Mindfulness, a religion for the rich?
I was surprised when I saw the New Republic published the Year of Mindfulness as a “religion of the rich”! If you remember, more than 2000 years ago, when Buddha practiced mindfulness, he had only one bowl of rice!
2019 has been a year when I practiced mindfulness more than ever. Sitting to meditate every evening (and mornings when I could). Joining the meditation group three times per week where we practiced one hour and a half sitting and Kinning (slow walk meditation). Going to meditation retreats several times. Practicing yoga several times per week. Eating mindfully. Cooking, walking, biking, swimming, do grocery shopping… mindfully. Practicing the “lazy day“. Being mindfully present with those who are around…
Being mindful of what I do just costs me nothing. It does not take more air when I breathe! I remember someone said that the most precious things in the world are free. So true isn’t it?
Mindfulness changed my average day
You might wonder how practicing mindfulness this year changed my life? Well, it changed my average day!
I felt calmer (the good word is equanimity). My kids never saw me angry, truly! If one of my children burst into tears or anger, they would see me calm and smiling, and listening!
I had joy. That’s an easy one. Because when you walk down the road or riding your bike, you’re so mindful that you see in slow motion the yellow leaves falling down, and feel fresh air caressing your face. It’s a profound joy.
I was more creative at work, surprisingly! Ideas were just popping up all the time: How can I do this, How can I do that…
I saw myself more authentic in what I did daily. Mindful of the time, I wanted to do things that really matter. Yesterday night, I happened to sit to meditate right at the moment of New Year’s Eve (don’ t laugh, it’s accidental). One of the thoughts that came was, 20 years ago, I never imagined this moment of 2020. What would it be for me in 20 years’ time? Where will I live? What will I be doing? It was phenomenal just to think about it! I felt responsible. What I do today matters for me and others in 20 years!
So yes, if peace of mind, joy, creativity, authenticity… are enough for you, will you join me in a 30-day mindfulness challenge? Together, let’s create a year 2020 full of joy and authenticity!
30-day challenge to cultivate mindfulness
Before Christmas, I proposed a 7-day Advent Mindfulness calendar. If you missed it, here is another chance: A 30-day mindfulness challenge.
A year of mindfulness seems to be a too big commitment, really. Let us start for 30 days, starting today! Start small, and remember, there is a first time for everything, and practice makes perfect! Are you up? So let’s do it!
Firstly, announce that you will do it
Nothing helps better a commitment than to have it announced! Tell your loved ones, on social media, tell your colleagues, email your friends. If you can form a group to do it, it’s even better!
Engage to sit 5 minutes every day for a month
Meditating every day is a great way to start. Fix a time when it’s the most convenient. I do it before going to bed. Because it’s the time you never miss. Actually, you do go to bed everyday right? So instead of going to sleep immediately, you just tell yourself: I’m going to sit silently for 5 minutes. Because 5 or 10 minutes do not change big things, you’ll have a chance to keep it up. Start small with a few minutes. You will be surprised how long you will sit finally!
Read a book on mindfulness this year
One book this year, it’s not too much? Read “The Art of Mindful Living Integral” from Thich Nhat Hanh. I am sure you will be inspired so much. His writing is so deep while so simple. He says ” Nothing comes from nothing”. When you eat bread mindfully, you will see where it comes. Your bread does not come from nothing. It comes from the field, hard work, the baker. But it also comes from the soil, the rain, and the sun. His teachings come from a life-time deep practices. If you need to read a book this year, vote for a mindfulness book. I could not find the pdf version for you on this book, but you can also start another book from him – “Peace is Every Step” (free pdf version).
Be aware of your negative feelings
Oftentimes, we are full of pain, anxiety, sometimes anger. One of the good habits to practice is to make yourself immediately aware that you are feeling these emotions. How to do it? By breathing in and breathing out mindfully. When you can do this, there is a miracle created. We are aware of our awareness. As said Jon Kabat-Zinn, “We realize our true nature as ‘homo sapiens sapiens’ – The species that knows and knows that it knows”.
This comes with practices. Don’t worry if the first time you don’t realize it immediately. But you might know later on that you were not aware of it at the time. That’s already good progress.
Practice mindful eating
Start in the meal today. Pay attention to what you eat. The texture of vegetables, of rice, of potatoes. The smell. The taste of each. Chew slowly. Imagine the rain, sun, hard work.. that are in them. I used to tell my kids, that we should eat a grain of corn as slowly as the plant took time for it to grow. I know it’s not easy to eat silently when you are with many. But you can avoid starting the conversation yourself. You listen to others while paying attention to what you eat. As simple as that. Try also a few tips I shared in my article “How to practice mindfulness in eating”
Merge yourself in collective energy
The best way to start is to join a group who practices mindfulness. You will be amazed to support yourself with the positive energy of others. I joined Plum Village retreats and Kanshoji Japanese meditation retreat (Europe). They are amazing. But I am sure there are plenty of others which are of good quality nearby you. If the retreat is costly, you can join first a group of meditation. This can be a zen, or Vipassana, or Tibetan… It does not matter. If you can’t find a group in your area, find a group that meets online. I know San Francisco Zen Center has regular online meditation sessions through a zoom meeting that you can join from your home.
Make 2020 a noble year of mindfulness, starting today
So, sit 5 minutes every day during a month, read a mindfulness book, eat mindfully, be aware of your feelings, and join a group. The 30-day challenge sounds too difficult? Be honest, it’s not! I believe the most difficult thing is to start. So, are you up? Try easy things first, such as sitting 5 minutes every evening, read a mindfulness book, and pay attention to what you eat. Then slowly incorporate mindfulness practices in your life in small ways. Mindfulness brought me peace of mind, joy, authenticity, and creativity. I am sure you will benefit!