Book: The Mindfulness Sampler: Shambhala Authors on the Power of Awareness in Daily Life
Author: Shambhala Publications
This book is a delightfully arranged sampling of writings on mindfulness, Buddhism, and just plain living your life in general. From the very well-known to the relatively unfamiliar, this book of authors on the publications list at Shambhala Publications covers topics from the precepts of mindfulness, to communication, to addiction, and to relationships. It’s a great excursion into the different writers and writing styles on the subject and I recommend it for everyone – including those new to mindfulness and those with years of practice.
In the first chapter, Thich Nhat Hanh – in “Happiness and Peace Are Possible” – explains the fundamentals of mindfulness and how it can be nurtured in our own lives. He describes the healing miracle of mindfulness. As a gardener I am especially drawn to his vivid imagery:
If you look deeply at a flower, at its freshness and its beauty, you will see that there is also compost in it, made of garbage… The flower is also going to turn into garbage; but don’t be afraid! You are a gardener, and you have in your hands the power to transform garbage into glowers, into fruit, into vegetables. You don’t throw anything away, because you are not afraid of garbage. Your hands are capable of transforming it into flowers or lettuce or cucumbers. The same thing is true of your happiness and your sorrow. Sorrow, fear, and depression are all a kind of garbage. These bits of garbage are part of real life, and we must look deeply into their nature. You can practice in order to turn these bits of garbage into flowers.
He speaks beautifully and simple of things that are very complex and can take a lifetime to truly understand. He speaks of using nature as a bell to call us back to mindful awareness the way a crying baby calls it’s parents to attend to it. He softly encourages us to drive with awareness and avoid the autopilot effect. Such simple images convey that by small actions we can come to understand how to transform suffering into well-being. His path seems beautiful and full of joy, so it doesn’t seem to matter when I arrive.
In another favorite chapter – chapter 3 – zen teacher and pediatrician Jan Chozen Bays discusses meditation as the practice of ordinary life. She said that when the mind ” checks out” it tends to go one of three places, the past, the future, or the fantasy realm. “Is this bad?” one might ask. Well, Bays says it’s not something to feeling ashamed or guilty about, but perhaps it’s sad that “when we spend a lot of time with our body doing one thing while our mind is on vacation somewhere else,” it can mean that we aren’t really present for much of our life. “When we aren’t present,” she says, “it makes us feel vaguely but persistently dissatisfied.”
Mindfulness helps us become aware of the mind’s habitual and conditioned patterns of escape and allows us to try an alternative way of being in the world… Anxiety is fueled by thoughts of past and future. When we drop those thoughts, we drop anxiety and find ourselves at ease. How do we drop thoughts? We drop thoughts by temporarily withdrawing energy from the thinking function of the mind and redirecting it to the awareness function of the mind.
So all in all it was a wonderful book and I learned a lot and you should definitely read it… blah blah blah
Now for your mindfulness exercises for the week, from this book!
Use Your Nondominant Hand
Use your nondominant hand for some ordinary tasks each day. These could include brushing your teeth, combing your hair, or eating with your nondominant hand for at least part of each meal. If you’re up for a big challenge. try using the nondominant hand when writing or when eating with chopsticks.
Remind Yourself: Put a bandaid on your dominant hand and when you notice it, switch hands and use the nondominant hand. Or put a small sign on your bathroom mirror that says “Left Hand.”
Leave No Trace
Choose one room in your house and for one week try leaving no trace that you’ve used that space. The bathroom or kitchen works best for most people. If you’ve been doing something in that room, cooking a meal or taking a shower, clean up in such a way that you leave no signs that you’ve been there, except perhaps the odor of food or fragrance of soap.
Remind Yourself: Put a sign in the room you’ve chosen that says, “Leave No Trace.”
Today after completing this book I meditated for 5 minutes using these beautiful bells. If you’ve never done this before, simply sit comfortably and breath and watch your thoughts. If you catch yourself completely drawn into your thoughts, don’t judge, simply bring your awareness back to your breathing and watching your thoughts. When the video ends with a slightly higher and quicker bell slowly blink open your eyes, wiggle your hands and toes, and mindfully continue with your day. Namaste.