Tag Archives: Meditation

Sit There

Inspired by a silent retreat earlier this month. It was full of peace and inspiration. Unfortunately all good things come to an end (“bad” things too, so we can’t complain, really), and the silence was broken with a sharing of experiences.

Who would have thought that silence can be a powerful form of self-care?


A Marco View of Moments

“We know very well that the present moment is the only moment when we can get in touch with life. The past is not here anymore; the past no longer contains life. And the future isn’t here yet. The past isn’t something real, the future isn’t real either. Only the present moment is real. So the practice is getting in touch with the present moment, making ourselves available to the present moment, establishing ourselves in the present moment, then we can touch life, and really live our life. And that is done with one step, it is done with one breath, with one cup of tea, one breakfast, it’s done with one sound  of the bell. And all of that brings us back to the present moment so that we can live our life.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh
Have you ever sat and watched the Moments, marveling at how the transit from Real to Unreal, from future, present to past? As if we have a Marco Lens of Time, and we are looking deeply into the fluidity of moments, coming, being, and going at the exact point in time we realize they are there. Sometimes, when I am waiting for the bus, standing in the queue, I see the moments pass like this, and it brings some peace and joy. To be a part of that fluidity, and to remind myself that everything – both pleasant and unpleasant – too shall pass.



Body Scan and Mindfulness

I first heard of the phrase “body scan” a few months ago at a mindfulness session. It’s not unlike yoga practice, where we are taught to be aware of our body and breathing.

Then I recently I read this in a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, and feel much clearer about the approach, nuances and benefits of such a practice.

“To practice mindfulness of the body, you might like to lie down and practice total relaxation. Allow your body to rest, and then be mindful of your forehead. “Breathing in, I am aware of my forehead. Breathing out, I smile to me forehead.” Use the energy of mindfulness to embrace your forehead, your brain, your eyes, your ears, and your nose. Each time you breathe in, become aware of one part of your body, and every time you breathe out, smile to that part of your body. Use the energies of mindfulness and love to embrace each part. Embrace your heart, your lungs, and your stomach. “Breathing in, I am aware of my heart. Breathing out, I embrace my heart.” Practice scanning your body with the light of mindfulness and smiling to each part of your body with compassion and love.  When you finish scanning in this way, you will feel wonderful. It takes only half and hour, and your body will rest deeply during those thirty minutes. Please take good care of your body, allowing it to rest and embracing it with tenderness, compassion, mindfulness and love. 

Learn to look at our body as a river in which every cell is a drop of water. In every moment, cells are born and cells die. Birth and death support each other. To practice mindfulness of the body, follow your breathing and focus your attention on each part of the body, from the hair on your head to the soles of your feet. Breathe mindfully an embrace each part of the body with mindfulness, smiling to it with recognition and love. Identify the form elements in your body: earth, water, air and heat. See the connection of these four elements inside and outside of your body. See the living presence of your ancestors and future generations, as well as the presence of all other beings in the animal, vegetal and mineral realms. Become aware of the positions of your body (standing, sitting, walking, lying down) and it’s movements (bending, stretching, taking a shower, getting dressed, eating, etc.). When we master this practice, we will be able to be aware of our feelings and our perceptions as they arise, and we will be able to practice looking deeply into them.” 

Being aware of our emotions even as they are arising will drastically reduce the chances and frequency of us reacting to them without control. It’s definitely something I would like to work towards and cultivate in my work and life.

The Habit of Smiling

Recently, I tried to get into the habit of smiling.

Why does that need to be made into a habit? Because more often than not, I realize that I wait for happiness or some form of pleasure to come before I smile.

We have been socially conditioned to think that people smile and laugh when they are happy. So we spend our whole lives waiting for something or someone to make us laugh and smile (Eg: “I will be happy once the holidays come”, “I will be happy when I find someone to settle down with”) It does not need to be that way. We have always heard about our happiness need not and should not depend on the external, and I think being able to smile without any external reason can reflect and affect our inner state.

I admit I was a little skeptical about this at first, not to mention self-conscious (and still am, lest people on campus start noticing me as the crazy girl who goes around smiling to herself). I started trying it out when I was doing yoga, in the privacy of my own space and time. Breathe in, breathe out, smile. Not the widest smile I could give, but a gentle half-smile, something that reflected and ignited a sense of peace and tranquility. I didn’t think of anything particularly happy. Just focused on the breath, and half-smiled. The facial muscles felt awkward at first – I could tell they were totally not used to this. They are used to reacting to emotions, and having them work this way without any emotional stimulation must have felt weird to them.

But gradually, as I persevered, I can feel much less of that initial awkwardness. It’s very liberating. I’ve also realized that this much is true: The brain does not differentiate between the smile we give when we are pleased, from the smile we give at a physical level. Because the brain has been conditioned to link the physical act of smiling to the emotion of pleasure, simply working our muscles into a smile can trick the brain into thinking that we are happy.

It’s definitely something worth trying, to make the world a better place. Have you smiled today?

Walking Meditation

“The mind can go in a thousand directions.
But on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.
With each step, a gentle wind blows.
With each step, a flower blooms.”
Walking meditation is, well, meditation while walking. It is an exercise in mindfulness, to achieve total awareness and being in the present moment. One technique to achieve that is to match our breathing with each step. If we take 4 steps breathing in, be aware of that, thinking “In-in-in-in”. If we take 5 steps breathing out, “out-out-out-out-out”. As a rule of thumb we should not take more steps breathing in than breathing out, because we should be expelling more stale air when we breathe out. In this way, our mind and body become aligned and connected to each other. Too often we feel tired because they are not aligned – the body is doing something but the mind is thinking of something else. The feet are walking but the mind is already at the destination. The mouth is eating lunch but the mind is thinking of dinner. Misalignment of the body could be the cause of many ailments as well.

We walk all the time, but more often than not, our mind is not in tandem with our body. We are walking to reach a destination, to do things, to achieve materialistic goals. In walking meditation, we are supposed to shake off all worries and anxieties, not thinking of the future, not thinking of the past, just enjoying the present moment. We enjoy the walking- walking not in order to arrive, but just for walking- to be in the present moment, and enjoy each step. This can eventually be transferred to other actions in our lives  – doing everything without thinking of the past or future, simply enjoying the act of doing and living in the present.

“We walk all the time, but usually it is more like running. Our hurried steps print anxiety and sorrow on the earth. If we can take one step in peace, we can take two, three, four, five steps for the peace and happiness of humankind.

Our mind darts from one thing to another, like a monkey swinging from branch to branch without stopping to rest. Thoughts have millions of pathways, and we are forever pulled along by them… If we can take every step in full awareness, our mind will naturally be at ease. Every step we take will reinforce our peace and joy and cause a stream of calm energy to flow through us.”

Yes, I’m still on Buddha Mind Buddha Body. This book came to me at a very timely time. When my foot was at its worst, I randomly borrowed this book from a spiritual friend’s personal library, and the first chapter read: Two Feet, One Mind. It then proceeded to give a detailed discourse about the relationship between the simple act of walking and a person’s well-being.

Of course I have not reached that level of awareness and mindfulness a seasoned practitioner would . But I know what when the pain was at its worst, and every step was agony, when I would cringe and hold back frustrated sighs as I hobbled from one place to another, this concentration on the simple act of walking itself, helped. It helped to take my mind off the pain, and focus on my breathing as an extension of my movements. It helped to make me aware and thankful that I am still capable of controlling my body and thoughts. It made me enjoy the process (slightly more), the action of walking itself, and not get (as) frustrated that it was taking me thrice as long to walk from one place to another.

This week, for the first time in almost 8 weeks, I could walk without concrete pain in the leg. I could make it to the bus stop within the span of one song in my mp3. But even as I celebrate this improvement, I realize that I had forgotten to be aware of my steps. I had allowed my mind to wander, to think about other things, because the absence of pain had freed my mind to entertain other thoughts, and my body and mind were no longer as in sync with each other. It’s so ironic that the connection was more concretely felt when there was pain. I can see why ancient spiritual seekers (and modern ones too) would pray for adversities in their lives, so that they could use their experiences to bring them closer to self-realization.

Now that I’ve had a slight taste of what mind and body in tandem can feel like, my goal would be to sustain that connection, nurture it, and not let it go.