Mindfulness helps us get in touch with what is real.
~Thich Nhat Hanh
What do you suppose happens at Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh’s Buddhist retreat center in France, when a bell sounds, a clock chimes, a wristwatch beeps, or a phone rings? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. For the amount of time the bell rings or the clock chimes, or for three rings of a phone, all activity, talking, and motion stop. The entire community uses the opportunity to return to the quiet center, reflect, and then go back to their day, refreshed and renewed. The sounds of the phones, clocks, and bells can happen many times within any hour, but the residents always take the moment to return to mindfulness.
What if we all stopped at every bell, phone call, or chime to take a breath, re-center, and return to the day, refreshed and renewed? What if the noise could lead us back to the silence? There’s another very important message in the action: it will all get done – and probably more efficiently, definitely more pleasantly.
The Plum Village community enjoys another mindfulness practice called “Touching the Earth.” Any time people are feeling upset or irritated, they can touch the earth as if it were a dear friend who can relive them of the tension. They look with gratitude upon all the gifts the earth gives so freely – the bounty of the harvest, the beauty of nature, the companionship of animals.
Stress-reduction programs advise people to put little stickers on their cell phones and computers to remind them of mindfulness. Perhaps we could all take a moment at every incoming and outgoing communication. What a different tenor our emails, voicemails, and conversations would have.
Just like every thought is a prayer, every activity can be a mindfulness practice.
Originally published in SOM magazine/A Guide for Spiritual Living.