I spent five days on retreat with Buddhist Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh this past summer. Here are some of the lessons I learned:
1. Take time to pray several times a day. Stop what you are doing, breathe, and give thanks. Be aware that something greater than you is here now.
2 . Practice silence at the beginning and end of your day. The Grand Noble Silence at the start and finish of the day centers your thoughts on all that will be and all that has been, much like the Examen in the Ignatian tradition.
3. . Give thanks as you eat for the fruits of the earth, the labour of the hands that prepared it, and that you have food to eat where some do not.
4. . Walk meditatively, with peace in each step. Stop running. Do not let the rat race dictate your pace.
5. Do not judge people. Be curious instead. We all judge and if we practice being aware of when this happens, we can let go and really listen to the other person.
6. Be tolerant of other people’s religions. Thay, as Thich is known, often brings Christ into public meditations.
7. Heal your family tree and heal yourself in the process.
8. Practice the “half-smile” and the joy of Christ will radiate from you. Are you frowning right now or smiling? Doesn’t it feel better to even half smile than frown?
9.. Practice compassion. Many people who are suffering could benefit.
10. The Kingdom is here and now. The past is no longer here and the future has not arrived. Be mindful to the moment. Be available for the work of the Kingdom now.
11. Do not live in your head. The longest journey you ever make as they say in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius is from your head to your heart.
12. Do not run from suffering. Transform it and use it for the greater good. The way out is in.
13. Learn how to generate joy.
14. Do not water the negative seeds. If they spring up, counter them by praying for the opposite seeds of love, peace, tenderness, mercy, etc. Nourish the positive seeds you can spread.
15. Celebrate a deep reverence for all of life, including animals and the earth. Be good stewards.
16. Practice generosity. Give to those in need.
17. Loving speech and deep listening bring healing. Work on maintaining good relationships and living in harmony. Create communities of peace. Strive for reconciliation wherever possible.
18. Let go of suffering and fears. Allow healing in.
19. You belong to God.
20. .Breathe. Remember where this gift comes from. To be alive is the greatest miracle of all.