LOVE LETTERS~ Compassionate communication works miracles

Thich Nhat Hahn

THERE IS A French woman who kept old love letters from her husband. He
wrote her beautiful letters before they married. Every time she got a
letter from him, she savoured every sentence — every word —
it was so sweet, so understanding, so full of love. She was delighted
whenever she got a letter, so she kept all his letters in a biscuit box.
One morning, while she was rearranging her closet, she discovered the
ancient biscuit box where she stored all his letters. It had been a long
time since she had seen it. The box of letters told of the most wonderful
time, when she and her husband were young, when they loved each other
and believed that without each other they could not survive.

But in the past several years, both husband and wife had suffered a lot.
They didn’t enjoy looking at each other any more. They didn’t
enjoy talking to each other any more. They didn’t write letters to
each other any more. The day before she found the box, her husband informed
her that he had to go on a business trip. He did not find it pleasant
to stay home, and perhaps he was looking for a little bit of happiness
or pleasure on his trips. She was aware of that. When her husband told
her that he had to go to New York for a meeting, she said, "If you
have work to do, please go ahead." She had grown used to this: it
was very ordinary. Then, instead of returning home as planned, he telephoned
and said, "I have to stay two more days, because there are things
I still need to do." She accepted this very easily, because even
when he was at home, she was not happy.

After hanging up, she began to rearrange her closet and she discovered
the box. It was a box of Lu biscuits — a very famous brand in France.
She was curious because it had been a long time since she opened that
box. She put down her duster, opened the box, and smelled something very
familiar. She took out one of the letters and she stood there and read
it. How sweet was the letter! His language was full of understanding and
love. She felt very refreshed, like a piece of dry land finally exposed
to the rain. She opened another letter to read because it was so wonderful.
Finally she brought the whole box of letters to the table, sat down, and
read one after another until she finished all forty-six of them. The seeds
of her past happiness were still there. They had been buried under many
layers of suffering — but they were still there. So, while reading
that letter he wrote when he was young and full of love, she felt the
seeds of happiness in her begin to be watered.

When you do something like this, you water the seeds of happiness that
lie deep within your consciousness. In the recent past, her husband had
not been using that kind of language at all. But now, when reading the
letters, she could hear her husband speaking in that sweet way. Happiness
had been a reality for them. Why did they now live in a kind of hell?
She could hardly remember that he used to talk to her like that, but it
had been a reality. He was able to talk to her in that kind of language.

DURING THE HOUR and a half she spent reading all these letters, she watered
the seeds of happiness in herself. She realised that both of them had
been unskilful. They had watered the seeds of suffering in each other,
and they had not been able to water the seeds of happiness. After reading
all the letters, she was motivated by the desire to sit down and write
him a letter to tell him how happy she was at that time, in the beginning
of their relationship. She wrote that she wished the happiness of those
golden years could be rediscovered and recreated. And now she could again
call him "My beloved one" with all honesty and sincerity.

She spent forty-five minutes writing that letter. It was a real love
letter — addressed to the charming young man who had written the
letters she kept in a box. Reading his letters and then writing a letter
took about three hours. It was a time of practice, but she did not know
she was practising. After having written the letter, she felt very light
inside. The letter had not yet been delivered; her husband had not yet
read it; but she felt much better because the seeds of happiness had been
reawakened — they had been watered. She went upstairs and put the
letter on his desk. And for the rest of the day, she was happy. She was
happy just because the letters had watered the positive seeds in her.

While reading the letters and writing to her husband, she gained some
insight. Neither of them had been skilful. Neither of them knew how to
preserve the happiness they deserved. In their speech, in their actions,
they created hell for each other. Both accepted living as a family, as
a couple, but they no longer had any happiness. After having understood
this, she was confident that if both of them tried to practise, happiness
could be restored. She became full of hope and no longer suffered as she
had in the past years.

When her husband came home, he went upstairs, and he saw the letter on
his desk. In the letter, she wrote: "I’m partly responsible
for our suffering, for the fact that we don’t have the happiness
that both of us deserve. Let us begin anew and restore communication.
Let us make peace, harmony, and happiness a reality again." He spent
a lot of time reading the letter and looking deeply into what she had
written. He did not know that he was practising meditation. But he was
practising also, because by reading his wife’s letter, the seeds
of happiness in him were also watered. He stayed upstairs for a long time,
looking deeply and getting the same insight that she had gained the day
before. Because of that, both of them had a chance to begin anew and to
restore their happiness.

Nowadays, people, lovers, don’t write letters to each other any
more. They just pick up the phone and say, "Are you free tonight?
Shall we go out?" That’s all, and you have nothing to keep.
That is a pity. We must learn to write love letters again. Write to your
beloved one; he may be your father or your son. She may be your daughter,
your mother, your sister, or your friend. Take time to write down your
gratitude and love. •

Extracts from Anger: Buddhist wisdom for cooling the flames


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