There is a wonderful book on the practice of Mindfulness entitled No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Nhat Hanh. As you may know, Thich Nhat Hanh is a Mindfulness teacher who is known and loved all over the world. This, his latest book, is a treasure for anyone who wants to realize a happier life.
Thai, as he is known, begins by saying that we all want to be happy and that when we are not feeling happy we think that we are doing something wrong. Many of us understand that, in life, there are equal measures of happiness and unhappiness, pleasure and pain, elation and disappointment. We also understand that sometimes we go through our days on auto-pilot and life can seem like a blur from work to home, from sleep to wakefulness. When this happens we seemingly miss significant chunks of our lives.
Through our Mindfulness practice we begin to realize that we cannot avoid suffering, no matter how hard we work or how much we keep ourselves distracted. Thai tells us that "One of the most difficult things for us to accept is that there is no realm where there's only happiness and there's no suffering." He goes on to teach us that suffering is a part of life and that: "Without suffering there can be no happiness." He further suggests that when we can begin to recognize suffering, get to know it at a personal level, embrace it, and look deeply into its roots, we can then begin to let go of the habits that feed it and through this process find our way to greater happiness.
In fact, he states, there is an art to suffering well, and that by mastering this art of suffering we not only suffer less, but we experience greater happiness. And when we as individuals experience greater happiness we create more happiness around us and in the world.
In this book Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that "The essence of our practice can be described as transforming suffering into happiness. It's not a complicated practice, but it requires us to cultivate mindfulness, concentration, and insight." The book goes on to provide instructions and practices for bringing the mind back to the breath; nurturing happiness by getting in touch with our bodies and minds; recognizing and understanding our feelings and emotions; and dealing with the mental formations that fill our mind.
He describes practicing gratitude for all aspects of our lives and how this helps us to realize the happiness that is already present in our lives. He also instructs us in the practice of Lovingkindness (Metta) to cultivate understanding, love and compassion-both for ourselves and others. Following these instructions and engaging in the proscribed practices can lead to a level of Mindfulness that produces greater happiness during the good times and a reduction of suffering during the times when life is not so kind to us. Thai teaches that "Anger, fear, anxiety, craving, greed, and ignorance are the great afflictions of our time, And that by practicing mindful living we are able to more skillfully deal with these afflictions through effective action."
I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to use the practice of Mindfulness to live and love more fully, and to connect with those around them in a deeper and more meaningful manner.