Thich Nhat Hanh is a well-known Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk who currently resides in France. He is considered to be second to the Dalhi Lama in terms of knowledge and commitment to world peace. Thich Nhat Hanh is a prolific writer and teacher. Many of his works are in my re-read stack of books on my bedside table.
Buddhists have always been committed to present moment awareness. They do this by gathering the mind and the body to the same place. In the West our focus on “doing” makes this gathering of ourselves very challenging. Thich Nhat Hanh has made it easier for Westerners to be mindful through conscious breath work practice, three breaths to be exact.
This seems simple enough.
I did not realize how challenging it would be for me to remain present while I took three conscious breaths. Just three! Dr. Andrew Weil, author of Spontaneous Healing, says humans typically loose their focus after six seconds. Six seconds!
In my fledgling spirituality I have come to believe that all healing comes from our present moment awareness. Breath work can help me do this.
Of course Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that once we master our conscious three-breath routine, we extend this practice to five or ten or more breaths. I am not there yet; I am a beginner breather.
Lately I have increased my breathing awareness in the three following areas:
Before I eat. Sometimes I can be half way through my morning breakfast before I even realize I am eating. Now, with present moment awareness, I breathe three times in conscious connection with the food that sits before me on my plate. How many hands were required to bring this food to my table? Countless. There are farmers, marketers, truckers, grocery store clerks, and more. In addition, this breakfast bounty would not be mine without the sun, the earth, and the rain. I am grateful.
When I breathe over my food, it looks like I am praying. In a way I am.
With my partner. A friend of mine told me that if you hug someone for 20 seconds, toxins start releasing from your body. I don’t know if this is true, and it really doesn’t matter if it is. What’s not to like? So I tell my partner about this latest research. He agrees to play along most times. I have not told him this conscious breath connection is much more than releasing toxins. Maybe on some level he already knows.
Dancing tango. I have been dancing Argentine tango with various partners for eight years now. My current dance partner understands the value of breath. When we breathe together and dance we are often in Tango Heaven.
The Three Breath Practice of Thich Nhat Hanh can be considered an easy step to stress management. On a deeper level it has brought me one of many spiritual lessons I will receive in this lifetime. I am grateful.
When you have 20 minutes I recommend you watch Ophra’s interview with Thich Nhat Hanh. You can find it at: