To celebrate Mindfulness Day, here are five top tips from the master of mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh, on how to be more zen in your daily life.
Thich Nhat Hanh is a global spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist, who is acknowledged as “The Father of Mindfulness” for his bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace. Taken from four of his books – The Art of Living, How to Relax, How to Sit and How to Eat – read on to discover five easy ways you incorporate mindfulness into your day to day life.
Many of us keep trying to do more and more. We do things because we think we need to, because we want to make money, accomplish something, take care of others, or make our lives and our world better.
We have a tendency to think in terms of doing and not in terms of being. We think that when we’re not doing anything, we’re wasting our time. But that’s not true. Our time is first of all for us to be. To be what? To be alive, to be peaceful, to be joyful, to be loving. Stopping, being still, and practicing mindfulness can bring about a whole new dimension of being. We can transform our anger and anxiety, and cultivate our energy of peace, understanding and compassion as the basis for action.
Sometimes, not doing anything is the best we can do.
To meditate means to pay full attention to something. It’s an opportunity to look deeply into ourselves and into the situation we’re in.
By looking deeply, the meditation practitioner gains insight or wisdom, prajna. Insight has the power to liberate us from our own suffering and bondage. In the process of meditation, fetters are undone; internal blocks of suffering such as resentment, fear, anger, despair, and hatred are transformed; relationships with humans and nature become easier; freedom and joy can penetrate us. We become aware of what is inside and around us; we are fresher and more alive in our daily lives. As we become freer and happier, we cease to act in ways that make others suffer, and we are able to bring about change in ourselves and help others around us become free.
There are many different kinds of meditation. Mindfulness meditation can be practiced anywhere and in whatever position the body is in—whether we are sitting, walking, standing, or lying down. Whenever we practice our daily activities with mindful awareness, we’re practicing meditation.
3. Live happily in the present moment
Your quality of life depends on your awareness of all the conditions of happiness that are available to you now. You are alive. You have legs to walk. You have two wonderful eyes; you simply need to open them to enjoy the paradise of colours and forms all around you.
You may like to take a piece of paper and sit somewhere quietly and write down all the conditions of happiness you already have. You will soon discover that one page is not enough; even two, three or four pages are not enough. You may begin to realise that you are much luckier than many people.
Life is available only in the present moment, and we already have more than enough conditions to be happy. The art of dwelling happily in the present moment is the practice most needed in our time.
4. Eat mindfully
Sometimes we eat, but we aren’t thinking of our food. We’re thinking of the past, or the future or mulling over some worry or anxiety again and again. So stop thinking about your business, about the office, or about anything that isn’t happening right now. Don’t chew your worries, your fear, or your anger.
It’s good to take time to eat, because the time for a meal can be a very happy time. Take time to enjoy your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Enjoy your meal. Stop the thinking and be there fully, body and mind.
5. Practice awareness of breathing
Our breath is like a bridge connecting body and mind. Mindfulness of breathing can help us relax and bring peace to our body.
Your breathing is a stable, solid ground where you can take refuge. No matter what thoughts, emotions, and perceptions are going on inside you, your breath is always there, like a faithful friend. Whenever you’re carried away by thinking, overwhelmed by strong emotions, or feeling restless and dispersed, return to your breathing. With awareness of the breath, our breathing naturally becomes light, calm, and peaceful. At any time of the day or night, whether you’re walking, driving, working in the garden, or sitting at the computer, you can return to the peaceful refuge of your own breath.
If we practice mindful breathing for five minutes, allowing our body to rest, then we stop thinking for that time. We can use words like “in” and “out” to help us be aware of our breathing.
These tips are taken from Thich Nhat Hanh’s books – The Art of Living, How to Relax, How to Sit and How to Eat.