Conditions of Happiness Already Available in the Body Here and Now: Thich Naht Hanh

~from Thich Naht Hanh, August, 201l, University of British Columbia, Awakening the Heart and Healing the Body through Mindfulness of Breathing

"When I look deeply, I see that the kingdom of God is a place where there is understanding and love. But there is something else: Suffering. If there is no suffering, how can you give rise to understanding and love?

I do not want to send my children to a place where there is no suffering. Because in such a place they have no chance to learn how to understand and to be compassionate. That is why, in my definition of the kingdom of God, it is not a place without suffering. It is a place where people know how to make use of suffering to create love and understanding. It is like the mud and the lotus. If there is no mud, there is no lotus flower....


When you breathe in mindfully, you bring your mind home to your body, and you establish yourself in the here and now. And then you realize that there are so many conditions of happiness that are already available in the here and the now.

Breathing in, I am aware of my eyes, breathing out I smile to my eyes.... I only need to open my eyes to enjoy this paradise of form and color. Having our eyes is one condition of happiness we possess right now.

Breathing in, I am aware of my heart. Breathing out I smile to my heart. Use the practice of mindful breathing to recognize the presence of your heart. Embrace your heart with the energy of mindfulness and send love to your own heart.

Practice like this with every organ in the body. This is the practice recommended by the Buddha in the sutra on the contemplation of the body in the body. (Anapanasati Sutra) Buddha says, "Suppose there is a farmer who opens a bag of seeds and allows all the seeds to flow out on the floor. He pays attention to every seed, and recognizes every kind. This is a seed of kidney bean, this is a seed of corn, this is a seed of mung bean. So the practitioner of meditation does the same thing.

Using mindful breathing, the practitioner recognizes her eyes, and smiles at these eyes. Then she goes down through the body, recognizing the nose, tongue, lungs, heart, kidney, liver, and so on. It is scanning the body with the energy of awareness. In a hospital we scan with an x-ray. But in the Buddha's practice, we use a ray of mindfulness to scan our body, to visit all parts of our body and to smile on each one. This helps us relieve the tension that causes illness, and to heal the body.

So the Buddha recommends that you visit all parts of your body and send the energy of compassion to every part. This is the practice of deep total relaxation.

And when you come to a place that is ailing, you may stay longer. You may hold that organ longer in the energy of mindfulness, and that will help the healing to take place more quickly.

When we practice visiting all parts of our body, we recognize that there are so many conditions of happiness already within us, and also around us in the environment. Mindfulness in the present moment helps us realize that we already have more than enough conditions to be happy right here and right now. We do not have to run into the future to look for more conditions of happiness.

This is a basic teaching of the Buddha: you can be happy and joyful right in the here and the now. The Sanskrit expression is dristrah dharma sukka vihara: "dwelling happily right in the present moment."


A Practice For This Moment

True faith means not asking for any other blessing but this breath, at this moment, from the One who breathes you. And we don't even need to ask for that.

 Caress your chest with this breath. Loving your own heart softens the whole world. A practice for any moment.

Now gaze into the eyes of a friend, partner, child, or perfect stranger, and carry their gaze into your chest with this breath. Nourish your heart with the pain and beauty of the world. A practice for dissolving the illusion of separateness.

Circles of Desire

Desire is not a linear path that leads us toward a goal. Desire is circular. The fulfillment of a desire is not progress toward some end. Rather, it carries us back to the state we were in before the desire arose.

In actuality, we are always there, in the same desireless place. We come from this space, we are destined for this space. And in this space there is no time.

Yet through desire we create time. We make constant little excursions and side trips of desire, sensation, and return. Finally, we tire of desire-tripping and awaken to just being here.

Now we desire one last thing: Fully awake, to explore this home space, this Om space, the unfathomable ocean of not wanting.

I do not desire to go "beyond" desire. I desire to rest before desire, a priori desire, deeper than any sadness or joy.

So I watch desire without suppressing it. I witness desire and the fulfillment of desire, remaining awake. Without judgment, I notice where I Am at the beginning and the end of desire.

By fulfilling this desire, do I possess anything I did not own before I began this excursion? Have I advanced down any sort of path? Is the present moment at the end of this desire and its fulfillment any different than the moment when the desire arose? Or are they actually the same eternal moment?

Again, I watch my desire rise and fall, without suppressing or grasping it, or naming it "right" or "wrong." What if I honor this desire and feel it completely, but do not enact it?

What if I sense my desire, not as the repeated image of a past experience, or the imagination of a future one, but as present living energy in my body?

Now I feel this desire fulfill itself. I feel it burn itself away, a galaxy of dissolving electrons in my forehead, throat, chest, belly, or groin....

Have I lost any pleasure by not putting my desire into action?

Or have I in fact gained something quite profound: a more established, solidified, permanent Witness, a deeper inner Silence?

"At this time, flares of Shiva from the stars leap down to kiss surges of Shakti from the earth. These polarities meet as lightning in the human nervous system, swirling up and down the subtle dimensions of the spine. The effusive delights of their union may feel like a dizzy opening of the crown, a radiant pressure in the brow, trembling romance in the heart, restless excitement in the solar plexus, or the stirring of Eros through the hips.

"In meditation, there may be luminous golden supernovae, with the influx of celestial music. In the body, heightened sexual attraction. In large crowds, exhilaration, confusion, and possible violence.

"Now it is essential to have a stable regular meditation practice, grounding and channeling these energies so that they remain creative, and do not become destructive or dissipated. Avoid practices of mere concentration, which at this time will only cause head-ache, repression, and frustration. Learn practices that focus the energies without denying them, channeling fire upward from the Earth, breathing starlight downward from the crown, so that Shiva and Shakti, Christ and Mary Magdalene, may meet in the Bridal Chamber of Hridaya, the Heart, consummating their marriage as divine human Radiance, and giving birth to inspired acts of art or service."  ~U.

Politics of the Buddha


Buddha mind is neither liberal nor conservative. 
Since clarity is always boundless, there is nothing to liberate. 
Since awareness is always empty, there is nothing to conserve. 
Radiating clear empty sapphire Buddha joy, 
dissolve politics into Presence. 
Earth is always perfect, just as it is. 
Accepting it with every breath perfects it even more.


A great deal of this so-called "spirituality" consists of pretending, based on the desperate proposition that if we pretend to be happy, we will be. Look deeply into this. It is the basis of many rituals, spiritual practices, celebrations, satsangs, and even service projects.

We so often attempt to create happiness through sympathetic magic. Are we spontaneously born each moment from a spring of original happiness inside, or are we just trying to act like it, trying to smile like it, under the assumption that everybody else seems happy, so I'm damn well going to act like I am too?

Consider that no outward "spiritual" or "moral" behavior actually causes happiness or enlightenment to arise. Happiness arises un-caused, simply as the relaxed ease, the complete repose, of not pretending.

Your Gaze

My gaze flows clear and translucent into the depths of eternal Presence. But from where does it flow? Every atom of my eye is made out of protons and stories that are billions of years old. This Now contains an infinite past. Is it not my freedom, my choice every moment, whether to let the past claim me, or to baptize time itself in eternity?

Running Away From Now

A profound poem by Guthema Roba... Consider the infinite opportunity of this ordinary moment from which you are tempted to be distracted by a mere image of some past futility.
"I was going for a short walk -
in our neighborhood,
those long elegant trees
were rising
to touch the half dark sweet moon.
Birds were singing of aliveness.
In the highway
People were speeding –
they were running away
from what expands them,
what makes their hearts
explode with joy."


It's OK Not To Forgive

Shhhh... It's OK not to forgive. Just don't harm anyone, don't seek revenge. That's all.

Nothing could be crueler than telling someone they should forgive. Especially if they've been abused, violated, or betrayed.

Hug your pain and your non-forgiveness, which has every right to be there. Keep hugging, cradling, and being real to yourself.

Then some day, when it happens, it happens, because it feels OK in your heart. The fruit is ripe and it drops. So you let it go. No one can force it, and no one needs to make it a 'should.' I love you.

Ancient Light

I am utterly convinced that Abraham (A-brahm, "from-Brahman"), Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, Buddha, Shankara, Mahavira and Guru Nanak, all revealed the same divine Source, each through their own culture and epoch. That Source is the light that shines eternally in the human heart.

All religious scriptures, stories, rites and symbols are metaphors, pointers to that Source. As the stuff of ecstatic poetry, these symbols profoundly enrich us. But when priestly authorities turn them into doctrine, mistaking pointers for the ineffable radiance toward which they point, their authority becomes a great evil, their doctrine a vicious obstacle to our happiness.

Gently, resolutely, abandon the tribal cult of the past, embrace the ancient Light now, and reveal pure beauty on the alter of this heartbeat. Then you will know what Jesus meant by the words, "Amen, Amen, I say unto you: before Abraham was, I Am." (John 8:58)

You too may say those words. Reveal your Self. Anoint your Self. Delight your Self. Isn't it time to quit looking for that place, and start looking from that place?

The Unpardonable Sin

"Every kind of sin can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven." (Matthew 12:31)

Jesus made the remarkable statement that there is only one unpardonable sin: to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. What does this mean? 

The Spirit is my very life-breath. If I blaspheme against myself, if I belittle my own life, not even God can help me. The unpardonable sin is to think so little of myself that I give away my spiritual authority to another. 

Whether I go to Church or don't go to Church, whether I follow one religion or another, or none at all, doesn't matter at all. What matters is to pray this prayer for absolution of all my sins: 
"O My Self, have mercy on me. Forgive me for placing my faith in anyone else, forgive me for forfeiting my spiritual authority to another, priest or pope, savior or guru. Forgive me for doubting the audacious humility of my perfection. For it is only when I embrace my unfalleness, that I may ignite perfect joy in others. Amen."

Labore Est Saltare: To Work Is To Dance

Ora et labora, said Saint Benedict, 
pray and work.
So we became holy monks.

Then Love whispered, Ora et salta, 
pray and dance.
So we became fools

neither holy nor unholy, 
just drunk
on raindrops and sunbeams.

Can we work and dance at the same time? Tribal people teach us how. Pre-colonial Africans had work dances and work songs, which slaves brought to America. In parts of Africa, they still sing and dance while working. I have seen them do it... Even African longshoremen working on American ships. Thus the African American term "Worksong," like the jazz classic by Nat Adderly, embedded below.

But white Euro-culture divorced work from prayer, work from dance, work from song. We filled work with a sense of dread and anxiety. Why? Marx wrote all about that... 

When I was a Merchant Marine seaman, I was on a freighter in the port of Dakar, Senegal. The officer directed me to supervise African workers who were trying to move a huge crate across the deck to a position where the crane could hoist it down into the hull.

These workmen labored 12 hours straight with no rest, and no food but a few kola nuts wrapped in a bandana. They were listless and drowsy, and the American Merchant Marine officers disdained them, even kicking them when they got too sleepy.

I had no idea what I was doing or how to get the men to move the crate, which probably had some diplomat's car in it, headed for the American embassy. Finally the leader of the men pleaded with me, "Boss, let us do it the African way."

I looked up at the officer on the bridge, who frowned and shook his head. So I said, "No." 

They kept struggling and again the man asked me, "Let us do it the African way." Evidently the white American officers were dedicated to keeping the African workers subservient: it was a rule that they must not do anything "the African way." I had no idea what this was all about. It was 1968, I was just a 22 year old looking for some knowledge about the world, and I had never consciously encountered systemic, intentional, institutionalized racism.

The Africans made no headway with the crate. It wouldn't budge an inch. On the bridge, the officer looked down at us smugly. Now the longshoreman asked me a third time if they might do it the African way, and I gave up any pretense of control. "What the hell," I thought, "I don't know anything, and life should be more interesting than this."

So I challenged the men, "Go ahead, show us how to do it the African way!" The officer looked disgusted. He turned his back on us and went into the cabin. The Africans immediately started smiling. Their eyes literally brightened and their bodies stood tall. They began to sing, chanting in unison. A work song.

Every seventh beat, they pressed their shoulders to the crate and heaved, all together. The crate slid a good six inches each time. Moving across the deck as part of the rhythm of their dance, their song, that enormous crate was suddenly light and alive. It danced too. And in a very short time the men had moved it over fifty feet, under the crane.

The men were sweating. They had dazzling grins on their faces. They were very much awake. I learned more that day than in seven years of college and graduate school.


Silence echoes out of Depth, gazing at the stars in a mirror of Wonder. That Gaze is a Wordless flower, lasting but an instant, then sinking down again into the seedless groundless abyss, ever reverberating, ever blossoming in astonishment.

This pulsation of Silence is energy: giving birth to consciousness, then to thought, then to nutrinos, suns and galaxies, which are just waves of emptiness collapsing into spheres.

You are Silence. You are the groundless Depth. You are the vibration of Shakti dancing in Shiva, undulating in nakedness and purity.

Beloved, we've been whirling through ourselves like this, all day and all night, eternally. That is why I place this diadem of suns and moons on your forehead, then bow to you and shatter my mind against your little brown toes!

This Morning's Death

I died this morning, leaving only ripples of my disappearance to wash over you, and bless you, and cover you with abundance.

I died, and now there are no beings, only Being, rolling through multitudes like one vast wave in an ocean of broken shells.

I died this morning, now I understand the Cross: don't worship Jesus, crucify him.

Knock down the Buddha if you meet. Whirl with Shiva till Shiva dissolves into your whirling.

Slay every God but the one who awakens from your little dream, opening this sun-flooded eye, your empty center, among these ripples of disappearance -

Washing, healing the creatures, covering all your lovers with light.


Distance is a gift to those
who learn the art of sighing.

I'll breathe you in someday,
if I ever end my dying -

my breathing out toward memory,
a raindrop, and a scattering

of leaves, a silence shattering
on wet stones, and a faded rose...

Autumn now, I miss you Friend,
here where you loved and dreamed

upon my shoulder, and it seemed
that Summer could not end.

World Without a Story

I have been up all night monitoring credible reports from around the world indicating that nothing is certain. Given the fluidity of the situation, it is highly advised to postpone your hostilities. And if you must act now, please, do something kind, or at least something that doesn't kill anybody. I will give you an update if I learn something new, which is highly unlikely.

The truth is, the world "out there" is a random chaos of information bytes. We select the bytes of "evidence" that tend to support the narrative we have already begun telling ourselves, even before we see it in the world.

Chaos always provides enough information to support any number of alternate and conflicting narratives. All wars and human conflicts arise through these conflicting narratives, which are neither true nor false.

So why not stop telling stories to ourselves and simply observe the silence within, where the narrative arises?  Rest there, in that silence, before the story begins. Then there is no need to look for "evidence" in the world around us to confirm our version of the story.

Now look at the world without a story. Find out what is there, if you can endure the Radiance.

Guru Shakti

"Guru is not a person. Guru Shakti is the infinite energy, and that is also the energy of yourself. If you become empty, you too will become that. The energy will shine through you." ~Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

"These things that I do, ye shall do also." ~Jesus 

The Guru is not here to be our personal savior. The Guru is here to teach us sadhana, to remind us and re-heart us of ourselves.

The most difficult renunciation is not to go beyond drink, or sugar, or sexual indulgence, or wealth, but to go beyond the glamor of the Master.

The truth is hard, but the truth sets us free. We don't absorb eternal Light from the form and personality of the Master. We absorb eternal Light from the core of our own heart, after the Master's grace has ignited it.

But spirituality becomes religion when we replace the inward sadhana with the personality cult of the guru. This was the mistake of the Church. Jesus taught the kingdom of heaven within, but they replaced the radiance of the heart with the outward form, and ended by worshiping a white robe and pair of sandals. That is why Jesus told the Magdalene, "Do not cling to me."

Matins (A Prose Poem)

In silence there is no time. In stillness there is no thought. This bell was struck ten million years ago. Now its beauty falls on us. Because there is hearing, there is a sparrow this morning. Because there is seeing, there is blue flecked with rose falling inward and outward toward the first sound. Let every heavenly wedding burst from its seed!

Anyone's Opinion

If it comes from a sincere heart, anyone's opinion is as good as mine, and has an equal right to sparkle for its moment in the clear night sky of Bodhichitta, which is just awareness. To someone fixed in a point of view, this democracy of truth is disturbing. But to one whose thoughts immediately dissolve into pure space, it is freedom, it is peace.