Islands, again

“Many years ago I had a hermitage in a wood about two hours’ drive from Paris. One morning I left the hermitage to walk in the woods. I spent the whole day there and practiced sitting and writing poetry. It was very beautiful in the morning, but in the late afternoon I noticed that clouds were gathering and the wind was beginning to blow, so I walked home. When I arrived at my hermitage it was a mess because in the morning I had opened all the windows and the door so that the sunshine could come in and dry everything inside. The wind had blown all the papers off my desk and they were scattered everywhere. The hermitage was cold and miserable. The first thing I did was close the windows and the door. The second thing I did was to make a fire. When the fire began to glow I heard the joyful noise of the wind and I felt much better. The third thing I did was to pick up all the scattered sheets of paper, put them on the table, and put a stone on them. I spent twenty minutes doing that. Then, finally, I sat down close to the wood stove. I felt wonderful, and the hermitage had become warm and pleasant.

“When you find that your conditions are miserable because the windows of your eyes are open, the windows of your ears are open, the wind from outside is blowing in, and you have become a victim — a mess in your feelings, your body, and your perceptions — you should not try hard. You should go home to your hermitage; it is inside you. Close the doors, light the fire, and make it cozy again. That is what I call ‘taking refuge in the island of self.’ If you don’t go home to yourself, you continue to lose yourself. You destroy yourself and you destroy people around you, even if you have goodwill and want to do something to help. That is why the practice of going home to the island of self is so important. No one can take your true home away.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

Peace Begins Here


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