Part of the The Mindfulness Essentials series, in How to Fight Thich Nhat Hanh brings his signature clarity, compassion, and humor to the ways we act out in anger, frustration, despair, and delusion. In brief meditations accompanied by whimsical sumi-ink drawings, Thich Nhat Hanh instructs us exactly how to transform our craving and confusion. If we learn to take good care of our suffering, we can help others do the same.
Stillness is the Foundation of Understanding
When we observe or listen to other people, we often don’t see them clearly or really hear what they’re saying. We see and hear our projections and prejudices instead. Even if a friend gives us a compliment, we find it difficult to receive their kind words. Most of the time, our mind, thoughts, and feelings aren’t calm. They’re like the water in a muddy lake, which can’t reflect the sky because it’s been churned up by a storm.
If we’re not calm, we can’t listen deeply and understand. But when our mind is calm, we can see reality more clearly, like still water reflecting the trees, the clouds, and the blue sky. Stillness is the foundation of understanding and insight. Stillness is strength.
Peace in Oneself
We can only listen to another person and understand their suffering if we have first looked deeply, embraced, and been kind to our own fear and anger. We make peace with our own fears, worries, and resentments and look deeply to understand their roots. This brings the insight that can transform and heal.
The process of going home and making peace inside is critical to being able to offer love to another person. Everyone knows that peace must begin with oneself, but not everyone knows how to do it. With the practice of mindful breathing, calming the mind and relaxing the body, you can start making peace inside you, and you’ll feel much better right away. Before you do the work of reconciliation with another, you need to restore communication with yourself.
Looking at Others
When you’re sitting on a bus or in the subway, instead of thinking of this and that, look at the people around you. Looking deeply at the expressions on their faces, you will see their suffering. When you touch suffering like that, compassion is born in you. Looking at living beings through the eyes of compassion is a very strong practice. A week of practice like that can make a big difference in your life and in the lives of others.
The Art of Apologizing
The ability to apologize sincerely and express regret for the unskillful things we say or do is an art. A true apology can relieve a great deal of suffering in the other person. Once we realize that we may have said or done something to make another suffer, we can find a way to apologize as soon as possible. If we can, we should apologize right away and not wait. We can talk to the other person directly, or if they’re not there we can call them on the phone, or even send a note. There is no need to wait until the next time we meet. A straightforward apology can have a powerful effect. We can just say, “I am very sorry. I know I was unskillful. I was not mindful or understanding.” We don’t need to justify or explain what we said or did; we just apologize.
From How To Fight © Parallax Press (www.parallax.org). Reprinted with Permission.