Communicating, the Zen Way

(Part 1 – Communicating with Ourselves)

I recently came on board with the notion that e-books can broaden our readership beyond borders. In an attempt to learn more about the e-book publishing world and its practicality in the Philippine setting, I GMG’d (‘google mo, ganda’, as my lawyer friend taught me) most anything I could find on the subject.

Then I thought the best way to really learn about it was to be an e-book buyer and reader myself. As I strode onto the internet highway of e-books, I came across Thic Nhat Hanh’s (TNH) e-book, The Art of Communicating. I’ve downloaded many free e-books in the past, but TNH’s The Art of Communicating, happens to be my first e-book purchase ever.

Thích Nhất Hạnh was a Vietnamese Thiền Buddhist monk, peace activist, prolific author, poet, teacher, and founder of the Plum Village Tradition. Recognized as the main inspiration for engaged Buddhism, he is also known as the “father of mindfulness”. (from Wikkipedia)

Coffin of Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh is carried to the street during his funeral in Hue, Vietnam Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022. A funeral was held Saturday for Thich Nhat Hanh, after the renowned Zen master died at the age of 95 in Hue in central Vietnam on January 22, 2022.

Let me share with you an e-summary of this wonderful e-book. It starts off with these basic premises: First, everything we consume using any or all of our senses — our eyes, our ears, our nose, our tongues and our bodies — can either heal us or poison us; and Second, conversations and messages we either send or receive are a kind of food for ourselves and others around us. We can choose to consume either healthy or toxic messages from what we hear, read or see.

Proceeding from these basic premises, Thic Nhat Hanh or TNH teaches us how to communicate the Zen way.

First he teaches us how to build our capacity for mindful awareness and COMMUNICATING WITH OURSELVES the Zen way by STOPPING everything we are doing with the external world and being present in the moment. 

What does being present in the moment mean? Basically it means taking deep inhalation and exhalation breathes, and getting in touch with our bodies — Do we feel well? … inhale… Are we experiencing pains or aches in some parts of our bodies that we might have previously disregarded?… exhale…  

When we inhale deeply, we also take this moment to get in touch with our emotions — do we feel sad, … inhale… irritated,… exhale… excited, … inhale… angry, … exhale… and all other emotions one can find in the emoticon dashboard. 

ctto Jared Rice

Next, we repeat this pattern and take some more moments to perceive the world around us, preferably with our eyes closed — what do we hear from the world around us? inhale… Can you hear the wind blowing through the leaves in your backyard tree or outdoor plantita plants? exhale… Listen… listen… listen… inhale… to the birds singing, to the insects flying through the early summer warmth, … exhale… to the binatog seller’s pot-pot or the ice cream vendor’s kiling-kiling…inhale… Can you smell … your cat’s poo? … exhale…  The incense burner? …inhale… The coffee brewing?… exhale… Your neighbor’s adobo? …inhale…

ctto Dennis Oliveira @

TNH is known as the father of mindful awareness. He emphasizes the value of these moments for mindful breathing as it promotes communication between the mind and the body. We mostly breathe unconsciously as a means to survive, but we must learn to breathe consciously to live well and connect with ourselves. We listen to each inhalation and each exhalation, and say to ourselves that “I am breathing, because I am alive and in this moment in this world.”

“Mindful breathing is a practice of nonthinking and nontalking. Without thinking or talking, there is no obstacle to get in the enjoyment of the present moment,” TNH writes. He affirms that mindful breathing allows us to listen to our  pain, our sorrow and our fear — and welcome them instead of running away from these feelings — to decide how and when changes in our lives need to happen. 

Yes, welcome even the feelings society teaches us to avoid, those feelings labelled as negative emotions — for how can there be happiness without sorrow? How can we feel brave when we don’t get in touch with and understand our fears? 

ctto Tom Pumford @

TNH reminds us to be mindful of what we consume because many of us tend to consume unhealthy or even toxic shows, music and books as a way of escaping from the pain, sorrow or fear within us. “We consume not because we need to consume but because we’re afraid of confronting the suffering inside us,” he further writes.

When we invest the time and energy for mindful awareness, we become better at communicating with ourselves.

After we can truly connect and communicate with ourselves, then we start the journey towards communicating well with others. (to be continued by Pia Perez for SVPP) ###