Buddha was asked, “Sir, what do you and your monks practice?”
“We sit, we walk, and we eat.”
“But sir, everyone sits, walks, and eats…”
Buddha then said, “When we sit, we know we are sitting. When we walk, we know we are walking. When we eat, we know we are eating.”
Being present is talked about a lot. I talk about it a lot. Talking about it is easy and it’s old news, but living it is hard as hell. I find myself lost in thoughts of the past or concerns of future all the time.
Being mindful and present is a practice. Period. There’s no “get-enlightened-quick scheme.” Yes, you can have moments of presence at any given time, but without the practice, I fall back into incessant thought patterns of past and future.
I just read the book Living Buddha Living Christ, by the Vietnamese, Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh.
At the end of the book, he shares a four part, “mindful living journal” for people to reflect on their experience practicing mindfulness. I’ve used these four reflections while meditating this past week. It’s helped deepen my meditation and quiet my mind.
1. Mindful Breath – this is the obvious one. You always hear about focusing on your breath. Thich Nhat Hanh, asks what does it feel like to breath in? What effects does inhaling have on my body? What effects does exhaling have?. When I ask myself this, and name and note the effects, I feel more connected to my breath. My body and my mind calm down.
2. Mindful Eyes – He emphasizes the magic and wonder of our eyes. We usually take this visual paradise all around us for granted. When I meditate, I go back and forth between opening and closing my eyes. After a few minutes, I open my eyes and I look at the trees, the people, the grass, and all the things around me. I see more of everything. Colors, shapes, details. It’s beautiful. What might you notice that you didn’t notice before?
I also listen to the sounds. I try to name all the sounds I hear. As I mentally name things – cars, wind, trees, people talking, car horns, birds chirping – something happens. My concentration sharpens. My mind clears. It’s a good feeling.
3. Mindful Heart – Thich Nhat Hanh brings to awareness that our heart is working non-stop. It pumps 2,000 gallons of blood per day to nourish all of our cells, yet most of us done’t take good care of our heart. Practice touching your heart and your health with mindfulness. What might your heart need to stay in good condition?
I think about this as a meditate, I can feel the blood pumping in my body ever so subtly. I connect with the awareness I am a living organism, which needs healthy nourishment. Peace of mind is a corollary of a healthy body.
4. Mindful Feelings – There are always emotions, feelings and thoughts brewing inside. It’s important to look deeply at these feelings. To observe them objectively. Awareness that we have these feelings inside is the first big step.
I ask myself while I’m meditating, do I have any conflicting thoughts or feelings inside of me right now? How might I bring peace to these feelings? How can I let them go? Asking is awareness. From awareness, I will come up with a solution, the solution will arise on its own or the conflicting feeling will dissolve on its own.
Thank You Thich Nhat Hanh. These questions have been a helpful exercise to meditate with intention.