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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Abrams

Mini-Review: How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh

“How to Love” is the third book in the Mindfulness Essentials series by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, with illustrations by Jason DeAntonis. There is profound wisdom in the small, elegant package of this book. Each page contains one simple precept about love, for example, explaining how “understanding is love’s other name.”

The topic of this book is not limited to what we might think of as romantic love, but encompasses a more universal treatment of love for ourselves, individual others, community, the Earth and more.

Examples of the topics in the “Notes on Love” section include Buddhism’s four elements of true love: loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity; and many other love-related subjects including friendship; forgiveness; holy intimacy; attention; and what it means to be a true partner.

A key theme in “How to Love” is that feeling love for yourself is fundamental to being able to love others. To me, one of the most important parts of the book is the section on lovingkindness (metta in the Pali language) meditation. For reference, the text of the version within the book by Thich Nhat Hanh is below (this is also available with a more detailed explanation and instructions in this free article online)

May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.

May I be safe and free from injury.

May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.

May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love. May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself. May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.

May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day. May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free. May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.

One begins by offering lovingkindness to oneself, and then proceeds outward in concentric circles offering it to those close to you, your community, etc., and also those that you suffer to even think about (something you work up to). This simple practice can transform how we feel about ourselves and others, and offers a touchstone for a more peaceful existence in the world we’re living in.


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