How to Love – Book Recommendation
Text by Azura Rubio
We are wrapping up February’s theme of “Relationships” with a book recommendation.
For those unfamiliar with the author, Thich Nhat Hanh was a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Monk.
He wrote books and poetry and taught mindfulness. He was a strong advocate for peace. Indeed, Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. The Zen Master died last month, at ninety-five.
Thich Nhat Hanh was prolific. He wrote poetry and published more than a hundred books in English, catering to different age groups and audiences. His well-known materials include “Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet”, “The Miracle of Mindfulness”, and “The Art of Living”.
“How to Love” is a part of a series published by Penguin Random House UK.
The others titles within this range include “How to Eat, ” How to Relax”, etc. Each book is light and small. Easy to carry around and referred to – when you have spare time between tasks and want to wean yourself off social media.
The content appears sparse and straightforward but hints at more profound ideas. The short passages touch on sub-topics of love. They prompt reflections, especially regarding the role we play in relationships. Those left intrigued can investigate further by reading the author’s meatier books.
Some colour –
Within the main section of “Notes on Love”, the author outlines the four elements he considers the foundation of true love. These are: (1) Loving Kindness, (2) Compassion, (3) Joy and (4) Equanimity. He advises us to generate these factors internally before offering them to others. Furthermore, we can supplement these components with “respect and trust” and by “accepting ourselves”.
Towards the end, there is a section on “Practices for Nourishing True Love”.
There is a specific mention of “Compassionate Listening”. This resonated with me – because I noticed that my relationships significantly improved when I made an effort to listen wholeheartedly instead of planning what I would say next (see here for a conversation between Oprah and Thich Nhat Hanh).
On this topic, the Zen Master posits that we can keep our compassion alive and help heal the other party when we listen mindfully and sincerely. It seems like a valuable practice to adopt at home and in the workplace, especially when there is conflict to resolve and peace to attain.
Incidentally, this idea is not far off from the advice dished out by Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator. For instance, in his book “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It“, Chris Voss counselled “active listening” as an effective way to disarm terrorists or to negotiate successfully. Indeed, there are many commonalities between “active listening” and “compassionate listening.”
“How to Love” ends with six mantras that readers can use to help them become more present and mindful in different situations and relationships. I plan to try them out and see what impact it brings to my relationships.