With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.
This one is not for others; this one is for me.
It is a homage to Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist monk who passed away on January 21.
I, first, came across Thay’s (teacher in Vietnamese) writing in 2004–05 through his book “Old Path White Clouds — Walking in the footsteps of the Buddha”.
There was something about his writings.
They speak to the soul. They are a lullaby that quietens the mind and envelops the soul.
To me, reading him is a spiritual exercise in itself.
It is incredibly tough to define and yet a part of my existence.
I sit with my spine upright, but not rigid; and I relax all the muscles in my body. Breathing in, I bring my attention to one part of my body; breathing out, I smile with gratitude and love to that part of my body. For example, I breathe in and I bring my attention to my face. On my face there are about 300 muscles, and whenever I get worried, angry, or sad, these 300 muscles harden, and anyone who looks at me can see that I’m tense. But if while breathing in I can be aware of my face, and breathing out I can smile to my face, then that tension immediately dissipates. It’s almost like a miracle. In just a few breaths we can feel peace, happiness, and relaxation on our face. Our face becomes light, fresh, like the kind of flower it was before. Every face is a flower.
This is something everyone can do in the first minutes of sitting, and not only when we are in the meditation hall.
Wherever we sit, we can sit beautifully.
Sitting down to eat or do paperwork, we sit upright and relaxed. Let us sit like the Buddha.
Thay is widely regarded as the “Father of Mindfulness.”
This is not how I see it.
Meditation is all about mindfulness. When the paraphernalia surrounding meditation is removed, you are left with mindfulness. It was an essential component of all spiritual traditions. However, somewhere along the way, meditation became something that required a specific location or setting.
Thay reminded us that meditation does not require a meditation hall.
Meditation is a moment spent in awareness of the moment.
In our Plum Village monasteries, when our minds are dispersed and we hear the temple bell, we stop our talking, stop our thinking, and stop being dispersed. We come back to our breathing, to the here and now, and we get back in touch with what’s happening in our mind as well as our body. For example, if we’re about to eat something unhealthy, the bell gives us another chance to pause and reconsider.
We can use many “ordinary” events in our daily lives to call us back to ourselves and to the present moment. The ringing of the telephone, for example: many of my students pause to breathe in and out mindfully three times before they pick up the phone, in order to be fully present to themselves and to the person calling them.
Identify your own favorite bells of mindfulness, and let them remind you to enjoy being alive!