My Three Faithful Friends


I have 3 faithful friends in my life. They are mindfulness, yoga and Qi Gong. They have all been faithful because they have woken me up and rescued me from my unconscious life. They have sprinkled more love, joy, stability and peace into my life. In return, I have sprinkled love, joy and peace onto other beings I meet along my journey.

Because they have been faithful I am more awake, aware and alive.  I vow to be faithful in return; from the moment I wake up till the moment I lay down to close my eyes. I feel blessed to have these dependable friends.

I call upon mindfulness every day. Mindfulness helps me see the beauty around me, including my family, friends, people I don’t know and other beings. Mindfulness constantly reminds me that if I victimize someone I also victimize myself. If I’m kind to another person, I am also kind to myself.  Mindfulness has given me the super power of awareness.

Yoga. Yoga is like a weed whacker. It continues to whack away endless unnecessary and insignificant weeds, better known as thoughts, worries, fears, anxiety etc. Yoga helps my mind come home to my body every time I step on the mat.  Yoga gives me breath and strength to calm down the spontaneous strong emotions or mind twirlings, especially when someone utters unkind words to me. I now have better control of my mind thanks to the focus and concentration yoga has cultivated in me. Yoga has also gifted me with insights to live with deep inner peace and joy.

My other ancient best friend named, Qi Gong, has transmitted much of its healing powers called, “life force energy” or “Qi”, to me. When I get sick Qi helps me get back on my feet quickly. I am grateful that I only get sick once or twice a year thanks to the consistently healing that Qi Gong has nourished every cell of my body. Every morning, Qi Gong reminds me to breathe and gently and slowly move to wake up the creaky and aging body. My friend, Qi Gong, has also taught me to cultivate deep gratitude to my organs for the complex work that they do together 7-24 to keep me smiling, and the other important thing, alive.

There you have it; my three faithful friends. Who are your faithful friends?

Love, peace & joy,

How I Keep My Energy Flower Fresh During the 200-hour Teacher Training

Holding space for our 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) may be seem exhausting or tiring, as one might imagine. Our training starts at 6am and ends at 7pm after mindful dinner.  So, how do I keep my energy flower fresh and mind clear to be there for my students, and to keep up with their energetic and keen minds? The answer is; Qi Gong (and a good night sleep!)

Qi Gong is a long term mindful movement program practiced to circulate, cultivate, regulate, enhance, and guide internal energies called “Qi” to achieve health, vitality, and spiritual awareness. It is an ancient Chinese system of healing and rejuvenation. It involves using your mind, conscious breathing and body to direct the flow of energy. 

I learned this system of internal healing in 2007 while taking an injury break (broken metatarsal - yikes) from my daily mixed martial arts practice. 

Four out of the seven days during YTT  I get up as early as 2:30am to practice my Qi Gong, after a mindful delicious cup of coffee, of course. The other three mornings, I practice yoga or pranayama (breathing exercises).  On achy body days, I just sit and focus on my breathing. 

Attached is one of many simple routines I've designed and practiced regularly at sunrise by the ocean at the training. I'd like to share it with you and hope you'll enjoy it as much as me.

Smiling, breathing and moving,

Qi Flow for the Hips

Learning How to Still the Body & Mind @ 200-Hour Training

The art of being still is easier said then done. When we're used to "doing" in life, it's already challenging enough to still the body let alone still the mind.  Imagine learning all the Qi Gong, mindful and yoga tools to help calm down the twirlings of the mind for 26 consecutive days. This is what our students at the training are cultivating. When the body is still, the mind can come home to it. When the mind and body are no longer separated and are both still, we start to see and understand our sufferings and learn how to take care of our sufferings, rather than running away or suppressing them. That is a deep practice that anyone can do; as seen here in the video with our students after module 1: Understanding Yourself.  Module 2 will be a continuation of practicing looking deeply to connect to our love, joy and peace, also known as true self.

Join us at our next Yoga Teacher Training in Vietnam, November 2020.


The Dandelion Has My Smile

Mindfulness Meditation Dandelion Smile

An excerpt from Thich Nhat Hanh's beautiful book, "Peace Is Every Step."

If a child smiles, if an adult smiles, that is very important. If in our daily lives we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. If we really know how to live, what better way to start the day than with a smile? Our smile affirms our awareness and determination to live in peace and joy. The source of a true smile is an awakened mind.

How can you remember to smile when you wake up? You might hang a reminder--such as a branch, a leaf, a painting, or some inspiring words--in your window or from the ceiling above your bed, so that you notice it when you wake up. Once you develop the practice of smiling, you may not need a reminder. You will smile as soon as you hear a bird singing or see the sunlight streaming through the window. Smiling helps you approach the day with gentleness and understanding.

When I see someone smile, I know immediately that he or she is dwelling in awareness. This half-smile, how many artists have labored to bring it to the lips of countless statues and paintings? I am sure the same smile must have been on the faces of the sculptors and painters as they worked. Can you imagine an angry painter giving birth to such a smile? Mona Lisa's smile is light, just a hint of a smile. Yet even a smile like that is enough to relax all the muscles in our face, to banish all worries and fatigue. A tiny bud of a smile on our lips nourishes awareness and calms us miraculously. It returns to us the peace we thought we had lost.

Our smile will bring happiness to us and to those around us. Even if we spend a lot of money on gifts for everyone in our family, nothing we buy could give them as much happiness as the gift of our awareness, our smile. And this precious gift costs nothing. At the end of a retreat in California, a friend wrote this poem:

I have lost my smile,
but don't worry.
The dandelion has it.

If you have lost your smile and yet are still capable of seeing that a dandelion is keeping it for you, the situation is not too bad. You still have enough mindfulness to see that the smile is there.

You only need to breathe consciously one or two times and you will recover your smile. The dandelion is one member of your community of friends. It is there, quite faithful, keeping your smile for you.

In fact, everything around you is keeping your smile for you. You don't need to feel isolated. You only have to open yourself to the support that is all around you, and in you. Like the friend who saw that her smile was being kept by the dandelion, you can breathe in awareness, and your smile will return.

My little Buddha, are you there?

Litle Buddha

The practice I would like to show you is called “Recollection of the Buddha,” and it is taught in every school of Buddhism. You touch the Buddha and all the qualities of the Buddha inside you, and you know that the Buddha is absolutely real—not an idea or a notion, but a reality. Our task, our life, our practice is to nourish the Buddha in us and in the people we love.

You may like to spend three or four minutes on this practice, either alone or together with a few friends. Sit down quietly, breathe in and out for a few minutes to calm yourself, and then ask, “Little Buddha, are you there?” Ask the question very deeply and quietly. “My little Buddha, are you there?” In the beginning, you might not hear an answer. There is always an answer, but if you are not calm enough, you won’t hear it. “Anyone there? Little Buddha, are you there?” And then you will hear the voice of your little Buddha answering, “Yes, my dear, of course. I am always here for you.”

Hearing this, you smile. “I know, little Buddha, you are my calm. I know you are always there, and I need you to help me be calm. Often, I am not as calm as I’d like to be. I shout, I act as if I don’t have a Buddha in me. But because I know you are there, I know I am capable of being calm. Thank you, little Buddha, I need you to be there.” And the little Buddha says, “Of course I’ll be here for you all the time. Just come and visit me whenever you need to.” That is the practice of touching the Buddha inside. It’s a very important practice for all of us.

- Thich Nhat Hanh, in ”A Pebble for Your Pocket”.

Bringing Mindfulness Off The Yoga Mat

During the 8-week break between Module 1 and Module 2 of our 200-hour Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Training in Kingston, our students' homework was to have a daily formal mindfulness practice on the mat (yoga,  meditation, Qi Gong, pranayama) and also bring their mindfulness practice off the mat into their daily life (work, chores, daily activities). Hang and I were smiling as we wrote their list of their "off the mat" practices on the whiteboard:

Mindfulness in Everyday Life
  • Practicing Qi Gong in the office and with students at school.
  • "Qi Gong Breaks" with tour groups on washroom breaks on long bus trips around Europe.
  • Practicing Noble Silence in the classroom.
  • Practicing mindfulness in the classroom with breathing and relaxation to help the students take care of their anxiety during concert rehearsals.
  • Practicing loving speech to cashiers at the supermarket.
  • Good words and loving speech to people at work.
  • Enjoying nature.
  • Practicing gratitude.
  • Mindful driving - appreciating nature.
  • Enjoying chores - mindful laundry.
  • Cooking with joy.
  • Using gathas (mindfulness poems) as reminders to be mindful. 
  • Practicing mindful breathing with students.

We've just started Module 3: The Art of Teaching and our students continue to share deep insights as their mindfulness practice blooms and grows. We look forward to sharing some of their insights in another blog post after the training.

A lotus to you,

Advanced Hip Opening Sequence

A few months ago, we shared our Beginner Hip Opening Sequence. If you've been practicing the sequence for a while, you might feel ready for a little more challenge (and fun!).

This advanced sequence adds in some fun poses:

  •  Utpluthih (Scales Pose/Lifted Padmasana)
  • Agni Stambhasana (Fire Log/Double Pigeon) with variations - Hello, outer hips!
  • Astavakrasana (8-Angle Pose) with push-ups

You'll only need 10-15 minutes a day. We are not responsible for side effects such as joy, peace, and calmness from the practice :-) 


Where's Your Smile?

Plum Village Monastics Mindful Cooking

On our most recent stay at Thai Plum Village, in November last year, Hang and I were helping the monastics in the kitchen to prepare dinner. I was given the task of washing and chopping up carrots, pineapple and herbs for a huge pot of "canh chua" (sour soup). As I was focused on my chopping, one of the nuns walked past me and asked me, "Where's your smile?". It helped me realise that I had a grumpy and serious face and I was not finding joy in my chopping. So I brought a big smile to my face and kept chopping. A few minutes later the nun walked past me again and pointed to her mouth and said again, "Where's your smile?". She did this about 4 or 5 times! Each time I would smile for a few breaths and find joy in my chopping, and then my strong habit energy of having a grumpy face when cooking would come back! It was wonderful to have her there to remind me to smile and find joy in my chopping. 

Mindful smiling while cooking is a practice that I do at home now. I catch myself with my grumpy face, feeling impatient that I have 10 tomatoes to chop or 20 mushrooms to wash, and I smile a gentle peaceful smile. It brings me back to my breath and the present moment, instead of being lost in my thoughts, and I start smiling so deeply at the tomatoes and mushrooms. I begin to talk to them with love (in my mind), like "Hello tomatoes, where did you grow? How much sunshine did you receive, how much rain fell on you?" and I see how they have been nourished by the earth, clouds, rain and sunshine. My heart fills with gratitude at these delicious vegetables. They are a wonder of life and will now nourish our bodies and give us energy and strength.

Mindful smiling while cooking brings me so much joy, and it's a practice that I'm bringing into my other daily activities now, like washing my face, showering, and doing the dishes. As soon as I smile, my mind and heart are full of positive thoughts and gratitude. And it also overspills onto the people around me :-)

We invite you to choose a daily activity to practice your mindful smiling. It could be an activity you love or maybe challenge yourself with an activity that you don't care for. We'd love to hear how you go!

Bowing to you deeply, 

Beginner Hip-Opening Sequence

We can all relate to having "tight hips", especially after a long week at the office sitting in our chairs all day, or in our cars, or not doing enough, or too much, exercise. We find that sitting on the floor is a great remedy for tight hips, ditching the comfy sofa from time to time for sitting cross-legged on the floor.

Another way to open the hips is with yoga, of course! There are many yoga poses to open the hips. We've created this beginner hip opening sequence video that you could practice in just 10 minutes. The sequence has 4 different exercises and gently opens the inner and outer hips.

This 10-minute sequence is a perfect way to start the day, while you enjoy your morning cup of coffee and smile at the sunrise, or anytime of the day really. It's also great to practice at the yoga studio before the class starts.

Give it a go and let us know how it goes! Try it daily for 2-3 weeks and you'll notice a huge difference! We also have an Advanced Hip-Opening Sequence video once you master this.

Hello happy hips!


Introducing Sarah Martin, co-founder of saigon om

WHY YOGA: Yoga brings me home to my body so I can enjoy life in the present moment.

HOW I LIVE MY PRACTICE: As I embrace the art of mindful living, my daily life has become my practice. By following my breath and having a gentle smile, I'm able to bring peace and joy into everything that I do, both on and off the yoga mat.


THE ONE THING I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: Mindfulness. It helps me take care of my over-thinking mind and strong emotions. My daily mantra is "trust the breath" and not the mind.

THE BOOK I KEEP ON MY BED SIDE TABLE: 'The Heart of the Buddha's Teachings' by my mindfulness teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.

HOW I HAVE FUN OFF MY MAT: Traveling the world to teach and learn. My partner, Hang, and I are very blessed to be on this mindful path and sharing it with others. In between our trainings and retreats we visit Plum Village Monasteries in North America, Asia and Australia to practice with the monks and nuns. We also regularly visit Bali and Thailand to fill ourselves up on yoga.

WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE: Being alive is a miracle and everything around me is a gift of life.

WHAT I AM COMMITTED TO: Deepening my mindfulness practice and sharing this healing and joyful path with others.

WHAT I SHARE IN MY TEACHING: My peace and good mindful words to remind students how amazing life is.

HOMETOWN: Melbourne, Australia

EDUCATION / OTHER CERTIFICATIONS: 15 years of experience as a massage therapist & Reiki practitioner. I now enjoy offering massage & Reiki trainings and bringing these healing modalities into my yoga classes.


My partner, Hang, and I founded 'saigon om'- a holistic wellness school offering Yoga Alliance 200-hour yoga & mindfulness teacher training, yoga & mindfulness retreats, and training in Reiki, massage, Tai Chi & Qi Gong in Canada, Australia and South East Asia.

We follow the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk & peace activist, and the Plum Village spiritual community. We regularly visit Plum Village Monastery to deepen our mindfulness practice.

Committed to our mindfulness path, we are currently practicing towards ordination of the “Order of Interbeing”, which is a community of monastics and lay people who have committed to living their lives in accord with the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, a concrete embodiment of the teachings of the Buddha for living simply, compassionately, and joyfully in our modern world.



Introducing Hang Nhan, co-founder of saigon om

WHY YOGA: My passion for yoga and mindful living is my lifelong journey of amazing self-discovery. Yoga reminds me to live in the present moment. Yoga teaches me to come home to myself, to take care of life’s challenges, to cultivate love, peace and joy and then sprinkle them onto others, on and off the yoga mat.

HOW I LIVE MY PRACTICE: Every moment that I am able to breathe is a gift of life. With breath as my anchor, I practice loving awareness in my daily activities, from deep listening, to washing dishes, to driving and walking from place to place. And, I do it with joy! I invite the essence of mindfulness to my every breath, to my every moment.


THE ONE THING I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: My breath. It gives me life and brings me home to my body and calms down the twirling of my mind.

THE BOOK I KEEP ON MY BED SIDE TABLE: Old Path White Clouds (the life and teachings of Buddha) by Thich Nhat Hanh

HOW I HAVE FUN OFF MY MAT: Travel, teach and learn. My partner and I are blessed to be on the path of mindfulness and sharing it with people of diverse cultures around the globe. We currently travel between Australia, South East Asia, and Canada to share our love of yoga, mindfulness, Reiki, Lomi Lomi massage, Qi Gong and Tai Chi training and retreats.

WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE: Nothing is permanent. If joy rises, embrace it. If suffering arises, embrace it. For everything is impermanent.

WHAT I AM COMMITTED TO: To helping people cultivate compassion for themselves and others. And, also helping people understand that all the conditions for happiness are already available to us in the here and now.

WHAT I SHARE IN MY TEACHING: My peace, joy and love for life and travelling.

HOMETOWN: My Tho, Vietnam

EDUCATION / OTHER CERTIFICATIONS: My education is still on-going. With over 2400 teaching hours and numerous yoga teacher training received, I am only beginning to see how much I have to learn.

I’m a CanFitPro-certified personal trainer, mixed martial artist, fitness and classical Pilates instructor. I’m a Shamballa Reiki educator and have trained in Thai massage and Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage.

ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO ADD: My partner, Sarah, and I founded a mobile wellness school called “saigon om.” We feel very blessed to be able to travel the globe, share our practice and meet many wonderful beings along our journey.

We follow the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen teacher and poet, and regularly visit his monasteries (Plum Village) in various parts of the world to deepen our mindfulness practice. Committed to our mindfulness path, we are currently practicing towards ordination of the “Order of Interbeing”, which is a community of monastics and lay people who have committed to living their lives in accord with the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, a wonderful blend of traditional Buddhist morality and contemporary social concerns.

Photo credit: Yenny Tran

Walking Meditation

Walking meditation with the monks and nuns at Thai Plum Village, November 2016.

Walking meditation with the monks and nuns at Thai Plum Village, November 2016.

You don’t have to make any effort during walking meditation, because it is enjoyable. You are there, body and mind together. You are fully alive, fully present in the here and the now. With every step, you touch the wonders of life that are in you and around you. When you walk like that, every step brings healing. Every step brings peace and joy, because every step is a miracle.

- Thich Nhat Hanh

Gathas - Mantras for Daily Life

“Gathas are short verses that we can recite during our daily activities to help us return to the present moment and dwell in mindfulness. As exercises in both meditation and poetry, gathas are an essential part of Zen Buddhist tradition. Using a gatha doesn’t require any special knowledge or religious practice. Some people like to memorize a favorite verse that they find they can come back to again and again. Others just like to write the verse down in a place they are likely to see it often.

Reciting gathas is one way to help us dwell in the present moment. When we focus our mind on a gatha, we return to ourselves and become more aware of each action. When the gatha ends, we continue our activity with heightened awareness. When we drive a car, signs can help us find our way. The sign and the road become one, and we see the sign all along the way until the next sign. When we practice with gathas, the gathas and the rest of our life become one, and we live our entire lives in awareness. This helps us very much, and it helps others as well. We find that we have more peace, calm, and joy, which we can share with others.

When you memorize a gatha, it will come to you quite naturally when you are doing the related activity, whether it’s turning on the water or drinking a cup of tea. You don’t need to learn all the verses at once. You can find one or two that resonate with you and learn more over time. After some time, you may find that you have learned all of them and are even creating your own. Composing your own gathas to fit the specific circumstances of your life is one wonderful way to practice mindfulness.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

These are some of our favourite gathas for meditation and for posting up around the house:

mindfulness meditation yoga

Waking Up
Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand-new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully each moment
and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.

Opening the Window
Opening the window,
I look out with full awareness.
How wondrous life is!
Attentive to each moment,
My mind is clear like a calm river.

Turning on the Light
Forgetfulness is the darkness,
mindfulness is the light.
I bring awareness
to shine upon all life.

Turning on the Water
Water flows from high mountain sources.
Water runs deep in the Earth.
Miraculously, water comes to us.
I am filled with gratitude.

Brushing Your Teeth
Brushing my teeth and rinsing my mouth,
I vow to speak purely and lovingly.
When my mouth is fragrant with right speech,
a flower blooms in the garden of my heart.

Washing Your Hands
Water flows over these hands.
May I use them skillfully
to preserve our precious planet.

Following the Breath
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.

Hugging Meditation
Breathing in, I am so happy to hug my loved one.
Breathing out, I know my loved one is real and alive in my arms.

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.

Drinking Tea
This cup of tea in my two hands,
mindfulness held perfectly.
My mind and body dwell
in the very here and now.

We'd love to hear your favourites!

Breathing joyfully,

Seeing Our Unskillfulness

I said before that if we have not made any mistakes, there is no way for us to learn. So that is why to look deeply, and to see the nature of the act, the nature of inter-being of the act in the light of non-self, we see that that is a kind of act, that is a kind of speech that has created suffering… The moment when you see that this is the lack of skillfulness on your part and on the part of many ancestors who have transmitted the seed to you, then that is already enlightenment, that is already meditation, that is already deep looking. And out of that enlightenment you are motivated by a desire that you would not like to do that again. So that desire, that aspiration is a strong energy, a strong energy that can make you alive, that can help you to protect yourself, to protect all the future generations within you, and that insight is very liberating. And if you know that you are not going to do the same thing again, you are already free, and your ancestors are also free, and there is no need to be caught in your feeling of culpability.

- Thich Nhat Hanh

Enjoying Our Meals With Mindfulness

When we eat, we're often rushed; sometimes we don't even take the time to sit down. If that's true of you, please offer yourself the opportunity to eat mindfulness as a human being, not a running robot. Before you eat, take a few moments to sit down, feel your weight supported by the chair (or the ground), quiet your thinking, and contemplate the food and its sources. The earth, the sun, the rain, labor, and many supportive conditions have come together so that your food could be brought to you. Be aware of how fortunate you are to have food to eat when so many people are hungry.

When you sit down to enjoy a meal with others, bring your awareness to the food and the people you are with. This can be a very joyful occasion of true community.

Breathing in, I'm aware of the food on my plate.
Breathing out, I'm fortunate to have food to eat.
(Aware of food. Feeling grateful.)

Breathing in, I'm aware of the fields.
Breathing out, I smile to the fields.
(Aware of fields. Smiling.)

Breathing in, I'm aware of the many conditions that brought this food to me.
Breathing out, I feel grateful.
(Aware of conditions. Feeling grateful.)

Breathing in, I'm aware of those who are eating together with me.
Breathing out, I am grateful for their presence.
(Eating together. Feeling grateful.)

From "Silence" by Thich Nhat Hanh

It's OK to Make Mistakes

Buddha Mindfulness

Because we are human beings, we cannot avoid making mistakes. We might have caused someone else to suffer, we might have offended our beloved ones, and we feel regret. But it is always possible for us to begin anew, and to transform all these kinds of mistakes. Without making mistakes there is no way to learn, in order to be a better person, to learn how to be tolerant, to be compassionate, to be loving, to be accepting. That is why mistakes play a role in our training, in our learning, and we should not get caught in the prison of culpability just because we have made some mistakes in our life.

- Thich Nhat Hanh

The Five Remembrances

One of the teachings of the Buddha and Thich Nhat Hanh are "The Five Remembrances" or five truths that the Buddha guided us to contemplate and accept:

I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.

I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

Contemplating The Five Remembrances has helped us deepen our mindfulness practice. Knowing that we are of the nature to grow old, get ill, and die, we can embrace our health, youthfulness and live life fully. Knowing that life is impermanent, we can embrace and appreciate our loved ones and enjoy every moment we have with them. Knowing that our actions are our only true belongings, we take responsibility for our views, thoughts, words and actions, and move in the direction of compassion and understanding for ourselves and others.

The Five Remembrances reminds us that life is short and we must embrace every moment, and that every moment is a wonderful moment.

Smiling to life,

Five True Sounds

Bodhisattva is the Buddhist term for someone with great compassion whose life work is to ease people's suffering. Buddhism talks about a bodhisatttva named Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Deep Listening. The name Avalokiteshvara means "the one who listens deeply to the sounds of the world."

According to Buddhist tradition, Avalokiteshvara has the capacity to listen to all kinds of sounds that can heal the world. If you can find silence within yourself, you can hear the five sounds.

The first is the Wonderful Sound, the sound of the wonders of life that are calling you. This is the sound of the birds, of the rain, and so on.

The second sound is the Sound of the One Who Observes the World. This is the sound of listening, the sound of silence. 

The third sound is the Brahma Sound. This is the transcendental sound, om, which has a long history in Indian spiritual thought. The tradition is that the sound om has the innate power to create the world. The story goes that the cosmos, the world, the universe was created by that sound. 

The fourth sound is the Sound of the Rising Tide. This sound symbolises the voice of the Buddha. The teaching of the Buddha can clear away misunderstanding, remove affliction, and transform everything. It's penetrating and effective. 

The fifth sound is the Sound That Transcends All Sounds of the World. This is the sound of impermanence, a reminder not to get caught up in or too attached to particualr words or sounds. Many scholars have made Buddha's teaching complicated and difficult to understand. But the Buddha said things very simply and did not get caught up in words. So if a teaching is too complicated, it's not the sound of the Buddha. If what you're hearing is too loud, too noisy, or convoluted, it's not the voice of the Buddha. Wherever you go, you can hear that fifth sound. Even if you're in prison, you can hear the Sound That Transcends All Sounds of the World. 

From the book "Silence" by Thich Nhat Hanh

Exaggerating our Suffering

Thay Phap Dang

Brother Phap Dang says that "we tend to exaggerate our suffering" so he said "to stop it and just be honest with it." That has been my practice this week. I often stop and ask myself, "Is this for real? Is this sorrow as deep as I perceive it to be in my head?" Then the answer always comes back as "Not really. It was blown out of proportion." And I usually smile it.

Smilng & breathing,

Bells of Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh Bell of Mindfulness

The bell is a wonderful mindfulness tool. It is also known as a “bell of mindfulness.” Its sound reminds me to be in the present moment, or come home to the present when I am in deep thought or conversation. 

As taught to us by our zen teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, aka Thay, when the bell is invited, I stop whatever I am doing, relax my whole body and become aware of my breath. I stay still and silent until the sound goes away. By pausing to breathe and restore my calm and peace I  feel so nourished with a sense of freshness and freedom as I restore my mindfulness energy.

The sound of the bell gives me an opportunity to come back to my breath and dwell in the present moment. On hearing the sound of the bell, I focus on my breath for at least three breaths. Sometimes, I follow a gatha, or a short verse, to help me:

Listen, listen, this wonderful sound
Brings me back to my true self/home.

For our daily work on our laptops, Hang and I installed a digital bell of mindfulness app. It can be set to be invited every 15, 30, 60 minutes. It's a wonderful reminder for us to come back to our breath, to bring our mind home to our body, and find peaceful moments while we're writing emails. 

As well as the sound of a bell, any sound can be a bell of mindfulness, a pleasant sound like birds signing or rain falling, or an unpleasant sound like a car alarm or dog barking at night. An object can also be a bell of mindfulness, like the sunset or sunrise, a tree in your garden, a flowers in a vase, or a smile from a loved one. All of these sounds and objects can help remind us to come home to our breath and body, to the here and now. 

We'd love to hear your favourite bells of mindfulness. Feel free to comment below.

Enjoy finding moments of calm throughout your day.

With a peaceful smile,