“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation
Plum Village Buddhist Center (founded by Thich Nhat Hanh)
Oprah's Super Soul Podcast - Thich Nhat Hanh
The Miracle of Mindfulness (1975)
Thich Nhat Hahn
In Summary

The Miracle of Mindfulness is about recognising and embracing the wonder of existence. Each moment, object, flicker, face or thought is divine and precious, if you would only be present and aware of them.


Similar to the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh was exiled from his native land (Vietnam) for refusing to see God as on only one side of the war. Wandering without a home, he founded multiple orders, charities and monasteries – and was even nominated by Martin Luther King Jr. for a Nobel Peace Prize. Having been one of the first Vietnamese Buddhists to study a secular subject at university or to conduct research at premier institutions, such as Princeton in America, he subsequently coined the term ‘engaged Buddhism,’ signifying the need for the religious to get involved in broader society and social activism. Yet, unlike the Dalai Lama, he was eventually invited back to his homeland and spent his final years at his former temple before passing on in 2022 at the ripe old age of 95.  


Amid his myriad international charities, institutions and causes, Thich Nhat Hanh also managed to publish over one hundred books that have been translated into nearly four dozen languages. However, the first and most popular of these did not begin as a book at all but rather as a lengthy letter penned to a Buddhist brother at a school that Thich Nhat Hanh founded before fleeing the country. These were dark days for the faithful in Vietnam, and his words were meant as a guiding light of encouragement. The letter was later translated, distributed to several foreign dignitaries and eventually published as The Miracle of Mindfulness, helping broaden Thich Nhat Hanh’s already considerable global influence.


Most minds are scattered, constantly replaying past conversations out of insecurity and anxiously obsessing over futures that may never come to pass. They are phantoms. Barely present in the here and now, their focus is always deferred to some other time or place. Thich Nhat Hanh believes meditation can help us overcome our default tendency to postpone reality; its practice enables us to become truly present in the immediate moment.

However, instead of occupying a brief, segregated place and time amid the course of our day, meditation should be a general way of functioning in the world. We should meditate even during chores and tedious tasks, for if we are not truly present when we are washing the dishes then we won’t be truly present when we dine on them later. Rushing through the preparations to get to the meal will lead to rushing through the meal to get to dessert, then rushing through dessert to get to bed, never slowing down or enjoying what already is.  

Being alive is not about chasing the next thrill but finding the miracle already latent in each and every moment; it is paying attention to the rhythm of our breath when we run to the store. It is noticing the different textures of the floor as we scrub it and enjoying how our soapy fingers slip and slide through one another. It is witnessing where our thoughts rabbit-trail through a dull afternoon. ‘Each act is a rite, a ceremony.’  

Central to this practice is not letting any moment, sensation or thought escape our notice – even the less wholesome ones. We may be tempted to repress or quickly move on from cruel or discomforting thoughts within us, but the goal is to observe and acknowledge them, accepting ourselves and our world as they truly are. Once we can do this, we no longer need to compartmentalise the different aspects of ourselves and can accept who we are as a whole and unified being.  

This is the beginning of the end for the illusion of duality and the suffering it spawns. That’s because meditation helps us see the interconnected oneness of all phenomena so that even seemingly small and unimportant things – such as chores, mosquitoes or dish soap – contain the whole universe within them.  

He also emphasises breath meditation because ‘breath is a wondrous method of taking hold of your consciousness.’ Crucially, he expands, ‘Breath isn’t simply a means by which to chase away thoughts and feelings. Breath remains a vehicle to unite body and mind and open the gate to wisdom.’  

Why meditate? He succinctly explains that we need to realise total rest, which doesn’t happen often, even when we are asleep. Meditation is conscious relaxation (as opposed to TV, drink and food, which are largely unconscious).  


The goal of mindful living has never been more resonant. With all the strife, competition, aggression, contradiction, stress and unhappiness in the world, this message opens a skylight to mindful listening, non-violent communication, compassionate understanding and the intention to connect rather than just to be right. Amid the busy tedium of our daily schedules, chores need not be a chore, nor should routines be done by rote. Thich Nhat Hanh’s vision of meditation does not require a retreat from the world but an even deeper return to it, seeing divinity everywhere and the infinite in the infinitesimal.

Further Reading By This Author

Thich Nhat Hanh wrote over one hundred and thirty other books, such as his ever-popular The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, The Art of Living, You Are Here, Being Peace and Peace is Every Step.

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