It’s 5 o’clock and our local temple just played the chimes
over the loud speaker. I stop what I do, look over at Tim and he stops too. For
the past few weeks, we’ve stopped for one minute every afternoon to listen to
the bells. Once we hear the click of the microphone go off, we smile at each
other and go back to what we were doing.
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I love the sound of the bells, it reminds me of when I did
my mindfulness retreat in Hong Kong last year it makes me feel like home, it makes me
pause for a moment and just be still. So when we were invited to take part in a
day of mindfulness with the Tokyo Sangha*, I immediately signed us
up. The thought of a day full of pausing and slowing down sounded very
So last Sunday, Tim and I hopped on a train and headed to
Isehara, Kanagawa to join the Tokyo Sangha. Each month, the community comes
together to practice the teachings of Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh. We spent the
day in Yutoria, a lovely home nestled in the mountains,
surrounded by farmland. Everything was so peaceful that all I could do was
A key element of a day of mindfulness was to the practice
noble silence; we ate, sat, walked, laid and meditated (mostly) in silence. I
must say, there was something truly poetic, comforting and extremely calming
about being part of a group whose sole purpose was to stop and be in the
moment. It was powerful and strangely re-energising.
For lunch, we sat crossed legged on the veranda as the sun
warmed our backs. We ate in silence but it wasn’t awkward or forced, it just
felt right. Everyone was together yet at the same time deep in their own
thoughts. As I sipped my tea and looked at the view I suddenly thought how
effortless it was to just sit and stare, I didn’t need to be doing anything or
be anywhere else. In that moment I realised just how happy and free I truly
felt. I was doing exactly what I wanted to do and it was so easy! I wanted to
shout my excitement to the group but at the same time I wanted to be able to
revel in the moment at will so I held onto my new insight tightly, hoping to
somehow imprint in my memory. I took a deep breath and smiled.
Since then I honestly think I’ve developed a little bounce
in my step, which keeps me grounded and reminds me just how happy I truly am.
A little background:
I found out about Thich Nhat Hanh during a Simplicity Retreat when I flicked through the children’s book Mindful Movements. Then in 2012, I attended the “happy teachers will change the world in Hong Kong where I fell in love with the practice and teachings. As part of our round the world trip I want to get in touch with people who gather and practice as a group, otherwise known as a Sangha.
*What is a Sangha?
According to Thich Nhat Hanh, “A Sangha is a community of friends practicing the Dharma together in order to bring about and maintain awareness. The essence of a Sangha is awareness, understanding, acceptance, harmony and love.”