Beginning Mindfulness Practice

In 1988 I was in the midst of a difficult period of my life and needing all the help I could get. A newspaper book review directed me to Being Peace, and from there I found The Miracle of Mindfulness and Interbeing. The precepts of the Order of Interbeing seemed to fit my needs and the instructions to observe sixty days of mindfulness per year intrigued me. At the time I was living by myself and in control of my schedule so it was possible to devote one day a week - to a practice of silence without the use of motors or electronic devices. I tried to follow in detail the guide in The Miracle of Mindfulness. I discovered just how powerful this practice can be. During this time which lasted about six months I would set aside one day a week - usually Thursday, occasionally Friday (much like the Biblical commandment to "remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.")

The power of the practice was remarkable. The difficulties in my life were dissipated and converted from stressful times into "wonderful moments. "The major problems in my life at the time were resolved.

The 1989 Spring retreat in the Washington area with Thich Nhat Hanh produced insights that showed ways around the conflict between mindfulness and the demands of an externally structured time schedule. Therese Fitzgerald suggested that the "all or none" mind could be transformed into "let's do what we can do." Starting with half a day of mindfulness per week is superior to doing nothing because you have external commitments every day of the week.

Since the 989 retreat, I have experimented with a number of approaches to the problem of busyness. All of these experiments have involved mindfulness on Sunday, Monday or both. The practice has led me to the notion that every day should be a Day of Mindfulness. Electronic entertainment and news is turned off. Meditation in a group has always been more powerful for me than solitary meditation, so I've been attending the local meeting of the Society of Friends on Sunday afternoons. The commitment to total silence has been replaced with a commitment to minimal talking.

If it is possible to work out one day a week of silence and devoted mindfulness, this is the best practice in my experience. The practice of mindfulness without total silence on two days is also very refreshing. It would be very useful to me to hear of the efforts of others who are attempting to follow the practice of the core community of the Order of Interbeing by observing sixty days of retreat and intensive practice yearly.

Ralph Dougherty Tallahassee, Florida

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