"Fear" by Thich Nhat Hanh
By Thich Nhat Hanh
Our greatest teacher lies within. Birth and death are only concepts. The present moment is our true home. Everything in life is impermanent.
These eternal truths form the core of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Thich Nhat Hanh’s latest book, a meditation on how mindfulness can combat fear and discontent in the contemporary world. Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm makes slippery spiritual concepts like impermanence and mindfulness more accessible through comparisons in the tangible world: “Looking deeply into the sheet of paper, we can see the trees, the soil, sun, rain... you can see the previous life of the sheet of paper.”
Hanh’s simple, declarative sentences have the lulling effect of a trickling waterfall: his prose is fluid and crisp, and he offers a refreshing perspective on the futility of the rat race, as in the chapter “Learning to Stop.” He offers strategies for harnessing calm in an emotional storm, but it’s not always clear how to cultivate the mindfulness he speaks of so eloquently. Though his mantras and breathing exercises are instructive, Hanh doesn’t fully address the long journey it takes to arrive at the here and now.
Fear is an excellent primer for readers new to the practice of mindful living. At times, however, the platitudes about conquering fear feel divorced from the practical challenges of staying present in a plugged-in, hyper-connected world.