Imagine: you are in good physical shape; your health is fine you eat well, exercise, and usually get a good night’s sleep; but there is something missing. You can’t place your finger on it, but you feel that something stands in your way of becoming complete.
My first encounter with mindfulness was when I took a week-long course in Transcendental Meditation. We lived in Denmark at the time, and I was lucky enough to be invited to a workshop with my wife and her company team. I was very skeptical. My approach to feeling good was going to the gym and working up a sweat. I wasn’t sure how sitting down and going inwards was going to benefit me. I have a need to be constantly moving–cooking, cleaning, doing something with the family, working out, fixing things. Transcendental meditation was the first building block of many that began to lead me to the peace and love I think we are all looking for. I still have miles to go, but it is a journey I have started, and in my mind, there is no turning back.
We all want to be acknowledged, to be loved and be able to love, and most of us hope for our planet to be in harmony for ourselves and the generations to come.
I just recently visited a place of such love and harmony–Plum Village. It is a small monastic village in France founded by Buddhist Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay). He built a beloved community, creating a healthy, nourishing environment where people can learn the art of living in harmony with one another and with the Earth. I had the opportunity to go there this summer on a silent retreat where the focus is on the energy of mindfulness. I did not know what to expect, but deliberately decided not to research it, to go with an open mind and experience it for myself.
It is difficult to explain the experience I had there. Think about the last time you received unconditional love, what that meant, and how it made you feel. I experienced all of that. Welcomed with a smile, you immediately felt the calmness and wisdom of the monastics that live there. So much evolves around being mindful of the simple act of breathing. You learn meditation through breathing and walking, being mindful of your steps, and mindful while eating. When is the last time you looked at a carrot, thought about where it came from and the nutrients it is giving to your body as you chewed it mindfully before swallowing? I guarantee the carrot will taste so much better and your appreciation for food will increase tenfold.
On the day we arrived we were taught to focus on our breathing, leading to sitting and walking meditations. The walking meditations were to become my favorite. My mantra during these walks was from one of Thay’s poems that said “I have arrived, I am home.” I was able to go deeper inward than ever before and was left with a floating feeling of joy, love, and appreciation. After the walking meditation we would learn about Buddhist ways, enjoy nourishing meals, relaxation, music, followed by more meditation. This went on for three days and by the time I had to leave, I really felt the sentence from Thay’s poem “I have arrived, I am home.” To be in a place of love and understanding, without judgement, where I gave myself the gift of going inwards and exploring my feelings was so beautiful—a place where you are encouraged to search for peace, love, tranquility and deeper meaning.
I fell in love with Plum Village, and I am in awe of the monastics who live there and spend their whole lives in service of others. I am determined to go back again and meet all of the wonderful brothers and sisters. As I write this I am already looking forward to my next visit.
I hope everyone can find a way to add mindfulness to their lives. It doesn’t have to be a silent retreat in France with Buddhist brothers and sisters—it can be a Wim Hof breathing exercise, a meditation app, or Yoga or Qigong. The energy we generate when we bring our mind back to our body and get in touch with the present moment is powerful. We become aware of our breathing, come home to our body and are fully present for ourselves, in contrast with our busy lives, filled with moments on autopilot where little thought is given to what we are doing. Whatever way you choose to add mindfulness to your life, I wish you well on your journey. I wish for you to be happy, to sleep well, eat healthy foods, exercise, and most of all I wish for you a life of balance.
If you are interested in learning more about Plum Village and the teachings of Thay, please visit www.plumvillage.org