Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Eating for Peace - the Art and Science of Mindful Consumption

By Thich Nhat Hanh

All things need food to be alive and to grow, including our love or our hate. Love is a living thing, hate is a living thing. If you do not nourish your love, it will die. If you cut the source of nutriment for your violence, your violence will also die. That is why the path shown by the Buddha is the path of mindful consumption.

The Buddha told the following story. There was a couple who wanted to cross the desert to go to another country in order to seek freedom. They brought with them their little boy and a quantity of food and water. But they did not calculate well, and that is why halfway through the desert they ran out of food, and they knew that they were going to die. So after a lot of anguish, they decided to eat the little boy so they could survive and go to the other country, and that's what they did. And every time they ate a piece of flesh from their son, they cried.

The Buddha asked his monks, "My dear friends: Do you think that the couple enjoyed eating the flesh of their son?" The Buddha said, "It is impossible to enjoy eating the flesh of our son. If you do not eat mindfully, you are eating the flesh of your son and daughter, you are eating the flesh of your parent."

If we look deeply, we will see that eating can be extremely violent. UNESCO tells us that every day, 40,000 children in the world die because of a lack of nutrition, of food.

Every day, 40,000 children. And the amount of grain that we grow in the West is mostly used to feed our cattle. According to a recent report, of all the agricultural land in the U.S., 87% is used to raise animals for food. That is 45% of the total land mass in the U.S.

More than half of all the water consumed in the U.S. is to raise animals for food. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of meat, but only 25 gallons to produce a pound of wheat. A totally vegetarian diet requires 300 gallons of water per day, while a meat-eating diet requires more than 4,000 gallons of water per day.

Raising animals for food causes more water pollution than any other industry in the U.S. because animals raised for food produce 130 times the excrement of the entire human population. It means 87,000 pounds per second. Much of the waste from factory farms and slaughterhouses flows into streams and rivers, contaminating water sources.

Each vegetarian can save one acre of trees per year. More than 260 million acres of U.S. forests have been cleared to grow crops to feed animals raised for meat. And another acre of trees disappears every eight seconds. The tropical rain forests are also being destroyed to create grazing land for cattle.

In the US., animals raised for food are fed more than 80% of the corn we grow and more than 95% of the oats. We are eating our country, we are eating our earth, we are eating our children. And I have learned that more than half the people in this country overeat.

Mindful eating can help maintain compassion within our heart. A person without compassion cannot be happy, cannot relate to other human beings and to other living beings. And eating the flesh of our own son is what is going on in the world, because we do not practice mindful eating.

The Buddha spoke about the second kind of food that we consume every day--sense impressions--the kind of food that we take in by the way of the eyes, the ears, the tongue, the body and the mind. When we read a magazine, we consume. When you watch television, you consume. When you listen to a conversation, you consume. And these items can be highly toxic. There may be a lot of poisons, like craving, like violence, like anger and despair. We allow ourselves to be intoxicated by what we consume in terms of sense impressions. We allow our children to intoxicate themselves because of these products.

That is why it is very important to look deeply into our ill-being, into the nature of our ill-being, in order to recognize the sources of nutriment we have used to bring it into us and into our society.

The Buddha had this to say: "What has come to be--if you know how to look deeply into its nature and identify its source of nutriment, you are already on the path of emancipation."

What has come to be is our illness, our ill-being, our suffering, our violence, our despair.

And if you practice looking deeply, meditation, you'll be able to identify the sources of nutriments, of food, that has brought it into us.

Therefore the whole nation has to practice looking deeply into the nature of what we consume every day. And consuming mindfully is the only way to protect our nation, ourselves and our society. We have to learn how to consume mindfully as a family, as a city, as a nation. We have to learn what to produce and what not to produce in order to provide our people with only the items that are nourishing and healing. We have to refrain from producing the kinds of items that bring war and despair into our body, into our consciousness, and into the collective body and consciousness of our nation, our society.

And Congress has to practice that. We have elected members of the Congress. We expect them to practice deeply, listening to the suffering of the people, to the real causes of that suffering, and to make the kind of laws that can protect us from self-destruction. And America is great. I have the conviction that you can do it and help the world. You can offer the world wisdom, mindfulness and compassion.

Nowadays I enjoy places where people do not smoke. There are nonsmoking flights that you can enjoy. Ten years ago they did not exist, nonsmoking flights. And in America on every box of cigarettes there is the message: "Beware: Smoking can be hazardous to your health." That is a bell of mindfulness. That is the practice of mindful consumption. You do not say that you are practicing mindfulness, but you are really practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness of smoking is what allowed you to see that smoking is not healthy.

In America, people are very aware of the food they eat. They want every package of food to be labeled so they can know what is in it. They don't want to eat the kind of food that will bring toxins and poisons into their bodies. This is the practice of mindful eating.

But we can go further. We can do better, as parents, as teachers, as artists and as politicians.

If you are a teacher, you can contribute a lot in awakening people to the need for mindful consumption, because that is the way to real emancipation. If you are a journalist, you have the means to educate people, to wake people up to the nature of our situation. Every one of us can transform himself or herself into a bodhisattva doing the work of awakening.

Because only awakening can help us to stop the course we are taking, the course of destruction. Then we will know in which direction we should go to make the earth a safe place for us, for our children and for their children.

Source: http://www.earthsave.org/news/03summer/eating4peace.htm

On Mindful Consumption

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking and consuming. I vow to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.

Source: http://dharma.ncf.ca/introduction/precepts/precept-5.html

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I vow to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.
Whenever we take a bath or a shower, we can look at our body and see that it is a gift from our parents and their parents. Even though many of us do not want to have much to do with our parents--they may have hurt us so much--when we look deeply, we see that we cannot drop all identification with them. As we wash each part of our body, we can ask ourselves, "To whom does this body belong? Who has transmitted this body to me? What has been transmitted?" Meditating this way, we will discover that there are three components: the transmitter, that which is transmitted, and the one who receives the transmission. The transmitter is our parents. We are the continuation of our parents and their ancestors. The object of transmission is our body itself. And the one who receives the transmission is us. If we continue to meditate on this, we will see clearly that the transmitter, the object transmitted, and the receiver are one. All three are present in our body. When we are deeply in touch with the present moment, we can see that all our ancestors and all future generations are present in us. Seeing this, we will know what to do and what not to do--for ourselves, our ancestors, our children, and their children.
At first, when you look at your father, you probably do not see that you and your father are one. You may be angry at him for many things. But the moment you understand and love your father, you realize the emptiness of transmission. You realize that to love yourself is to love your father, and to love your father is to love yourself. To keep your body and your consciousness healthy is to do it for your ancestors, your parents, and future generations. You do it for your society and for everyone, not just yourself. The first thing you have to bear in mind is that you are not practicing this as a separate entity. Whatever you ingest, you are doing it for everyone. All of your ancestors and all future generations are ingesting it with you. That is the true meaning of the emptiness of the transmission. The Fifth Precept should be practiced in this spirit.
There are people who drink alcohol and get drunk, who destroy their bodies, their families, their society. They should refrain from drinking. But you who have been having a glass of wine every week during the last thirty years without doing any harm to yourself, why should you stop that? What is the use of practicing this precept if drinking alcohol does not harm you or other people? Although you have not harmed yourself during the last thirty years by drinking just one or two glasses of wine every week, the fact is that it may have an effect on your children, your grandchildren, and your society. We only need to look deeply in order to see it. You are practicing not for yourself alone, but for everyone. Your children might have a propensity for alcoholism and, seeing you drinking wine every week, one of them may become alcoholic in the future. If you abandon your two glasses of wine, it is to show your children, your friends, and your society that your life is not only for yourself. Your life is for your ancestors, future generations, and also your society. To stop drinking two glasses of wine every week is a very deep practice, even if it has not brought you any harm. That is the insight of a bodhisattva who knows that everything she does is done for all her ancestors and future generations. The emptiness of transmission is the basis of the Fifth Precept. The use of drugs by so many young people should also be stopped with the same kind of insight.
In modern life, people think that their body belongs to them and they can do anything they want to it. "We have the right to live our own lives." When you make such a declaration, the law supports you. This is one of the manifestations of individualism. But, according to the teaching of emptiness, your body is not yours. Your body belongs to your ancestors, your parents, and future generations. It also belongs to society and to all the other living beings. All of them have come together to bring about the presence of this body--the trees, clouds, everything. Keeping your body healthy is to express gratitude to the whole cosmos, to all ancestors, and also not to betray the future generations. We practice this precept for the whole cosmos, the whole society. If we are healthy, everyone can benefit from it--not only everyone in the society of men and women, but everyone in the society of animals, plants, and minerals. This is a bodhisattva precept. When we practice the Five Precepts we are already on the path of a bodhisattva.
When we are able to get out of the shell of our small self and see that we are interrelated to everyone and everything, we see that our every act is linked with the whole of humankind, the whole cosmos. To keep yourself healthy is to be kind to your ancestors, your parents, the future generations, and also your society. Health is not only bodily health, but also mental health. The Fifth Precept is about health and healing.
"Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society..." Because you are not doing it only for yourself, to stop drinking one or two glasses of wine a week is truly an act of a bodhisattva. You do it everyone. At a reception, when someone offers you a glass of wine, you can smile and decline, "No, thank you. I do not drink alcohol. I would be grateful if you would bring me a glass of juice or water." You do it gently, with a smile. This is very helpful. You set an example for many friends, including many children who are present. Although that can be done in a very polite, quiet way, it is truly the act of a bodhisattva, setting an example by your own life.
Everything a mother eats, drinks, worries about, or fears will have an effect on the fetus inside her. Even when the child inside is still tiny, everything is in it. If the young mother is not aware of the nature of interbeing, she may cause damage to both herself and her child at the same time. If she drinks alcohol, she will destroy, to some extent, the brain cells in her fetus. Modern research has proven this.
Mindful consumption is the object of this precept. We are what we consume. If we look deeply into the items that we consume every day, we will come to know our own nature very well. We have to eat, drink, consume, but if we do it unmindfully, we may destroy our bodies and our consciousness, showing ingratitude toward our ancestors, our parents, and future generations.
When we eat mindfully we are in close touch with the food. The food we eat comes to us from nature, from living beings, and from the cosmos. To touch it with our mindfulness is to show our gratitude. Eating in mindfulness can be a great joy. We pick up our food with our fork, look at it for a second before putting it into our mouth, and then chew it carefully and mindfully, at least fifty times. If we practice this, we will be in touch with the entire cosmos.
Being in touch also means knowing whether toxins are present in the food. We can recognize food as healthy or not thanks to our mindfulness. Before eating, members of a family can practice breathing in and out and looking at the food on the table. One person can pronounce the name of each dish, "potatoes," "salad," and so on. Calling something by its name helps us touch it deeply and see its true nature. At the same time, mindfulness reveals to us the presence or absence of toxins in each dish. Children enjoy doing this if we show them how. Mindful eating is a good education. If you practice this way for some time, you will find that you will eat more carefully, and your practice of mindful eating will be an example for others. It is an art to eat in a way that brings mindfulness into our life.
We can have a careful diet for our body, and we can also have a careful diet for our consciousness, our mental health. We need to refrain from ingesting the kinds of intellectual "food" that bring toxins into our consciousness. Some TV programs, for example, educate us and help us to lead a healthier life, and we should make time to watch programs like these. But other programs bring us toxins, and we need to refrain from watching them. This can be a practice for everyone in the family.
We know that smoking cigarettes is not good for our health. We have worked hard to get the manufacturers to print a line on a pack of cigarettes: "WARNING, SMOKING MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH." That is a strong statement, but it was necessary because advertisements to promote smoking are very convincing. They give young people the idea that if they don't smoke, they are not really alive. These advertisements link smoking with nature, springtime, expensive cars, beautiful men and women, and high standards of living. One could believe that if you don't smoke or drink alcohol, you will not have any happiness at all in this life. This kind of advertising is dangerous; it penetrates into our unconscious. There are so many wonderful and healthy things to eat and drink. We have to show how this kind of propaganda misleads people.
The warning on cigarette packs is not enough. We have to stand up, write articles, and do whatever we can to step up campaigns against smoking and drinking alcohol. We are going in the right direction. At last it is possible to take an airplane flight without suffering from cigarette smoke. We have to make more effort in these directions.
I know that drinking wine runs deep in Western culture. In the ceremony of the Eucharist and the Passover seder, wine is an important element. But I have spoken to priests and rabbis about this, and they have told me it is possible to substitute grape juice for the wine. Even if we don't drink at all, we can still get killed on the streets by a drunk driver. To persuade one person to refrain from drinking is to make the world safer for us all.
Sometimes we don't need to eat or drink as much as we do, but it has become a kind of addiction. We feel so lonely. Loneliness is one of the afflictions of modern life. It is similar to the Third and Fourth Precepts--we feel lonely, so we engage in conversation, or even in a sexual relationship, hoping that the feeling of loneliness will go away. Drinking and eating can also be the result of loneliness. You want to drink or overeat in order to forget your loneliness, but what you eat may bring toxins into your body. When you are lonely, you open the refrigerator, watch TV, read magazines or novels, or pick up the telephone to talk. But unmindful consumption always makes things worse.
There may be a lot of violence, hatred, and fear in a film. If we spend one hour looking at that film, we will water the seeds of violence, hatred, and fear in us. We do that, and we let our children do that, too. Therefore we should have a family meeting to discuss an intelligent policy concerning television watching. We may have to label our TV sets the same way we have labelled cigarettes: "WARNING: WATCHING TELEVISION CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH." That is the truth. Some children have joined gangs, and many more are very violent, partly because they have seen a lot of violence on television. We must have an intelligent policy concerning the use of television in our family.
We should arrange our schedules so that our family has time to benefit from the many healthy and beautiful programs on TV. We do not have to destroy our television set; we only have to use it with wisdom and mindfulness. This can be discussed among the family and the community. There are a number of things we can do, such as asking the TV stations to establish healthier programming, or suggesting to manufacturers to offer television sets that receive only stations that broadcast healthy, educational programs, like PBS. During the war in Vietnam, the American army dropped hundreds of thousands of radio sets in the jungles that could receive only one station, the one that made propaganda for the anticommunist side. This is not psychological warfare, but I think many families would welcome a TV set that would allow us to see only healthy programs. I hope you will write to TV manufacturers and TV stations to express your ideas about this.
We need to be protected because the toxins are overwhelming. They are destroying our society, our families, and ourselves. We have to use everything in our power to protect ourselves. Discussions on this subject will bring about important ideas, such as to how to protect ourselves from destructive television broadcasts. We also have to discuss in our families and communities which magazines that we and our children enjoy reading, and we should boycott those magazines that spill toxins into our society. Not only should we refrain from reading them, but we should also make an effort to warn people of the danger of reading and consuming these kinds of products. The same is true of books and conversations.
Because we are lonely, we want to have conversations, but our conversations can also bring about a lot of toxins. From time to time, after speaking with someone, we feel paralyzed by what we have just heard. Mindfulness will allow us to stop having the kinds of conversations that bring us more toxins.
Psychotherapists are those who listen deeply to the sufferings of their clients. If they do not know how to practice to neutralize and transform the pain and sorrow in themselves, they will not be able to remain fresh and healthy in order to sustain themselves for a long time.
The exercise I propose has three points: First, look deeply into your body and your consciousness and identify the kinds of toxins that are already in you. We each have to be our own doctor not only for our bodies, but also for our minds. After we identify these toxins, we can try to expel them. One way is to drink a lot of water. Another is to practice massage, to encourage the blood to come to the spot where the toxins are, so the blood can wash them away. A third is to breathe deeply air that is fresh and clean. This brings more oxygen into the blood and helps it expel the toxins in our bodies. There are mechanisms in our bodies that try to neutralize and expel these substances, but our bodies may be too weak to do the job by themselves. While doing these things, we have to stop ingesting more toxins.
At the same time, we look into our consciousness to see what kinds of toxins are already in there. We have a lot of anger, despair, fear, hatred, craving, and jealousy--all these things were described by the Buddha as poisons. The Buddha spoke of the three basic poisons as anger, hatred, and delusion. There are many more than that, and we have to recognize their presence in us. Our happiness depends on our ability to transform them. We have not practiced, and so we have been carried away by our unmindful life-styles. The quality of our life depends very much on the amount of peace and joy that can be found in our bodies and consciousness. If there are too many poisons in our bodies and consciousness, the peace and joy in us will not be strong enough to make us happy. So the first step is to identify and recognize the poisons that are already in us.
The second step of the practice is to be mindful of what we are ingesting into our bodies and consciousness. What kind of toxins am I putting into my body today? What films am I watching today? What book am I reading? What magazine am I looking at? What kind of conversations am I having? Try to recognize the toxins.
The third part of the practice is to prescribe for yourself a kind of diet. Aware of the fact that there are this many toxins in my body and consciousness, aware of the fact that I am ingesting this and that toxin into my body and consciousness every day, making myself sick and causing suffering to my beloved ones, I am determined to prescribe for myself a proper diet. I vow to ingest only items that preserve well-being, peace, and joy in my body and my consciousness. I am determined not to ingest more toxins into my body and consciousness.
Therefore, I will refrain from ingesting into my body and consciousness these things, and I will make a list of them. We know that there are many items that are nutritious, healthy, and delightful that we can consume every day. When we refrain from drinking alcohol, there are so many delicious and wholesome alternatives: fruit juices, teas, mineral waters. We don't have to deprive ourselves of the joys of living, not at all. There are many beautiful, informative, and entertaining programs on television. There are many excellent books and magazines to read. There are many wonderful people and many healthy subjects to talk about. By vowing to consume only items that preserve our well-being, peace, and joy, and the well-being, peace, and joy of our family and society, we need not deprive ourselves of the joys of living. Practicing this third exercise brings us deep peace and joy.
Practicing a diet is the essence of this precept. Wars and bombs are the products of our consciousness individually and collectively. Our collective consciousness has so much violence, fear, craving, and hatred in it, it can manifest in wars and bombs. The bombs are the product of our fear. Because others have powerful bombs, we try to make bombs even more powerful. Then the other nations hear that we have powerful bombs, and they try to make even more powerful bombs. Removing the bombs is not enough. Even if we could transport all the bombs to a distant planet, we would still not be safe, because the roots of the wars and the bombs are still intact in our collective consciousness. Transforming the toxins in our collective consciousness is the true way to uproot war.
When we saw the video of Rodney King being beaten on the streets of Los Angeles, we did not understand why the five policemen had to beat a defenseless person like that again and again. We saw the violence, hatred, and fear in the policemen. But it is not the problem of the five policemen alone. Their act was the manifestation of our collective consciousness. They are not the only ones who are violent and full of hatred and fear. Most of us are like that. There is so much violence in all big cities, not only Los Angeles, but also San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Tokyo, Paris, and elsewhere. Every morning, when going to work, policemen say, "I have to be careful or I may be killed. I will be unable to return to my family." A policeman practices fear every day, and because of that, he may do things that are quite unwise. Sometimes there is no real danger, but because he suspects he may be shot, he takes his gun and shoots first. He may shoot a child playing with a toy gun. One week before Rodney King was beaten, a policewoman in Los Angeles was shot in the face and killed. It is natural that the police in the area became angry when they heard this, and they all went to the funeral to demonstrate their anger and hatred to society and to the administration for not providing them with enough safety. The government is not safe either--presidents and prime ministers get assassinated. Because society is like this, policemen and policewomen are like that. "This is, because that is. This is like this, because that is like that." A violent society creates violent policemen. A fearful society creates fearful policemen. Putting the policemen in jail does not solve the problem. We have to change the society from its roots, which is our collective consciousness, where the root-energies of fear, anger, greed, and hatred lie.
We cannot abolish war with angry demonstrations. We have to practice a diet for ourselves, our families, and our society. We have to do it with everyone else. In order to have healthy TV programs, we have to work with artists, writers, filmmakers, lawyers, and legislators. We have to step up the struggle. Meditation should not be a drug to make us oblivious to our real problems. It should produce awareness in us, and also in our families and in our society. Enlightenment has to be collective for us to achieve results. We have to stop the kinds of consuming that poison our collective consciousness.
I do not see any other way than the practice of these bodhisattva precepts. We have to practice them as a society in order to produce the dramatic changes we need. To practice as a society will be possible only if each of us vows to practice as a bodhisattva. The problem is great. It concerns our survival and the survival of our species and our planet. It is not a matter of enjoying one glass of wine. If you stop drinking your glass of wine, you do it for the whole society. We know that the Fifth Precept is exactly like the first one. When you practice non-killing and you know how to protect the lives of even small animals, you realize that eating less meat has do with the practice of the precept. If you are not able to entirely stop eating meat, at least make an effort to reduce eating meat. If you reduce eating meat and drinking alcohol by fifty percent, you will already be performing a miracle; that alone can solve the problem of hunger in the Third World. Practicing the precepts is to make progress every day. That is why during the precept recitation ceremony, we always answer the question of whether we have made an effort to study and practice the precept by deep breathing. That is the best answer. Deep breathing means that I have made some effort, but I can do better.
The Fifth Precept can be like that, too. If you are unable to completely stop drinking, then stop four-fifths, or three-fourths. The difference between the First and the Fifth Precept is that alcohol is not the same as meat. Alcohol is addictive. One drop brings about another. That is why you are encouraged to stop even one glass of wine. One glass can bring about a second glass. Although the spirit is the same as the First Precept, you are strongly recommended not to take the first glass of wine. When you see that we are in great danger, refraining from the first glass of wine is a manifestation of your enlightenment. You do it for all of us. We have to set an example for our children and our friends. On French television they say, "One glass is all right, but three glasses will bring about destruction." (Un verre ça va; trois verres bonjour les dégâts.) They do not say that the first glass brings about the second, and the second brings about the third. They don't say that, because they belong to a civilization of wine. Here in Plum Village, in the Bordeaux region of France, we are surrounded by wine. Many of our neighbors are surprised that we don't profit from being in this area, but we are a pocket of resistance. Please help us.
When I was a novice, I learned that from time to time we had to use alcohol in preparing medicines. There are many kinds of roots and herbs that have to be macerated in alcohol to have an effect. In these instances, alcohol is allowed. When the herbs have been prepared, we put the mixture in a pot and boil them. Then they no longer have an intoxicating effect. If you use some alcohol in cooking, the result may be the same. After the food is cooked, the alcohol in it will not have an intoxicating nature. We should not be narrow-minded about this.
No one can practice the precepts perfectly, including the Buddha. The vegetarian dishes that were offered to him were not entirely vegetarian. Boiled vegetables contain dead bacteria. We cannot practice the First Precept or any of the precepts perfectly. But because of the real danger in our society--alcoholism has destroyed so many families and has brought about much unhappiness--we have to do something. We have to live in a way that will eradicate that kind of damage. That is why even if you can be very healthy with one glass of wine every week, I still urge you with all my strength to abandon that glass of wine.
I would also like to say something about not using drugs. As alcohol has been the plague of one generation, drugs are the plague of another. One young girl in Australia told me that she did not know anyone in her age group who does not take drugs of one kind or another. Often young people who have taken drugs come to meditation centers to deal with the problem of facing life as it is. They are often talented and sensitive people--painters, poets and writers--and by becoming addicted to drugs they have, to a small or large extent, destroyed some brain cells. It means that they now have little stability or staying power, and are prone to sleeplessness and nightmares. We do what we can to encourage them to stay for a course of training in the meditation center, but because they are easily disillusioned, they tend to leave when things become difficult. Those who have been addicted to drugs need discipline. I am not sure that a meditation center like Plum Village is the best place to cure victims of drug addiction. I think that experts and specialists in this field are better equipped than we are. A meditation center should be able to receive educators and specialists in drug addiction as well as the victims of drug addiction for short courses in meditation to make its resources available where they are truly needed.
The practice that we offer is that of the Fifth Precept, to prevent someone from becoming involved with drugs in the first place. Parents especially need to know what spiritual food to give their children. So often, children feel spiritually starved by the wholly materialistic outlook of their parents. The parents are unable to transmit to the children the values of their spiritual heritage, and so the children try to find fulfillment in drugs. Drugs seem to be the only solution when teachers and parents are spiritually barren. Young people need to touch the feeling of deep-seated well-being within themselves without having to take drugs, and it is the task of educators to help them find spiritual nourishment and well-being. But if educators have not yet discovered for themselves a source of spiritual nourishment, how can they demonstrate to young people how that nourishment may be found?
The Fifth Precept tells us to find wholesome, spiritual nourishment, not only for ourselves but also for our children and future generations. Wholesome, spiritual nourishment can be found in the moon, the spring blossoms, or the eyes of a child. The most basic meditation practices of becoming aware of our bodies, our minds, and our world can lead us into a far more rich and fulfilling state than drugs could ever do. We can celebrate the joys that are available in the simplest pleasures.
The use of alcohol and drugs is causing great damage to our societies and families. Governments work hard to stop the traffic of drugs. They use airplanes, guns, and armies to do so. Most people know how destructive the use of drugs is but they cannot resist, because there is so much pain and loneliness inside them, and the use of alcohol and drugs helps them to forget for a while their deep malaise. Once people get addicted to alcohol and drugs, they might do anything to get the drugs they need--lie, steal, rob, or even kill. To stop the drug traffic is not the best way to prevent people from using drugs. The best way is to practice the Fifth Precept and to help others practice.
Consuming mindfully is the intelligent way to stop ingesting toxins into our consciousness and prevent the malaise from becoming overwhelming. Learning the art of touching and ingesting refreshing, nourishing, and healing elements is the way to restore our balance and transform the pain and loneliness that are already in us. To do this, we have to practice together. The practice of mindful consuming should become a national policy. It should be considered true peace education. Parents, teachers, educators, physicians, therapists, lawyers, novelists, reporters, filmmakers, economists, and legislators have to practice together. There must be ways of organizing this kind of practice.
The practice of mindfulness helps us be aware of what is going on. Once we are able to see deeply the suffering and the roots of the suffering, we will be motivated to act, to practice. The energy we need is not fear or anger; it is the energy of understanding and compassion. There is no need to blame or condemn. Those who are destroying themselves, their families, and their society by intoxicating themselves are not doing it intentionally. Their pain and loneliness are overwhelming, and they want to escape. They need to be helped, not punished. Only understanding and compassion on a collective level can liberate us. The practice of the Five Wonderful Precepts is the practice of mindfulness and compassion. For a future to be possible for our children and their children, we have to practice.

THICH NHAT HANH is a Zen Buddhist monk, peace activist, scholar, and poet. He is the founder of the Van Hanh Buddhist University in Saigon, has taught at Columbia University and the Sorbonne, and now lives in southern France, where he gardens, works to help those in need, and travels internationally teaching ``the art of mindful living.'' Martin Luther King, Jr., nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967, saying, ``I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize than this gentle monk from Vietnam.'' Reproduced from For a Future to Be Possible: Commentaries on the Five Wonderful Precepts (1993) by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Seven Wonders of the Buddhist World

Sunday, March 23, 2014

16 To Live By

 How We ThinkHow We Act  How We Relate To OthersHow We Find Meaning
Right Speech 



Humility is the attitude of experiencing the world and what it contains with wonder and awe. It is about seeing ourselves as a small part of a vast cosmos, inhabited by people and creatures from whom we can learn. Humility is quiet strength. In some cultures it is considered quite normal to be loud and assertive about what we think and what we want. Yet there is something dignified about people who are sincerely humble. Even if they are prominent and successful, they have the wisdom and experience to understand their limitations.

A person with humility can see beyond their own viewpoint and interests. They acknowledge that we are all dependent on other people, and that we have unique and sometimes unexpected roles to play in each other’s lives. Humility shifts our perspective from ‘me’ to ‘others’ and is delighted to do so. Humility comes at the beginning of the 16 Guidelines because it is a starting point. How can we grow and develop if we think we have nothing to learn?


To practise patience is to taste the power of the mind. Life is full of uncomfortable experiences, from minor niggles and irritations to major confrontations and setbacks. When they happen, we have a choice about how to respond. We can either become agitated and upset, or we can stay calm and relaxed. Patience is the ability to control our reactions and retain our peace of mind.

Patience gives us the flexibility and strength not to be a victim of circumstance. It is like having a protective suit of armour. It doesn’t make us passive or resigned, or take away the ability to respond appropriately to difficulties and harm. On the contrary, patience makes it far more likely we can respond in an appropriate way, because we retain the ability to think clearly.

Some people seem to be born patient, just as others seem to have a tendency to get angry. However, it is also possible to cultivate patience. We can remind ourselves of the damage that is caused by uncontrolled anger. We can accept that an injury may not have been intended. We can remember that the situation will change. Patience is a learning curve that lays the foundations for a happy life.


Contentment is a state of mind that has nothing to do with money, objects, or other people. Nor does it concern itself with how much we have, or how little. Instead, it’s about finding a point of stillness within ourselves which allows us to be quietlyhappy whatever our situation might be, and to be at peace with who we are.

How do you experience contentment? It can be as easy – and yet as radical – as taking a breath in, and deciding to release everything that makes us feel anxious and dissatisfied as you breathe out. Try settling deeply and quietly in a traffic jam, in themiddle of an argument, or when tears are close. Let the commotion of the world simply come to rest. Is it possible to taste the experience of surrender and release?

Unless we learn to live in the moment, and to accept it as it is, we may never function well or feel fully alive. Contentment releases us from the restless desires that drive us blindly forward, and which prevent us from being open to the needs and gifts of others. It frees us up to direct our energy in fresh and more conscious ways. Can we discover how to enjoy contentment despite the hurry and worry of our contemporary existence?


Delight is the delicious taste we get when something good happens. Worries fade away, frustration evaporates, and anger disappears when a baby is safely born or a friend passes their exams, when a problem is solved or a conflict resolved. Delight opens the heart.

Delight can change our minds and change our lives. It is a tonic that relieves the pain of envy and shifts the blight of depression. It brings us closer to the people we love and eases the difficulties we have with those people who are further awayfrom us. It makes such good sense to practise the art of rejoicing that it is strange we often overlook it. Why is bad news sometimes more compelling than good news? Why are we tempted to dwell on what is going wrong rather than what is going right? One drags us down, the other lifts us up.

 We have a choice about what to feed our heart and mind. If we can learn to dwell on positive stories and accomplishments we can quickly bring more happiness into the lives of ourselves and others. 



Kindness says: ‘I want you to be happy.’ To be kind means to be friendly, caring, generous, benevolent, considerate, respectful, fair and affectionate. We all know in our hearts when we have received or offered kindness because of the warmfeeling it brings. Is there anyone who does not want to experience kindness from another person?

Kindness knows with exquisite wisdom when it is appropriate to say or do something. It is found in the small details. A gentle touch on the cheek or a soft support of the elbow guiding someone across the road. Sustaining eye contact for just that moment longer. Making a telephone call. Remembering the little things that please someone. If we act in a kind way, it may seem that we are putting someone else’s happiness ahead of ours, but in practice it doesn’t work that way. Being kind invariably feels good, lifts our own spirits, and nourishes us in ways that we don’t always acknowledge. Everyone benefits.


Honesty is an opportunity to move through the world gracefully without harming other people. To speak or act dishonestly is to put our own interests ahead of someone else’s. To distort what they experience to fit our needs, or to take their possessions for ourselves. This is why dishonesty causes such disappointment and pain. Whereas to be honest is to cherish the needs and wishes of someone else. It is a statement that we care about another person’s welfare.

Honesty is a personal choice that arises every time that human beings connect with one another. Each individual has the opportunity to be straightforward and honest in their dealings with other people, regardless of their health, family situation, possessions or resources. In doing so, they help to create a culture of honesty for everyone.

Imagine a world where everyone plays fair, acts justly, and keeps their financial affairs simple and straightforward. Even the thought can make us soften and smile. It may take an enormous amount of courage and inner strength to bring this about, but why not get going right now? Honesty starts with each one of us.


In some ways generosity seems a crazy, counter-cultural way to behave. Instead of keeping our time, energy or possessions for ourselves, we give them away. There is something very powerful about choosing to do this. It is a fundamental shift awayfrom the limited world of ‘me’ and ‘mine.’

Generosity is defined by the wish to benefit someone else. It is rarely the size of the gift or the gesture that matters most, but the message that comes with it. The heart knows this, immediately and unmistakeably. We taste the uneasiness when a gift has an ulterior motive, and save our real admiration for the person who can give without seeking a return.

To some degree, everyone on the planet is likely to demonstrate generosity in some way, whether to a member of their family, a friend, or a beloved animal. The question is simply whether we choose to go further than that. Whether we want to learn how to open our hearts and hands more widely, and to share more generously whatever time, energy, talents and possessions we have. It is a critical decision about the direction that we want our lives to take.

Right Speech

Words! Love them or hate them, it often feels like we’re drowning in the noise they create – not only in our own ears, or on the page, but in our heads. They have the power to uplift us and to cast us down, to liberate and to entrap. They create friendships and make enemies. They can gain us great wealth and lose us everything we possess. The power of speech is so great that words cannot do it justice.

As soon as a child learns to speak, its life and relationships change. Countless daily choices come next. Whether to speak loudly or quietly, fast or slow. What words to use. When to speak or to be silent. We learn how to use our speech through trial and error, and in doing so create an image and style that will define our personality and shape our lives.

Right speech is a commitment to use words skilfully, in a way that will bring peace and happiness to ourselves and the people around us. It is about using our speech to take away fear, to bring hope, to make people laugh and feel closer to one another. This is how we share who we are and what is in our heart. 



Everyone wants and needs respect. It is a pre-requisite for human beings to relate to each other in a positive and constructive way. Respect acknowledges that we have the same basic needs, whether physical, psychological or spiritual, and that other people’s experience and wisdom can be helpful to us. Yet there is another dimension to respect, with even more power to transform. From our earliest years, we learn and grow through admiring and copying other people.

In traditional societies this was and is a well-ordered process. Wisdom and life experience are seen as a form of wealth to be passed down the generations. ‘Elder’ does not just mean ‘old.’ Why is there now often a tendency to be disrespectful towards people who are older and have more life experience than ourselves?

All around us there are people we can respect and learn from, if we choose to do so, and if we have the necessary humility. Respect is something that we have to give rather than to demand. How do we choose the people we respect? What effect will this have on our lives? How can respect contribute to a happy life?


Forgiveness is the capacity to reclaim our peace of mind when something has happened to disturb us. As we go through life it is inevitable that we are going to hurt one another. In fact, as our world becomes more complex and interconnected, the opportunities for conflict increase. We have the choice whether to respond to these hurts and conflicts with anger and bitterness, or with forgiveness. Forgiving is not the same as forgetting. It does not mean that we gloss over the harm that has taken place, or pretend that it never happened. What it does is to allow us to let go of the destructive attitudes towards the past that imprison us and the person who harmed us in a cycle of recrimination and guilt. When our desire for reconciliation and peace is stronger than our anger, disappointment or pain, then forgiveness offers the opportunity to make a new start.

Forgiveness can seem insurmountable, and has vast consequences, but in essence it is nothing more than a shift of mind. The motivation to forgive has to come from a genuine wish deep inside to relieve the pain and discomfort of ourselves and of others. It cannot be forced. Does everyone have the capacity to forgive? Can everything be forgiven? Is forgiveness something we can learn?


Gratitude celebrates our connections with other beings and our capacity to offer mutual support. It is a form of openness and generosity that strengthens relationships and heals tension, resentment and anger. Gratitude calls us to strip away unnecessary complexities, and to be simple and natural with each other. It brings peace and harmony.

To receive gratitude from others is to strengthen our confidence that we have a positive role to play in the world. It makes us feel recognised, encouraged and inspired. When we are able to offer gratitude sincerely to someone else, notice how it brings a pleasant taste in the mouth, a warm feeling in the heart and a surge of energy. Appreciation feels good.

Gratitude is grounded in the wisdom which accepts that we are neither independent nor self-sufficient, but part of an extraordinary continuum of events and beings on this planet. It encourages us to welcome reality, rather than to fight it – both what seems good, and what seems bad. Learning to appreciate every single thing that happens as a potential source of insight and growth is one of the key ingredients for a happy life.


When life is going well, it’s easy to forget that change happens in an instant. It is the nature of the universe. In an uncertain world, a sense of loyalty and mutual responsibility is often the glue that holds families and friendships together. It can be the lifeline that helps us to feel safe and supported and enables us to function well.

We all want to be accepted for who we are. Not for what we can buy, what we look like or who we know. When we cannot rely on the loyalty of each other, there is anxiety and insecurity, loneliness and heartbreak. It is logical to feel loyalty towards the people we feel close to, especially if we want them to be loyal to us. But can this feeling of closeness go further? Is it possible to extend the same warmth and support to people outside our inner circle? What can be done to develop an attitude of loyalty and solidarity towards the wider community and, ultimately, towards the entire planet? Some great people seem able to do this. What would the world be like if we could each extend our sense of loyalty in this way?



If we were each given a blank sheet of paper, how many of us would be able to list the principles that guide our lives? Day-to-day living makes so many demands that sometimes it feels more than enough just to react as best we can to whatever happens, hoping it will all turn out OK.

Yet most of us have plenty of principles, even if we are not aware of them. What is it that angers us or gets the fire churning in our gut? Getting upset is often the sign that a principle we hold strongly has been breached. It touches on something that says ‘No!’ We may be surprised by the passion and strength that is alive in us.

Principles give us strength. They provide the foundations from which we get the power and energy to make a stand about the things that matter to us. They keep our aspirations on track. Like the spokes of a bicycle wheel, they give stability and help us move forward in a purposeful way.


Aspiration is the profound longing for purpose and fulfilment, joy and happiness, which lies deep – and sometimes buried – in our hearts, and in the heart of every living being. It is the voice inside that urges us to use our life well and to make the best of whatever gifts and passions we possess. The way we choose to respond to that voice will determine all the other choices we make in our lives. Aspiration is the fuel of change. It feeds on our hope that life could be better or more meaningful, and our willingness to do something differently to make this happen. It is a call to action.

Everyone aspires to be happy, and it is a natural human quality to include others in this aspiration. We want our family and friends to be prosperous and content. We want homeless people to find shelter, hungry people to have food, sick people to have medicine. We want the world to be at peace. The happiest and most contented people are usually those who have found a way to put their aspirations for self and others into practice, and have thereby played an active part in creating a better world. This is the common characteristic of all the role models in this book. Their life stories may seem daunting and out of reach. In hindsight they are towering figures. Yet everything they did consisted of small choices and steps, many of which are possible for anyone.


Service is the outer expression of a wish to benefit others – to increase their happiness. At its best, it is an expression of caring, sharing, and delighting in each other. When it arises effortlessly and spontaneously, it is beautiful to watch. Service can also be experienced as a duty. Instead of being light and joyful, it feels heavy and burdensome. For most of us, learning how to serve – and to be served – is a lifetime’s task.

In every moment there is an opportunity to make someone else’s life a little bit easier or nicer. Every thought, word and action that flows from us in a loving way has the potential to create happiness. Are we willing to find within ourselves the sensitivity and intelligence, the clarity and conviction that this will take?

The rewards are huge. As we discover and deepen our wish for other people to be happy, we also find the key to our own happiness. Nobody gets left out of the equation. This is the golden rule of heart-felt service that underpins the great spiritual and wisdom traditions of the world. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto yourself.'


Courage is about stretch. It’s about seeing, feeling or realizing that something more or different can be done, developing the determination to do it, and then carrying it through despite all obstacles. We know in our bodies when we’ve been courageous. There is a glow of satisfaction and relief. Something has shifted, and we have grown in size.

Courage is not defined by what we do, but what we overcome within ourselves. It comes in many forms. It is found in a steady approach to everyday difficulties as well as in the single spontaneous gesture. It is happening quietly all around us as well as in the news.

Courage involves acknowledging our fears, but not being deterred from offering something that goes beyond our own immediate needs and comfort. Most courageous people have decided that the well-being of others is more important than their own, and have allowed this decision to drive their actions and the way they live. Invariably, they seem to find their own happiness in the process.

Source: http://16toliveby.webs.com/

Saturday, March 22, 2014

17 Tips to Become Happy Right Now!

 By Arvind Devalia

1. Know and Accept that it is Okay and Normal to be Happy

Do not see being happy as being unduly selfish, or materialistic, or self-centred. Just because someone around you has the blues does not mean you too have to go down to their level.

2. Look for the Positive Things in your Life right now

Live your life with positive optimism. Negative thoughts and worry zap your energy.
Thinking of the good and positive things in your life generates feelings of warmth, affection, appreciation, hope, and security, and draw positive things to you.
Also, spend more time with positive people. Arrange to meet up with that friend who always seems to lift your spirits.

3. Cut down on the Input of Negativity such as through the Media

Stay well informed, but watching news reports over and over again about things you can do nothing about will bring dark clouds into your life.
Especially refuse to listen to weather reports. Notice how weather reporters in the UK describe the weather as being gloomy, dismal or miserable rather than just saying it is cold, rainy or windy!
YOU can choose how you feel regardless of what the weather is like. Remember, the weather is just weather.

4. Show Gratitude

Make a list of at least 5 things that you are grateful for in your life. Just take a second and realise that you are alive! Be happy with what you’ve got – not what you want. Focus on what is right in your life rather than what is wrong.
Count your blessings and look at all the amazing things around you. Notice the little things we all take for granted e.g. fresh food available at our doorsteps all year around and literally dozens of different chocolates!

5. Appreciate just What you have got Going for you in your Life Right Now

For example, stop obsessing about wanting a slimmer body and be grateful that you can walk. Begin today to tell all the people in your life how much you appreciate them being there for you.
Remember to show your appreciation also for those people who make life so easy for you such as the postman and the dustman.
Also, tell at least one person today just what you like about them.

6. Look for Ways of Helping other People

This will stop you focussing so much on yourself and your current life situation. Perhaps you would like to volunteer in your local charity shop, school or even a sponsored parachute jump.
Look to do anything for others that will be different and that gets you out of your comfort zone at the same time. A lot of people volunteer and help out over Xmas – but the need for help is there all year around – and you can be the one to do so now.

7. Consider Learning a New Skill Whilst you Can

You will get an immense sense of accomplishment if you finally start that long promised course.
Enrolling on an evening course will also give you a chance to meet other like minded people – and potential new friends.

8. Create a Fun Break Every day Even if Only for 10 to 15 Minutes

Schedule this time into your daily routine, perhaps during your lunchtime. Write out a “fun list” – this will ensure that you never have the excuse of not knowing what to do. Pop into a different café for a change or take a different route to work just for the “fun” of it. Look for activities that are free or cheap.

9. Smile

Sounds simple and it is. Try this today when you go out – smile at everyone you see. Yes – even strangers. The more you smile, the more people will smile back at you. Be prepared to be surprised at what comes back to you. You will feel happier and you will be spreading happiness around you.

10. Call Someone and Make their Day

Make at least one friendly phone call each day, with no intention to get some business or anything else. Just a friendly hello without any expectation.

11. Appreciate the Nature around You

Breathe in the fresh crisp air – spring is only a few short weeks away. Look out for the buds popping out of the hard wintry ground very soon. Allow yourself to be amazed by this miracle of nature. Check out the dark cloud formations and the trees resting during the winer months. We are all too busy – continue to remind yourself about how beautiful nature is and allow yourself to be in awe.

12. Eat Healthy and Quality Food

Treat yourself to hardy winter vegetables such as squashes. How sunny you feel depends so much on what you are putting into your body. You need and deserve quality foods. Determine what food really works for you, and develop a personal way of eating that will support you. Consult a nutritionist if necessary. Treat yourself – because you are worth it.

13. Exercise Regularly and Make it Fun

Take 45 minutes out of your day to work your muscles and strengthen your body, mind and spirit. Remind yourself of the benefits and adapt exercise habits as part of your daily routine of self care. Stop thinking of exercise as an option – start now and experiment until you find something you truly enjoy.

14. Sleep, Sleep and more Sleep

Get sufficient sleep, which will keep you shining. Determine just how much sleep your body needs and make sure you get it. Avoid watching TV, reading, doing work in bed. Make your bedroom a peaceful place for you.

15. Remember the Good Times

Look back over your life and remember the happy times, when you are not feeling so sunny. List at least 5 funny or joyous moments and know that you will have more of these soon – such happy memories are a reminder that the world is not ever out to make you miserable.

16. Let it all Out

If you are down a bit, then let it all out. Laugh, cry, scream or anything else you get the urge to do, but do whatever it takes to let out the emotions you are feeling. You will feel so much better and lighter afterwards. We all need to vent at times.

17. Do Something for Someone Else

Random acts of kindness are magical and giving of yourself is one of the best highs you can get. For example, let other drivers into your lane. Have a friendly conversation with the cashier at the supermarket.
Be aware of the opportunities and possibilities around you everyday to have more fun, fulfilment and joy in your life. You can simply choose to see the world as your oyster.
Have a wonderful and happy day!
Smile and be happy!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Attitudinal Foundation of Mindfulness Practice

1) Non-Judgment: impartial witnessing, observing your evaluations and categorizations
  • Noticing the automatic habit of labeling everything we experience as good, bad, or neutral.
  • The habit of judging locks us into mechanical reactions that we are not even aware of and often have little objective basis.
  • By becoming aware of your judgments you can choose actions and behaviors more consciously rather than automatically reacting to situations in your environment.
This principle will be useful as you start to engage in new mindfulness practices that your mind may judge as boring or waste of time and as you extend your boundaries outside of your comfort zone to learn about personal branding and new technologies to communicate your brand.

2) Patience: allowing things to unfold in their time, bringing patience to ourselves and others
  • This is an understanding that sometimes things must unfold in their own time.
  • This principle reminds you to be patient with yourself as your mind is stretched in new ways
Patience is a helpful quality to invoke when the mind is agitated. To be patient is to be open to each moment as it unfolds knowing that like the butterfly that some things can only unfold in their own time. So when starting out your mindfulness practice or anything else please stick through whatever takes place trusting that some things will make more sense after you have practiced them for a while and at the same time please seek support from me or other group members if need be.

3) Beginner’s Mind: willing to see things as if for the first time.
  • We let our beliefs about a situation prevent us from seeing things as they really are.
  • No moment is the same as any other.
  • Beginner’s mind allows us to be receptive to new possibilities and prevents us from getting stuck in our mind, which often thinks it knows more than it actually does.
Try to cultivate your own beginner’s mind as an experiment. The next time you see someone familiar notice if you are seeing the person with fresh eyes or through the lens of your beliefs about that person. If you encounter a new activity you need to do for this class, notice if you are open to trying it out fully or have you already decided before doing it that you don’t like it. When you are out in nature or walking to work, see if you are noticing things you had overlooked before. Developing beginner’s mind opens you to possibilities in life you may be missing out on because you are viewing everything through the lens shaped by past experience that is not aware of what else there is to learn and explore.

4) Trust: developing trust in your feelings and yourself is an integral part of the mindfulness practice.
  • The act of trusting yourself and your basic wisdom is an important aspect of the mindfulness training.
  • If you are feeling strongly about something it is important to attend to that rather than ignore because an outside authority is telling you to do so.
  • Mindfulness is an objective process of inquiry and even accepting what teachers and people of authority tell you without questioning the validity of it for yourself is against the basic premise of mindfulness.
  • It is important to stay open and learn from other sources but ultimately you have to live your life and make your choices that feel right to you.
It is almost easier to trust external authorities to tell us how to live our lives. Mindfulness involves practicing trusting your own feelings and that doesn’t mean you react based upon all your feelings but that you explore any feelings that show up fully to see what they are telling you about a situation and then you trust yourself to come up with the right action. 

5) Non-striving: non-goal oriented, remaining unattached to outcome or achievement
  • Even though everyone undertaking mindfulness practice has some goals intentions why they are taking this training, at the time of mindfulness practice itself, simply do the practice without any expectations.
  • When you set expectations such as feeling more relaxed or getting better grades right before your meditation, you are introducing conditions that don’t allow you to be fully present with what is because you are trying to change the present to be something else. If you are trying to change the present then you are not being with what is, which is what the mindfulness training is.
  • Remember to allow anything and everything that you experience from moment to moment to be there, because it already is. If you are tensed, just pay attention to the tension. If you are criticizing yourself, just observe the activity of the judging mind.
Non-striving may the most difficult out of all the principles because in our culture we are taught to be goal-oriented and to be constantly doing something in order to reach our goals. In mindfulness you will reach your goals by not trying to change the present but by being present to what ever arises and in that being you will find that the goals are ultimately reached. This is perhaps something you will need to experience for yourself to really understand what I am saying.

6) Acceptance: open to seeing and acknowledging things as they are. It does not mean approval or resignation.
  • Acceptance is the willingness to see things as they really are.
  • Acceptance does not mean that you have to be satisfied with the way things are or that you don’t do anything to change what you don’t like.
  • When you have the ability to see things as they are you free up energy to take the appropriate actions instead of working with a mind that is clouded by denial, prejudices, fears, and self judgments.
7. Letting Be (rather than letting go): non-attachment and the ability to put aside the tendency to elevate some aspects of our experience and to reject others
  • Letting go is a way of letting things be, of accepting things as they are.
  • When you observe your mind grasping or pushing away, you can remind yourself to let go of the impulse to grasp or push away and see what happens.
  • If you can’t let go, try the opposite of really holding on and seeing what that feel like. By looking at how you hold on you will learn how to let go.
  • Letting go is something you naturally do when you sleep. If you have trouble sleeping then it could be because you are not able to let go.
Letting be is helpful as you engage in different mindfulness practices that your mind judges to be boring and you want to avoid doing the practice or you will be judging yourself.. With the attitude of letting be you are simply noticing your natural tendencies and doing what you need to do in that moment.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

On Mindfulness

Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.
Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
Though it has its roots in Buddhist meditation, a secular practice of mindfulness has entered the American mainstream in recent years, in part through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, which he launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. Since that time, thousands of studies have documented the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness in general and MBSR in particular, inspiring countless programs to adapt the MBSR model for schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans centers, and beyond.

Why Practice Mindfulness?

Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness, even for just a few weeks, can bring a variety of physical, psychological, and social benefits. Here are some of these benefits, which extend across many different settings.

How to Cultivate Mindfulness?

Jon Kabat-Zinn emphasizes that although mindfulness can be cultivated through formal meditation, that’s not the only way. “It’s not really about sitting in the full lotus, like pretending you’re a statue in a British museum,” he says in this Greater Good video. “It’s about living your life as if it really mattered, moment by moment by moment by moment.”
Here are a few key components of practicing mindfulness that Kabat-Zinn and others identify:
  • Pay close attention to your breathing, especially when you’re feeling intense emotions.
  • Notice—really notice—what you’re sensing in a given moment, the sights, sounds, and smells that ordinarily slip by without reaching your conscious awareness.
  • Recognize that your thoughts and emotions are fleeting and do not define you, an insight that can free you from negative thought patterns.
  • Tune into your body’s physical sensations, from the water hitting your skin in the shower to the way your body rests in your office chair.
To develop these skills in everyday life, you can try these exercises used in Kabat-Zinn’s MBSR program and elsewhere:
  • The body scan, where you focus your attention along your body, from the toes to the top of your head, trying to be aware and accepting of whatever you sense in these body parts, without controlling or changing those feelings.
  • The raisin exercise, where you slowly use all of your senses, one after another, to observe a raisin in great detail, from the way it feels in your hand to the way its taste bursts on your tongue. This exercise is intended to help you focus on the present moment, and can be tried with different foods.

  • Walking meditation, where you focus on the movement of your body as you take step after step, your feet touching and leaving the ground—an everyday activity we usually take for granted. This exercise is often practiced walking back and forth along a path 10 paces long, though it can be practiced along most any path.
  • Loving-kindness meditation, which the GGSC’s Christine Carter explains in this post, involves extending feelings of compassion toward people, starting with yourself then branching out to someone close to you, then to an acquaintance, then to someone giving you a hard time, then finally to all beings everywhere.

    Over the years on Greater Good, we’ve identified successful programs for cultivating mindfulness; here are some highlights.
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR), in which students meet for two-to-three hours per week for eight weeks, practicing at home between classes; it has helped tens of thousands of people build mindfulness.
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) adapts the MBSR model specifically for people suffering from depression and chronic unhappiness. Developed by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale, MBCT combines mindfulness practices with practices from cognitive therapy, and it has been backed up by a great deal of research.
  • Megan Cowan, founder of the Mindful Schools program, offers tips for teaching mindfulness to kids in this Greater Good article.
  • In another Greater Good article, Margaret Cullen, founder of the SMART-in-Education program, explains how she uses mindfulness to help teachers take care of themselves and keep from burning out.
  • Nancy Bardacke’s Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) program offers mindfulness training to expectant parents; her book Mindful Birthing describes her program and also offers detailed instructions for cultivating mindfulness in everyday life.
For more: Watch our videos of Kabat-Zinn for his take on how to build mindfulness and check out these “Six Mindfulness Exercises You Can Try Today” from Pocket Mindfulness.

How Mindful Are You?

Find out by taking the Greater Good mindfulness quiz, which is based on the Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale.