Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh
The phrase “this book could change your life” is much overused in Publishers’ press releases and on jacket blurbs, but there are books that do change lives - not in all cases in the spectacular fashion that some books may claim, but in more gentle, subtle ways.
Peace is Every Step is such a gentle book, and certainly the Buddhist perspective from which it is written is one that has improved, changed, even saved a good few lives!
In the rush of modern life, particularly in the West, and now in the fast becoming Westernized eastern nations, human beings have largely forgotten how to live in the moment and to access the peace that can be found in each moment - we tend to dwell on the past, or our minds rush headlong into the future, making plans that might come to fruition, reacting to things that might happen or might never happen, trying to avoid things we don’t want to happen - or if we can’t avoid them, we at least try to avoid thinking about them!
Modern life itself is unstable, unpredictable, and is full of unsatisfactoriness which makes us suffer - stress, anger, need, hate, greed, seem to persist long after we have solved most of the practical problems that living in the world presents. In this book, Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Master, monk, peace activist and poet, shows us how we can make use of the situations and circumstances that normally leave us feeling stressed, antagonised and negative.
Through the Buddhist practice of mindfulness, we can learn to live and find joy and peace in each moment, and grow from the manure, as it were, of our problems and negativity.
Although it is written by a Buddhist monk, and essentially draws on the Buddhist principle of mindfulness, Peace is Every Step does not attempt to draw the reader into Buddhism, but concentrates on helping readers live in the moment and be happier people - both for their own sakes and the sake of others. In deceptively simple language, Thich Nhat Hanh describes mindfulness techniques for dealing with anger and the like, as well as everyday situations that might normally have us stressed - the ringing of a telephone, for example, is a reminder to breathe and come back to ourselves, if only for a moment; washing the dishes is an opportunity to revel in the sensations of warm water and to living fully in the moment.
We crave so much what is outside ourselves, he says - but we can enjoy a view of the sky from pretty much anywhere, and can return to the simply beauty of ourselves by using conscious breathing wherever we are - finding the meditative peace that we may or may not also find on the meditation cushion.
All in all this book was a breath of fresh air at a difficult time in my life, and the exercises and outlook certainly helped me. It’s the kind of book I will read again before passing on so somebody else can benefit. Thich Nhat Hanh has written other books which I will be looking at, as this book was very easy to read, and did not get heavy or lecturing despite having a very profound, albeit very simple, message to offer.
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