Every day we are engaged in a miracle we don’t even recognize. – Thich Nhat Hanh
I recently attended a meditation retreat at the Blue Cliff Monastery, a mindfulness and monastic training center founded by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. For most people, the idea of a meditation retreat means to sit for many hours a day and learning the practice of focusing the mind. The work that you do when you sit is designed to teach you how to develop mindfulness skills that will eventually translate into everyday life. However, for many people, this translation is difficult to make. The teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn take a different approach. As my friend Caroline, observed on the retreat, at Blue Cliff you don’t spend very much time sitting to meditate. You learn how to bring mindfulness to everything that you do. Eating, walking, brushing your teeth or doing chores all are opportunities to practice mindfulness. We loved the practice of singing before almost any activity. The simplest yet most effective practice is the mindfulness bell. Throughout our stay, a beautiful bell would ring at random moments. When you hear a bell or clock tower chime, everyone stops for a moment, pauses and observes three breaths. The bell is a gentle reminder to come into the present moment. So simple, yet so powerful. It’s as if the reset button was pressed on your computer and you are drawn out of the chaos into the calmness of the present moment. When everyone around you pauses at the same time, when the whole community breathes, it is a powerful moment.
Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment. – Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindfulness doesn’t have to wait for the bell. All of us have the capability of creating mindful moments in our everyday life. Try eating in silence for one meal out of a day. Drink your cup of tea and savor mouthful. Walk outside and take three mindful breaths as you look at the blue sky. Feel the ground under your feet as you walk down a particular hallway at home or at work. Smile and experience the joy of mindfulness. June is the perfect month to find space for that daily pause.
Written by Janet Carscadden PT, DPT, E-RYT