Buddhist scholar Thich Nhat Hanh teaches mindfulness through calligraphy

The Way Out is In, the Zen Calligraphy of Thich Nhat Hanh © Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh teaches mindfulness. The monk, author, poet, teacher, scholar, peace activist, and founder of Plum Village in France is an iconic figure in this ever-popular field. His latest book, The Way Out is In, uses the art of calligraphy, of drawing and illustration, to distill ancient Buddhist teachings into simple phrases and constructed to resonate with modern life – more accurately modern western lives. ‘In my calligraphy, there is ink, tea, breathing, mindfulness, and concentration,’ he observes. Writing calligraphy, he says, is a practice of meditation. ‘I write the words or sentences that can remind people about the practice.’

For more than 50 years Nhat Hanh has been a pioneer of what is often referred to as engaged and applied Buddhism – relating the ancient wisdom to more contemporary concerns, including relationships, consumption, politics, peace, communities, and ethics. Mindfulness teaches us the skills to live happily in the present moment instead of getting lost in the past or obsessing about the future.

The Way Out is In, the Zen Calligraphy of Thich Nhat Hanh © Thich Nhat Hanh

The theory is that by maintaining our thoughts in the now, by quieting down our minds and focusing our energy in the present, we can be more productive, more creative, and ultimately lead happier lives. This is no easy task given the fast pace of modern life. The short, sweet sentences in The Way Out is In are therefore meant as a set of tools and the calligraphy is seen as a visual aid to enhancing their impact. One calligraphy reads: ‘Breathe and enjoy this wonderful moment’. Nhat Hanh says the word ‘wonderful’ means full of wonders. ‘If you are truly there in the moment, you can recognise so many wonders in that moment.’

The Way Out is In is a fusion of art, design, and philosophy within a wonderfully tactile book. The 60 unique works gathered here, printed on Asian rice paper with black ink-brushed lettering and stamped red seals, offer an uplifting read; beneath the simplicity of language are valuable life lessons.

Images are © Thich Nhat Hanh

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