father understood the true essence of love, he would prioritize finding time for his loved ones.
The Precious Gift of True Presence
According to Thich Nhat Hanh, the most precious gift we can give to someone we love is our true presence. But how can we genuinely be there for others? In Buddhist meditation, the practice of mindful breathing allows us to bring our body and mind into unity. Normally, our mind and body are disjointed—our body may physically be present, but our mind is often elsewhere, lost in regrets, worries, or preoccupations. Mindful breathing serves as a bridge that connects the mind and body, bringing them together in the present moment.
Thich Nhat Hanh recommends a simple practice of mindful breathing: “Breathing—I know that I am breathing in; breathing—I know that I am breathing out.” By practicing this with concentration, we can truly be present in our daily lives, offering our undivided attention to those we love. Even just a few seconds of mindful breathing can achieve the miracle of oneness between our body and mind.
The Practice of Mindful Breathing
The Buddha left us with a fundamental text, the Anapanasati Sutta, or Discourse on the Practice of Mindful Breathing. Thich Nhat Hanh emphasizes the importance of studying this text for those wishing to engage in Buddhist meditation. If the previously mentioned father had known about this practice, he could have begun to breathe in and out mindfully, and within a minute or two, he could have approached his son with a smile and said, “My dear, I am here for you.” This simple act would have been the greatest gift he could have given his son.
The Power of Mantras
In Buddhism, mantras are seen as magic formulas that have the power to transform situations, minds, bodies, and people. However, these mantras must be spoken from a state of concentration—a state in which the body and mind are completely unified. In this state, what is spoken becomes a mantra.
Thich Nhat Hanh presents a powerful mantra in English: “Dear one, I am here for you.” He suggests that readers try practicing mindful breathing for a few minutes, approach the person they love with concentration, and look into their eyes while uttering this formula: “Dear one, I am really here for you.” Speaking these words with both body and mind engaged can bring about a transformation in the relationship.
Making Time for Love
Thich Nhat Hanh raises the vital question of whether we have enough time to love. In our busy lives, we often rush through meals without truly looking at our loved ones or engaging in meaningful conversation. By bringing about a revolution in our way of living, we have the potential to rediscover happiness within ourselves.
Editorial and Advice
Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings on mindfulness and love offer invaluable insights for our lives. In a world filled with distractions and busyness, his message reminds us of the importance of being present for our loved ones. Our true presence is the greatest gift we can offer, and cultivating mindfulness is the key to developing this presence.
It is essential that we examine our priorities and make intentional choices to set aside time for love. Mindful breathing, as suggested by Thich Nhat Hanh, can be a powerful tool in bringing our mind and body together in the present moment. By practicing this simple technique, we can create moments of connection with our loved ones, deeply touching their hearts.
We must also challenge societal norms that perpetuate a culture of busyness and disconnection. It is time for a revolution in the way we live our everyday lives, prioritizing relationships and human connection over material pursuits.
Ultimately, Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings remind us that the source of our happiness lies within ourselves. By cultivating mindfulness and making time for love, we can find lasting fulfillment and create meaningful relationships that enrich our lives.
<< photo by Mak >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.
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