Tag Archives: Thich Nhat Hanh

Mind the Gap

The space between the platform and the train has an attribution all of its own. The London Underground station address system reminds us with a regularity (that has the danger of becoming too familiar) to mind the gap.

What happens in that moment when we do mind the gap? When we contemplate what the gap is all about between being stationary to being on the move?  Or from being on the move to being stationary?  What is there to mind?

 Mind – a place of contemplation, thought, attention

The – definitive article

Gap – a space where we can fall, be injured, disappear, tear apart.

Can I thoughtfully pay attention to a definitive identified space so that I won’t be seduced or captured by it? By definition if I do mind the gap, then, my mindfulness will lead me safely to my next destination.

Like many a pilgrim I haven’t always obeyed the instruction to mind the gap. I have sometime been seduced and fallen into the space, or danced dangerously close to the edge teetering on the immoveable platform playfully testing both the gap and the platform to see where I might fall.  I have also landed heavily in the gap while jumping off a train, scurrying to get a steady foothold so the gap would not claim me.

The gap holds its own secrets of darkness. The automated digital voice brings a comfort all of its own and when I hear it when I am London I often treat it like the bell for mediation calling us to stillness and back to mindfulness.

Thich Nhat Hanh first encouraged me to look for the signs in everyday life to bring me to mindfulness. One recording of his on driving in traffic is still a practice, and that is to treat the stop sign as an invitation to breathe and the sound of a bell on a train or a tram as the bell to call us back to mindfulness. So too is the message and the announcement to mind the gap.  Be mindful of falling into the abyss between being still and moving – alight the train to the next station in life with care and definition. Stand attentive to make the move and not be distracted by the gap in time and space that one might have to traverse to get to the station or back on the train.  Mind the gap could well be a mantra all of its own for the modern city pilgrim commuter!

The break in the continuity of the journey is what the gap announces – there will be a break in transmission is what happens when you are in the gap. The pause gives a moment of respite and has its own value and with it perhaps a practice.  A practice to honour the gap that we cross over from stillness to motion and back again – a continuous call and response of its own.

I reflect on the gaps I cross and the bridges I make when I step over gaps uniting in a single step two sides of a single journey. The generation gap is one that I find myself trying to bridge on a daily basis. The gap between the rich and poor, housed and homeless, fed and hungry, settled and seeking refuge – there are so many gaps that I feel called to be attentive too, even if I don’t have the capacity to bridge them, I hope I will be able to mind the gap and bring them to my attention.

I do want to mind the gap and to be mindful of the gaps I just jump over each day with ease; often with scant attention, just jumping on the next train, to the next station barely taking time to be still on the platform.

What if we had no gaps to mind ?   Hildegard I think the most ancient of baptismal rites provides some instruction here – in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, woman or man no more.  In this scenario there is a world of equality and unity, where there is no gap to mind because the void has been filled.  A reflection on that conundrum might be something for another time!

For now,  I  invoke the  mind the gap mantra and in doing so, reflect on the relationship between action and contemplation.

Mind the Gap

Mind the Gap


Served by Soup

Carrot soup was on the menu – a touch of spice and sweetness, vegan and diary free as well. All care was taken to make the choice of carrot soup for the guests that arrived in time for lunch on a winters day with Venus in transit from Melbourne to Adelaide.  Our host had listened, remembered and delivered more warmth than was in the bowls.  She chose very well, witnessed by the “yes please, I would like some more.”

I first met this soup maker in her choice of a coffee shop, then in a foreign land, that had all the familiarity of shared histories; and now in the comfort of her own home.  Another step on this forever pilgrimage, taking another sip from the soup bowl together.

The next day the soup I had was bestowed upon me by a couple sharing their day off with me by the seaside.  It was an honouring of times gone by and a gradual unfolding of what might be ahead with friendship re-kindled.  Chicken (and vegetable) soup for the soul, heralded a conversation alive with the radical spirit and critique we were able to reactivate in a single sip.

Another day in the week and I was graced with another soup. This time there was the echo of a full winter garden.  The soup was crafted with love, first knitted together in my womb more than thirty years ago. Shared with the originators of the creation; communion.

In the confines of a workplace, a final bowl of soup for the week was heated up in the microwave after being poured from a pre-packaged supermarket purchased container.  It had none of the love of the other bowls sipped with deep affection earlier in the week.  I was however comforted by thinking that it was a moment of east meeting west – the soup was laksa and the packaging meant I could enjoy it easily without a trip to Malaysia.  Thich Nhat Hanh talks about the humble tea bag being a wonderful expression of east meeting west – where the plentiful tea leaves of Asia and held together in single serves for us Europeans to enjoy at our leisure. So with that memory, I breathed in eastern cuisine infused by western packaging and smiled as I breathed out and took my first spoonful.

I have been served by soup this week.

I love that all the ingredients rest together to make a whole that has to be contained in a bowl. I love how soup comes in a bowl and always prefer to drink soup from a bowl rather than a mug. The bowl is my favourite receptacle for eating from.  I love the shape of bowls and how my hands can cup the bowl.  I love the openness of bowls.  Like an open womb I drink from the bowl and take all that I need to sustain me for the next step of the journey.

I have discovered Hildegard that there is an Angel of Light soup on the market that includes the herbs you advised for soup.  I am sure you would have had many a bowl of soup shared with friends, family, travellers and co-workers in the vineyard, barnyard and fields.

When I sit down for the soup of life I want to always be able to say; “Yes please, I do want some more”, regardless of what is being served up and in what shape packaging it comes in.  In my heart, I do know that the great soup maker always makes it with love even when I see it packaged in plastic, blinded by the east/west co-creation it may well be.

Soup has served me well this week.