Review of ‘Silence’ by Thich Nhat Hanh

Silence

In Silence, Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that many of us are sleepwalking through life barely aware of the world around us because we are so lost in our own thoughts and distracted by the constant stream of information drip-fed to us by our phones, computers, TV and radio everyday.

Having said that, Silence does not read like it was written by someone out of touch with the modern world and living in a monastery in rural France, but by someone who understands just how busy, stressful and distracting modern life can be. Thich Nhat Hanh argues that there is no need to lock ourselves away in a quiet room or move to a monastery to spend our days meditating, but that everyone can achieve a sense of calm and inner peace whatever their circumstances by practising mindfulness during their daily activities.

In many ways, Silence is not dissimilar to Peace Is Every Step published in 1991, yet the message Thich Nhat Hanh delivered then seems even more relevant for readers today.

Although written by a Buddhist monk, Silence is not a religious text and is aimed at readers of all faiths and none. The tone of Silence is patient and understanding, and the mindfulness exercises in the book are simple to follow.

Winter seemed to arrive a little early this year with the last day of a frosty November bringing a light snowfall to our part of the country, and with our calendar rapidly filling up with festive fun, this short book is a timely reminder that we can still make time for silence and mindfulness regardless of what else is going on in our lives or the world around us.

A Peaceful Day at Samye Ling

SamyeLing1

A little while ago, my husband and I spent a day at one of my favourite places, Samye Ling. Founded in 1967, Kagyu Samye Ling was the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre in Europe, and the red-robed monks with shaved heads were an incongruous sight in the little Scottish town where I grew up. I’ve been visiting Samye Ling since I was a teenager, and over the years I’ve come with friends to buy books and prayer flags from the shop, chat over cups of tea in the cafĂ© or sit peacefully in the temple. Nine years ago now, I suggested visiting Samye Ling as one of our very first dates as my then boyfriend (now husband) had never been before, and we’ve returned several times throughout our relationship.

In keeping with the Buddhist belief that everything is impermanent and ever-changing, Samye Ling is a work in progress and there is always something new or slightly different every time we visit. Nevertheless, I’m always struck by how calm and unhurried the pace of life at Samye Ling is, yet somehow the work still gets done.

I often write about slowing down because it is not something that comes naturally to me. Like many of my peers, I’ve rushed through life treating significant milestones like items on a to-do-list to be ticked off one by one, instead of achievements to be celebrated or precious moments to be savoured. Many of us are so impatient to reach our destination that we barely experience the journey itself, yet watching the monks mindfully – and joyfully – going about their daily routines and chores always reminds me just how calming and restorative it is to immerse ourselves in the here and now.

This has been a turbulent year for us with illnesses and injuries – as well as daily news reports of terrorist attacks, natural disasters and political unrest – reminding us just how fragile and fleeting life is, but I feel very grateful for the people and places that help me to find peace and contentment in the present moment. So much has happened since the first time we visited Samye Ling together, and so much has changed, yet some things have remained constant, like the serenity of Samye Ling and the steadying presence of my husband as we walk hand-in-hand through life together. Have a lovely week. X

Sun, Sea and Starfish

SunSeaStarfish1

There have been a slightly disappointing number of cool, overcast and rainy days in our part of the country this summer, but there have also been some lovely days with clear blue skies and warm sunshine, and we recently took advantage of one such day to visit our favourite beach.

Croy Shore is not the closest beach to us, but it is lovely in any weather and every season, and always worth travelling the extra distance. Despite the nearby caravan park, the beach is rarely busy and we usually only have to share it with a few dog-walkers, the odd family picnicking and children building castles in the sand.

I have so many happy memories of time spent at this beach, from sharing a flask of hot coffee with my husband on a bracingly cold New Year’s Day walk, to relaxing strolls watching the sun set together in the weeks before our wedding, and picnicking with friends last summer.

We often walk south towards the castle perched on the cliff (that always reminds me of Manderley from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca) but on this visit we decided to walk north towards the rocky outcrops so that my husband could explore the rock pools for starfish, crabs and sea urchins.

Carefully picking our way across the slippery rocks, it was lovely to pause and notice the salty tang in the air, the sound of the waves lapping against the beach, the sunlight sparkling on the water and a clear view of the Isle of Arran across the sea.

I feel very lucky to live in such a beautiful country and there have been many times over the years when the sight of towering, snow-capped mountains, the sound of the wind rustling through the leaves of wise, old trees or waves crashing against the shore have given me a sense of perspective and reminded me how transient most of my worries and stresses are.

SunSeaStarfish5
Isle of Arran

It’s been a while since we’ve had a holiday, and though we’re hoping to have a few days away around our anniversary in the autumn, spending a leisurely day together meandering along our favourite beach was so refreshing and restorative. Have a lovely week.

Little Reminders to Slow Down

image1-2

I’ve noticed a chill in the air in the mornings and evenings, and every day the sun rises a little later and sets a little earlier. There are crisp leaves lying on the ground already, but many more still clinging to the trees gradually turning from green to shades of yellow, amber and red.

Autumn is my favourite season and part of the appeal is its transience. Every year autumn reminds me to slow down and pay attention to the world around me because if I’m wandering around lost in my thoughts or engrossed in my phone, I risk missing the beautiful display nature provides and won’t have another chance to appreciate it until next year.

Slowing down and being present in the moment were very much on my mind this weekend as my husband and I reunited with my family to celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday. My family are scattered across the country and we don’t get to see each other as often as we’d all like so it was lovely to have everyone together, time to catch up with everyone’s news and to just enjoy being in each other’s company for a while.

There will always be other tasks to be done and things to distract me but time with the people I love most is something worth prioritizing and that I never take for granted. It is little moments like these, full of laughter, chatter and birthday cake, that help me to weather all the stresses and storms of life.

image2-2

We were delayed by roadworks on the way home. I could’ve been annoyed by the delay, but I chose to be grateful that the road was still open and that we eventually arrived home safely. I realize that neither my grumbling nor my gratitude made the traffic move any faster but feeling thankful made the journey more pleasant.

Gratitude and mindfulness don’t always come naturally to me, it’s a choice I have to make and remake over and over again. So many of us rush through life, always impatient for the next place, the next time, that we never really notice or appreciate where are are or what we’re doing now. Nature, however, is full of little reminders to slow down and take notice, such as the pretty sunset we were rewarded with during our delay. Have a lovely week.