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Lessons from Thích Nhất Hạnh

This last weekend, January 22, Buddhist teacher Thích Nhất Hạnh, transitioned from this world. His teachings transcended beyond dogma or prescription and were simple offerings of perspective.

There is one story in particular from Thích Nhất Hạnh that has me writing this today. It is a story of interconnectedness, how all things are connected and through that we never lose something, it is only transitioned.

“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.

"Interbeing" is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix "inter" with the verb "to be", we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud, we cannot have paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.

If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger's father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.

A couple things come up for me with this piece. When we struggle with the loss of Paradise, we see it as a loss, there was a before and now an after and the reality is, there was a transition. That the objects lost for example, were most valuable because of the memories they represented, the stories they contained. Those stories and memories still exist within each of us. We could look at it in an even more pragmatic way. The daffodils that sprung up after the fire across the ridge embodying the hope we all so needed to see, they were nourished by the ash from the fire. Much of the regrowth exists because of the clearing by the fire. The fire exists in the daffodils, the fire exists in us, it is part of our story but not all of our story.

All of these elements are connected. As we recreate from the fire It's important for us to realize this interconnectedness. That our efforts and our projects are all connected to each other. Being able to zoom out and see how we are connected we can then step into a mindset of mutual aid. That we are part of a larger ecosystem, each part essential in its relationship to the whole.

See Thích Nhất Hạnh and the recitation of this piece:


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