Part 1: MINDFULNESSI must already correct myself from above, as it was my husband who first introduced me to mindful living and specifically the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. Before him I was emotionally charged, constantly "on-the-go" and always looking ahead to greener pastures, yet never satisfied. I was looking for purpose or attention or fulfillment in all the wrong places: men, dance clubs, alcohol, Coach purses! I HIGHLY recommend reading his work. He became a Buddist monk at age 16 and has written over 100 books, poems and articles. If you are really motivated he has two mindfulness practice centers in the United States located in Vermont and California; please refer to www.plumvillage.org for more information.
What is MINDFULNESS?According to the Plum Village website, "Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing."
THE BASICS of Thich Nhat Hanh:
- Be present in each moment:
- Breathe in "I am breathing in"; breathe out "I am breathing out".
- If you are feeling a strong emotion, this is easily modified: breathe in "I breathe in mindfulness/compassion/peace"; breathe out "I breathe out anger/negativity/disappointment".
- Use deep listening:
- Be quiet first. Truly listen. Eliminate external and internal distraction. Do not offer advice.
- Use compassionate communication:
- Speak from your heart. Mean what you say. "Dear one, I'm sorry I have caused you suffering by ___."
- Mindful eating:
- Reduce the amount of toxins (i.e.: smoking, alcohol, chemically processed junk foods, etc.)
- Where did your food come from? Was it previously living a happy life? We chose to eliminate most meat products from our diet. If we could afford it, we would stick to whole natural fresh foods.
- Mindful cultural consumption:
- Think about the moral quality of the media you consume (television, books, magazines, music, etc.).
- Think about the amount of time spent in front of a screen with mindless consumption vs. the amount of time you spend in the real world creating or giving back, exercising, meditation/prayer, etc.
NOTE: these are easier said than done. Remember this is a practice, which means ongoing growth and development of a new skill. Did you know it takes 20 days to make something into a habit?
The root of mindfulness is to be completely and totally present in every moment. This is incredibly challenging in the typical American culture when everyone seems obsessed with technology: "liking", pinning, tweeting, cyber bullying is a new issue, and now even Google Glass literally glued to your face! It seems everyone wants the newest gadget and people brag about their abilities to "multi-task" using each new tech gadget while spending more and more time distracted by a "virtual reality" and completely absent from the present moment in real time in this physical reality.
American mainstream media seems to be hitting an all time low in regards to their moral compass ("reality" television, sexual performances - Miley Cyrus, poor girl!). It has been a work in progress. In 2009 we chose to stop paying for cable, but kept our Netflix account. Then, in 2011, we eliminated our television and DVD player all together. Sometimes I "cheat" and watch a few shows fairly regularly via online streaming but it's down to about 60 minutes per week. We still keep up with news and pop culture with YouTube on a daily basis...but today I decided to eliminate all online media (yes, including Facebook and YouTube!) and pop/radio music for 20 days to see if I can start some more mindful and productive or creative habits.
Mindfulness is taking care of your body, your spirit, and your mind with clear intention. It is being present and aware of every breath, bite, emotion, action, reaction. Thich Nhat Hanh writes, "just enjoy whatever you are doing, and do it deeply." Let the peace of intention and mindfulness be with you every moment of your day!
Amanda Masters is a pediatric occupational therapist by day; book club fanatic and mindful meditation student by night.