The full story of how Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh survived two wars in Vietnam (the French occupation and the devastating North/South battle of the ‘60s and early ‘70s) lies in the first half of this beautiful small book.
For Nhat Hanh, it was an agonizingly trying time (“My parched eyes can shed no more tears”) but also one of great action, advocacy, and powerful writing.
At one time he was editing a magazine that produced over 50,000 issues a week! And all this amidst a time of great turmoil and uncertainty.
But that time, for him and his fellow monks, rather than being a prison of lost hope for the future, or a lament for the past, was their now.
By embracing the now, they altered history.
The second half of the book is equally extraordinary, but any tears shed over these pages are more of Thay’s and the reader’s joy in “Now I See”—meditations on forsaking the past and the future, to find, “It turns out that everything you have been looking for is already there in the present moment, and the secret of the finding is to go back to the now.”
A sample of his simple, strong readability and wisdom…
Dear one, do not seek happiness in the future. Do not wait for that day, do not wait for a distant future then … Do not say that happiness will be possible only when you have this or that. What is it you are looking for? What is it you are waiting for? Is it fame? Is it wealth? Is it power? Is it sex? Or is it just distraction from the emptiness inside? Do not think you will be truly happy only when you have obtained these things. Do not wait for then.”
The chrysanthemum is smiling to you.
Don’t dip your hands into cement and sand.
The stars never build prisons for themselves.
Let us sing with the flower and the morning birds.
Let us be fully present.
I know you are here because I can look into your eyes.
This is a book to place on your nightstand or beside your favorite reading chair. Pick it up when the light fades and your body relaxes from the cares of the day.
Turn to it during a moment of particular beauty: sunlight spilling over the floor, a flower in the garden opening, a bee visiting. Each short chapter is a journey to… now. You’re now.