A few years ago I visited a 6 day retreat in Holland, guided by the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Thich Nath Hanh. Thây (as his students call him) is a worldwide known and beloved spiritual teacher. He radiates a deep sense of inner peace and has the capability to covey this peace in a very simple but powerful way.

He leads special and transforming retreats and writes inspiring books. He teached me a lot about living mindfully, about slowing down and above all, to embrace the here and the now with everything there is. Even if that moment is filled with anger, or sorrow or frustration. If you let go of the resistance you feel about the present moment, and also let go of all the thoughts that it should be different as it is; if you lovingly dare to acknowledge: this is it, this is what I have to deal with right now, then an enormous sense of inner peace will arise. This is what he teaches me and what I have experienced many times.

It is an art of living that enquires daily practise. So during this retreat, I decided to by one of Thay’s calligraphies signed with the words This is it. I wanted to hang the calligraphy above my altar, to remind and support my daily practise of embracing the present moment lovingly.

I went to the stall where the monk was selling the calligraphies. I choose a nice copy, but when I took a close look, I noticed a tiny little hole in the handmade paper. So I asked the monk for another one. A bit surprised he went to look for a different copy. And while I was waiting patiently I suddenly saw the hilarious lesson that was presented to me: I wanted a calligraphy to remind myself that everything that comes to me in the present moment is to be lovingly accepted. I receive a beautiful copy, and what is the first thing I do? I ask for another one!

I busted into laughter and called out to the monk: ’No, no, I actually do want the one with the hole. Especially the one with the imperfection!’

Accepting the present moment as it is. It will always be an exercise which needs to be practised again and again. If I do it with a smile, it even becomes quite a pleasant thing to do.