Thich Nhat Hahn is a Vienamese Buddhist monk whose lifelong efforts to generate peace and reconciliation moved Martin Luther King, Jr. to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. He has written many excellent books; we recommend them all. Here is an excerpt from his book, Happiness, (Parallax Press, 2009).
When we find ourselves in dangerous or difficult situations, or when we feel like we are losing ourselves, we can practice taking refuge. Instead of panicking or giving ourselves up to despair, we can put our trust in the power of self-healing, self-understanding, and loving within us. We call this the island within ourselves in which we can take refuge. It is an island of peace, confidence, solidity, love and freedom. Be an island within yourself. You don’t have to look for it elsewhere.
We want to feel safe and protected. We want to feel calm. So when a situations seems to be turbulent, overwhelming, full of suffering, we have to practice taking refuge (in the Buddha, the Buddha in ourselves.) Each of us has the seed (of Buddhahood,) the capacity for being calm, understanding, compassionate, and for taking refuge in the island of safety within us so we can maintain our humanness, our peace, our hope. Practicing like this, we become an island of peace and compassion, and we may inspire others to do the same.
Recite this to return to yourself, wherever you are:
Breathing in, I go back to the island within myself.
There are beautiful trees within the island.
There are cool streams of water,
There are birds, sunshine and fresh air.
Breathing out, I feel safe.
We are like a boat crossing the ocean. If the boat encounters a storm and everyone panics, the boat will turn over. If there is one person in the boat who will remain calm, that person can inspire others to be calm. Then there will be hope for the whole boatload. Who is that person who can stay calm in the situation of distress? Each of us is that person. We count on each other.
Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.