In the last few weeks I’ve been studying the books of Thich Naht Hanh, Buddhist Monk and father of mindfulness in the west.
These books have had quite a profound affect on me and his calmness and presumed sense of peace really come across in his writing.
I thought I’d share a few of my notes today so you can take a shortcut to his wisdom.
Anything Can Be Mindful
When most people think of mindfulness the first thing that comes to mind is probably meditation.
Meditation is only one tool within the mindfulness toolbox however.
In actual fact anything can be used as a mindfulness exercise and perhaps the more mundane the better.
For example brushing your teeth is a great time to practice mindfulness. Paying close attention to the brush strokes on each tooth and moving around the mouth one tooth at a time is a simple but effective way of re-centring yourself.
Washing up the dishes is another example Thich Naht Hanh likes to use meditation to make this point. If you are washing the dishes, be there really washing the dishes as opposed to thinking about tomorrow’s meeting or churning over some other worries you may have.
So mindfulness is not about meditation necessarily, but more about being present, fully in the moment with whatever you are doing.
Three Tools of Mindfulness
Mindful breathing, mindful walking and mindful eating.
These three elements are at the heart of mindfulness practice and something that we can all participate in, because we all do them!
Mindful Breathing – giving yourself even just one breath where you can focus on feeling the in breath, and then feeling the out breath. If you wanted to turn this into a meditation (in the formal sense) you could spend 5-10 minutes just repeating, “I’m feeling my in breath, I’m feeling my out breath,” for example.
Mindful Walking – this is one thing that I have really taken to. Using your breath to count your steps in a really meaningful way.
For example, breathing in for a count of three steps, holding for one step and then breathing out for a count of three steps and holding for one, before repeating. This is a really relaxing way to use this form of mindfulness and is an excellent way to start your day.
Mindful Eating – Thich Naht Hanh says that if we are not mindful when we’re eating we’re probably eating our worries, anxieties and fears. Since I learnt that I have to say I’ve found this to be true. That is, chewing away and swallowing, all while fretting over what needs to be done next, who you have to meet etc.
When you’re eating, just eat! Slow down, chew each mouthful with meaning and purpose and make sure you fully liquify the foods in your mouth before swallowing.
A recommendation which I quite liked was to chew at least 50 times for each mouthful and don’t pick the fork up again until the mouthful you have is fully ready to swallow.
This slows you down and turns meals times into a meditation time.
Much like the above, consumption of anything we take in should be mindful.
If we listen to lots of angry music, it will help to create anger in us.
If we watch TV programmes and films with lots of violence and destruction, it will breed that in our physiology for one. (Adrenaline goes up for example).
Be aware of who you are around and how you communicate with these people.
Use compassionate communication and consider your words before you say them.
A Day Of Mindfulness
I think one of the ideas that has made the biggest impact on me though has to be a day of mindfulness.
Taking a whole day, perhaps a Sunday, to doing everything mindfully.
Getting up and walking slowly to the bathroom, mindfully brushing my teeth, showering with real awareness of what I’m doing and being aware of the water hitting my skin.
Eating breakfast as I described above and drinking my drink slowly and being really aware of each and every sip.
When cooking being conscious of the feel and sound of each chop of the carrot and each peel of the potato.
If doing this for a whole day seems a bit too much, just try the first hour of your day.
What I’ve noticed is that this peacefulness really does permeate into other areas of your life, on other days of the week.
I hope these notes inspire you too.