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Stop and Be Truly Present

Discover the simple way to live a beautiful life by stopping and paying attention.

How to get the most out of these Wisdom Quotes:

  1. Put aside everything you think you already know.

  2. Open your mind and heart to receive something new.

  3. Take your time going through each point.

  4. Return to any points that particularly touch you.

  5. In the coming days, listen carefully to the wisdom within you.

1. Start by Stopping

Thich Nhat Hanh quote

"Many of us do not know how to be truly present to the people we love and the wonders of life that are available in the present moment.

Our minds are easily distracted, and the market constantly supplies us with new ways to keep our mind in this state. Our body is here, but our mind is lost in our plans regarding future, regret for what concerns the past, and the dissatisfaction and unease we feel in the present.

Not long ago we were invited to Google headquarters in California to teach the practice of mindfulness to more than seven hundred employees.

The first thing that we shared with them was the practice of stopping because in today’s society we are always running. When we are able to stop, we can pay attention to everything that is happening in our bodies and in our minds and this is the way in which we can begin to take care of ourselves.

In the present moment we already have more than enough conditions for our happiness. We just need to stop and recognise them in order to touch true happiness.”

~Thich Nhat Hanh, from an interview in the Italian newspaper, La Stampa (2014)


"Many of us do not know how to be truly present..."

  1. How many of us have the idea that presence is something complicated and difficult? In actual fact, being present is so simple and natural when you are living in alignment with your true nature.

  2. Everything that satisfies is found in the present moment, but if you don't yet realise this, you continue running toward what you think will bring you happiness and fulfillment.

  3. "When we are able to stop, we can pay attention to everything..." Today is full of opportunities to stop and pay attention. Pay attention to what is happening within you and around you.

2. Stop and Breathe

Thich Nhat Hanh quote

“Sitting in the lotus position or lying down on your back, begin breathing into your belly.

Keep your mind entirely on the belly as it rises with every in-breath and falls with each out-breath.

Breathe deeply, maintaining full attention on your abdomen.

Don’t think. Stop all your ruminating, and just focus on the breathing.


Breathing mindfully, you are already finding a refuge in your breath, and you become aware of what’s going on in your body, your feelings, your perceptions, your mental formations, and your consciousness.


You only need to breathe mindfully and smile to your habit energy: “Oh, I got pulled away by that again.”

When you can recognize habit energies this way, they lose their hold on you, and you’re free once again to live peacefully and happily in the present."

~Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Breath: A Practice for Our Busy Lives


Don't underestimate the power of deep, conscious breathing.

  1. Deep, conscious breathing is your anchor, bringing you back to presence. Deep, conscious breathing is your calming energy, bringing you from your busy mind to your peaceful heart. Deep, conscious breathing is your refuge from unconscious living to the awareness that is your true nature.

  2. Your breath is always with you. All you need to do is remember it.

  3. Let your mindful breathing free you "once again to live peacefully and happily in the present."

3. Stop Before You Answer the Phone

Thich Nhat Hanh quote

"Usually when you hear the telephone, you cannot resist running to it. You are sucked towards the telephone and you are not clearly yourself; you are a victim.

So, if you are capable of sitting right where you are and practising breathing in — calming, breathing out — smiling, you prove yourself to be one who can be master of his or her own self. And when the telephone rings for the second time, you can still sit there, breathing in — calming, breathing out — smiling.

You can afford to do that because if the person calling really has something important to tell you he or she will not hang up after the first or the second ring, but will wait until at least the third ring. So you have the luxury of practising telephone meditation for a few times, breathing in — calming, breathing out — smiling . . . Prove it to yourself!

Prove it to the people who live in your home that you are master of yourself. This is a very good practice. When you hear the telephone ring for the third time, you continue to breathe in and out. Then you move to it, but you do so with dignity. You walk like a king, like a lion, because you are now master of yourself; so you walk like that, breathing and smiling.

When you pick up the telephone you are in a very good state of mind. You are calm. You are yourself. You are breathing. You are smiling, That is good, not only for yourself, but also for the one who is calling. The caller is very lucky because now you are a better person — calmer and smiling more.

The results of the meditation are obtained right away, and I’m sure the person at the other end will be glad to hear your voice because you are calm, you are peaceful, you are smiling; you are quite yourself."

~Thich Nhat Hanh, Telephone Meditation from Buddhism Now


"You are sucked towards the telephone and you are not clearly yourself; you are a victim."

  1. When I first read this quote I was shocked at the use of the word 'victim.' I had never considered myself to be a victim when answering the phone. Upon deeper consideration, however, I understood that my running to immediately answer the phone meant that I was in an unconscious state, unprepared and at the mercy of the phone call

  2. How wonderful to be guided into a conscious way of answering the phone! This is not about forced self-control where we suffer because we try to stop ourselves from doing what comes naturally. Rather, it is a stopping of unconscious behaviour coming from rushed habit energy.

  3. This is a reminder to find calm with our in-breath and to shine out a smile with our out-breath. And it's a beautiful way to show up for the person who's calling.

4. Stop Before You Make a Call

Thich Nhat Hanh quote

"When we are the ones who are making a telephone call, we recite a small poem: ‘Words can travel thousands of miles; they are supposed to build up more understanding and mutual acceptance; I vow that my words will be like gems; I vow that my words will be like flowers.’

You write the poem on a piece of paper and you stick it to the telephone. Every time you want to make a phone call, you touch the phone exactly where the poem is and you practise breathing.

Breathing in, you say: ‘Words can travel thousands of miles;’ breathing out: ‘They are supposed to build up more understanding and mutual acceptance;’ breathing in, ‘I vow that my words will be like gems;’ breathing out, ‘I vow that my words will be fresh like flowers.’

You are now qualified to make the call and you pick up the receiver and dial the number. You are fresh. You have made a vow to use loving speech.

Speaking is a very important practice. If you know how to use words, you can make a person very happy. You can make a person happy for several days if you say something that inspires free confidence and happiness. So, don’t be thrifty concerning words and loving speech.

If you are unhappy yourself, you can say something which will hurt people for many days. Something you say can make a person lose all hope and go and commit suicide.

The practice of loving speech is a very deep one. That is what you remind yourself while you breathe in and out and recite the poem. After the recitation, you know what you will say and what you will not say.

Then you dial the number, hold the receiver to your ear and listen to the bell ringing in the other house. But you are very realistic. Although it’s ringing, you know that the other person, a lady perhaps, is sitting quietly, listening and practising breathing and smiling. She is practising telephone meditation. So you don’t expect her to pick up the phone before the third ring. You tell yourself, ‘She’s breathing and smiling, so why not me?’ And you practise breathing and smiling for the third time. When the telephone rings for the second time, you practise breathing and smiling for the fourth time, and then the fifth time. Now you are in a good state of mind to have a conversation, and I am sure the quality of your conversation will be high.

You will make each other happy because both of you are mindful, smiling. I think that if everyone in London practised telephone meditation, there would be more peace and happiness in the city."

~Thich Nhat Hanh, Telephone Meditation from Buddhism Now


Making a vow to use loving speech is a practice that can change the world.

  1. It seems such a small and simple thing to do, but the results are wide-reaching because everything we say and do has a ripple effect on the lives of others. This is how energy works.

  2. If the suggested poem seems a little strange for you to recite, why not make up your own? Here's an alternative suggestion: Breathing in, you say: ‘My words are powerful’ breathing out: ‘They can touch you deeply’ breathing in, ‘May I bless you with my words;’ breathing out, ‘Words of love and compassion.’

  3. The point is to stop and be mindful before contacting anyone. Breathe yourself back to Love and flow out from that place.

5. Stop Before You Start the Car

Thach Nhat Hanh quote

"Before starting the car,

I know where I am going.

The car and I are one.

If the car goes fast, I go fast.

If we are mindful when we start our car, we will know how to use it properly. When we are driving, we tend to think of arriving, and we sacrifice the journey for the sake of the arrival. But life is to be found in the present moment, not in the future. In fact, we may suffer more after we arrive at our destination.

If we have to talk of a destination, what about our final destination, the graveyard? We do not want to go in the direction of death; we want to go in the direction of life. But where is life? Life can be found only in the present moment.

Therefore, each mile we drive, each step we take, has to bring us into the present moment. This is the practice of mindfulness.

When we see a red light or a stop sign, we can smile at it and thank it, because it is a bodhisattva helping us return to the present moment. The red light is a bell of mindfulness.

We may have thought of it as an enemy, preventing us from achieving our goal. But now we know the red light is our friend, helping us resist rushing and calling us to return to the present moment where we can meet with life, joy and peace.

Even if you are not the driver, you can help everyone in the car if you breathe and smile.

The next time you are caught in traffic, don't fight. It is useless to fight. If you sit back and smile to yourself, you will enjoy the present moment and make everyone in the car happy. The Buddha is there, because the Buddha can always be found in the present moment.

Practicing meditation is to return to the present moment in order to encounter the flower, the blue sky, the child, the brilliant red light."

~Thich Nhat Hanh, Present Moment, Wonderful Moment: Mindfulness Versus for Daily Living


What a beautiful practice to begin by being present when starting the car. This seemingly tiny shift in consciousness is so significant.

  1. My goodness, don't we all have excellent opportunities to practice not fighting with the traffic?! Whether we are drivers or passengers, this is one area where unconsciousness loves to manifest itself in anger and frustration. But the fact is, the traffic is beyond your control.

  2. You can recite the gathas (verses) which Thich Nhat Hanh gives us at the beginning of today's quote, or you can make up your own. Or you can simply take a conscious breath and find your centre, grounded in the present moment.

  3. Please, don't be discouraged if you feel it's too difficult and unrealistic to smile at red lights and cars in front of you. Remember, that is only a thought, not to be taken seriously. Focus instead on remembering to be aware (this group will help you) and eventually, before you know it, it will feel easy and natural to drive more mindfully.

6. Stopping Awakens You

Thich Nhat Hanh quote

"When I pour the tea, I like to pour the tea mindfully. And when I pour the tea mindfully, my mind does not think of the past or the future or my projects.

My mind is focused on pouring the tea. I am fully concentrated on the act of pouring the tea. Pouring tea becomes the only object of my mindfulness and concentration. And that can bring many insights.

I can see that in the tea there is a cloud. Yesterday it was a cloud but today it is my tea.

You see things, and that is insight. Insight is not something very far away. With mindfulness and concentration, you can begin to get insight. That can liberate you and bring you happiness.


You might get the insight that you are there, alive. You are there, and you are alive. That is an insight because to be alive is a miracle."

~Thich Nhat Hanh, from the video: Mindfulness, Concentration, and Insight in Daily Life


"To be alive is a miracle."

  1. When you are fully concentrated on what you are doing, from breathing to driving to doing housework or having a cup of tea, not only do you experience peace, joy and freedom from problems - you also experience many insights.

  2. These insights serve to expand your awareness so that you see the extraordinary in the ordinary. This is how a simple life can become such a profound blessing.

  3. Remember to stop before you do your everyday activities and take a moment to become conscious and present. The easiest way is to tune in to your breath, but you can use any of your senses to make the shift. Living in this way awakens you to the miracle of being alive.

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