Cuong Lu, author of Wait, discusses his new book, how we can bring happiness and love into every moment of our lives, and shares some words of encouragement for when times get tough.

1. Why was it important to you to write Wait?

I was alarmed seeing so many shootings in the US on the news—homicides, accidents, suicides, and killings by police officers. It seems we’ve forgotten how precious life is. We’re killing each other and we’re killing ourselves. I wrote Wait with the deep wish to help stop the bullets. Bullets themselves don’t have wisdom; they kill other people and they kill gun owners and shooters. I want to help save lives. Each life is a beautiful expression of the cosmos. We are all wonders of life.

2. You open each section of the book with a reflective poem. What about these poems spoke to you and how do they help introduce each section?

Poetry is composed in the language of nonduality. I see this whole book as a poem. Each section begins with a reflective verse that expresses the essence of that section by great poets—Galway Kinnell, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Thich Nhat Hanh. Our bodies and minds are also poems. As we learn to observe ourselves, we discover that each of us is a unique and wondrous poem. When I see you, I see a beautiful poem, a beautiful flower, a Buddha.

3. What practices can people do to cultivate the wisdom to move past the crashing waves of emotion and into a deeper awareness below the surface?

The crashing waves are, at the same time, the deep ocean. The way to touch the ocean is to touch the crashing waves deeply. Don’t be afraid of the waves of emotions. Make peace with them, and you’ll see that each emotion contains wisdom. In anger, there is also love.

4. What words of comfort or encouragement do you turn to when times get tough or feel overwhelming?

When the going gets tough, I think about home. Home, for me, is a place without discrimination. There is a “home” like that in each of us. To return home and regain our center, we can begin by focusing on our breathing. If we do, we’ll discover that every cell in our body, every emotion in us is our true home. As we return to conscious breathing and give every cell and emotion in us our full attention, we’ll discover a home of deep peace within.

5. What is the one thing you want readers take away with them after reading Wait?

Respect, respect for life. I hope after reading Wait: A Love Letter to Those in Despair, readers will understand how special they are. When we feel this, we see how every being in the cosmos is unique and deserving of our respect. This is the kind of wisdom I hope people will feel as they read, and as the inner turmoil calms, we can disarm ourselves and love and appreciate the world and each other.

6. Why do you think some people commit acts of violence?

When we suffer, we forget how profoundly beautiful we are. Suffering doesn’t make us violent. It’s ignorance about suffering, not being aware that we’re suffering. That is what engenders violence. When we suffer and know we’re suffering, we learn about ourselves and others. Staying present with suffering brings peace. When we turn away from our suffering and make others the enemy, we can commit acts of violence. It’s important to make peace with ourselves, and we do that by making peace with our suffering.

7. What does it mean when you say “I am you, and you are me?”

Through my own suffering, I discovered that each of us is a Buddha, and that brought me a lot of relief. I’ve been looking for the Buddha my whole life, and the moment I found him, I found you too. You are the Buddha, you are the cosmos, you are life. You are a flower and a mountain, and you are me.

8. How can we bring happiness and love into every moment of our lives?

We only can be happy when we’re true to ourselves. It means accepting ourselves completely. Acceptance is made from understanding. To understand ourselves and others is a matter of training. We can train to observe ourselves and others and nourish our understanding. Through observing, accepting, and understanding, we can bring love and happiness into every moment of our lives.

9. How can we change our “idea of happiness”?

The idea of happiness is not the same as the reality of happiness. We often look for happiness as an idea, but ideas are always dualistic. The idea of happiness goes hand in hand with an idea of suffering. When we try to avoid suffering, we’re running after our idea of happiness. The reality of happiness includes suffering. We don’t have to eliminate or transform suffering to be happy. Real happiness is already there. It is in our suffering. Being with our suffering can transform the “idea” of happiness into a deeper, more authentic peace.

10. How can we work with our anger?

When anger begins to consume us, the first thing is to know that it’s there. Anger is bringing us a message, and we do well to heed the message and not harm others or ourselves. If we’re in danger, we can get out of danger. Usually the danger passed many years ago. Knowing that anger is there is the starting point. When we recognize anger, we’ll invariably also recognize love, and with this wisdom we become free. When we take care of our anger, our anger and our love become one. Learning to love ourselves—all of ourselves, the parts others have ridiculed, the parts we think are inferior, it’s all lovable—we can learn to pause, to wait, before acting on our sadness or our anger. We can look for what Thich Nhat Hanh called “what’s not wrong,” and cultivate respect and love for ourselves and others.



$16.95 - Hardcover

By: Cuong Lu

Cuong LuCuong Lu is a Buddhist teacher ordained by Thich Nhat Hanh at Plum Village. He dedicated his life to service after witnessing a shooting while fleeing Vietnam in 1975. He served as a monk for sixteen years and now teaches in the Netherlands, where he lives with his wife and three children. A former prison chaplain, he is the author of The Buddha in Jail.