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The miracle of mindfulness

This book is a collection of letters from a Viatnamese monk about how to meditate and live a mindful life. It’s a small one (130 pages) - ideal for starters, like myself. Hopefully it does not contain a single word about Buddhism mambo jambo, so you could delight from it even being a skeptical on spiritual affairs.

On this post I collect nice passages found in the book; that, I suspect, would be valuable for anyone trying to live a more meaningful life.

A day of mindfulness

He recommends that, once a week, we take a day for mindfulness.

Do only such simple work as house cleaning, cooking, washing clothes, and dusting. … Afterwards, take a walk to practice breathing. … Sit in meditation for an hour before you go to bed.

Every movement during this day should be at least two times slower than the usual.

The miracle is to walk on Earth

When you are walking along a path leading to a village, you can practice mindfulness. Walking along a dirt path, surrounded by patches of green grass, if you practice mindfulness you will experience that path, the path leading into the village. You practice by keeping this one thought alive; “I’m walking along the path leading into the village.”. Whether is sunny or rainy, whether the path is dry or wet, you keep that one thought, but not just repeating it like a machine, over and over again. Machine thinking is the opposite of mindfulness. If we are really engaged in mindfulness while walking along the path to the village, than we will consider the act of each step we make as an infinite wonder, and joy will open our hearts like a flower, enabling us to enter the world of reality.

I like to walk alone in country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth of mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality. People usually consider walk either on water or in thin air to be a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle in which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child - our own two eyes. All is a miracle.

Quiet Breathing

Your breath should be light, even, and flowing like a thin flow of water running through the sand. Your breath should be very quiet, so quiet that a person sitting next you cannot hear it. Your breath should flow gracefully, like a river, like a water snake crossing the water, and not like a chain of rugged mountains or the gallop of a horse. To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds. Each time we find ourselves dispersed and find it difficult to gain control of ourselves by different means, the method of watching the breath should always be used.

Meditation Reveals and Heals

Sitting in mindfulness, both our bodies and minds can be at peace nd totally relaxed. But this state of peace and relaxation differ fundamentally from the lazy, semi-conscious state of mind that one gets while resting and dozing. Sitting in such lazy semi-consciousness, far from being mindfulness, is like setting in a dark cave. In mindfulness one is not only restful and happy, but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; is a serene encounter with reality. The person who practice mindfulness should be no less awake than a driver of a car; if the practitioner isn’t awake he will be possessed by dispersion and forgetfulness, just as the drowsy driver is likely to cause a grave accident. Be as awake as a person walking on high stilts - any mis-step could cause the walker to fall. Be like a medieval knight walking weaponless in a forest of swords. Be like a lion going forward with slow, gentle and firm steps. Only with this kind of vigilance you can realize total awakening.

In resume, the main point of all the text - as in all mindfulness activities - is to be aware of the self, thought mediation. Beyond awareness, there’s lot of research pointing meditation as beneficial for many of the human interest. To do not waste the here and now with useless thoughts, I cannot wonder a more important matter to master, so I’m forced to recommend this book.

One last quote: “You don’t dish the washes to get them clean, you dish the washes to dish the washes”.

If you like the text I invite you to see this talk of Sam Harris about mindfulness too.