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Nothing is Lost

So many of us spend much of our lives searching for our "better half"a term most often used to idealize our "perfect mate," but we can also apply it to our thinking that a better job, greater recognition, or any manner of material wealth can fulfill the voids we know are in our hearts. We unknowingly put our faith in happiness as something only to be found from outward attainment — a belief priming us for lives filled with disappointment.

Our seeking of happiness is never a problem— it's the direction we think we'll find it that is. When we re-direct our efforts, we can recognize that we already are both halves. This doesn’t mean our previously failed efforts were a waste. On the contrary, they are often necessary to learn real happiness and where to find it. This isn’t meant to imply we should never pursue outward aspirations, but that we can do so more skillfully when we understand our actual lack of lack. Such knowledge is best gained and understood through lived experience. And often, this experiential learning consists of much trial and error. But none of it is wasted. We can see this in the same way an organic gardener views the trash we throw away, not as waste, but as the necessary fertilizer for growing flowers.

Understanding the theory of our completeness is one thing, but another to honestly believe it. An inward recognition of our unconditional wholeness comes from looking deeply at the conditions of life and gaining insights into the bountiful provisions already available. When we come to these understandings and get in touch with reality, we can end our tireless searches for completion in the outward direction, and redirect that valuable energy inward, where boundless bounties await. These intrinsic recognitions are emboldened through our practice of returning to the present moment, and to ourselves.

It takes training to learn how to transform our deep-seated motivations for external accolades, into an inner recognition of what’s already in us and around us. This is the practice of awakening and mindful living, as mindfulness is the foundation for realizing the gifts that already overflow in the present moment. Mindfulness is one of the necessary energies we must produce, enabling us to plant our roots in the present moment and find that the happiness we seek is already in the soil we’re deeply entrenching our awareness into.

Thich Nhat Hanh masterfully states in the book The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching how we can view our practice of realizing happiness as likened to picking up a beautiful rose we notice in a well-tended garden. We know this rose will make us very happy if we could only pick it up and hold its beauty nearer to our hearts — but we also see the nature of a rose is to contain thorns. Therefore, our task is to find ways to understand the thorns so we may pick up our rose and be happy. He instructs us that, “Our practice is the same. Don’t say that because there are thorns you cannot be happy. Don’t say that because there is still anger or sadness in your heart, you cannot enjoy anything at all. You have to know how to deal with your anger and sadness so you don’t lose the flowers of your joy.”

Thich Nhat Hanh was a Zen master in every way. He mastered explaining profound truths of reality, as the Buddha did 2600 years ago. Both taught us through language tied to the commonalities that unite us all, such as through expressions of the natural world, like a cloud, a tree, or a rose. These masterful instructions manifested through magnanimous practicality and simplicity, thus enabling such deep wisdom to connect and resonate with all.

In Vietnamese, the word “Thay” (pronounced like “tie”) means “teacher.” Through much of Thich Nhat Hanh’s life as a peaceful monk and Zen master, his many disciples affectionately and respectfully referred to him as Thay. Because beyond all his accomplishments, he was, first and foremost, a molder and healer of minds. I say this from experience, not just based on his reputation as a teacher, but because he introduced to me the teachings of the Buddha in such a way as to transform my barren wasteland of spirituality, into what is now a lushly populated garden, filled with all manners of vegetation, including more roses than I could count.

I am deeply grateful to the wise teachers that have come before, such as the Buddha, Thay, and everything in between. And I know they will receive this message, because nothing is ever lost, and none of them are genuinely gone; they have only continued in new forms. Part of the Buddha is writing these words with me now, and part of him will be with you when you read them. Part of Thay is in the tea that’s giving me the energy to practice this deep looking, just as part of him is in the clouds that became the rain that fell to the earth, and now resides in my cup.

My greatest aspiration is to be worthy of continuing their legacy of further moving our world in the direction of peace, which can only be realized through the cultivation of a peaceful heart. Dear Buddha, dear Thay, and countless others—enjoy your continuation through the cosmos. Just for good measure, I intend to enjoy it for you and with you, as I feel you with me, in the here and in the now.




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