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Calming the Fearful Mind: A Zen Response to Terrorism Paperback – September 9, 2001
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"Thich Nhat Hanh is a master of living peace. This book reveals the secrets to liberating ourselves from fear. Outstanding!" Arun Gandhi, M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence
About the Author
Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the most revered Zen teachers in the world today. His best-selling books include Happiness and Peace Is Every Step. He lives in Plum Village in southwest France, where he teaches the art of mindful living.
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His book is beautiful and would be helpful to anyone who has had to deal with the insecurities and fears surrounding the war. All of Thich Nhat Hanh's books are special to me. Having lived thru this war and seeing what happened to many of my friends and family, this book in particular has touched my heart. Metta always. Diane Mangum
Nhat Hanh's claim is that the purveyors of violence in our world suffer from ill-being, and that their violence is a reflection of their interior pain. If we want to do something to lessen violence, we need to treat rather than retaliate, and this involves, minimally, deep listening on our part. Deep listening in turn requires mindfulness (nonjudgmental awareness not only of what the speaker is saying, but also of my own reactions to it), patience, and compassion. How different the world might be today, suggests Nhat Hanh, had there been a mindful response to 9/11.
But of course it's not only terrorists who suffer from ill-being. Most of us do as well. So Nhat Hanh offers advice on how both individuals and societies can be more mindful of our own dis-ease, both how it's generated and how to overcome it. In the commonsensical way so characteristic of Buddhist psychology, Nhat Hanh suggests that a great deal of who we are is dependent on the foods we eat. If we improve our diet, we improve our interior states, which in turn can't help but affect our behavior in the world.
According to Nhat Hanh, we feed on four "nutriments": edibles, sensations, volitions, and ideas. Consistent with his doctrine of "interbeing," or the interconnectedness of all reality, he insists that our choice of diet not only affects us but is also part of a greater whole. Agri-industrialized edibles contribute to environmental degradation; unwholesome sensory food spooned out by our media-driven culture can make us stupid; volitional foods can addictions that demand immediate gratification of unwholesome tastes; and violent idea-formation food can fix us in destructive dispositional patterns. So one way to change ourselves and our world is to clean up our diets, and much of Nhat Hanh's book explains how we can do this.
Calming the Fearful Mind is, then, offers both a diagnosis and a prescription for our troubled age. It's well worth taking seriously.
My challenge to his message here is that despite us trying listen to some people who do harm, they are not going to stop. They seem to be invested in living this way. In that case it may be better to just stay away.