Thich Nhat Hanh, poet, Zen master and Buddhist monk at The Memorial Church, Friday, March 8, 2002.
Staff Photo Justin Ide/Harvard University News Office

For nearly a year, I’ve been learning how to engage in the present moment from my teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh. I’ve read through a few of his books since last Christmas Day when I wondered, “What do Jews do on Christmas?” (The answer came to me in a vision: read Buddhism.)

Recently, I discovered that his books cover half a shelf at Barnes & Noble. So I picked up his 1987 classic, Being Peace, in which I found this poem:

Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment!

Each line is worth considering…

“Breathing in, I calm my body” is straightforward, especially if I relax my shoulders when I think it and inhale.

“Breathing out, I smile” works wonderfully when I’m driving or pushing a shopping cart. (The smile doesn’t need to be maniacal.)

“Dwelling in the present moment” recognizes that later and earlier are not as important as right now, when life is happening.

And “I know this is a wonderful moment!” reminds me to (in the words of the wonderful lyric by Stephen Stills) “love the one you’re with.” Love the moment you are in.

I’ve really enjoyed reciting this whenever I’ve lost sight of the present moment.

Do you think the great Thich Nhat Hanh likes reading Net Cotton Content? Or, perhaps, when he sees that I’ve quoted his poem without his permission, does he think:

Breathing in, I see your copyright infringement.
Breathing out, I dial my lawyer.
Squatting on my intellectual property,
I know this calls for litigation!

Let’s hope not. Let’s breathe in. And out. With a smile.