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When you wake up in the morning, everything sounds alive the trees, the wind, the stars, the moon. And around us so many things are like that very alive, very beautiful, very refreshing and healing. And if you are truly there, and then you’ll notice their presence. Because when we are real, when we become real, thanks to the practice of mindful breathing, mindful walking, become real. And when we are real and true, something else is also true and real, and that is why when you pick up your tea and hold it like this, because you are real the tea becomes real also. If you are not there, if you are lost in your thinking, your worries, the tea does not really exist. Go to a coffee house and observe they are having coffee, tea, everything but their minds are not really there. So in order to be truly there, in order to drink your tea, really, you have to be there. And when you are there, your tea will be there, as a reality and not as a phantom, not as a ghost. And when you live without mindfulness, everything is like in a dream. A trip, the subway, the street, the car, everything is like in a dream. And if we are awake, mindful, if we are truly there, everything becomes real again. And that is the miracle of mindfulness. So when I pick up a tangerine with mindfulness, I come in touch with a miracle. A tangerine, please, try. A tangerine is nothing less than a miracle. If you are truly there, and you look, the tangerine is a miracle. And if you are truly focussing on the tangerine, we see it is a wonder, it is a miracle.

You can see the tree. You can see the white flower and the rain and the sunshine that go into it. They’re still there. The white flower, the blossom, the tangerine blossom, is still there. And the rain and the fog and the sunshine are going through it. And you begin to see a very tiny green tangerine. And because the sunshine, the rain, continue to go through it, it continues to grow. And now it has acquired this beautiful shape. Beautiful. The whole cosmos has come together in order to produce this wonderful miracle, which is a tangerine. And only with mindfulness and some concentration, could I recognise the miracle of the tangerine. And because I am true, I’m real, that is why the tangerine is also true.

And I remember about 40 years ago, I gave a guided meditation in California, eating, we were eating an orange. We called it orange meditation. We sat on the beach, a number of Zen practitioners, and we had a session of orange meditation. We spent one hour just eating a tangerine, and you can produce a lot of joy, brotherhood, sisterhood, happiness. And when you, mindfully, you take out some skin, you see that the smell is also a wonder. Do you think that in the Kingdom of God there are tangerines or not? I believe there are. When I was a young novice, I asked my teacher, “Do you think that in the pure land of the Buddha there are tangerines?” And I said: “If there are no tangerines, I would not like to go there.” that’s what I really told my teacher. If you go to the Kingdom of God, and if you don’t find tangerines growing, you will miss very much the planet Earth, because on the planet Earth, there are tangerines and many other things. That is why I am determined to stay here. Because the planet Earth is something very real. I do not want to exchange it for something that we cannot be sure that it’s real. And that is why, to me, the Kingdom of God is on earth, available in the here and now. That is my insight. And in order to go into the Kingdom of God, you have to be very alive. It means you have to be very mindful and concentrated. You don’t have to die in order to go to the Kingdom. It may be too late. You have to be very alive in order to do so, and to be alive, that is something you can do. If you practise mindful breathing, bringing your mind back to your body, you become alive, established well in the here and the now. And if you are mindful, concentrated, you only need to make one step in order to enter the Kingdom. To me, the Kingdom is now or never. And our practice is to enjoy the kingdom every moment of our daily life. Whether you are walking, or sitting, or having breakfast, you can always do it in the Kingdom of God. And this is possible; this is not theory. With mindfulness and concentration we can very well be in the Kingdom. There is understanding, love, life true life.

So with that kind of awareness, mindfulness and concentration, we can continue to enjoy our tangerine. I am peeling the tangerine mindfully, and I enjoy every second, every moment. And this is life; this is true life. I will take one section. I look at it, always mindfully, and notice that it is something wonderful, real, before I put it in my mouth. And I notice the savour, the taste, the juice that is coming out, mindfully. So, I savour every second, every moment, of the time I take in order to enjoy the tangerine. And that is a spiritual experience also. So, when you have your breakfast in mindfulness and concentration, your breakfast not only nourishes you, your body, but it nourishes your mind, your spirit. And when you drink your tea, that is also a spiritual practice, because from the time you pick up the tea and hold it in your hand to the time when you’ve finished the tea, it is a meditation, it is a spiritual practice, and you are alive all the way through, drinking your tea. And happiness, and peace, and joy, and the Kingdom of God is available during the whole time of your eating just a tangerine, or your drinking your tea.

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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