Being Solid in the Storm

With regards to how to move through life, how to deal with difficult times, how to be with others, how to be with my children and my family, with myself, I am very fond of this text from Thich Nhat Hanh, taken from a talk around 20 years ago (hence the reference to Vietnamese boat people):

“I like to use the example of a small boat crossing the Gulf of Siam. In Vietnam, there are many people, called boat people, who leave the country in small boats. Often the boats are caught in rough seas or storms, the people may panic, and boats may sink.

But if even one person aboard can remain calm, lucid, knowing what to do and what not to do, he or she can help the boat survive. His or her expression – face, voice – communicates clarity and calmness, and people have trust in that person. They will listen to what he or she says. One such person can save the lives of many…

Mahayana Buddhism says that you are that person, that each of you is that person…
We need people who can sit still and be able to smile, who can walk peacefully. We need people like that in order to save us. Mahayana Buddhism says that you are that person, that each of you is that person.” – Thich Nhat Hanh, from Being Peace (book).

How to achieve the peace and solidity he is talking about? I think the first thing is a decision to go in that direction, rather than in the direction of instability, worries or fear. And then to make the changes in one’s life that are necessary to achieve this. To look after our mental and physical health by seeing what does each good and what doesn’t, and going in the direction of health. To read and listen to wise people. To practice things that help us to calm down, be it walking in nature, sport, deep breathing, meditation (Thich Nhat Hanh has many to choose from on this page).

I truly believe that any of us can change from being tossed around by the seas of life, to being the solid person on the boat, that the change can make an enormous difference to oneself and to others, and that this change is possible very quickly once the decision has been made.

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