"When understood, the Buddha’s universe..is anything but alien and inhibiting. It is a world full of hope, where everything we need to do can be done and everything that matters is within human reach. It is a world where kindness, unselfishness, non-violence, and compassion achieve what self-interest and arrogance cannot. It is a world where any human can be happy in goodness and the fullness of giving." ❦ Eknath Easwara

September 9, 2011

Thich Nhat Hanh on Embracing the Wounded Child in Us

From the great heart of the Buddha, and from the great heart of Thich Nhat Hanh, to the wounded child in each of us:

"In our childhood we may have been through stages of great difficulties. We have been wounded, we have had traumas and we generally do not want to remember those stages of suffering.  In us there is a protective defense mechanism, we want to defend ourselves against our suffering.

Every time we are in touch with the experience of suffering, we cannot bear it and therefore the thing called "defense mechanism" tries to hide these things deep down in our unconscious mind and when someone comes along and digs up these sufferings, we cry, we weep, we are sorrowful and we cannot eat for a couple of days. But running away from our suffering is not the best way to deal with it. Therefore, in Buddhism we are taught that we should practice mindfulness.

We should produce the energy of mindfulness and return and embrace the young child who is wounded in us. That young child can have been very heavily wounded – very severely wounded, but because, for many decades, we haven’t had the strength to deal with it, we have tried to run away from that suffering.

We have not dared to face it and therefore the wounded child in us continues to suffer and is asking for care and love, but we do the opposite – we run away.

We are always running away, because we are afraid of suffering and therefore the method of Buddhism is to practice in such a way that we produce the energy of mindfulness and with the energy of mindfulness we are no longer afraid. We are able to return and we are able to recognize that child in us. We are able to embrace that child in us and we are able to talk to that child in us.

When we have the energy of mindfulness we have the capacity to embrace that child like we would embrace a young brother or sister who has been wounded and we say, "I have, in the past, left you alone – I have gone away from you... now I am very sorry. I am going to embrace you.." We have to embrace that child and, if necessary, we have to cry together with that child perhaps while we are doing sitting meditation. We have to talk to that child with the language of love..."

Excerpt From a Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh on March 26, 1998 in Plum Village, France.

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  1. Beautiful advice, Steven...and very practical and compassionate insights into the dharma...that are all the more clear for your sharing of Thay's teachings here. Metta:) I will share this...

  2. Thanks, Adele! Much appreciated!

    In metta,