excerpted from An evening with Thich Nhat Hanh
“When you eat a tangerine in mindfulness, the tangerine will reveal itself to you deeply. If you breathe in and out, and look deeply at the tangerine, you will see that the whole cosmos has come together in order to make the tangerine possible. Looking deeply at the tangerine we can see the sunshine, the rain, the earth, and many more things. And looking at the tangerine like that, and seeing the tangerine like that, you will eat it in a very different way. Your encounter with the tangerine will be very deep.
When you look at the tangerine with your mindfulness, the tangerine will become a very wonderful thing. And you, the one who eats the tangerine, will become a wonderful person; awake, deep, solid. And the encounter between you and the tangerine will be a deep one. Life is present in that moment.
The same thing is true when you hold your baby. Your child is coming like a flower, smiling, sparkling eyes, and if you are not there, well, you sit there, but you are not really there, your mind is on something else, then you will not be available to your child. But if you know how to breathe in and out, and go back to the present moment, you receive the child deeply. At that moment you become available to him, you open your arms, and you hug your child.
“Breathing in, my child is in my arms, breathing out, I feel happy.” And if you feel happy, the child will feel happy at the same time.
So mindfulness, present, will improve the situation, will transform the situation, will reveal to you the marvel, the wonders of life that are in you and around you.
Suppose you touch your eyes and breathe in,
“Breathing in, I am aware of my eyes, breathing out, I smile to my eyes.”
And then your eyes will reveal themselves to you as wonderful things. You know of course that your eyes are very important. You need only to open them in order to see the blue sky, the beautiful trees, your beloved ones.
And, you know that the people who cannot see things, they suffer. They say that if they can recover their eyesight they would be like in paradise. It means that all of us who have eyes, we are in paradise, but we are not aware of that.
So breathing in and out may bring us to paradise. We need only to open our eyes in order to see all kinds of forms and colors. And we enter into the pure land, the land of bliss, the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God.
One time in a church, I said something like this:
“You don’t have to die in order to enter the kingdom of God, in fact you have to be alive in order to do so.”
The kingdom of God is available only in the present moment. So breathe in and out, smile, and you see that the kingdom of God, the kingdom of peace and happiness, is available to you. Just make one step and enter the kingdom of God with mindfulness.
And if we know how to get in touch with the refreshing, healing things in us, like our eyes, like the beautiful sunset, a little child, the beautiful rivers, the air we breathe, well, we will get nourished by these things, and peace is available in the present moment to some extent. And we have to profit from it.
So the first function of mindfulness is to help you to get in touch with the refreshing and healing elements in you and around you so that you may be nourished. And that is the practice of peace itself. Because if you are not healthy, you are not peaceful, you cannot do anything to help anyone, including your beloved ones.
I think a tree can look happy. When you look at a tree you can see if a tree is happy or not. A tree is happy when it is a real tree; solid, fresh. And we human beings, we are like that too. If we practice we become more fresh, more solid, truly a human being, and then we are happy. And before we do anything in order to help other people, we already help. I think that the best thing that a tree can do for us is to be a tree, to be a real tree, a healthy, happy tree. Because if a tree is less than a tree, then all of us will be in trouble.
The same thing is true with a human being. So a human being should be a real, a true human being. And if a human being is less than a human being, then the whole cosmos will suffer, will be in trouble. And that is why we need to be ourselves; refreshing, solid, peaceful.”