The prompt was “Who is someone that inspires you and why?” and like my writing pal Marquessa I had a problem initially in producing a clear answer to this. There is a fine line between people you admire and people that actually inspire you. I admire greatly people that rescue animals for instance but do they inspire me? I also admire footballers like Sam Reid and Brent Daniels who don’t have a lot of natural skills but who give 150% to their team whenever they play. Inspirational? Perhaps not.

The word inspire comes from “the sense evolution seems to be from “breathe into” to “infuse animation or influence,” thus “affect, rouse, guide or control,” especially by divine influence.” and from this I see inspiration as a step “above” admiration. I don’t just admire their actions but they influence me. My first reaction when I read the prompt was Thich Nhat Hanh and after considering the differences between admiration and inspiration I kept returning to his name. On reflection I found that I not only admire him but I find inspiration in his words and deeds that encourage me to live better and to think clearer. I will include a number of his quotes in this post because it is these pithy words that have the most inspirational effect on me.

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” 

― Thich Nhat Hanh

Thay, as he is familiarly known, first came to my notice back in the 1960’s when he was an instrumental part of the Paris peace talks that led to the cessation of the Vietnam War. Who was this Vietnamese Buddhist monk? I knew little about buddhism in those days, it was to me just some Asian type of religion. For his efforts in brokering the peace talks he was banished by both the North and South Vietnam governments and he was unable to return to his homeland until just recently. He stayed in France after the peace talks and went on to found the Plum Village community in southern France which is where he still lives although in his late nineties and fairly infirm from a stroke. For a complete biography I suggest you read The Life Story of Thich Nhat Hanh from the Plum Village website.

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.” 

― Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace

There are the many actions of his life that I find inspiring starting with his creation of the Engaged Buddhism movement during those tumultuous times of the Vietnam War. To him it was not enough to sit back in monastic isolation and meditation, but to get out in the community and help those being affected by the war, an attitude that might be recommended to a number of other religions in this current climate.

“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.” 

― Thich Nhat Hanh

The tyranny of distance means that I haven’t been inspired by his presence but more by his words and writings which reach out across that barrier and usually cause me to stop and contemplate them after reading them. He has written a number of books and continues to write. We are fortunate that we also have mediums like YouTube which allow us to gain some experience of his presence and I recommend you researching him on YouTube. A particular favourite of mine is his explanation of continuation day in place of birthday. It is his clarity of vision that breaks through to me.

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” 

― Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

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