It’s late. Driving home from work my cell phone rang, and I spontaneously said yes to an unexpected dinner invite with friends dear and visiting. I did hesitate knowing what I had planned to accomplish at home, but made a choice to turn around and head to their place. I’m so glad. Yet now, the pup needs playtime, and I made a vow to post each day in Lent. Tonight is a practice in the miracle of mindfulness, being present here and now.
I discovered Zen Buddhist guide Thich Nhat Hanh in my 20s. I recall reading The Miracle of Mindfulness on the OCTD bus traveling on Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach, California, and practicing the suggestion to allow the corners of my mouth to lift up in a smile while my face was resting. I’m not sure what I looked like to the other passengers, but I do remember looking out the window, my mouth curved up, or into the eyes of the arriving new bus travelers and practicing this gaze of serenity. Perhaps I was thinking that if I could show kindness and peace in my face, maybe it would translate to my inner orbit too. I think it works. I’ve been doing this for more than twenty years now.
In my 30s, Peace is Every Step brought me the practice of mindfulness with every step I take. I don’t always remember to do this. When I’m stressed or frazzled, a bolt of awareness sometimes pierces me: allow each footstep to kiss the earth. Be grateful, now, now, now. I then find myself at home in my body again.
I’m now reading his new book, The Art of Communicating, which begins with the concept that, “To stop and communicate with yourself is a revolutionary act.” Brilliant, it offers a deceptively simple practice to engage mindful breathing, inviting the reader to say silently, “Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in. Breathing out, I know I’m breathing out.” This practice has been helpful these past few weeks, allowing me to be more present in my workplace and in daily relationships.
There was a time when I wouldn’t have followed inklings of truth in other world religions. Tonight I stopped on my drive home at a spot along Cook Inlet, Alaska. It was nearly dark, I had enjoyed the unexpected few hours with friends, and it had rained heavily during the afternoon. I took several steps through sloggy snow towards the bluff, then stood surrounded by trees in the small opening, gazing at the darkening “Rim of Fire” rugged mountain range, breathing. I’m grateful for teachings from Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh who offers a gentle invitation to be present in my body, the landscape, here and now, and not to miss the magic of the present moment. I believe celebrating diversity brings differentiation, interiority, and new life alive.
Reflect: Do you have practices which help you be present in the here and now? How are you being invited to stretch?