What Really Matters?

“You are a wonderful manifestation. The whole universe has come together to make your existence
possible.” (Thich Nhat Hahn)
Pause for a moment and notice your reaction to Thich Nhat Hahn’s words. How do you feel?
Puzzled? Uplifted? Pressured? Challenged? Hopeful? Happy? Non-plussed? When I first read
these words they really startled me For a start, although I’m lucky to have very encouraging and
caring people around me, I don’t think I’ve ever been celebrated as a “wonderful manifestation”
before. As I’ve gone back to these words there were times when I’ve felt like there’s too big a
responsibility in them, times when I’ve been uncomfortable with believing that the universe aligned
to make me, well, me and times when I thought ‘hey, why not?’. I’ve also found that the longer I
stay with these words the more I find peace and strength in them.
I’ve also been finding myself wondering what my day would be like if I was surrounded by bus ads,
radio broadcasts, newspaper front pages, billboards, straight-to- my-inbox deals and online banner
adverts speaking this language instead of the competitive, alarmist language which saturates our
culture just now. The constant flurries of ‘latest offers’, ‘best ever deals’ and ‘unmissable savings’
can overwhelm me sometimes. I am tired of being asked if I’m on the cheapest tarrif, which
broadband provider I’m with, if I have the app for that, if I’d like 50% off (but only for the next 24hrs)
and whether or not I want to improve my credit rating. The underlying message that I’m being
ripped off, missing out or stupidly passing on an upgrade everyone else is taking leaves me far from
feeling like a ‘wonderful manifestation’.
That’s where Thich Nhat Hanh comes in. When nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize, Martin
Luther King Jnr stated that awarding the honour to “this gentle Buddhist monk” would “reawaken in
men the teaching of beauty and love found in peace.” For me, finding him, and others, who know,
and have taken time to share, the value of stillness, compassion and inner peace has given me a
‘pause’ button: a way to step back from the noisy, consumerist, competitive voices which can
dominate and connect into being and breathing and that being enough. And, when I say ‘that being
enough’, I mean that it’s enough to see that actually although I can feel that there’s always more to
do or too much left undone I can just stop and be, though I can struggle and hurt I am part of a
whole humanity which struggles and hurts and, ultimately, although I’m imperfect, I’m perfect too.
I’ve come to find that in each day there are plenty of voices and examples of compassion,
mindfulness and authentic happiness which offer a different set of priorities, a different way of
relating to others and a different way of being. Often, too, I need to remind myself that these ways
of relating and being are being lived out by people (sometimes even me!) and communities
(sometimes even my own!) in the here and now. They exist in our world and when we choose to we
can connect into them. This can be in small ways: I can leave my phone at home and go to the park;
I can listen deeply to what people want to say instead of hurrying a conversation along; I can always
come back to the in and the out, the in and the out, the in and the out of my breath. It can be in
bigger ways too: through in the values we live out in our family life and significant relationships;
through community projects and local (or global) activism; or through leading change at an
organisational level in the work that we do. The choice is mine and ours – we are all “wonderful
If what I’m writing about here resonates with you, or even has just sparked your curiosity a little, I’d
invite you to be part of the Exploring What Matters course. We’ll be meeting from 10am-12pm on
eight Saturdays from the 22 nd April at Tribe Porty to explore what really matters for a happy,
meaningful life. The course has been created by Action for Happiness and is run by local volunteers
(like me) who want to see positive change in their communities. It draws on the latest research into
happiness and wellbeing, is focused on practical ways for you to make the difference you want to
make and is open to all. We’d love for you to join us.
To join click here
Keep in touch: www.facebook.com/happyporty2017
Find out more: happyporty@gmail.com