Sunday, July 6, 2008

Reading Thich Nhat Hanh During a Summer Power Outage

Yesterday morning, I awoke early to enjoy as usual that first cup of rich coffee while the rest of my neighborhood sleeps. I live on the fourth floor of a large apartment building. Lately, I’ve had to run the air conditioner during the day and several fans at night to keep my home comfortably cool. This Fourth of July weekend was no different, and I’d grown accustomed to the hum of fans and other electrical appliances when I sat down at my computer to read the comics and scan the day’s online news coverage.

Suddenly, my computer sighed and briefly revived before shutting down completely; fans slowed to a stop; and an eerie silence confirmed the power had gone off in my building.

I felt dismay at first, realizing the elevators were now inoperative and even if I walked down four flights of stairs, I might not be able to gain entry to the indoor parking garage, find my car in the dark, and exit through the remote-controlled door.

In the meantime, dawn had come, and I knew we were in for another hot day. There’s nothing like a power outage to remind one of how dependent we are on electricity. I walked around aimlessly at first trying to decide what to do next.

I picked up a book by Vietnamese Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh that I’ve been reading off and on lately while taking an occasional break at the indoor park and coffee shop adjoining my local branch library. Going Home, Jesus and Buddha as Brothers is the fourth or fifth book I’ve read by TNH over the past year or so, and I’ve continued to be astonished by his wisdom. In the light from the window, I read:

“Mindfulness has been described as the heart of Buddhist meditation. Mindfulness is to be there, alive in the present moment, body and mind united. It is the capacity of being there in order to live deeply every moment of your daily life. You are mindful when you walk, when you drink your tea, while sitting with your friends, your brother, and your teacher. You notice that the moments when you are with him or her are precious moments. You are aware that drinking tea with the Sangha is a wonderful thing. All these things are manifestations of the presence of mindfulness. Mindfulness is to become completely alive and live deeply each moment of your daily life. Mindfulness helps you to touch the wonders of life for self-nourishment and healing It also helps you to embrace and transform your afflictions into joy and freedom.”

I was still reading and reflecting on the words of Thich Nhat Hanh a couple of hours later when the power came back on, and the hum of appliances broke the silence. I felt a twinge of regret as I put my book aside and resumed my daily routine.

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