“Listen, listen. This wonderful sound brings me back to my true self.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
Picture this: you are on a retreat at a beautiful monastery, enjoying your lunch on a grassy hill, chatting with new friends, with hundreds of others around doing the same, until you hear the deep sound of a bell. In that moment, conversations fade to silence, movement turns to stillness, and everyone joins together to simply smile, pause our thinking, and enjoy our breathing for a few moments. As the sound of the bell fades, people slowly begin to move again, conversations are picked back up, and you arrive in the moment with a new-found sense of peace and presence. It’s like a little slice of heaven!
In Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition, bells are used as invitations to wake up and come back to the present moment in this way. It may be a large, beautiful temple bell with a gloriously deep tone or simply the dining hall clock chiming to mark each quarter-hour, but really anything can be a mindfulness bell reminding us to breathe in, breathe out, smile, and return to ourselves. Even non-sounds such as a child’s smile, a kiss from your dog, or the sun on your face can be a mindfulness bell. Personally, I love it when I’m walking down Church Street, usually caught up in thoughts or conversation, and I hear one of my mindfulness bells – the chiming of the church bells. It feels so nourishing to take that moment to pause, breathe, and smile before continuing on with my day, and often times the sense of peace created in that brief instant echoes long after the sound of the bells have faded.
On this last day of Evolution’s 21-Day Meditation Challenge, choose something to be your mindfulness bell. It may be a lovely bell that you ring as you come to sit on your cushion, or it may be something as simple as the sound of your phone ringing, the ding of a text message arriving, the sound of starting your car, or even your baby crying. When you hear the sound of your mindfulness bell, take a moment to pause, breathe in and out, and enjoy the present moment. As you return to your activity, notice how you feel, and smile to your success in practicing coming home to yourself, both throughout the weeks of the meditation challenge and – more importantly – in that very moment.
What a joy! It may sound simple, but the more you practice, the more moments of meditation and peace you may find throughout your day.
May we continue to wake up and hear the infinite mindfulness bells in our lives, calling us home to the miracle of the present moment.

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