If Nothing Else, Breathe

“My appointment with life is here and now,” is a quote I heard from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (a.k.a. Thay) last October. Fortunately for me, my dear hubby, John, watched the boys while I escaped for a retreat in the desert hills overlooking San Diego. I justified the pilgrimage noting Thay is 87, hence who knows how many more times he’ll do another U.S. tour. Having read Thay’s books for the past two decades, I relied on his guidance to help keep my sanity in the sleep-deprived state of twin infancy. Knowing this, John obliged, taking twin toddler duty for the weekend.

A free woman, I flew south to Deer Park, the California practice center that is an extension of his original monastery in France. With onsite parking over capacity, hundreds of us parked our cars in the adjacent neighborhood at the base of the foothills to hike the remaining miles. Encouraging signs along the ascent read: “Happiness is knowing you are on the right path”…”Breathe, you are alive”…and finally, “I have arrived, I am home.”


Early arrivals claimed all the meditation hall cushions, so I scouted a folding chair with a view through the open doors to hear the dharma talk. Basking in the sun, I couldn’t escape mom duty. In front of me sat a woman and her fidgeting four-year-old son. She was unarmed with distractions so I proffered blank pieces of notebook paper, pens, and folders from my tote that were transformed into paper airplanes, pictures, and scraps by her appreciative companion as we soaked up Thay’s words.

His teachings were both simple and practical. “When you hear your telephone, let the ring remind you. Come back to your breath.” He reminded us it is not complicated to breathe and be present. We did walking meditation in silence, taking two or three steps with each inhale and exhale. His calligraphy of succinct mantras was on display: This is it; Happy teachers will change the world; Clarity. Of particular note to families, he emphasized that we find ways to water the positive, happy seeds in our partners and children. In his words, “I will try to water the seeds of kindness in you, because I know that will make you happy. And if you could, I ask you to water the seeds of goodness in me, because that makes me happy, and I know you want me to be happy.” He made us laugh.

I appreciate how indulgent it was to escape for this weekend getaway, and I am ever so grateful to my husband that our children weren’t fidgeting at my side. If you aren’t in a position to do the same, I invite you to retreat into your own breath wherever you are, however hectic life may seem, so you can be present to your own life.


This post originally ran in the Eastside Moms of Multiples member newsletter. http://www.emoms.org/