The art of communicating

Something struck me hard when I read a particular passage in Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Art of Communicating. Bad communication or the lack thereof sums up perhaps 70% of my problems or sufferings.

Buddhist books are often written in such a peaceful and straightforward way that you feel like you’re reading a children’s book for wise children.

Thich Nhat Hanh emphasizes the importance of mindfulness and reminds us that people who suffer internally aren’t always aware of the present, not to mention in tune with their bodies. Their minds are trapped in the past and the what-if future. When you focus on the present moment and actually observe what your suffering is doing to your body, you have a chance to recover your control and balance.

Yes, it’s easy to say that. You can read this one hundred times, and it won’t get into your head because you don’t believe in it. You’ll have to experience it for yourself and also want to fix it.


When I was on anti-depressants thirteen years ago, I told my psychiatrist about my sufferings and identity crisis. He said that who I was—was in my blood, my genes and my culture. And that there was nothing I could do about it. I took huge offence and switched doctors right afterwards because I wanted someone to prescribe me the pills.

Years later, I thought of him again. Well, he was partly right.

That particular passage in Thich Nhat Hanh’s book described how your ancestors and parents would pass on their sufferings and traumas to you if left untreated. They didn’t mean to do that to you; they just never had the means or support to combat their problems. How do you know? You look up to your parents and observe them when you’re a child. That look on their face will be imprinted on you.

If you want to start fixing this, you’ll have to practise mindfulness, which is pretty much communicating with yourself. If you can’t do that, you won’t be able to communicate well with anyone.

I figured this much.

And yet, I have to admit that I am terrified. Mindfulness is a long path, which is not easy either, especially if you have life getting in your way. But hey, mindfulness is life. When I went to the 10-day course in 2014, I felt a significant difference when I returned home. However, life just caught up with me again because I didn’t continue practising meditation. If you say you can’t find one hour in the morning and one hour at night, think of the time you waste procrastinating.

Some public schools would even start with a 20-minute meditation session before class. The kids’ attention span and focus had immensely improved.

I suck with my 20-45 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening, but I still do it. I have to. Communicating is the hardest thing.

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