Q & A With Thay: What is the best way to relieve our suffering?

Thich Nhat Hanh, Thay, Zen Buddhist master

Q: What is the best way to relieve my suffering and the suffering of my friends and family?

A: We all know that understanding and compassion can relieve suffering. This is not just a platitude; where there is understanding and compassion, there's relief and help for ourselves and others. Our practice is to keep that understanding and compassion alive. As busy as we are, when we take time to look a little bit deeper, we can always find more understanding and compassion to offer. Time is very precious; every minute, every hour counts. We don't want to throw time away. We want to make good use of the minutes and the hours we have left. When we focus our attention in the here an now and live simply, we have more time to do the things we think are important. We don't waste our energy in thinking, in worrying, in running after fame, power, and wealth.

Happiness is possible when you are capable of doing the things and being the things that you want to do and be. When we walk for the sake of walking, when we sit for the sake of sitting, when we drink tea for the sake of drinking tea, we don't do it for something or someone else. These things can be very enjoyable. That is the practice of aimlessness. While you do that, you heal yourself and you help heal the world. Awakening means to see that truth-that you want to know how to enjoy, how to live deeply, in a very simple way. You don't want to waste your time anymore. Cherish the time that you are given.

From Answers from the Heart (2009) by Thich Nhat Hanh. With permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California. www.parallax.org