Thich Nhat Hanh's publisher says: put the book down and just sit there
"I can't tell you how many people have said, are you just saying the same thing over and over again in your books? And I'm like, well, not exactly, and yes." - Rachel Neumann
She says Thich Nhat Hanh told her: "I don't need somebody who already knows or believes what I believe or who thinks like I think. What I'm looking for is somebody who can help me translate what I'm saying to people who need to hear it."
"It's funny working in books around mindfulness where really all you want to say is stop reading this. Stop right now. Stop. Right. Now. You stop, I have nothing else that's gonna stop. You stop right now and just sit here. And we'd say it a lot. You know... the first line is how to say it, it's like okay stop whatever else it is you're doing and just be right here. And it's the hardest thing."
But since then, having worked on several books about mindfulness, joy and justice, Neumann has embraced Buddhist teachings. Though she recognizes just how difficult it can be to just sit still. She's come up with a few tricks that keep her mindfulness practice on track during her busy days, such as pausing at doorknobs.
"I've made the doorknob my, you know, my boss in that when I look at it I think 'Oh right, when I hold this, before I open the door, I stop for a minute and take a breath'.
"In [my] last meeting with Thich Nhat Hanh before his stroke we had the same conversation and he said... 'You know, I think the hardest thing for people, especially in the west, is to learn the art of suffering.' We can't learn the art of happiness until we're OK with suffering, and that's the piece that we keep not wanting to get to."
Neumann's writing has appeared in various magazines and anthologies including The New York Times, Lion's Roar (formerly Shambhala Sun) and The Village Voice. She recently contributed to Lion's Roar's Special Issue about Thich Nhat Hanh; you can find related material at Lion's Roar here.