How To Choose Mindfulness Of Others


“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

To be mindful can be such a tricky instruction. I remember when growing up and my mother would say things such as “mind your manners.” That meant taking care that I am being polite.

“Be mindful of people,” is another one of those instructions. Not sure who impressed that on me but the sentiment was to put others first. It was not until the early 2000’s that I came upon the teachings of a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. Thich Nhat Hahn was his name and an entirely different understanding of mindfulness opened up for me.

Mindfulness Along The Path

On the “spiritual path” for a few years, the concepts of awareness of the “now” and acceptance of “what is,” were ones that I was challenged to embrace. If I am not mistaken, it was my Catholic spiritual director, Sister Maggie, who introduced me to the work of Thich Nhat Hahn. She knew my inability to focus on what I wanted and my propensity to catastrophize coming out of a hard for my break-up.

We would sit for hours in a room at the retreat centre and listen to meditations by Hahn or she would personally guide me. 

mindfulnessThe most profound of Hahn’s, who died in January 2022, meditation for me was one in which he took the aspirant through mindfully eating an orange. It has never before taken me one hour to have an orange. Five minutes, if that, was all I needed.

Therein was the lesson, one that I have, ever since that day, tried to apply especially to my relationships. Devouring and savouring are too vastly different things. To devour is similar to having an interest in something or someone. It satisfies an immediate want or can do so when convenient or necessary to you.

Savouring Is Being Mindful

To savour is to be committed to the person or the situation and the potential that either or both hold. As such, you not just spend the time but you gladly and mindfully do so exploring, tasting, basking, I could go on. This is no hit and run. Neither is it a matter of watching the clock.

Whether it is eating an orange, walking along a path, speaking with a friend on the telephone. Whether listening to a stranger on the bus, the experience is one of deeply and consciously focussing on the fruit, pathway or person. It, him or her is all that “is” at that moment for however long or short it lasts. It, him or her is the wonder, the miracle of life.

“Around us, life bursts with miracles–a glass of water, a ray of sunshine, a leaf, a caterpillar, a flower, laughter, raindrops. If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere. Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap. A brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos. A heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings. When we are tired and feel discouraged by life’s daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they are always there.” Thich Nhat Hahn

What miracles are you seeing, tasting, savouring?

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