How to love mindfully

Posted on December 30th, 2015

Oh I do love a bit of Thich Nhat Hanh. I recently discovered that the Vietnamese monk who brought us the mindful concept of “washing the dishes, to wash the dishes” has written about mindful love in his book “How to Love”.

Image via

Image via

It’s a beautiful read. It hits nails on relationship heads. But I was struck by this passage that points to a yearning, which I’ve written about before. This yearning is a deep sense that something is missing, a “something” that we long to connect with. It’s essentially a visceral longing to connect with our “real selves”. But we don’t always get this.

Nhat Hanh writes:

“Sometimes we feel empty; we feel a vacuum, a great lack of something. We don’t know the cause; it’s very vague, but that feeling of being empty inside is very strong. We expect and hope for something much better so we’ll feel less alone, less empty…

“Because we feel empty, we try to find an object of our love. Sometimes we haven’t had the time to understand ourselves, yet we’ve already found the object of our love. When we realize that all our hopes and expectations of course can’t be fulfilled by that person, we continue to feel empty. You want to find something, but you don’t know what to search for.”

Then he adds this clinger:

“That is why you check your email many times a day!”

Yes, this is why we check and toggle, searching for that “something we’re missing”. It’s obsessive and it’s unfulfilling. Like bobbing for apples. You never reach satiation because you don’t know what you’re searching for. And the lurching out – to emails, to strangers on Twitter, to beloveds – just takes us farther from what we’re missing.

Which is, of course, our real selves. Our real selves aren’t out there in cyberspace or on the couch next to us. They’re much closer. This is the direction we need to be heading in.


How’s your inwards journey treating you right now? A bit tough at this time of year, hey.

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  • Heidi Hodder

    Thanks for this. I always find that if I choose to meditate in response to this yearning I feel much better, but the urge to choose a distraction (such as checking emails) is so strong it usually wins.


  • Amy Landry

    Beautiful. Thank you for this gem. Loving every word.


  • Erin

    Oh good god, this kicked me in the heart.
    In a good way.
    I think.


  • Tamara Armstrong

    Perfect timing as always and yes it’s rough, but reading this little reminder does help! x


  • Sarah Rose

    Spot on, I came to this sense or conclusion today and it here it is written in words- oh so accurately. This is affirmation for me..and relief with a healthy dose of further insight. Thank you SW for sharing!


  • Kaz

    Funny, I just bought “How to Love” a few weeks ago..along with “How to Sit”. Reading TNH is always like taking a deep, calming breath. I taught my daughter these words of his to say to herself if she’s stressed:
    In, Out
    deep, slow
    Calm, ease
    Smile, release
    present moment, wonderful moment .

    Simple and effective.


    Gabrielle Reply:

    I really like this, thank you!


  • Urban Fringe

    Thank-you, was checking your website out of a sense of restless, unsatisfying, post-Xmas listlessness, trying to find ‘meaning’ and ‘connection’- so this is a timely reminder. I am going to turn the internet off and try and proceed mindfully!


  • Daniel L

    “As the ocean is never full of water, so is the heart never full of love…”

    Thank you Sarah!


  • Sarah N.

    I find this very interesting. I remember when I was younger, in my teens, twenties and early 30s I felt very lonely. I genuinely thought that a relationship was the answer, but they never worked out. They were always very intense and very short lived, leaving me feeling decimated. I remember the actual moment that “it” clicked for me. I had been dating a guy only for a few months when he dumped me. I was crushed. A few months after I had a dream which reminded me of a story he had told me about his ex-girlfriend. In the story he behaved quite horribly to her. At the time I told him that he had been wrong to behave in such a way and explained, from a woman’s perspective why his ex had been so hurt. After the dream, I thought what a horrible person. How could I have not seen his true nature? How could I have convinced myself to NOT see his true nature? I would never want to be with such an inconsiderate person. He was not right for me…and as soon as I realized this, all of the pain, all of the sorrow lifted like a fog. I felt such a sense of ease and relief. I vowed from that day to “see” people more clearly, which is to say, I let go of my NEED. I allowed myself to be complete as an individual, and quite honestly I have never felt lonely since that day. Of course, having a dog may have something to do with that 😉


  • heather

    kerthunk! damn that’s good.


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