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The Blooming of the Offering Within You

--by Thich Nhat Hanh (Nov 14, 2006)


A poem is a flower you offer to people. A compassionate look, a smile, an act filled with loving-kindness is also a flower that blooms on the tree of mindfulness and concentration. Even thought you don't think about the poem while cooking lunch for your family, the poem is being written. When I write a short story, a novel, or a play, it may take one week or several weeks to finish. But the story or the novel is always there. [...]

You cannot just sit there and write the story or the novel. You have to do other things as well. You drink tea, cook breakfast, wash your clothes, water the vegetables. The time spent doing these things is extremely important. You have to do them well. You have to put one hundred percent of yourself into the act of cooking, watering the vegetable garden, of dish washing. You must enjoy what you are doing, and you do it deeply. This is very important for your story, your letter, or anything else that you want to produce.

Enlightenment is not separate from washing dishes or growing lettuce. To learn how to live each moment of our daily life in deep mindfulness and concentration is the practice. The conception and unfolding of a piece of art take place exactly in these moments of our daily life. The time when you begin to write down the music or the poems is only the time of delivering the baby. The baby has to be in you already in order for you to deliver it. But if the baby is not in you, even if you sit for hours and hours at your desk, there's nothing to deliver, and you cannot produce anything. Your insight, your compassion, and your ability to write in a way that will move the other person's heart are flowers that bloom on our tree of practice. We should make good use of every moment of our daily life in order to allow this insight and compassion to bloom.

--Thich Nhat Hanh


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On Nov 21, 2006 viral wrote:

Thoughts from this week's circle of sharing on Wednesday Blooming takes some amount of nurturing. Native American story of an elder -- who wins between my good and bad natures? The one I fed the most. When are you most creative? It turns shower is one of those places. Why might that be? It's because these thoughts, and insights are already within you. Michelangelo -- take a rock and remove all the layers A great story of Mindfulness from Thich Nhat Hanh: going to meet his teacher the day before he's going to take his robes. He's excited, and he walks in, and they have this talk, and the teacher asks him to close the door on his way out. And in the excitement, he doesn't close it fully. And so his teacher says, "When you're closing the door, close the door." And he says that that lesson stayed with him. Today I was reading the newspaper, and there's a section on "Gift of Giving." And so I came across MyTwoFrontTeeth.org, which goes up to toy companies and conne  See full.

Thoughts from this week's circle of sharing on Wednesday

  • Blooming takes some amount of nurturing.
  • Native American story of an elder -- who wins between my good and bad natures? The one I fed the most.
  • When are you most creative? It turns shower is one of those places. Why might that be? It's because these thoughts, and insights are already within you.
  • Michelangelo -- take a rock and remove all the layers
  • A great story of Mindfulness from Thich Nhat Hanh: going to meet his teacher the day before he's going to take his robes. He's excited, and he walks in, and they have this talk, and the teacher asks him to close the door on his way out. And in the excitement, he doesn't close it fully. And so his teacher says, "When you're closing the door, close the door." And he says that that lesson stayed with him.
  • Today I was reading the newspaper, and there's a section on "Gift of Giving." And so I came across MyTwoFrontTeeth.org, which goes up to toy companies and connects donated toys to children who need it.
  • One thought I wanted to put out: what is the most inspiring moment that you have heard of?
  • I went to a meditation retreat, and it was a good refresher. It's amazing that the same words are repeated, but you take different meaning every time you refer to it, similar to the Bhagavad Gita. My mother told me that every time you are in difficulty, read that, and you get different insights and perspectives. This experience at the meditation retreat was similar -- some deeper understanding was coming forth even though I had been there before.
  • This thought is very useful, because normally we rush from one activity to another, and in the process, our heart isn't fully there, and so I think it's better to do what we do fully.
  • For me, the thought leads to this notion of just Being, in whatever form, space, time, activity that we might be going through. Also, this thought touches on enlightenment, and I have a lot of friends who are into spirituality. And I wonder, because there are a lot of people who let go of material seeking, and come to a spiritual path, but it seems to be that even that is a seeking, and is a barrier to being. Like, Ah, I will have this feeling of peace, and that seeking can be a barrier.
  • I was thinking of someone I know who walks the "Thich Nhat Hanh," and talks a lot about the concept of doing dishes fully etc, but it turns out that you have to do the dishes after them. And even this person sees that they are not as grounded in a meditation practice. And this thought talks about enlightenment being about washing the dishes, and that's true on some level, but on some level, it's just not. So it reminded me of the quote from last week: It's not the truth if it's not a paradox.
  • I was at a car dealership and I ended up talking to the person next to me, as I waited. And this person was carrying a gun, was a gangster, and lived a very different life than mine. And as we were talking, he realized that his choices have led him to a place where he can be in serious situations. And he talked about how he loves love, loves people, loves to learn and interact. He studied the greeks and the romans, and friends and community, and trust, and I was just sitting there, and it reminded me of the scene from waking life, and we were just having this holy moment, and all this conditioning melted away and it was just two souls, two brothers, just being there. And I've been going off of this energy, because one interaction like this means so much.
  • One of the things I was thinking: the times when we do these simple, small daily routines, is the time when we truly appreciate. Like when you go back home and cook a meal after a long day at work. So even relaxing is more fulfilling when you are fully there. But this concept of having a baby in you, or a poem in you, you have to have that in you in order for it to be the basis for you to appreciate the simple things more.
  • This thought made me think of the trip I took to Europe, and the whole trip was a big flower, or big sea of energy. It was such a rich experience, and I've just wanted to share that. And so I'm on the plane back to America, and I have this feeling like "I don't want to go back." And so I can just see these habits coming back, and I felt so layered. And it made me realize that I want to be in that space I was in, but the habits are so strong. And so it's just like there are all these babies within you, but they need to be nurtured, or else they don't come out healthy. So I have so many seeds that are ripening, and I want to do something, and I'm just searching for putting all of that out in the world, and I really have to work on having it come out in form.
  • The author, when you mentioned how accomplished he was, it doe show up in his writing. Like his description of the tenderness of being a poet. And one interesting thing it reminded me of: "Poets can reach the places where even the sun can't reach." And so by thought, a person can reach vast distances. So poetry can be so rich without any physical possession.
  • I think the second or third time I went over this passage, what I felt it was really talking about was beauty and being connected to the beauty of each moment. And it reminded me of something of what my grand-uncle used to say: Intelligence and capability are not enough. It's about the joy of doing something beautiful. So it's not about washing the dishes, but seeing the beauty in that. And he talks about the poem, or the blooming flower, and so being able to bloom in whatever action we're doing is about not having an agenda. So the challenge is to live with purpose without having an agenda. So being engaged in something meaningful, but not letting that rob meaning from other experiences. Another reflection: a cousin of mine, who was visiting, has this special ability to be joyful in so many of her experiences. And it made me reflect on the difference between being frivolous and seeing the beauty in the moment.
  • And then, I was thinking about the difference between priorities and being dynamic, in the way you deal with the day-to-day, so that your life doesn't end up being a series of tasks, but there's a flexibility to what you're doing, so that you aren't locked into your priorities.
  • I'd just like to thank everyone for sharing these wonderful thoughts today.
  • The story earlier made me think about being present when other people make connections: a week ago, I was sitting on the train, and there was this older Nigerian guy who comes and sits next to me, and he's really jolly, and this other hippie-ish guy, also older, and jolly, came and they started talking and I just realized how joyful I feel when people connect. So I really appreciate observing moments like that, and being present to that.
  • I just really appreciated listening to everyone today: a lot of valuable thoughts. And the thought was good too. This last weekend, I had to traffic school -- not somewhere you necessarily want to go, but you go. And it's early in the morning, and everyone just has to show up, and it's a total United Nations of people, from every strata of society, from every culture etc. And there was this mixed group, much like us tonight, and we're sitting there, and really tense, and the teacher comes, and she did something which teachers do: she made everybody sit in a circle, and just talk, not just about what happened and why you are here, but also, "tell us something about yourself," and we also had to play the name game. So it ended up such that you start off not knowing anyone, and by lunch, you have this feeling of camaraderie, and I just felt like I was really there. And it was nice to see that even though we were brought together in this unfortunate way, we were able to connect, and that was really nice.
  • Traffic school can be a spiritual experience! It's also a place where you find everyone knowing the rules exactly, but not doing it!
  • About mindfulness, one of the things that came up in traffic school: why is it you do these wrong things? It's because you aren't mindful. Another example is, "I'm late, and I need to get to where I need to go, and I don't care about others."
  • Every time I come to Wednesday, I feel like something connects, and this time, it's the fact that I have traffic school this weekend! And one more thing: it does make me think about being mindful while driving.
  • I've never been to traffic school, but all of this is interesting! About a year ago, I had been accepted to this fellowship, and I was looking to be inspired so that I could do valuable work: save the world! I was going to be working with this nonprofit, and everything was fitting in nicely, and I was so excited to be able to go and do something valuable and helpful. And I had a friend tell me before I went, "The best advice I can give you is to be happy while you're washing the dishes." And I didn't understand it then, but I remembered it, and looking back, some of the things I remembered the most, are the really small experiences, where you can see the beauty. What I was doing on the external level was great, but what I see the most beauty is experiences like being on a bus with 150 people, but there's no sound. Or the conversations with the host grandmother I was with, and I could see the parallels between her and the host mother my sister had in Denmark, and seeing how mothers all say that you should never say no to a child. And so really seeing the beauty in washing dishes is what I really got out of being there.
  • This is something I've been struggling for a long time, of these "chores," as they are labelled. One thing I found was that when there was context, there can be a lot of energy, but when that context wasn't there, the mindfulness isn't either. And when I think of Thich Nhat Hanh, I think that his context helps him be mindful fully. But our lives are so disjoint, and so I don't see the real connection between cleaning the carpet, and that having an impact on the rest of my day. And the third thing that comes to me: when I'm washing the dishes I can't disengage my mind and heart, and so in the name of mindfulness, if I disengage, that isn't going to work. And so I thought how it can be seen as, on the heart level, cleaning my heart, and on the mind level, clearing my mind. And so engaging on different levels, and knowing what those levels are, can be very helpful. If anyone else has any other inputs, please share them!
  • I think being mindful is the simplest thing to understand, but the hardest thing to do. And insight that I had earlier today -- I forgot that it was the thought of the week. I'm the kind of person that needs to slow down. You need to prioritize a little bit, and you focus on that, and yet you have that dynamic-ness. And so the insight I had was that, if I'm not mindful all the time, I feel like it's a failure. But I realized that it's really about those moments were mindful. And so it's not so much about all those other moments of "failure," and I'm switching my strategy! And I realize that at some subconscious level, if I am not mindful, I think I can't be. So instead of fooling myself, it's about being honest with myself, and take it slow, and really learn how I work and go from there.
  • I've also been struggling to understand what mindfulness is. In some ways it means, giving your full attention is what being mindful. Thich Nhat Hanh talks about mindfulness a lot but I don't think I've ever seen a full definition about it. Ultimately, when we are doing that active listening, we create a strong connection and a lot of the distractions fall away and that's what allows creativity to come up, so we can write the poetry. That blooming is what living is about.
  • I really like this quote because I'm facing a real lesson in mindfulness, with my 4-week old daughter. How to get my daughter's wishes met in the best way I know. It really hit that I'm as mindful about it as I am. It's hard to describe. The part of the "baby being in you before you can deliver it" really hit home for me. You have to find that joy in all the small things, all the chores, in the process of doing it. If you're able to do that, you give birth to that wonderment that everyone has inside of them. It's hard and I'm not a smiley person but I know my daughter is lookin' at me all the time, so I'm doing a lot more smiling these days. Then, I walked down the street and I carried forward that smile and I didn't realize until it everyone was smiling back at me!
  • A humorist once asked, "What is it in this world that everyone loves to give but no one loves to take?" Advice. :)
  • For a long time, I didn't see the difference between compassion and empathy. Empathy is the ability to be able to identify with the hurt of another person, while compassion is to put that feeling into action. Compassion is not passive.
  • I'm thinking of a character in the Epic Mahabharata, who is skilled at doing a hundred things with equal mindfulness. And here we are, struggling to do just one! But the other thought I had was that there is such a tangible difference when someone does something with just that much more mindfulness, as opposed to a lack of mindfulness.
  • Hide full comment.

    On Nov 14, 2006 supun wrote:
    I'm just copying a letter that I sent to one of my friends after reading this:

    I'm not someone that takes great concentration in menial things. In fact I hate having to do repetative things. But the way this guy wrote this, it made me think about concentration and how it can affect my thinking. Maybe I'm getting to a point where I'm getting used to being careless? Reading this made me realize instead of struggling to meditate for a few minutes, I could try to me more mindful in everything I do. I was given this advice by my dad, but what he meant didn't strike me til I read this.

    On Nov 14, 2006 Abijah wrote:
    A beautiful piece written by Thich nhat Hanh...