Irish Times Article: My heart suddenly unbuttoned
My heart suddenly unbuttoned by Tony Bates - Tuesday, April 10, 2012
MIND MOVES: I was home; at least my heart felt at home.
“With love we can face anything; but many of us have not known true love and so the question we must ask is how love is born. Without being able to do this for ourselves we can’t heal, and without doing this first, we can’t heal others.”
THESE WERE the opening words of Thich Nhat Hanh (or Thay, meaning teacher in Vietnamese, as he is known) when he spoke in the House of Lords last week. There was a ripple of excitement in the room as the audience became hushed and we stood to greet him when he entered the chamber.
After Lord Richard Laird’s moving introduction, Thay had remained still for several minutes, his face expressionless. For a moment I worried that he didn’t want to be there. And then I realised he was taking time to connect with himself and to take the pulse of this particular gathering.
Cultivating love for ourselves, he continued, begins with the breath: “When we focus attention and breathe in, a miracle happens. We go back to ourselves, we remember we have a body, we see there is tension in our body. We notice it with our inbreath and we let it go with our outbreath.”
His words caught me in the gut; some deep muscle relaxed. Normally the road from my head to my heart is long and winding. I rely way too much on my frontal lobes to stay on top of things. But here I was with my heart suddenly unbuttoned. I was home; at least my heart felt at home.
“New possibilities arise when we breathe mindfully. We discover what we have to be thankful for, the wonders of life that are available to us. We also connect with our pain and we stop running away. Being mindful generates an energy that allows us some distance from our suffering, where we can hold it in awareness, listen to it, and take care of it. We begin to understand our pain. Compassion is born when we begin to understand suffering. With compassion we can transform pain.”