A Day In My Life As A Mindful Monk
Eating a meal together is a wonderful mindfulness practice. As we serve our food itself we can begin practicing, serving ourselves, we can realize that many elements, such as the rain, sunshine, earth, air and love, have all come together to form this wonderful meal
Each moment is an opportunity to practice mindfulness and this is best exemplified by life in the monastery. Over the next few columns I will share secrets from a monastic life and also show you how you can integrate them into your life.
3.45 am - The bell is invited to ring and wake us up
3.45-4.00 am - Teeth brushing meditation
4.00-6.00 am - Prayers and sitting meditation
6.00-7.00 - Walking meditation
‘Wait a minute! Walking meditation? How’s that even possible? I thought meditation had to do with sitting in one place with eyes closed.’ If that is what you are thinking, you can be forgiven for you are not alone. A lot of people think that meditation is something you do and in order to do it, one has to sit under a tree or in a cave with eyes closed for many years.
In fact, many years ago, I too, was like that, then I discovered that meditation is not something you do, but it is a state you are in. And I discovered that as you learn to spend more and more time in that state, remarkable things start to happen, both to you and around you!
And so yes, it is completely possible to walk in meditation. In fact, Master Thich Nhat Hanh says that for him, walking itself is a miracle. Not walking on air or water, but walking on earth! And in practicing walking meditation, one can discover life. Here is a beautiful poem from him.
Take my hand.
We will walk.
We will only walk.
We will enjoy our walk
without thinking of arriving anywhere.
Our walk is a peace walk.
Our walk is a happiness walk.
Then we learn
that there is no peace walk;
that peace is the walk;
that there is no happiness walk;
that happiness is the walk.
We walk for ourselves.
We walk for everyone
always hand in hand.
Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom under our feet.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Print on Earth your love and happiness.
Earth will be safe
when we feel in us enough safety.
(from “Call me by My True Names – The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh”, Parallax Press, 2005.)
And so, coming back to walking meditation. For me, my experience with walking meditation became a life altering opportunity to experience the power of mindfulness as hundreds of monks walked together in meditation. A river of brother monks from the brother’s hamlet would converge with another river of sister monks from the sister hamlet and this large body of collective mindfulness would walk slowly, stopping to look at the flowers, weeds and insects on the way.
7.30 - 8.30 am - Breakfast and the first opportunity of the day to practice mindful eating.
Eating a meal together is a wonderful mindfulness practice. As we serve our food itself we can begin practicing, serving ourselves, we can realize that many elements, such as the rain, sunshine, earth, air and love, have all come together to form this wonderful meal. In fact, through this food we see that the entire universe is supporting our existence and we should only take an amount of food that is good for us.
Our food is a gift of the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard and loving work. May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive this food. May we recognise and transform unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed and learn to eat with moderation.
May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that reduces the suffering of living beings, stops contributing to climate change, and heals and preserves our precious planet.
We should also take our time as we eat, chewing each mouthful at least 30 times, until the food becomes liquefied. This aids the digestive process. Enjoy every morsel of our food and establish ourselves in the present moment, eating in such a way that solidity, joy and peace become possible during the time of eating.
Eating in silence, the food becomes real with the energy of our mindfulness and we are fully aware of its nourishment. Upon finishing our meal, we also take a few moments to notice that we have finished, our bowl is now empty and our hunger is satisfied.
Gratitude fills us all as we realize how fortunate we are to have had this nourishing food to eat, supporting us on the path of love and understanding.
9.00 am - Working meditation (to be continued next week)
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