Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh on Nourishing Happiness

This excerpt is from Thich Nhat Hanh’s wonderful book “Teachings on Love.” In it, Thây gives three exercises that are a kind of metta meditation—aspiration for our own happiness and the happiness of others.

As is usual in metta, the first verse aspiration is for our own happiness. The second verse is for a friend, relative, someone we know. The third verse is typically aspiration for a group of people, or for all beings everywhere. To give your metta focus, you should substitute some person in our experience for “he” or “she.” For “they,” you may have in mind some group of people—say, the dear victims of the earthquake in Haiti, or survivors of some natural or social disaster. Make the metta specific, and make it your own!

As I have done with many of the mettas that I work with, I have put these three on 3×5 cards so I can use them as aids when “on the cushion” or during “metta breaks” throughout the day.

May practicing this teaching bring you great joy and happiness!

Nourishing Happiness

Thich Nhat Hanh

May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
May he/she know how to nourish the seeds of joy in him/herself every day.
May they know how to nourish the seeds of joy in themselves every day.

May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May he/she be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May they be able to live fresh, solid, and free.

May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May he/she be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May they be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.

These meditations help us water the seeds of joy and happiness in our store consciousness. Joy and happiness are the food of a Zen monk. Before eating, we say, “May all beings be nourished by the joy of meditation.”

What is the nature of this joy? How can we touch true joy every moment of our lives? How can we live in a way that brings a smile, the eyes of love, and happiness to everyone we encounter? Use your talent to find ways to bring happiness to yourself and others—the happiness that arises from meditation and not from the pursuit of fruitless pleasure. Meditative joy has the capacity to nourish our mindfulness, understanding, and love. Try to live in a way that encourages deep happiness in yourself and others. “I vow to bring joy to one person in the morning and to help relieve the suffering of one person in the afternoon.” Ask yourself, “Who can I make smile this morning?” This is the act of creating happiness.


About Steven Goodheart

"I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." Spinoza

4 Responses to “Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh on Nourishing Happiness”

  1. Hi, I always find something inspiring when I drop by your blog. This time it’s in the last few lines (you always seem to break it down to achievable acts for me). Simply, who can I bring joy to or who can I make smile?

    • Hello my friend! What a nice compliment! Thank you for stopping by—I hope you always find something that helps you and speaks to your heart.

      With warm wishes,

  2. Some more magic! So grateful Steve.

    I’ve been incorporating metta into my meditation routine lately. It’s been a struggle to channel the loving-kindness energy toward self, friends & enemies. My problem is that I don’t have this energy to begin with. In my ground state of mind-lessness I have many feelings of antipathy, and don’t have much love to go on.

    So I tried the following on a whim. Instead of creating and directing the energy, I simply tried to observe the existence of metta as it occurs naturally in these various groups of people. Thinking just gets in the way. If I just let go of thought I can be more perceptive of all the ways that people practice loving-kindness in their lives, and open myself to its existence in me. It’s always been there.

    • Hey, my friend! Nice to hear from you again. I’m grateful right along with you!

      Wow, what a truly brilliant insight you had and how wonderfully skillful your approach is. Truly, I’m really moved and excited about what you’ve discovered, and I’m so glad you too time to share this here so others might read it.

      Finally, it is all about a great, great openness and spacious of the heart that can simply discern what’s there to be seen. Your way into metta shows this, and it’s an inspiration to see the loving-kindness will find a way.

      With warm metta and gratitude,

Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: