In The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thay describes how daily life and meditation can be unified; how we can tum all of our time into our own time. The secret is to be fully in touch with that which is now. In order to be able to enjoy a slice of bread, a cup of tea, the presence of a friend, we have to be in touch with them, otherwise, the taste of the bread, the fragrance of the tea, and the warmth of being together will pass "unlived," without having been experienced. We then feel an emptiness and long for some fulfillment that we expect the future will bring. If we are one with that which is now, each moment is rich and full and sufficient in itself. Thus all our time becomes our "own" time. The key that opens the door to the present moment is undivided attention. The difficulty of being, and staying in the here and now shows as soon as we start trying to develop our awareness in the present moment. The very means that help us do so is our breathing. The breath is the umbilical cord that links us to the present moment. Awareness of our inbreath and our outbreath during all our actions can stop the ever flowing stream of associative thoughts that carries us either to the past or to the future .
Another means that can help us stay in the here and now is to smile a "budding" smile. When we smile the muscles on our face relax. Once the face relaxes, the whole body relaxes.
A third means to keep the lamp of awareness burning is the use of gathas. A gatha is a short poem concerning a daily action--such as switching on the light, washing one's hands, waking up in the morning--which we can learn by heart and recite at the moment we do that action. By using a gatha, we can transform an automatic action into a moment of awareness.
The Miracle of Mindfulness is called The Grass is Turning Greener in Dutch. In French it is called The Miracle is to Walk on the Earth. Mindfulness, undivided attention, allows us to discover the miracle in seemingly ordinary things. Thus walking, for example, can become a wonderful experience if you take each step with full attention, feeling again and again the contact between your feet and the ground, and staying in touch with your breath as well. The same is true for washing the dishes. Being aware of all the movements of your hands, and the contact with the warm water changes the experience of washing dishes altogether. Each moment is precious and no action is too unimportant to let your awareness shine on it. The most simple actions often are best fit to keep in touch with the here and now.
The practice of mindfulness may be very pleasant and healing. To integrate mindfulness into our busy daily lives is quite a challenge. A Day of Mindfulness, where we practice together, can give us the necessary support and inspiration. There are bells of mindfulness sounding from time to time to help bring us back to the present moment. On hearing the bell we stop talking, thinking or whatever we're doing at that time, and return to concentrate only on our breathing: "Listen, listen. This wonderful sound brings me back to my true self."
In fact, a Day of Mindfulness is a "Stopping Day"stopping all hurrying to the future, stopping the rush to finish this in order to do that. Only if we can be present in this moment and enjoy what is here and now, will we be able to do so in the future.
Eveline Beumkes Amsterdam , Holland
Eveline is offering Days of Mindfulness this Spring in Holland. Please see the Sangha News & Listings for details.