I’m sitting cross-legged on the purple and red mats, listening to the sound of the bell slowly disappearing and in front of me is a bowl of delicious smelling food. This is my first experience at mindful eating, and I’m super excited. I feel like I’m 14 year old me and all I can think of is “oh my gawd this is so cool!”
This dinner is the first time the group has gathered since arriving in Lotus Pond Temple. I’m at the Applied Ethics Retreat: An Exploration of Mindful Education, a weekend retreat to practice mindfulness, to mediate. One of the first things we are told is that when we eat, we eat in silence. I’m not used to eating queitly, coming from a family of three girls, when we eat together, we don’t stop talking. But here, it seems right, it seems peaceful, and I don’t feel the need to question why
We listen to five Gatha/rhythmic poetic verses, which are reflections of our meal and a reminder of being in the present. I’m in awe at how the brothers and sisters sit in stillness, at peace and they seem to emit positive energy. We continue to eat in silence, and after some time, we can leave the dining area or go get more food before the night activities begin.
After dinner we head to the hall and as a group, we sing (my now) favourite Gatha “Happiness is here and now”.
Happiness is here and now
I have dropped my worries
No where to go
Nothing to do
No longer in a hurry
I want to laugh, cry, smile and go “oh wow that is so true!” I have to agree, I have no where to go and nothing to do. I’m so excited! I sing along, off key and kinda revel (in my head) my new found awareness.
Before the actual orientation part of the evening began, the brothers and sisters sing a beautiful chant. I don’t know what the chant is called, but here is an example of just how soothing they and the whole place is:- Namo Avalokita – Namo Amitabhaya . This film is very similar to what I was privileged enough to witness. The sound of the bell is how we start and end each activity. The accompanying guitar is gorgeous and the vibe in the room is contagious.
During orientation, Brother Thay Phap Kham [pictured] said “breathe in and breathe out, that’s what we do here. We breathe in… and we breathe out…” Simple right? Yes! I laughed at myself when I discovered that I was actually saying “breath in… breath out…” This little technique made me focus on my breath. And I have a lot of trouble focusing on anything.
The next thing we do is sitting meditation. In May last year, I started practicing mindfulness. I haven’t had much luck since. I get bored, I get distracted and the only time I think I can do it is during deep relaxation in yoga classes (but I fall asleep) or when I had breathing couch. But something about meditating here the temple makes me feel at ease. I start meditating, trying to be very quiet and still so I don’t disturb anyone else. My mind wanders off, and although I’m thinking “this is soo cool!” I go back to my breath. Well, I try too.
I sit there for the next hour, trying (not very hard) at meditating. By the end of it, I know I didn’t mediate for the whole time, but strangely, I don’t feel guilty. I feel ok. I did give it a go and there’s always tomorrow. Meditation doesn’t come easy for me, but I have to give myself time. One of the biggest things I did learn is that sometimes you just have to breathe in and breathe out, and everything is really actually OK!
Are you breathing? Then you’re already on your way…