Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mindfulness Retreat: Part III

During our retreat, we were up by 5:30 AM each day and began with a walking meditation. Walking meditation is walking together, very slowly, very thoughtfully, in silence. Focusing on your breath with each deliberate step. Again, this puts you in the present moment; the "here and now". So often we really don't appreciate the present. Our minds are caught up with experiences of the past or worries about the future. It is rare for us to relish the here and now and be truly present and aware of now. When you get up in the morning, you most likely quickly begin your routine on auto-pilot. Right? Next time you awake, try emptying your mind and say:

Waking up this morning, I smile
24 brand new hours are before me
I vow to live fully in each moment
And to look at beings with eyes of compassion

Another practice we experienced during the retreat (which is a wonderful practice to start at home) is the "mindfulness bell". When the bell is rung or when we "invite the bell", we stop what we are doing, take a few mindful breaths and put ourselves into the focus of the current moment. After about 45 seconds, we can resume our activities and thoughts.

About a year and a half ago, I purchases the CDs "Meditation in a New York Minute" and I highly recommend it. One of the suggestions given is to change your cell phone greeting (that is, the message that appears when you turn your phone on). This is a feature that most cell phones have. The greeting should be "BREATHE". Now, whenever I turn my cell phone on, I see the word BREATHE across the screen, before it disappears to make way for the wallpaper. It is a great reminder. I see it, stop my hurry and worry, breathe and focus on the present moment. How can you incorporate a mindfulness bell into your life? Well, whatever works for you, really. Every time you hear the alarm of a fire truck or ambulance, you can use that as a signal to stop and breathe and to bring your mind into the present moment (and be thankful, truly grateful, that it is not you who needs the emergency services of the fire department or EMTs). Or everytime you hear the honk of a car horn, or everytime you hear a baby cry. Anything, really. Use a sound to trigger your mindfulness. It's a very wonderful practice.

During the last day of the retreat, we had a Q & A session with Thich Nhat Hanh. Children were able to pose questions before the adults had their turn and the first question a child asked was "Why is the bell so important?". Without missing a beat and being very serious, this is how Thich Nhat Hanh answered: "Why not?" .... pause ..... "Sometimes you have to answer a question with a question. It's a Zen thing."

Enough said!

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