(Reprinted from A Rose for Your Pocket (2008) by Thich Nhat Hanh with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California, www.parallax.org)
"you were linked to your mother in a very concrete way"
When you were first born, someone cut your umbilical cord. Quite likely you cried aloud for the first time. Now you had to breathe for yourself. Now you had to get used to all the light surrounding you. Now you had to experience hunger for the first time. You were outside of your mother, but still somehow inside her. You were still dependent on her. You may have nursed at her breast. And although the cord was no longer whole between you, you were linked to your mother in a very concrete, intimate way.
As a baby, you know that you are linked to your mother, and as a mother, you can feel that you are linked to your child. If you are a mother, you may hold the view that you and the baby are one. But if you hold your baby and force it to be exactly like you, this is not correct either. It’s good that you are one with your baby. But the baby receives other influences as well and, especially when the baby grows up, she could have new insights. Every mother has to learn to train herself to see that her baby, her child, is at the same time her but different from her. That child has her own life. You can’t imprison your child and make her go in your direction and force her to do what you like because you want to shape her in your mould. Your child is not only the continuation of you, but the continuation of many generations of ancestors before you. Perhaps during your time you had no chance to water the good seeds you inherited, and so you don’t have the same chance as your child. When your child has a lot of new insights, you have to learn from her.
If your mother had a hard time letting you be yourself, or if you are having a difficult time with your mother, you may fight very hard to convince yourself that you and your mother are two different people. But it’s not really so. You are a continuation of both your parents. When I meditate, I can still see the cord connecting me to my mother. When I look deeply, I see there are umbilical cords linking me to other phenomena as well. The sun rises every morning. And thanks to the sun, we have heat and light. Without these things, we can’t survive.
"you are linked to everything and everyone"
So one umbilical cord links you to the sun. Another umbilical cord links you to the clouds in the sky. If the clouds were not there, there would be no rain and no water to drink. Without clouds, there is no milk, no tea, no coffee, no ice cream, nothing. There is an umbilical cord linking you to the river; there is one linking you to the forest. If you continue meditating like this, you can see that you are linked to everything and everyone in the cosmos. Your life depends on everything else that exists—on other living beings, but also on plants, minerals, air, water, and earth.
You and your mother are not exactly the same person, but you aren’t two different people either. This is the truth of interdependence. No one can be by oneself alone. In order to be, we have to inter-be. --Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet, scholar, and human rights activist. In 1967, he was nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr.., for the Nobel Peace Prize. He lives in France, at his meditation center, Plum Village.
In Each Breath a Smile, an illustrated story based on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, preschool children are introduced to the beauty and transformative powers of mindful breathing. Through beautiful color illustrations, very young children learn to use their breath to experience calmness and enjoy a deeper relationship with family, friends and nature.
Products shown: Buckwheat Hull Zafu, Each Breath a Smile (#BK007)