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

~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."