Mindfulness is a term used by many people nowadays in casual conversations, and we hear it all the time. It is one of the words that became popular with other words like meditation and yoga. I know I heard it a lot on the news, in therapy, and even in books over the last few years, but I never fully grasped what it meant. Well, I did understand the definition of it and my mind seemed to know it logically. However, it was only until recently that I began to understand what it meant wholeheartedly and why it is something so worth talking about.
There is someone who explains mindfulness in the simplest terms and authenticity, and his name is Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen master, who is a peace activist and was nominated for Noble Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1967. The reason why I want to introduce him to you all is that he has this very simple way of explaining deep concepts and an enormous amount of compassion towards listeners that touches people’s heart. There are many books and videos out there talking about mindfulness, but I honestly feel that his works speak the loudest.
Here is one of his talks about mindfulness I would like you to check out: https://youtu.be/N93IvR45D80
His words are so powerful that I would rather share the video than trying to convey his message through my words because I don’t want it to lose any of its power to touch people’s hearts.
I’ve highlighted some key points from this video for your reference with my own interpretation. Please feel free to use them and share your thoughts in the comment section below 🙂
Stopping means to stop our habits of running, such as getting caught up in our endless numbers of tasks and deadlines. In order for us to mindfully stop, it will require our insight. First, we need to recognize that we are running. It is so hard in this society with all of our responsibility to stop especially when being busy is glorified by many. However, we must recognize that we have developed this habit of running and realize that we need to stop so that we can be there for ourselves.
In order to stop, we can first try stopping physically. As Thich says, mind and body inter-are. For the mind to stop, the body must stop as well. We stop the body by releasing all the tension, and then we can shift our focus to our mind. I find it the hardest to stop the mind once the body is stopped, but it is possible. In my experience, I find that it takes practice and a great amount of focus to do so. When the mind is busy and overwhelmed, we know to focus on our breaths. We don’t fight the incoming and outgoing thoughts, but we observe them as they come and go. I remind myself that I do not need to struggle with these thoughts and allow myself to detach so that I can observe them with gentleness. Once I can do that, then I bring my focus on my breaths. Again, this takes practice. For me, I am able to stay with my breaths for a while but eventually, my focus is lost, and I have to kindly redirect it back to my breaths. So, it may not be perfect in the beginning but please remind yourself that this practice does not have to be a struggle. You can kindly redirect yourself without getting overly frustrated.
Another aspect of stopping is learning to authorize ourselves to rest when needed. Again, this one can be hard for many if we have a busy schedule. But once we understand the importance of stopping and what it can do for us, it becomes possible. In my own life, I allow myself to take my time whenever possible and find time to rest when needed. It does not always have to be an hour break. Even finding 5-10 minutes to fully rest and relax does so much for our mind and body if we know how to rest.
Finally, stopping is an art to arrive home to ourselves, our emotions, wounds, and illnesses so that we can be present for life that is happening in front of us.
Once we know how to stop, we can begin healing. Breathing has been a simple act that we have been doing so unconsciously. With mindful breathing, we become aware of our breathing and recognize that we can heal ourselves. When we mindfully breathe, we give up struggling so much. And with practice, we can breathe in such a way that healing becomes possible and we develop faith in our breaths and in ourselves.
Contemplation of the body
Most of us lives life without fully being aware that we are alive. It means that our minds are consumed with toxins from our environment, worries, regrets, and stress that we are often not present for life’s wonders. When we live like that, it’s almost as if we are zombies. When there is no freedom in our minds from those toxins, we are not fully present, which prevents us from truly being alive to enjoy our life.
Contemplation of the body can help us to start coming back to ourselves so we can take great care of both our body and mind. As Thich explained, we can start from the top of the body and work our way down. We scan our body and allow ourselves to fully become aware of each body parts.
Mindful eating can make each meal an act of happiness instead of just the act of eating. We put away our phones, turn off our TV, and stop thinking in worry. Instead, we bring our attention to what we are eating with gratitude so that we can become aware of our food that is in front of us and that we are eating. It can be a nourishing experience for the body and mind. Just like stopping, this one will probably take some practice. However, once we know how to eat mindfully, a simple act of eating alone can bring us much joy and happiness.
If we lived our whole life running and always felt lost in our emotions, we might not know how to be there for ourselves. However, with these simple instruction Thich shared, we too can learn to come home to ourselves so we can be there to care and love ourselves. With each breath, we can arrive home to ourselves. If you are trying to learn self-love, learning mindful breathing is a great first step you can take towards it. When we master self-love, we can then finally learn to truly love and be there for others.