During a visit to Montreal Thich Nhat Hanh noticed the words “Je me souviens” inscribed on car licence plates in Quebec. He turned to his friend and said, here is a gift for you: every time you are driving and see the phrase Je me souviens, come back to yourself and practice mindful breathing with the thought “I remember to come back to the here and now.” His friends follow this suggestion to this day.
It is not just on the meditation cushion we practice meditation but also in our daily living. There can be many bells of mindfulness in our surroundings. When we are driving, when you come to a red light, consider it your friend helping you “je me souviens” to come back to my breathing and my body. And smile.
Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out. We only need one minute to improve the quality of our breathing and this improves the state of our mind and body.
Sometimes we get visited by difficult emotions such as fear and helplessness, as I was this week. Perhaps we are in contact with too many negative elements – such as social media or the news. Especially with the current happenings from politics to viruses – social media is rampant with fear. Is it skillful to spend less time there so as not to ingest harmful fear that leads to despair?
We can choose to say, “I don’t need these things, I already have enough suffering in me. I am going to seek out helpful things that are refreshing in nature”. If the negative energy is strong, we can ease its hold: breathing in I know that anger or fear is here in me, breathing out, I care for my anger or fear.
As the old saying goes if it bleeds it leads. There was a headline in The Onion: “CNN holds morning meeting to decide what viewers should panic about for rest of the day.” The news is about stuff that happened and not about the stuff that did not happen. We have to remind ourselves all kinds of positive elements exist around us and we can benefit from their refreshing and helpful presence. Here are some of the things in recent years which have been making the world a better more positive place: ?
- before the 15th C no more than 15% of Europeans could read or write. By the middle of the 20th C Europe and the US had achieved near universal literacy. Today more than 90% of the world’s population under the age of 25 can read and write
- European scientists may have found a unique solution to the plastic problem: the discovery of worms that eat plastic which can help us drastically reduce the astronomical amounts of trash we’ve produced
- the charging for or banning of plastic bags in many cities across the world
- the invention of the Seabin which is a vacuum that sucks up oil and trash from the ocean
- meditation in detention centres and prisons has improved the behaviour and well-being of many detainees
- tiny silicon chips that are in my iphone have more processing power than the 8ft tall 51ft long ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) – built in 1946 at a price tag of half a million dollars.
“Everything Is Waiting for You” -David Whyte
great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.
down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.