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The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

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One of the best available introductions to the wisdom and beauty of meditation practice. --New Age Journal

In this beautiful and lucid guide, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh offers gentle anecdotes and practical exercise as a means of learning the skills of mindfulness--being awake and fully aware. From washing the dishes to answering the phone to peeling an orange, he reminds us that each moment holds within it an opportunity to work toward greater self-understanding and peacefulness.

140 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1975

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About the author

Thich Nhat Hanh

948 books10.8k followers
Thích Nhất Hạnh was a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist who now lived in southwest France where he was in exile for many years. Born Nguyễn Xuân Bảo, Thích Nhất Hạnh joined a Zen (Vietnamese: Thiền) monastery at the age of 16, and studied Buddhism as a novitiate. Upon his ordination as a monk in 1949, he assumed the Dharma name Thích Nhất Hạnh. Thích is an honorary family name used by all Vietnamese monks and nuns, meaning that they are part of the Shakya (Shakyamuni Buddha) clan. He was often considered the most influential living figure in the lineage of Lâm Tế (Vietnamese Rinzai) Thiền, and perhaps also in Zen Buddhism as a whole.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,738 reviews
Profile Image for stephanie.
1,103 reviews388 followers
August 6, 2007
probably the best book on mindfulness meditation out there. thich naht hahn is a bloody genius, and this book isn't even my favorite of his. but really, the one-thing-in-the-moment meditation has helped me a lot. we joke about it - going to wash one dish when we are upset - but it's surprisingly useful. my favorite thing to do is go through my books/papers/etc. - a tactic i learned from this book. it's wildly relaxing, and i feel like i've accomplished something. this is also the reason my books get moved around so often . . .

but seriously, this book is incredible. it has changed many a person's life.
Profile Image for Lisa (Harmonybites).
1,834 reviews341 followers
January 18, 2012
The subtitle is "an introduction to the practice of meditation." That's a bit misleading. This is a lot more than a value-free manual. The introduction tells us this the main text was originally a long letter from Thich Nhat Hanh to a fellow Buddhist monk in Vietnam in the midst of the war in 1975. Hanh, exiled from Vietnam, worked against the war and was nominated by Martin Luther King for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Translated into English under his supervision by a friend, you can't sever this from its Buddhist context. There's a lot about Buddhist philosophy here--even a discussion about such issues at the "naive" depiction of the faith in Hesse's Siddharta. The last chapter consists of a "Selection of Buddhist Sutras" (which I found impenetrable). The writing is lucid, but even though written in deceptively simple language, a lot of the concepts are pretty sophisticated and I think take repeated reading to really understand. Mind you, this isn't an introduction to Buddhism per se. This isn't the place to find an overview of the religion and the focus is on meditation and "mindfulness."

Hanh's concept of meditation and mindfulness doesn't necessarily mean what you do in a lotus position while going "ohm." He means by it living in the moment and fully alert even as you drink tea or wash dishes. "Mindfulness frees us of forgetfulness and dispersion and makes it possible to live fully each minute of life." Not that he doesn't see a place for more formal meditation, and he provides several practical exercises, particularly focusing on the breath. "Our breath is the bridge from out body to our mind... it alone is the tool which can bring them both together."

My introduction to meditation actually was in the mandatory Religion class in my Catholic high school. I remember feeling silly as we were directed to go "ohm." Later I'd be reintroduced to the practice when I took Yoga classes. I remember feeling frustrated as I was told to clear my mind of all thought--which I thought impossible. So it was interesting and useful that it's not what Hanh directs. He says rather when you have thoughts during meditation, you acknowledge the thought--or feeling. "The essential thing is not to let any feeling or thought arise without recognizing it in mindfulness, like a palace guard who is aware of every face that passes in the front corridor."

It's an interesting and useful book if you're curious about meditation and Buddhism, written clearly and succinctly--the main text of the book is only about a hundred pages. Although to get much out of it means reading with mindfulness--repeatedly, slowly, taking notes--and practicing the exercises. And in that regard, I think it does help to do it with others rather than just try to work through the book by yourself.
Profile Image for Mark Robison.
1,046 reviews76 followers
August 29, 2015
When I read this 20 years ago, it had a big effect on my life. I decided to read it again, and I remembered all the parts that had been so meaningful before but I didn’t love it. In hindsight, I don’t think I read it mindfully. (Irony alert.) So I read it almost immediately again, and absolutely loved it this time. My favorite parts are when he’s traveling across the U.S. and his friend Jim starts popping pieces of a tangerine in his mouth while discussing their plans. He suggests to Jim he ought to eat the tangerine. “It was as if he hadn’t been eating the tangerine at all. If he had been eating anything, he was ‘eating’ his future plans.” There’s also this: “People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” My other favorite part is his retelling of a Tolstoy story (he made me a fan of Tolstoy, for which I'll be forever grateful) about when is the best time to do each thing, who are the most important people to work with and what is the important thing to do in any moment. The only part I don’t care for in the book are the very repetitive translations of sutras in the appendix, but they are easily skipped and do show the millennia-old basis for his teachings. Grade: A
Profile Image for Jonathan.
921 reviews979 followers
December 6, 2018
I am trying to find ways to deal with my anxiety and depression and all the rest, now that I am (once again, and for the final time I think) coming off another failed attempt to go on antidepressants. Mindfulness and meditation have been helping a great deal, though it is still early days for me, and I have to undo a lot of prejudice on my part with respect to the “new age” and “self help” baggage that comes with it. This book was a perfect example of the kind of thing I am looking for. Clear, practical, and written from a position of experience and hard-won insight. Includes simple exercises (such as washing the dishes being mindful of the act itself for itself, rather than rushing to get on to the next thing you want to do) that are very helpful for a beginner like me.
Highly recommended
Profile Image for Raul.
295 reviews211 followers
September 12, 2020
A few weeks ago a friend shared a meditation app. These times have been depressing for me and I found myself more anxious than I normally am, which says a lot, and so after years of uncertainty and suspicion about meditation, I began using the app.

There are three reasons why I looked at meditation distrustfully, the first one being the commercialisation of the practice. The second being that ever since I gave up on religion I avoid a lot of things that would be labelled spiritual. The third being my (rightful?) association of meditation with monks; the first time I saw a monk was in an Encyclopedia and it was the famous picture of the burning monk Thich Quang Duc whose protest was frightening for a nine year old boy, and like in many scenarios where we don't understand, I was fascinated and scared of these people who could endure flames to call attention to and denounce injustice and persecution.

All this is to say and explain that I held prejudices against this wonderful practice before I encountered it. There was little asked of me physically and financially so I went for it, the app helped, I could focus better, things were less scattered, but it felt incomplete. And then I remembered the name of a famous Vietnamese monk who wrote about meditation and this led me to the first Thich Nhat Hahn book that I've read.

This book has been helpful. I believe the teachings here of interdependence, empathy, understanding of the world around us, pacifism, paying attention to our well being are/should be universal. With remarkable gentleness, grief, death, life, community and more aspects of the human experience are delved into and in such a way that any person of any religion or even irreligious, can find useful. Then the learning and practice of mindfulness in itself is so incredible that no review could do justice to this ancient and wise way of living.

Profile Image for Prerna.
222 reviews1,430 followers
November 2, 2022
When I was about thirteen, I read a Buddhist quote on how the trouble with us is that we think have time and it was a revelation and regression all at once. We have so little time so every precious second matters. Or we have so little time and nothing matters at all. Which is it? Most sane people will argue that it's something in between - some moments matter and others don't. But I live on the edges of everything and nothing. And that is precisely why I need to practice mindfulness - to get off the edge.

This book mostly felt like relief. But it also made me so very anxious because I am nowhere close to the person Thich Nhat Hahn aspires for all of us to be. Sometimes I am hyper-aware of my existence and even the warm glow of sunsets blinds me. How do I practice mindfulness then? I suppose I just accept that I am momentarily blind and that it is painful.

I suspect my therapist who practices Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) loves Thich Nhat Hahn. But whatever the two of them are doing to me, it seems to be working. Slowly but surely.
Profile Image for howl of minerva.
81 reviews430 followers
June 15, 2014
A practical phenomenology of Zen consciousness (genetivus subjectivus and genetivus objectivus).

"He searches all around for his thought. But what thought? It is either passionate, or hateful, or confused [i.e. is bestimmt by a Grundstimmung]. What about the past, future, or present? [Zeitlichkeit/Temporalität]. What is past that is extinct, what is future that has not yet arrived and the present has no stability. For thought, Kasyapa, cannot be apprehended, inside, or outside, or in between both. For thought is immaterial, invisible, nonresisting, inconceivable, unsupported and homeless. Thought has never been seen by any of the Buddhas, nor do they see it, nor will they see it. And what the Buddhas never see, how can that be an observable process, except in the sense that dharmas proceed by the way of mistaken perception? Thought is like a magical illusion; by an imagination of what is actually unreal [uneigentlich?] it takes hold of a manifold variety of rebirths. A thought is like the stream of a river, without any staying power; as soon as it is produced it breaks up and disappears. A thought is like the flame of a lamp, and it proceeds through causes and conditions. A thought is like lightning, it breaks up in a moment and does not stay on...

"Searching for thought all around, he does not see it within or without. He does not see it in the skandhas [kategorien?], or in the elements, or in the sense-fields. Unable to see thought, he seeks to find the trend of thought and asks himself: whence is the genesis of thought? And it occurs to him that "where there is an object, there thought arises." [Intentionalität]. Is then the thought one thing, and the object another? No, what is the object, just that is the thought. If the object were one thing and the thought another, then there would be a double state of thought. So the object itself is just thought. [Epoché; Einklammerung]. Can then thought review thought? No, thought cannot review thought. As the blade of a sword cannot cut itself, so a thought cannot see itself. Moreover, vexed and pressed hard on all sides, thought proceeds, without any staying power, like a monkey or like the wind. It ranges far, bodiless, easily changing, agitated by the objects of sense, with the six sense-fields for its sphere, connected with one thing after another. The stability of thought, its one-pointedness, its immobility, its undistraughtness [Gelassenheit], its one-pointed calm, its nondistraction, that is on the other hand called mindfulness as to thought."

-from Śikṣāsamuccaya
354 reviews135 followers
November 6, 2015
This is a very good and therough book on the practice of meditation. It is written by a Budist but any one of any mindset or religion can use this book's practices.
I found it informative and I believe I shall reread it and try the practice out.
Enjoy and Be Blessed.
Profile Image for Vikkat.
15 reviews5 followers
October 21, 2012
While I was reading this (excellent) book, it struck me how much of it recognize from, well, life. Some of the most composed and peaceful people I know already seem to be following TNH's directions, altough they wouldn't call it zen or meditation. This might sound funny, but the most vivid example is washing dishes, brought up by author so often. My stepfather, who is a very wise man, would never go to sleep when there's dishes in the sink, and always takes his sweet time washing them, as if it was the most important job of his day. My best friend (who recommended this book to me) shares her kitchen with so many people that washing dishes indeed becomes a time-consuming chore, yet she always does it gracefully and with full attention, and that's probably the reason why I can visit her and drink out of the same mug as I did many years ago without it being broken somewhere along the way. For me it's especially hard to be mindful, and take it slow, because I was taught that no matter what I do, I could always put this one hour to a better use. I mean, sometimes I catch myself regretting the fact that I cannot watch a movie, read a book, do pushups and knit at the same time. I spend so much time planning and scolding myself that in the end nothing much gets done. But, thanks to this book, I might be on my way to recovery.
Profile Image for Tom Quinn.
552 reviews167 followers
January 7, 2022
As a meditation manual, it is incomplete.
As a work of philosophy, it is incomplete.
As an introduction to personal practice, it is perfect.

4 stars. An inspiring devotional that does its best work by prompting the curiousity to go learn more.
Profile Image for Loredana (Bookinista08).
621 reviews229 followers
January 19, 2022
A necessary book for me. I read it when I needed it most, and it comforted me in a way that no other book could have. It doesn't have the "wow" factor and it hasn't changed my life in any way, so I can't give it 5 stars, but it was definitely like a warm hug. I just savored it. Highly recommended to people suffering from mild anxiety and/or depression. Just read it with an open mind and do your best to follow Nhat Thanh's teachings. :)
Profile Image for Sheila .
1,936 reviews
April 10, 2014
What a fascinating, thought provoking book. I am very interested in this idea of "mindfulness" and am now trying to put into practice many of the ideas the author of this book suggests. I am finding doing this helps my stress too. If I can focus on the moment, if I can control my mind and just enjoy the moment, the present, what I am actually doing, it does make me calmer and less frazzled. It is a great idea! Who would have thought that it could be calming to wash the dishes, or fold the laundry?

The only thing that was a bit "strange" for me with the book was some of the ideas for meditation on death, on dead bodies. That seemed a little "out there" for me, so I am not going to go that far, but for the general idea, I found this great! I am going to investigate this idea of mindfulness further.

For anyone curious on what "mindfulness" is, this book seems to be an excellent introduction to the topic. The author is a Buddhist monk, but he is very open to and accepting of all religions, and doesn't just focus on Buddhism.

Thank you Sapfo for the recommendation!

Profile Image for Mary Wilson.
8 reviews5 followers
December 24, 2012
I remember when I was a student. The rules were to simply meditate and that was it! The same with Hindu Yoga. The same with all Eastern paths. Then I stumbled on this book. It was wonderful. Did you know that you can put in as little as 10 minutes a day of sitting meditation and then apply this mindfulness of breath to "washing the dishes"? Later, apply mindfulness (being aware) to taking a bath. To eating. Well, you will meditate now for 1 hour a day. In fact, Buddhist Masters state that minfulness in daily life is more important than the actual sitting meditation! Buy this book and become a 16-hour a day meditator. Doing "TV meditation", "conversation meditation", "telephone meditation", "cooking meditation". you name it. Nhat Hanh gives a variety of sitting meditations. Pick the one that feels right. Then do the meditation in daily life. Right now, I am doing "write a review meditation". I wasn't at first. But I am presently. The feel of everything that is happening in the present. Good luck.
Profile Image for Albert.
386 reviews26 followers
May 14, 2021
I am new to meditation. This book provided some useful ideas but much of it, although I grasped the concepts, was beyond my ability at this time to accomplish. I expect that I will come back to it periodically when I need help on how to make progress. More than providing me with ideas on meditation, this book introduced me to mindfulness, which was definitely beneficial.
Profile Image for Drew Canole.
1,749 reviews1 follower
January 17, 2023
An excellent introduction to the concept of mindfulness, which seems to be taking the Western World by storm.

The book was originally a long letter written in 1975 to friends back in Vietnam during the war. He was living in France at the time. The framing of the book is perfect and adds to the power of his message.

This volume also includes some of the original sutras that deal with mindfulness, breathing, and meditation.

It's a short book, and even within it there's a lot of repetition. For a book about breathing and being mindful. "I am breathing in" "I am breathing out" "I am breathing in" "I am breathing out" -- I suppose repetition can be forgiven.

I would have liked to see more theory and science behind the practise. But that's not the point of this book. I liked a few of the exercises he shares, and I'll probably incorporate a few into my practice.
I've been getting really into meditation lately. Trying to be more mindful - mostly when something causes me to have feelings, just recognizing "Oh yeah, I'm upset because that guy honked at me" helps to bring me back down to Earth. As opposed to going through the day with that anger/anxiety beneath the surface.

Profile Image for Leslie.
293 reviews113 followers
February 26, 2017
In 1974 Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a personal letter of encouragement to Brother Quang and the student workers in the School of Youth for Social Service in South Vietnam. The Miracle of Mindfulness is that letter. The tone is very soothing, wise, and loving, and now that I have been practicing meditation for a few years, I feel even more receptive to his words. I’ve chosen to keep The Miracle of Mindfulness by my bedside, to read from it often, on any day, at any time of day. This first encounter has made me more aware of myself often being in a hurry and caught up in distractions: the way I’ve often eaten an apple, taking its smell, taste, and texture for granted while multi-tasking, as if my world might collapse if I were to stop and focus on the joy, blessing, and nourishment of eating an apple.

Because the edition I read is the Gift Edition, it also includes Thich Nhat Hanh’s calligraphy, several pages of “exercises in mindfulness;” a tribute by Jim Forest titled “Seeing With The Eyes of Compassion,” a “Selection of Buddhist Sutras,” photographs, and a chronology of Thich Nhat Han’s life.

“For beginners, I recommend the method of pure recognition: recognition without judgement. Feelings, whether of compassion or irritation, should be welcomed, recognized, and treated on an absolutely equal basis; because both are ourselves. the tangerine I am eating is me. The mustard greens I am planting are me. I plant with all my heart and mind. I clean this teapot with the kind of attention I would have were I giving the baby buddha or Jesus a bath. Nothing should be treated more carefully than anything else. In mindfulness, compassion, irritation, mustard green plant, and teapot are all sacred.” (from page 61)
Profile Image for Sadia Nahreen.
14 reviews8 followers
August 1, 2020
I like how the concept of mindfulness was explained here, much of which seemed unreal until I actually tried to put into practice. The first half of the book was a great read, but I found the second half, especially the last few chapters very repetitive. Primary takeaway - mindfulness while doing (or not doing) practically anything, and the concept of Nonpursuit.
Profile Image for Dubzor.
799 reviews8 followers
March 2, 2018
This was disappointing, as I have heard many great things about Hanh's writing. This book however is a mix of many things, and not all of it is terribly accessible to beginners, which is what the book is supposed to be about.

The first half of the book is a collections of letters, expanded upon, discussing Mindfulness but also talking a great deal about the importance of the breath and breathing in mindfulness. This portion of the book is the most useful, the approach of capturing ones breath and it's important part in meditation and mindfulness is something that I haven not yet read thus far. That being said, it's not terribly deep, it's all very matter of fact and offers no real analysis of it to be had.

After this, it's a collection of anecdotes and scripture translations. These are painfully repetitive, dense, and offer no practical interpretation, just straight translations. This portion of the book is incredibly frustrating.

So, sadly I cannot say this I would recommend this book for beginners of the subject. His Holiness has released several books of in introductory manner that are far more concise and clear on the subject.
Profile Image for Pammu.
21 reviews2 followers
June 18, 2012
I'm in the middle of reading this. This is milestone book for me because It's the first book I borrowed from the public library. I'm such a slow a reader: I borrowed this last month and I'm just about to approach the 90-page mark. This book is barely 100 pages.

I picked up this book because last month, I was going through a phase, or a refining fire, or a test. Someone I've known for quite some time and only recently became a friend pointed me to Pema Chondron's thoughts on shenpa and Thich Nhat Hanh is the only thing available for me to read. My delight blossomed in the first few pages as I discover that the way I think is written in this book. It's a simple read, it's simplicity provoking its readers to take pause and think about the present moment. To think about what's here and what's now.

I'm in the middle of developing my own yoga practice and struggling to develop my own daily rituals. This book reminds me to start somewhere vital: breathing. I needed this book. Everyone should read it.
Profile Image for Richard S.
431 reviews63 followers
March 16, 2022
Reading this incredible book in a time of war made me sad. I mean seriously humans are capable of such enlightenment, why do we kill each other in horrible ways. This book is written at such a elevated level. If the children of the world were all forced to read this and follow it in spirit the world’s problems would be solved.

Maybe the one most impressive thing is the book is entirely devoid of hatred of any kind. This book tells you how to be, not what to be against.

As far as a guide to meditation, I might try it. As far as mindfulness is concerned, especially his idea of devoting a day each week to it, kind of like a Sabbath day, I am definitely going to try that.

There is hope, and then again there isn’t. If you need hope, this is where to find it.
Profile Image for Lizzie Stewart.
370 reviews242 followers
November 18, 2020
The Miracle of Mindfulness is a series of stories and exercises about the practice of mindfulness, originally written by the Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and translated by Mobi Ho. The Miracle of Mindfulness is rich, gentle guide with suggestions and reflections that are both practical and transcendent.
Profile Image for Ladan.
69 reviews
July 16, 2010
"Recall the most significant achievements in your life and examine each of them. Examine your talent, your virtue, your capacity, the convergence of favorable conditions that have led to success. Examine the complacency and the arrogance that have arisen from the feeling that you are the main cause for such success. Shed the light of interdependence on the whole matter to see that the achievement is not really yours but the convergence of various conditions beyond your reach. See to it that you will not be bound to these achievements. Only when you can relinquish them can you really be free and no longer assailed by them.

Recall the bitterest failures in your life and examine each of them. Examine your talent, your virtue, your capacity, and the absence of favorable conditions that led to the failures. Examine to see all the complexes that have arisen within you from the feeling that you are not capable of realizing success. Shed the light of interdependence on the whole matter to see that failures cannot be accounted for by your inabilities but rather by the lack of favorable conditions. See that you have no strength to shoulder these failures, that these failures are not your own self. See to it that you are free from them. Only when you can relinquish them can you really be free and no longer assailed by them."

-p. 97
Profile Image for Brittany McCann.
1,834 reviews427 followers
September 18, 2023
I see that I am in the minority in reviewing this one.

I had a few significant issues with this...

If I was a monk with zero life obligations, then, yeah, sure... but I am a single mom with a career, etc.

It's easy to sit there with no familial requirements and no job to have to work and tell people that they are dying and not focused.

Yes, I can be MORE mindful, but this advice isn't realistic or sustainable for the average person full-time.

Just ok for me. 2 stars
Profile Image for Josh reading.
311 reviews11 followers
July 19, 2019
A wonderful and insightful read by Thich Nhat Hanh on the foundations of mindfulness and meditation. Such a peaceful and gently wise book, one that could offer the reader a richer understanding of mindfulness each time they delve into these pages. Absolutely worth your time, quietude indeed.
Profile Image for Jana Eichhorn.
1,095 reviews16 followers
December 26, 2020
Ironically, I bailed on this one in the last half hour of the audio book because it was repetitive and not holding my attention. Yes, I know.
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