I've read most of Thich Nhat Hahn's books. He is the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk who was banned from ever going back to his country because of his stand against the Vietnamese War.
"The Art of Power," written in Thich's 90th decade, is honest and gets to the heart of what ails human kind in the beginning of the 21st century.
The book also addresses what can set us free.
The power that Thich refers to are five in number.
1. The power of faith; this power is rooted as a confidence you develop within yourself that you have the capacity to be a Buddha, Christ or Krishna. You have the power to transform and to heal.
You develop a path to follow and you stay on it. You bring others with you who have the desire to follow the same path.
The path is a metaphor for a strong faith that where you are going is exactly where you are meant to go.
2. The power of diligence; This power refers to the act of returning to our best and our highest selves, by nurturing those seeds that bloom with love, compassion and patience.
When negative vibrations arise, we do not water those seeds. We learn to stop them in their tracks, by nurturing instead the best we have to offer.
Thich suggests that we do not watch violent TV, movies or belabor the negativity that appears to be happening in the world.
We must be careful not to give these vibrations a chance to flower and take over consciousness.
This requires diligence and a community of like minded people to help guide the process, otherwise known s Sangha.
Skillfulness in this way creates mindfulness, or living in the present moment, called true diligence, in the Buddhist tradition.
3. The power of mindfulness; or the art of living in the present moment. Every act, whether it be washing a dish, lifting a block to build a wall, shoveling sand and rock to mix with cement to hold the wall together, all of these things done with full awareness bring a different energy to the mind.
The art of full awareness, or the power of mindfulness, is a practice which can be perfected.
Sitting with what is, accepting it, breathing into it, brings tremendous relief to the mind and to the heart.
Thich and Eckart Tolle are mindfulness practitioners and they both look ageless. Tolle told Oprah on the final webinar that when you live deeply in the here and now, you age more slowly. (Tolle is 60). These two men are certainly testaments to that!
4. The power of concentration; When we drink our tea, walk to the laundry room, fold the wash; these take great concentration to hold on to the second at hand and not think about the past, what needs to be done, who needs to be called.
Slowing down and reflecting on the truths of life such as we are all connected, that our loved ones will die, and we will also die makes it starkly clear that all things in the physical dimension pass away and are created again.
Thus we concentrate on savoring the moments we have with our loved ones, allowing those times to be focused and fully appreciated.
5. The power of insight; By using the power of concentration, insights arise that allow you to unravel the meanings and revelations of life and its lessons.
For instance, the insight regarding the fact that all of us will die one day leads to the insight and revelation that we must cherish the time that we have, in this present moment.
Thich says that the grief felt at the time of a loved one's passing can be attributed to the lack of in the moment caring, of time we really listened to and saw that person as they really were.
We may grieve the fact that we never took the time to really be with him or her.
The Buddhists call this constant changing reality we all live in "impermanence."
The beauty of impermanence is that with every breath, we have the opportunity to begin anew. If we have been negligent in truly taking the time to be with the ones we love, then we can be with them now. Or if we have been negligent in taking care of ourselves, the insight that arises from practicing all five powers naturally propels us to take care of ourselves now.
The Buddhist philosophy is beautifully explained in Thich's book. Thich outlines all aspects of Buddhism, and the simplicity of the teaching makes it very possible to understand.
This is one thing that makes the book a rarity.
Thich also takes the 21st century person to task. For instance, in the part about the "Five Mindfulness Training," he tells us to watch our words, watch what we eat and tells us not to drink alcohol.
He tells us to love ourselves exactly as we are, and admonishes those who get cosmetic surgery.
Naturally, as a person who experienced the worst blood baths of the 20th century, the Vietnam War, he admonishes all acts of war.
As must we, if we hope to achieve the depth of understanding that arises when people work together and strive to develop compassion for one another.
We are not developing compassion when we numb our senses with alcohol and other drugs, nor can we be compassion when killing other humans in the name of war.
Thich also discusses the 3 Virtues:
1. The virtue of cutting off: What are we cutting off? Our anger, fear and delusion. Another way of saying cutting off is to let go and in the process, transform these negative emotions to a higher vibrational field.
2. The virtue of loving: When you offer care and respect as diametrically opposed to scolding or shouting at a person, you naturally gain respect and people are drawn to you.
3. The virtue of insight: This virtue is gained by looking deeply, not running away from pain and sorrow. By developing this virtue, difficulties and tensions are easily resolved.
By practicing the 5 powers and 3 virtues, spiritual authority results. An inner peace, a balanced calm is established. A natural tendency to help others is formed.
My favorite admonishment of Thich's is: we must learn to uni-task and stop the multi- tasking that our society has condoned. We may speak on the phone, watch TV, all the while running a computer program.
Or we will text message a person when we really should be focused 100% on the person sitting across the table from us. This ability to do many tasks at once also has a numbing effect on the psyche. We may forget to rest, to listen to bird song, or tune into our own breathing.
The Art of Power By Thich Naht Hahn is my favorite of all his prolific books. The Tell It Like It Is, straight from the heart wisdom style of this book was a wake up call.
This is a book to further transform the self.
It will change your life.