The moment the sky offers even a hint of sunshine, I hasten to my local park to revel in the luminescent bounty and to stretch my winter-weary limbs. Invariably, between the surrounding stillness and the rhythm of my breathing, I become aware that my inner voice is merrily chattering away. Loved ones, creative musings, grand visions and small miracles: a plethora of thoughts continually feature in the theater of my mind.
There was once a time when I chastised myself for this, disdaining the cacophony and likening it to the Tower of Babel. I would rein in and harness my itinerant thoughts, loyally returning to a primary precept of contemporary spiritual practice that encourages notions of stillness, being in the now, or quieting the mind.
But my unruly thoughts returned time and again. So, I stopped trying to influence them and something even more meaningful revealed itself: I discovered I could observe and witness the natural movement of my mind. What pure joy it is to be simultaneously attentive and unrestrained! When my intent is only to notice, my thoughts are nothing like babbling chaos, but more like burbling children romping in a sunlit field of daisies, and I am their proud mama.
This is something we often overlook on our spiritual path: inclusion.
Spiritual practice includes—everything.
I don’t have to endeavor to change anything; I include the thoughts or habits that I wish to be something else, as an experience of Self.
I do not have to actually “do” anything; I simply notice what I notice.
I don’t have to be other than who I am; I simply notice my impulses—and this cultivates a relationship of self-honesty.
Thich Nhat Hanh expressed this idea with four uncomplicated words:
I am that too.
I am that too is a powerful inclusion mantra, which you can silently invoke any time, for yourself or toward another. Begin with private discontents and work your way outward to other people and events. If you notice any discomfort, simply reaffirm: I am that too.
Inclusion allows self-honesty to flourish, and self-honesty leads to compassion. When you say these four words, and engage them with heartfelt intent, you can expect, at the very least, to experience a personal sense of peace and benevolence. I know I do.