One day when I was a child, I looked into the water container in the front yard and I saw a very beautiful leaf at the bottom. It had so many colors. I wanted to take the leaf out and play with it. But my arm was too short to reach the bottom of the water container. So I used a stick to try to take it out. It was difficult and I became impatient. I stirred and stirred twenty or thirty times, and yet the leaf didn’t come to the surface. So I gave up and I threw away the stick. When I came back a few minutes later the leaf had come to the surface of the water, and I picked it up easily. In the few moments I had been away, the water had continued to swirl and had brought the leaf up to the surface.
This is how our unconscious mind works. When we have a problem or difficulty to solve or when we want to have more insight into a situation, our conscious mind has to entrust to the unconscious mind the task of finding the insight. The unconsciousness mind knows how to listen and collaborate with us and with our intentions. Sometimes before going to sleep you might tell your store consciousness: "Tomorrow I want to wake up at 4:30"; and tomorrow you will wake up at 4:30. To meditate you don’t only use your conscious mind, what we call in Buddhism "mind consciousness"; you also need to know how to use and trust your unconscious mind, called "store consciousness" in Buddhism. When we plant a seed in the soil, we trust the soil. Mind consciousness should plant the object of meditation into the soil of store consciousness and not wrestle with it superficially on the level of mind consciousness.
When a peace conference takes place, it must be organized in that spirit. We have to rely on the collective insight offered by the collective store consciousness of all those who are in the conference. We should know the techniques of taking care of our collective store consciousness in order to have the greatest insight possible. If we can become more civilized, our legislature will operate like that. Every member will know how to practice so that store consciousness can offer the best insight.
During the day, mind consciousness creates all the conditions for store consciousness to be able to do it; it’s by the practice of deep breathing, calming, looking deeply, and allowing ourselves to be, that we can help our store consciousness to offer the best. Not only psychotherapists, but also members of government should learn how to make good use of our unconscious mind to serve our people in our country and our world. We should all know how to practice to have more insight and to have the best kind of insight. When you offer this way to others, it needs to be based on your own experience of practice. Kaleidoscope
When I was a child I used to enjoy playing with a kaleidoscope that I made from a tube and a few pieces of ground glass. Whenever I turned it a little bit, I saw many wonderful sights. Every time I made a small movement of my fingers, one sight would disappear and another would appear. I didn’t cry at all when the first spectacle disappeared, because I knew that nothing was lost; another beautiful sight always followed.
When we look into a kaleidoscope, we see a beautiful symmetrical image; and whenever we turn the kaleidoscope, the image disappears. Can we describe this as a birth or a death? Or is the image only a manifestation? After this manifestation there’s another manifestation that’s equally beautiful—nothing is lost at all. I have seen people die very peacefully, with a smile, because they see that birth and death are only waves on the surface of the ocean, just like the spectacle in the kaleidoscope.
Copyright © 2016 by Thich Nhat Hanh. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.