6 min read

You are enough

calligraphy that reads, you are enough
calligraphy by Brother Phap Huu, photo by Rob Walsh

As the year turns over from 2023 to 2024, I am taking some time to reflect. In particular, I’m investigating my past actions to help inform the intentions I set for the new year ahead. I’ve been using Thich Nhat Hanh’s gatha (practice poem) on impermanence as a guide. Here it is:

Ending the Day

The day is ending,
our life is one day shorter.
Let us look carefully
at what we have done.
Let us practice diligently,
putting our whole heart into the path of meditation.
Let us live deeply each moment in freedom,
so time does not slip away meaninglessly.

When I remember, I recite this gatha at the end of each day, to remind myself to look back and reflect on my actions and how I lived that day. This is part of my end of day journaling practice. In Thich Nhat Hanh’s commentary on this gatha, he reminds us that it is a very human thing to make mistakes. He says that without mistakes, there would be no opportunity “to learn to be more accepting and compassionate” and at the same time, “we should not get caught in the prison of guilt.”

Source: Present Moment Wonderful Moment (Revised Edition): Verses for Daily Living-Updated Third Edition, pg. 82

When we learn from our mistakes, we are able to transform that suffering into insight and understanding. As Thay would say, we are able to transform the mud into a lotus flower. I think it is this transformation that allows me to, bit by bit, live each day with more freedom.

Reflections and Intentions for 2024

I did quite a bit of journaling and self reflection over the last few weeks and I wanted to share an entry with you, dear reader, as we head into 2024 together. It is a reflection on my relationship with myself (my inner voice). As I was preparing this blog post, and looking back on my journal entry, I also see that these reflections can be applied to interpersonal relationships with my friends and family. Some of the ideas could even be applied all the way out to the relationships we see between groups of people and nations. In this time of war and conflict in the world, I hope we can all see more deeply that how we relate to ourselves and our communities has an impact on our collective consciousness, and therefore our world.

A little miscellaneous context for the reflection below: for those of you that don’t know, I have a long-standing habit of enjoying feel-good romantic comedies (definitely can look into my habit of consumption here, but that’s for another time 🙂).

So, dear reader, please read on below. I plan to return to these words over the next year. I hope that you might find them helpful in either understanding yourself, a friend, a loved one, or maybe even an entire group of people.

January 4, 2024

Interesting to read the Ending the Day gatha in this moment. My life is one day shorter, and I spent much of this day angry and frustrated.

Even in this moment, after watching a nice, artistic, romantic movie, I find it hard to objectively observe, or even observe (from any distance) at all, my angry self. Anger which is likely laid over sadness.

Sadness that the whole me don’t feel seen by me for who I am. Within me, there is this constant expectation that I be different than who I am in a moment.

See me, love me, be disappointed by me, but do not be angry with who I am. I am all that I am. I struggle to not want to be different than who I am.

I struggle to know that I am enough.
I struggle to feel that I am worthy of love.
I dream of days of equanimity. I dream of peace and rest. I dream so much it hurts.
I don’t want to dream anymore, I want to be.

I am enough. You are enough.

If we can only remember this in every moment, we can stop hurting each other.
I see the beautiful imperfections.
I see the crying child. I see the exhausted parent. I see myself confused. I know there is a path I can walk and yet I feel frozen, unable to take the next step.
I need to take a few steps backwards to find who has been left behind. All of me needs to move forward. Without all of my pieces, there is no me.
It may take a lifetime to discover what I don’t know. That is ok.

Only when I walk in freedom, do I realize my whole heart is already here.

Only when I live deeply, can I see that this day is ending and when I wake tomorrow there will be twenty-four brand new hours before me.
With all my heart, may I remember to feel, see, and act with this heart, that ceaselessly beats to sustain life.

May I look back on each day and know that I am enough, that we are enough, that I have, even if just for a moment, seen with the eyes of understanding and love.

I am enough. I am enough. I am enough. You are enough. Let us rest.

With love, Rob.

Dear reader,

When it is helpful in this new year, I hope that you will remind yourself, as many times as you need, that:

you are enough

Thich Nhat Hanh liked to write these three words in calligraphy as a reminder. The featured image of this post was written by Br. Phap Huu, his long-time attendant and a kind and loving soul.

When I first heard the idea that I am enough from Thich Nhat Hanh many years ago, I thought it was so simple. I thought to myself, “yeah, I got this, I am enough. Thanks, Thay.”

As I reflect and look back on 2023, using these words as a lens through which to look at my thoughts and feelings, I see how often my upset is rooted in a feeling that I am somehow not good enough.

In this world of perfectionism and competition, we are taught to always do better. It can be a matter of survival. I have it engrained in me to root out imperfections to move up and move ahead. What isn’t engrained in me, that I find myself needing a reminder of, is that I am already enough in this very moment.

I need an intention to look deeply into my actions and the way I live my life to know when I have made a mistake. This opens space to reflect and allows for growth. It allows me to let go of an idea that is no longer helpful, it allows me to be able to see from another’s point of view, and it allows me to know when/how to speak out about situations of injustice. I also need to know that I am enough, even with all of my mistakes, and that I am worthy of love with all of my imperfections. I need to both see my mistakes clearly and not trap myself in a prison of guilt.

When I water my houseplants, I do not become angry with them for not growing faster. In the same way, I try not to become angry with myself for not having already transformed the habits that lead to my mistakes.

When I look at the violence and war in the world today (Ukraine/Russia and Palestine/Israel), I wonder how the situation would be different if the humans in our world could see their mistakes, set and intention to transform, and try to see from another’s point of view.

What if we all were able to see with the eyes of understanding and love?

We are human

We all have the seeds of sadness, fear, anger, and violence within us. As we look back upon our actions of this past year, can we set an intention to water the seeds of understanding, love, forgiveness, and compassion for the new year?

Can we look with the eyes of interbeing, and see that when I harm another person or group, I also harm myself? Can we look upon the perpetrator and the victim, on the oppressed and the oppressor, and see the human nature within all of us? Can we learn to understand and forgive ourselves and each-other, in order to move forwards in freedom?

A helpful guide for me, as I’ve been reflecting these past few weeks, has been these talks from Thich Nhat Hanh. They are from 2008-2009 and were curated by the Plum Village monastics for the 2023 Rains Retreat in Plum Village, France. In them, Thay teaches about the Plum Village Buddhist contribution to a global ethic. His teachings are so relevant in this moment as we look both at our individual actions within our small corners of the world and at the actions of our larger cultures/nations/societies around the globe. If you are looking to learn from the master, head over there 🙂.

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