Hanh suggests that we treat each of our activities as an opportunity for being aware: Walking, we should be aware that we are walking; breathing, we should be aware of our breathing. We should not focus on anything other than the thing that we are doing. One of the key methods that Hanh presents is learning to be aware of breathing.
Aside from being aware of our physical selves, awareness requires an awareness of our mind. He suggests that we notice and acknowledge our thoughts but not allow them to influence us in any way. We should recognize our feelings, thoughts and ideas, but never judge them because they are us.
Hanh introduces the five aggregates as a method for realizing the interconnectedness and the changing nature of the self, as represented by the aggregates, and the outside world. Realizing interconnectedness and the changing nature of reality is a step toward liberation from the false view, which sees the world and the self as separate and unchanging entities. By realizing oneness with ourselves and the outside of ourselves, we experience liberation from the fear and anxiety of the discriminating view of the world, one that fractures reality into separate, unchanging units, brings. When we perceive the illusion of the isolated, unchanging self, we reach a level of wisdom the author calls „non-discrimination mind”. This state of seeing shows us that there is nothing out there to get, nothing to strive for, nothing to fear, as all these are an illusion springing from a fractured perception of reality. Reality is already perfect, unified, and our struggle is to see that truth, and be liberated from our chains of false perception that fractures everything into separate units. There is, in other words, no difference between the perceiver and the object being perceived; there is no separation between the self and the world.
Hanh warns that meditation should not be an escape from reality. On the contrary, it should lead to an increased awareness of reality.
Hanh summarizes the lessons by presenting a story by Leo Tolstoy about the three wondrous answers to the questions —
What is the best time to do a thing?
Who are the most important people to work with?
and What is the most important thing to do at all times?
Exercises in mindfulness, and a selection of sutras round out this volume.
Thích Nhất Hạnh lives in the Plum Village meditation center in southwest France,travelling internationally to give retreats and talks. He coined the term „Engaged Buddhism” in his book Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire. After a long term of exile, he was given permission to make his first return trip to Vietnam in 2005.
Nhất Hạnh has published more than 100 books, including more than 40 in English. He is active in the peace movement, promoting nonviolent solutions to conflict. He also refrains from animal product consumption (veganism) as a means of nonviolence towards animals.