In How To Relax, Thich Nhat Hanh says that when we relax, we “become calm water, and we will reflect reality as it is. If we’re not calm, the image we reflect will be distorted. When the image is distorted by our minds, it’s not the reality, and it causes lots of suffering.” Relaxation is essential for accessing the tranquility and joy that lead to increased personal well-being.
You are probably breathing in and out right this moment. If you can close your eyes for a moment, do so. This will help you pay attention to your breath. Your body is doing so many things right now. Your heart is beating, Your lungs are inhaling and exhaling air. Blood is traveling through your veins.
Without effort, your body is both working and relaxed.
Whenever animals in the forest are wounded, they rest. They look for a very quiet place and just stay there without moving for many days. They know it’s the best way for their body to heal. During this time they may not even eat or drink. The wisdom of stopping and healing is still alive in animals, but we human beings have lost the capacity to rest.
We human beings have lost confidence in the body just knowing what to do. If we have time alone with ourselves, we panic and try to do many different things. Mindful breathing help us to relearn the art of resting. Mindful breathing is like a loving parent cradling a baby, saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll take good care of you; just rest.’
To meditate means to pay full attention to something. It doesn’t mean to run away from life. Instead, it’s an opportunity to look deeply into ourselves and into the situation we’re in.
STOPPING: The first aspect of meditation
We run throughout our whole life, chasing after some idea of happiness. Stopping means to stop our running, our forgetfulness, and our being caught in the past or the future. We come home to the present moment where life is available. The present moment contains every moment. Here we can touch our ancestors, our children, and their children, even if they haven’t been born yet. We calm our body and emotions through the practice of mindful breathing, mindful walking, and mindful sitting. Shamatha is also the practice of concentrating, so we can live deeply each moment of our life and touch the deepest level of our being.
If we can’t rest, it’s because we haven’t stopped running. We began running a long time ago. We continue to run, even in our sleep. We think that happiness and well-being aren’t possible in the present. If you can stop and establish yourself in the here and the now, you will see that there are many elements of happiness available in this moment, more than enough for you to be happy. Even if there are a few things in the present that you dislike, there are still plenty of positive conditions for your happiness. When you walk in the garden, you may see that a tree is dying and so you feel sad and aren’t able to enjoy the rest of the garden that is still beautiful. If you look again, you can see that the garden is still beautiful, and you can enjoy it.
LOOKING DEEPLY: The second aspect of meditation
The second aspect of meditation is looking deeply (vipashyana in Sanskrit) in order to see the true nature of things. Understanding is a great gift. Your daily life conducted in mindfulness is also a great gift; this too is the practice of meditation. Mindfulness carries within it concentration and understanding.