Why mindfulness? Why does it matter? Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh framed Buddhist concepts in relevant ways that illuminate questions about mindfulness and presence. Thich Nhat Hanh had three main teachings….
The first is developing the capacity to be aware of the here and now. This is a mindfulness that has the power to deactivate the harmful impulses we carry toward ourselves and others. He encouraged his students to expressly love themselves, to speak to themselves in loving, caring terms. You might say to your suffering self, “Darling I am here for you, I know you are suffering.” Mindfulness brings a gentle and compassionate way of being with ourselves.
In Thich Nhat Hanh’s view, we develop mindfulness as a way to discover the true nature of all things. He came up with the term, Interbeing, which means that we cannot live separately from anything else. There is no independent living. Interbeing was his reframing of the Buddhist concept of dependent co-arising. He’d ask his students to look at a piece of paper and see what’s in it. There are trees, rain, sunshine, loggers, chain-saws, trucks, factories and much more. There is dependence amidst all things – but that was not all.
Our growing mindfulness shows us that separation is an illusion, our belief in a separate self is illusory. This is the key discovery of buddhism. It is awakening.
Experiencing mindful presence is an important first step. There is a little calm zone in the center of ourselves, a tiny pocket not commonly accessed but always available. Mindfulness is a tool that can bring us home to this calm place of innate presence.
Presence is an internal-zone that we already have. When we come in to this space of presence, there is nothing to be fixed or solved. We just be. It includes an intimacy with ourselves and also with outer conditions, with the environment, with our surroundings.
Mindful presence offers a foretaste of awakening, we aren’t separate from what’s outside. It’s an inner experience for sure, but it dissolves our sense of separateness, of inner and outer division.
This is the power of mindfulness, this Interbeing dissolves the illusion of separation. But the trick here is, you can’t try to find it or to do it. It emerges on its own. Your task is to sit mindfully and let all simply be. It’s not a skill, it’s an innate capacity. Once we tune in, we can rest in it and enjoy.