“Peace is available in every moment, in every breathe, in every step.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
I think this is the true message behind Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Peace Is Every Step. Through a number of meditation exercises and thought-provoking stories, Nhat Hanh opens the world of healing, peace, and compassion up to the reader.
Throughout my own journey of reading this book I have been in many places: Olympia, WA, Bangkok, Ching Mai, on a boat in the Andaman Sea, and 34,000 feet above the earth. No matter the place or the circumstances by which I read, Thich Nhat Hanh’s words always being me back to the present moment and my place in this vast world. His discourses on the state of the world, the “roots of war,” spreading peace, and being mindful within ourselves were important points that this world needs to open their eyes to.
Nhat Hanh’s primary message throughout the book is that for peace to pervade within this world, it must first begin within each and every one of us, we must not only practice mindfulness but also meditation and see the beauty within each living and nonliving thing: a blade of grass, a rock, a neighbor, even your enemy. To hope that peace will begin to speak worldwide, Thich Nhat Hanh states that we must first have peace in us, that we must be peace. By embodying peace, love, kindness, and compassion it when then be much easier to spread to those around us.
“We need harmony, we need peace,” says Thich Nhat Hanh, and Michael Franti agrees: “we can bomb the world to pieces, but we can’t bomb it into peace.” We, as people who care for ourselves, others, our country, our earth, need a new way of advocating for peace. Nhat Hanh is correct when he says sending angry protest letters to our governments will not get us anywhere. Who would want to read a hateful, angry letter and respond’ “okay, I will do everything that you told me to do, because you said it so nicely and because it is so easy to change a country and it’s policies. The only way we can start moving this earth to peace is if we first begin that peace within ourselves. We must be peace. If we have anger, sorrow, worry within us, how can we preach peace a fight for it with everything that we have? Mindfulness is the cure for this. By looking at our place in this world, by watching our breath and seeing ourselves within the earth as a whole, we will soon a be able to accept and let go of this anger, worry sorrow and instead focus our energies on kindness, compassion, and peace.
Thich Nhat Hanh also introduced the reader to the idea of inter-being, which is also very important in being aware of peace.
Walt Whitman said, “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars…”
Everything on this earth nd in our galaxy is interconnected. Without our hearts, we would not live, without the sun, that acts as the heart to all, plants would not grow, ants would not crawl, the ocean would produce no life, and our world and solar system would collapse. “Inter-being,” as Thich Naht Hanh calls it is batt is earth and each of our lives exists through. In this piece of paper he says, “there is a cloud floating.” Without the water to feed the tree that gets cut down and made into paper, there would be no paper. If we look even closer we can see the logger who cut downt he tree that made this sheet of paper (or rather, the one I original wrote this on). “‘To be’ is to inter-be. We cannot just be by ourselves alone. We have to inter-be with every other thing,” Nhat Hanh says. Our actions have an impact (direct or indirect) on everything around us. If I throw a piece of trash in the ocean a fish could eat it and die and whatever fish that eats that fish would maybe die ass well. If I decide to yell st my friend and get very angry with her, I will hurt her feelings and make her upset with me. It will probably also make me feel worse and will make the rest of my day miserable. Everything is interconnected. Our thoughts, words, feelings, lives…it is important to see these connections.
This book helped me through some very challenging times of my life: my journey to Thailand which started my five month journey through SE Asia, and my meditation retreat. Without this book I really would have floundered during the retreat and many a time I used Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Walking meditation when angry” to help myself come back to the present and move through the accident of killing my computer while on this school trip. I believe that this book would be a wonderful start to anyone’s studies in meditation and most especially mindfulness as well as those who want to find ways in which to process what is going on in their lives and on this earth.