Friday, March 11, 2005


I had a conversation recently with my new friend Annie O, a charming woman with sparkling energy, and in that conversation she described her experience last year of being in the audience of Thich Nhat Hanh. What she recalled from her experience was not his words but his action. She said when he reached for his glass to drink water during his presentation, he turned toward the glass, paused, picked up the glass, drank deeply from it, set it down, and returned to his listeners. She remembered nothing else from the speech, but this one thing she remembered is huge. As she spoke to me, her words came alive. Her lesson was numinous for me. A personal message for me. I took notes from the conversation so I could meditate on it later. And I have done so.

All my life I have practiced juggling. I have been acknowledged, admired, envied, even hired for my ability to juggle. I can efficiently juggle multiple bosses, multiple projects, and multiple clients. I can juggle multiple thoughts in my head as well as multiple conversations in an equal space of time. I find it much more challenging to carry only one. This writing is not to judge juggling or isolation. In our society and even in our personal lives it is in our best interest at times to be able to multitask. It is also in our best interest to know how to focus and isolate one thought and one task. Both are needed. From a spiritual perspective, however, we spend far too much time in overlap and we are missing out big time…

To experience fully, it is necessary for us to create space around a thing. Space around a thought. Space around an experience. We dishonor and do disservice to anything that does not receive our undivided attention, including our own selves. I received a telephone call recently that informed me a good friend in Ohio had died. As soon as I heard the news I hurt. The death was unexpected. This friend had cared about me and honored me. It hurt me to hear this news. After hanging up the telephone I soon turned my attention to something else and suddenly I realized I had turned away from the emotion of this man’s death. I was overlapping it with something else demanding my attention. To honor myself and to honor his life, I needed to create space around my thinking of him, and I needed to stay in that space until it was complete. Create space around the events in my life.

How often are we listening to two things at once or doing two things at once? How often are we unable to hold a prayer in our thoughts long enough for it to become manifest? How often is our meditation too short to become deep enough? How often do we fail to create enough space to give something life?

I regularly go through my home and do what I call “creating space.” I like things to have space; I like to have space. I like good energy in my home and for energy to flow freely it needs space.

I need to create more space around my words. One of the most powerful sentences I heard in 2004 was this: Words take up space so choose them carefully. We live in a country of abundance and take for granted our crowding and overcrowding of everything, including our words.

Not creating space leads to an unfinished life…unfinished books, unfinished projects, unfinished thoughts, unfinished ideas. No depth, or at lease significantly reduced depth.

Let me create space around everything that participates in my life that I may honor it and enjoy it and learn from its depth, just as Thich Nhat Hanh fully honored and enjoyed his glass of water.

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Thich Nhat Hanh is one of my heroes, one who teaches me the practice of mindfulness. I read his books and listen to him on my CDs...

Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced Tick-Naught-Han) is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. During the war in Vietnam, he worked tirelessly for reconciliation between North and South Vietnam. His lifelong efforts to generate peace moved Martin Luther King, Jr. to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. He lives in exile in a small community in France where he teaches, writes, gardens, and works to help refugees worldwide. He has conducted many mindfulness retreats in Europe and North America helping veterans, children, environmentalists, psychotherapists, artists and many thousands of individuals seeking peace in their hearts, and in their world.

1 comment:

Annie O said...


The reason Hanh's reaching for the glass of water was soooo important was that he was doing ONLY one thing, which I know you realized, but that act compelled me to question the multiple tasking that I have tended. I do less of it now, and remember more of what I've done, said, or seen.


Annie O