Mindfulness has helped me in many capacities. I might even be bold and say it has transformed me into a better person, partner, friend, sister, daughter, and teacher. It has changed my relationships, my view on life, and my volition. Most importantly, mindfulness has helped me learn how to take care of my day-to-day suffering and learn to live with more harmony, joy and peace within me and around me.
Here are four techniques I practice on a daily practice to help me nourish harmony, peace and joy.
1. Mindful Breathing
Our teacher, Zen Buddhist, Thich Nhat Hanh poetically says, “Our breath is our anchor.” It took me sometime to practice and fully experience the fruit of its deep meaning. With the practice of conscious breathing, the mind & body unite, and thoughts, body, and feelings start to calm down like a pebble settling at the bottom of a pond. Only when all is calm, then I begin to experience insight and understanding of my sufferings and joys.
Sometimes, I just sit and focus on my in-breaths and my out-breaths for 10 minutes. To spice up my meditation practice I sometimes incorporate my 13 Pranayama exercises, which takes about 45 minutes to complete. It all depends how I feel in the mornings.
With this conscious breath I’ve taken my practice deeper and remind myself to breathe deeply while doing other activities like brushing my teeth, driving my motorbike/car, or drinking my coffee in silence in the morning.
2. Walking Meditation
“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
We walk the moment we get up. From the bedroom to the toilet, from the toilet to the kitchen, from the parking lot into the office etc. We can turn this into a meditation by coordinating our steps with our breath. Every step we take can bring us a sense of peace and joy.
When I step, I don’t exert extra effort. In fact, our teachers at Plum Village often remind me to make it enjoyable because all the conditions of happiness are right here in every step.
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
3. Smiling Meditation
Sarah, my three nieces and myself attended a Wake Up retreat in early 2017 in Cambridge, Ontario. Sister Dang Nghiem was leading the retreat. She said something in her second book, “Mindfulness as Medicine” that deeply resonates with me; “Smiling is the practice of non-fear.”
Not only does smiling make me and the people around help me feel good, like seeing my favourite flower in full bloom, it’s also a practice of getting to know my own afflictions and learning how to take care of them.
On a biological level, when we smile the brain releases endorphins (natural pain killer) and serotonin (anti-depressant).
Next time when you feel a strong emotion arising, like anger, anxiety or stress, smile at it with this: “Breathing in, I feel anger. Breathing out, I smile to my anger.” And really smile at your anger to help find the cause of this anger. I usually add in a mindful walk in the park or out in nature to calm my mind and bring me back to my true self. We need to take care of our body and mind with the practice of loving-kindness.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
4. Mindful Movement
We all know that exercise is really good for the body. As a fitness professional for many years, I think exercise coordinated with the breath is even better! For example, running, swimming, Qi Gong, yoga, etc, where each movement or 2-3 movements are synchronized with a breath. I mix up my practice between weight training to cardio fitness classes, Qi Gong and yoga. My go-to and favourite practices are Qi Gong and yoga, even if it’s just for 10 minutes on a busy day.
My goal every morning and every day is to nourish my body and mind with something healthy and delicious. I am often with people throughout the day. I find much joy in offering my good energy to the world when I leave the house.
I leave you with our teacher’s suggestion:
"Take time each day to be with your breath and your steps, to bring your mind back to your body—to remember that you have a body! Take some time each day to listen with compassion to your inner child, to listen to the things inside that are clamoring to be heard. Then you will know how to listen to others." ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
May your day be filled with peace, love and joy,