Present Moment by Thich Nhat Hanh
Touching deeply is an important practice. We touch with our hands, our eyes, our ears, and also with our mindfulness. The first practice I learned as a novice monk was to breathe in and out consciously, to touch each breath with my mindfulness, identifying the in-breath as in-breath and the out-breath as out-breath. When you practice this way, your mind and body come into alignment, your wandering thoughts come to a stop, and you are at your best. Mindfulness is the substance of a Buddha.
When you enter deeply into this moment, you see the nature of reality, and this insight liberates you from suffering and confusion. Peace is already there to some extent: the problem is whether we know how to touch it. Conscious breathing is the most basic Buddhist practice for touching peace. I would like to offer you this short exercise:
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.
“Breathing in, I calm my body.” This is like drinking a glass of cool water. You feel the freshness permeate your body. When I breathe in and recite this line, I actually experience my breathing calming my body and my mind. In Buddhist meditation, body and mind become one.
“Breathing out, I smile.” One smile can relax hundreds of muscles in your face and make you master of yourself. Whenever you see an image of the Buddha, he is always smiling. When you smile with mindfulness, you realize the wonder of a smile.
“Dwelling in the present moment.” We recite this line as we breathe in again, and we don’t think of anything else. We know exactly where we are. Usually we say, “Wait until I finish school and get my Ph.D. degree, and then I will be really alive.” But when we obtain it, we say, “I have to wait until I have a job in order to be really alive.” After the job, we need a car, and after the car, a house. We are not capable of being alive in the present moment. We always postpone being alive to the future, we don’t know exactly when. It is possible we will never be truly alive in our entire life. The technique, if we must speak of a technique, is to be in the present moment, to be aware that we are here and now, that the only moment to be alive is the present moment. When we breathe out, we say, “I know this is a wonderful moment.” To be truly here, now, and to enjoy the present moment is our most important task.
We can even shorten the verse to six words. As we breathe in, we say to ourselves, “Calming,” and as we breathe out, we say, “Smiling.” As we breathe in again, we say, “Present moment,” and as we breathe out, “Wonderful moment.” Practicing this way can help us touch peace right away. We don’t have to wait for any other conditions to be present.
Here is another exercise to help us touch peace and serenity:
Breathing in, I am aware of my heart.
Breathing out, I smile to my heart.
I vow to eat, drink, and work in ways
that preserve my health and well-being.
The moment we become truly aware of our heart, we feel comfort and release right away. Our heart has been working day and night, pumping thousands of gallons of blood to nourish all the cells in our body and preserve our peace, and we know that if our heart stops beating, we will die. But still, we do not take good care of our heart. We eat, drink, and work in ways that bring about tension and stress. When we touch our heart with mindfulness, we see clearly that a heart in good condition is an element of real peace and happiness, and we vow to live in a way that keeps our heart in good condition.