We can begin falling in love with the Earth right now. It doesn’t take a lot of preparation. Each time we practice mindfulness as we go about our day, our practice gets deeper and we are able to generate more love and compassion, which in turn leads to greater understanding and insight.
Mindfulness is the continuous practice of touching deeply every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly present with your body and your mind, to bring harmony to your intentions and actions, and to be in harmony with those around you.
We don’t need to make a separate time for this outside of our daily activities. We can practice mindfulness in every moment of the day, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in our bedroom, and as we are going from one place to another. We can carry mindfulness with us as we wash the dishes, take a morning shower, or drive the car.
We can do the same things we always do –walking, sitting, working, eating, and so on– with mindful awareness of what we are doing. When we are eating, we know that we are eating. When we open a door, we know that we are opening a door. Our mind is with our actions.
Our breathing is a stable solid ground that we can take refuge in. No matter what is going on inside us –thoughts, emotions, or perceptions– our breathing is always with us, like a faithful friend. Whenever we are carried away by our thinking, when we are overwhelmed by strong emotions, or when our minds are restless and dispersed, we can return to our breathing. We bring our body and mind together and we collect, calm, and anchor our mind.
We are aware of the air coming in and going out of our body. With awareness of our breath, our breathing naturally becomes light, calm, and peaceful. At any time of the day or night, whether we are walking, driving, working in the garden, or sitting at the computer, we can return to the peaceful refuge of our own breath. We may like to say silently,
Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.
To increase your mindfulness and concentration, you gently and easily follow your in-breath and out-breath all the way through. Just sitting and following your breathing can already bring a lot of joy and healing.
The best way to reunite with your body is through your breath. Awareness of your breathing brings your mind back to your body. Be with your body and remember that you have a body. Release any tension and bring calm to your body. This is the first step in restoring wellness. Bringing your mind home to your body, you become established in the here and the now, and you have a chance to live your life and experience each moment deeply. When you are in touch with your body, you’re in touch with life, the cosmos, and planet Earth.
Sitting here is like sitting under the Bodhi tree.
My body is mindfulness itself,
entirely free from distraction.
When you sit down, be aware that you are sitting on the Earth. Practice following your breathing in and out. Feel your spine tall, straight, and relaxed like a tree. Feel yourself rooted in the Earth and your body as the connection between sky and ground. Just notice your breath. Thoughts come and go like clouds. Do not hold on to them or follow them, just let them pass by. Allow your body to completely relax. Do not struggle. Allow your mind to settle.
We do not do sitting meditation in order to become a Buddha or even to become enlightened. We sit to be happy. That is all. We sit merely to be there. We sit to be aware that the wonderful world is right there inside us, above us, below us, and all around us. If we can sit like that, happiness becomes a reality.
We may sit for fifteen, thirty, or forty-five minutes. But even if we only sit for a few minutes we have to enjoy it and we have to profit from every single moment of sitting. How many people in the world have the chance to start their day so peacefully, sitting calmly and quietly in the early morning? We also have many opportunities throughout the day to sit mindfully, whether we are at home, at school, at work, in the car, or on the train. Being peaceful and happy in our sitting, we can say,
Peace while sitting.
Joy while breathing.
Peace is the sitting.
Joy is the breathing.
This is an art.
Thich Nhat Hanh. Born in Vietnam in 1926. He is a Zen Master, peace activist, poet and author of over a hundred books. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize by Martin Luther King. He lives in the South East of France and travels the world offering retreats where he teaches the art of Mindfulness.
Excerpt taken from the book: Thich Nhat Hanh. Love Letter to the Earth. Parallax Press, Unified Buddhist Church: California. 2013.