مدیتیشن برای پرورش قدرت

کتاب: هنر قدرت / فصل 12

مدیتیشن برای پرورش قدرت

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APPENDIX A - Meditations to Cultivate Power

Here are a number of concrete practices that strengthen our power, our spiritual energy, and that can be applied, or let us say enjoyed, anywhere at any time. Many of these practices can be considered kinds of meditation.

When you think of meditation, you may think of a monk sitting absolutely still, undisturbed by sound or interruption. That is one kind of meditation, but there are many others you can enjoy at home or at work in just a few minutes.

Meditation consists of two elements. The first element is stopping, calming the mind, and concentrating. The second is looking deeply to get insight. In the first, you focus your mind on just one thing, like your steps or your breath. Concentration always means concentrating on something. Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. You cannot concentrate on or become mindful of nothing. So to practice mindfulness you need an object. When you focus your attention on your breath, your breathing is the object of your mindfulness and concentration. When you generate the energy of mindfulness, it will embrace the object of your attention and keep it alive in your mind.

If you continue your concentration, you will be able to attain some insight, the second step of meditation.

For instance, when you experience irritation or anger, you might focus your attention on it to find its root cause. Then, if you practice mindfulness and concentration for some time, you’ll get to know the real nature of your anger, and your insight will liberate you from it. When the object of your inquiry is interesting, mindfulness and concentration are easy. When a talk or presentation is interesting, it’s much easier for you to pay attention. If it is boring, you can do your best but it will be difficult to concentrate fully. Therefore, one key to success is to select an object of mindfulness and concentration that is interesting to you. If it is interesting, you’ll get insight quickly.

MINDFUL BREATHING

There is a short poem I suggest you memorize to help you in the practice of mindful breathing. Whether you are practicing mindful sitting or walking, you may use this poem:

In, out

Deep, slow

Calm, ease

Smile, release

Present moment, wonderful moment.

The first two words, “In, out,” mean, “Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in; breathing out, I know I’m breathing out.” When you breathe in, you concentrate on only one thing, your in-breath. You take your mind off everything else and focus entirely on your in-breath.

In the same way, you then concentrate on your outbreath. This is the first exercise. You can continue to silently repeat the words “In, out” to help you stay with the whole of your in-breath and your out-breath.

Don’t take your mind off your breath and allow it to go somewhere else: “Breathing in, I know…oh, I forgot to turn the light off in my room.” This is not concentration, because your mind is jumping from one thing to another. Practice staying with your in-breath from its beginning to its end. Your in-breath may last only four or five seconds. Everyone is capable of being one hundred percent with his in-breath for this length of time. When you practice mindfully breathing in and out for one minute, you stop your thinking for one minute.

It’s wonderful to stop your thinking and just be. Most of our thinking is an obstacle to being, because when you’re absorbed in thinking, you aren’t present and fully alive and you can’t touch the wonders of life. “I think, therefore I am not!” “I think therefore I get lost in my thinking.” To get lost in thinking is not to be.

Suppose your son or daughter is with you, smiling and beautiful as a flower. If you are busy thinking of the past, the future, your projects, your difficulties, and your sorrow, you are lost in your thinking. Then your beautiful little boy or girl is not available to you because you are not there. You are lost in your thinking. Not getting carried away by your thinking, then, means to be in the here and now, in order to encounter the wonders of life that are available: your little boy or your little girl. It means that you are available to them, and they are available to you.

Just one in-breath and one out-breath can help you stop your habitual thinking and go back to the here and now. When you go back to mindful breathing, your mind will connect right away with your body. In your daily life, your body may be there but your mind is elsewhere. Fortunately we have our breath, which serves as a bridge between them. The moment you go back to your breathing and breathe mindfully, your mind and your body come back together. It’s wonderful, and it’s very easy. It doesn’t take a lot of time—maybe five or ten seconds at the most—and suddenly from a state of dispersion, you become mindful, you become concentrated. Because your mind has come back to your body, you have become truly present. You are really there, and when you are there, something else will be there also: life, as well as your beloved.

Even when you drive your car, you may concentrate on breathing in and out in order to be truly present. It’s safer to drive when you are really there and not lost in your worries and anxiety. When you water the flowers in your front yard, practice mindful breathing to be fully present and enjoy the flowers and the act of watering. Then, once you know how to practice mindful breathing when you drive, wash dishes, or walk from one building to another, you can invite members of your family to do so too. You can sit together in your living room and practice breathing mindfully together. You don’t need to watch television. The whole family can sit and really enjoy each other’s presence, and a feeling of unity and peace will arise. It’s a wonderful practice.

Why not share the practice of mindful breathing with your co-workers too? You can teach them how to take care of their fatigue, their strong emotions, and their suffering.

You might like to stop reading this page now to practice “In, out” for one, two, or three minutes until you are really focused on your in-breath and out-breath.

You’ll realize that the quality of your breathing improves quickly. Don’t try to make anything happen.

All by itself, your in-breath becomes deeper and your out-breath becomes slower, more relaxed, soothing.

SITTING MEDITATION

To sit is a privilege. When Nelson Mandela visited France for the first time after he was released from prison, the press interviewed him and asked what he wanted to do the most. He answered, “Sit down and do nothing. Since the time of my release from prison, I haven’t had that luxury. I’ve been so busy. So the thing I wish for the most is to sit down and do nothing.” To have the opportunity to sit down and enjoy your inbreath and out-breath is already a wonderful thing.

Breathing in and breathing out, you don’t have to struggle. Please do it for Nelson Mandela; do it for all the people who are running and don’t have time to return to themselves and just be. In our time, it’s a luxury to just sit and not do anything. It’s also crucial to our healing and nourishment.

Find a comfortable position either on a cushion or a chair. If you sit in a chair, rest both feet flat on the floor. Sit with your back straight, but not rigid. Release the weight of your body on to the cushion or chair, let your belly soften. Bring all your attention to your in and out breath. When your mind wanders, because it will, just gently bring your awareness back to yourbreath.

Sitting meditation is first of all just doing nothing and allowing yourself to relax. If you know the art of breathing and smiling, the pleasure of sitting will grow greater and greater. Then, with mindfulness and concentration, you can begin to see more deeply into the reality of your body, the reality of your consciousness, and the reality of your situation. When you see clearly, you’re not likely to make so many mistakes. You have a chance to do the right thing in order to bring well-being to yourself and the people you love. That’s the benefit of sitting.

MINDFUL WALKING

I want to say a bit more about the practice of mindful walking that I introduced in chapter 3. Everyone needs to walk. When we walk from work to the subway, the parking lot, or the restroom, whether we are going several blocks or just a few steps, we can always enjoy walking meditation. It means we learn to walk with awareness of every step we take, free of thinking and free of our projects.

If you want to walk peacefully, you may take two or three steps during your in-breath. When I breathe in, I usually take two steps and say, “In, in.” I say it with my feet. I don’t say it aloud with my mouth. I focus my attention on the soles of my feet. I touch the ground as if I am kissing the earth with my feet, with a lot of love. When I breathe out, I take two more steps and say, “Out, out.” So the rhythm is “In, in. Out, out.” Touch the earth mindfully. Let your breathing be natural, and coordinate your steps with your breathing.

Don’t stay in your head, but bring your attention down to the soles of your feet. You’ll notice that your steps will be much more solid, much more stable. That stability will come into your body and your consciousness. Walk like a free person. You are no longer a slave of your projects, of your worries. Every step you take helps you reclaim your freedom.

I walk because I want to walk, not because someone pushes me or forces me to walk. I walk as a free person, and I enjoy every step I take. I don’t rush, because I want to really be in the here and now and to touch life with every step I take. “In, in. Out, out.” It can be very pleasant because you feel that freedom inside you. You are the one who is walking; you aren’t being pulled by the past, the future, or your projects. You are yourself, you are the boss.

After practicing the first exercise of the poem, you continue with “Deep, slow.” “Deep, deep. Slow, slow.” You can say “deep” with each step you take on an inbreath, and “slow” with each step you take on an outbreath. Say it with your feet, not with your mind. You are aware of the number of steps your lungs want you to take during your in-breath and your out-breath, whatever is pleasant for you. If you experience walking as hard work, you aren’t practicing correctly. The practice should be healing, transforming, and pleasant at the same time.

Next you might choose “Calm, ease.” Don’t say the words mechanically. When you say the word calm with your feet, you must feel the calm in your body or feelings. When you are concentrated and enjoy your steps, you support all of us who are trying to do the same thing. And when you practice mindful walking with others, you are also supported by their presence and their practice, and if you enjoy every step you take with solidity and freedom, with calm and ease, you contribute much to the quality of everyone’s life.You have to be able to release, to let go. Whatever has happened, this problem or that event, should not cause you to lose your happiness and peace, because you have the Buddha, the energy of awakening, within you. The Buddha is with you when you smile mindfully. The Buddha is with you when you walk mindfully. The Buddha is with you when you drink tea peacefully. You know you’re capable of drinking your tea that way. You’re capable of walking that way, and you’re capable of breathing that way. Don’t think that the Buddha is abstract. The Buddha is very concrete.

The Buddha is the energy of mindfulness that is always available to you, if you know how to use it.

I know a businesswoman who always practices mindful walking from one building to another. Instead of running, she allows herself enough time to enjoy every step she takes. And during that time, she really stops thinking about business. She knows how to treat herself with love.

Walking mindfully is something all of us can learn.

It’s wonderful to feel that we’re alive, walking on this beautiful planet. Many of us are used to running, and we’re not capable of living deeply in the here and now.If we walk only to arrive somewhere else, we sacrifice the walking itself. Then there’s no life during the time of walking. That is a loss. Where is the Kingdom of God?

The Kingdom of God is available in the here and now. If you know how to walk mindfully, you can touch the Kingdom of God with every step you take. It’s a matter of training only. There are so many wonders of life available to us right now.

One day in the Lower Hamlet we practiced walking meditation with many Catholic nuns and monks. I led the walk. We went through a meadow on the way to the woods. It was springtime and there were many tiny flowers of different colors in the grass. Because we walked mindfully and enjoyed every step we took, we got in touch with the wonders of life that were available in the month of May. The walk was joyful and healing.

No one said anything. We just enjoyed touching the earth with our feet and connecting with whatever was present in the here and now. When we arrived in the woods, we sat down, listened to the birds, and enjoyed the sunshine filtering through the leaves. It was beautiful. We were able to touch the miracle of life that was present. Most of us were monks and nuns,Buddhist and Catholic. I turned to a French monk from Plum Village, and I said, “Brother, paradise is now or never.” I said it in French, “Le paradis est maintenant ou jamais,” and he nodded and smiled. Paradise is not an idea. The Kingdom of God is not an idea. It’s a reality, because life is right here with all its wonders.

If we’re not capable of being in the here and now, we’re not capable of entering into the Kingdom of God, or into paradise. But with some training, we will be able to stop in the here and now and touch life deeply. Then everything else in our life will improve, because we will have more solidity, more freedom, and more happiness.

Taking time to walk regularly in this way will help us transform ourselves, so that we can take better care of ourselves, our family, and our colleagues at work.

MINDFUL SMILING

The next exercise is “Smile, release.” “Breathing in, I smile; breathing out, I let go. Breathing in, I smile to my body; breathing out, I calm my body. Breathing in, I smile to my feelings; breathing out I calm my feelings.

Smiling, releasing.” Smiling is an effective practice. You don’t need to feel one hundred percent joyful before you can smile, because smiling is a yoga practice. You practice yoga of the mouth. Even if you don’t feel joyful, smiling helps relax the muscles on your face.

There are about three hundred muscles on your face; when you’re angry or fearful, these muscles get tense. If you look into a mirror at that moment, you see the tension on your face. But if you know how to breathe and smile, the tension will quickly fade, and you’ll feel much better. You can help someone who is tense by smiling to her. She will feel much better after such a smile. “Breathing in, I smile. Breathing out, I let go of the tension.”

Breathing in, you may be aware that you’re angry about what another person said or did to you. Breathing out, you smile because you know that you’re capable of embracing it and being at peace. Write this sentence on a piece of paper the size of a credit card and put it in your purse or wallet: “Although right now I am angry at my beloved, deep down I know I am capable of being peace.” Then, when you’re about to lose your self-control, take it out, read it, and begin to breathe in and out. It is essential that you act quickly before you cause damage to yourself and your beloved. So put the Buddha into your wallet. And when you need him, take out your wallet reminder, read it, and go back to the practice.

WONDERFUL MOMENT

The last exercise of the poem is: “Breathing in, I dwell in the present moment. Breathing out, I know it is a wonderful moment. Present moment, wonderful

moment.” We have learned that the only moment for us to be alive is the present moment. This is so even for inmates serving long prison sentences. When I gave a talk at the Maryland Correctional Facility near Washington, D.C., I told 150 prisoners that it’s possible to be happy in the here and now. I told them, “When I walked into this prison, going through many, many metal gates, I noticed that the quality of the air inside is exactly the same as outside. The sky, looking from in here, is as blue as the sky outside, and the plants in the compound of the prison are as green as the grass outside. You have here all the conditions to practice mindful walking and mindful breathing. If you know how to practice, this very moment can be a wonderful moment. You don’t need to be released from this place in order to be happy.” The people in the prison listened attentively, and they were motivated to practice.

In any situation of difficulty that we find ourselves in, if we know how to open ourselves to the conditions for happiness and well-being that are always there, then the present moment will be a wonderful moment.

Happiness is available in the here and now. It takes practice to be in the present moment. We need to practice in order to resist the tendency to run into the future or dwell on the past. We need to learn how to celebrate life in the present moment.

CALMING STRONG EMOTIONS

Many of us suffer from strong, painful emotions and don’t know how to handle them. When you notice that there’s a feeling in you that isn’t calm or peaceful, you can repeat to yourself, “Breathing in, I am present for my feeling. Breathing out, I calm my feeling.” When you say this, your emotion begins to calm down. This is important. The emotion may be despair, fear, or anger, but whatever it is, mindful breathing will calm it.

When you notice a strong emotion arising, go back to yourself and begin the practice of mindful breathing to generate the energy of mindfulness for your protection.

Be there for your emotion and don’t just let it overtake you. Don’t become a victim of your emotions.

It’s like when you know a heavy storm is coming.

You have to do everything you can to protect your house so that it won’t be damaged by the wind. Strong emotions come from within, from the depths of our consciousness. The energy of mindfulness also comes from the depths of our consciousness. So you sit in a stable position, in a chair with your feet flat on the floor or cross-legged on a cushion, or you lie down, and you prepare yourself for the emotion. You begin to breathe in and out, and you focus your attention on your abdomen. Why your abdomen? When you see a tree in a storm and you focus your attention on the top of the tree, you feel vulnerable. You have the impression that the tree is too fragile to withstand the storm, because the little branches and the leaves on the top of the tree sway violently in the wind. You have the impression that the tree will be blown away. But if you focus your attention on the trunk of the tree, you get a different impression. You can see that the tree is solid and rooted deeply in the soil, so you know the tree will withstand the storm.

You are also a tree, and that strong emotion is the storm that is approaching. If you don’t prepare for it, you may be blown away. To prepare means to begin mindful breathing and to bring your attention down from the level of thinking to the level of the belly, just below the navel. This is called belly breathing. Just focus all your attention on your belly and become aware of the rise and fall of your abdomen, which is the trunk of your tree. Don’t stay on the level of the brain because that is where the storm winds are blowing the hardest. It’s dangerous to stay at the level of your thinking. Go down and embrace the trunk of the tree just below the navel, where you will be safe.

This is a simple practice, but it’s effective. You’re aware that an emotion is only an emotion. It’s just a small part of your whole being. You are much more than your emotion. An emotion comes, stays for a while, and goes away, just like a storm. If you’re aware of that, you won’t be afraid of your emotions. Many young people don’t know how to handle their emotions, and they suffer greatly. They believe the only way to end the suffering is to kill themselves. There are many young people who commit suicide simply because they don’t know how to handle their emotions. Yet it’s not difficult. It’s helpful to know that an emotion is just an emotion, and that you are much more than your emotions, which come, stay awhile, and go. Why should you die because of an emotion?

When you focus your attention on your abdomen for fifteen or twenty minutes and take refuge in the practice, your emotion will subside. Then you’ll feel peaceful and happy because you know there’s a way to handle your emotions. You know that next time an emotion arises, you can do exactly the same thing.

When you’ve practiced and you have confidence in the practice, you can help someone who is close to you when they are overwhelmed by a strong emotion. You might say, “Come and sit by my side. Take my hand.

Let us practice mindful breathing and pay attention to the rise and fall of our abdomens.” Holding that person’s hand, you can convey your strength and confidence. The two of you will be breathing in and out together. Fifteen or twenty minutes later, she will feel all right. In the future she can do it by herself. Teaching a friend how to practice like that may save her life later on.

I advise you not to wait until a strong emotion comes before beginning the practice. You’ll surely forget to do it. Learn it right now. Practice fifteen minutes every day. Sit or lie in a stable position and practice mindful breathing. Enjoy your in-breath and your out-breath, and focus your attention on the abdomen. Belly breathing can be very deep, very slow, and very powerful. If you continue doing this for three weeks, you’ll develop the right practice. Then, when a strong emotion arises, you’ll remember the practice and you will succeed in soothing your emotion. Each time, your emotion becomes a little less powerful. You don’t have to fight; you just allow the energy of mindfulness to embrace your emotion. Then it will weaken and go back to the depths of your consciousness.

TOTAL RELAXATION

People in any profession can profit from doing total relaxation every day or every week. Maybe there’s a place in the office where you can practice total relaxation for fifteen minutes. You can do it at home also. Once you have benefited from practicing on your own to renew yourself, you can offer a session of total relaxation to your family or to your colleagues at work.

You could have a session of total relaxation at your job every day. When co-workers and employees are overwhelmed by stress, they are much less effective in their work and often miss work because of sickness.

This is costly for the organization, so fifteen minutes of total relaxation after three or four hours of work is practical. You may want to lead the total relaxation yourself. You will experience a lot of joy doing this.

When you’re able to make people happy and relaxed, your own happiness increases at the same time.

When we do deep relaxation in a group, one person can guide the exercise using the following instructions or some variation of them. You may want to sound a bell at the beginning and end of the exercise to help people more easily enter a relaxed state of mind. When you do deep relaxation on your own, you can use a recording to guide you.

Lie down on your back with arms at your sides. Make yourself comfortable. Allow your body to relax. Be aware of the floor underneath you…and of the contact of your body with the floor. Allow your body to sink into the floor.

Become aware of your breathing, in and out.

Be aware of your abdomen rising and falling as you breathe in and out…rising…falling…rising… falling.

Breathing in, breathing out…. Your whole

body feels light…like a water lily floating on the water…. You have nowhere to go…nothing to do…. You are as free as the cloud floating in the sky.

Breathing in, bring your awareness to your eyes. Breathing out, allow your eyes to relax.

Allow your eyes to sink back into your head….

Let go of the tension in all the tiny muscles around your eyes…. Our eyes allow us to see a paradise of forms and colors…. Allow your eyes to rest…. Send love and gratitude to your eyes.

Breathing in, bring your awareness to your mouth. Breathing out, allow your mouth to relax.

Release the tension around your mouth…. Your lips are the petals of a flower…. Let a gentle smile bloom on your lips…. Smiling releases the tension in the hundreds of muscles in your face…. Feel the tension release in your cheeks…your jaw…your throat.

Breathing in, bring your awareness to your shoulders. Breathing out, allow your shoulders to relax. Let them sink into the floor…. Let all the accumulated tension flow into the floor…. We carry so much with our shoulders…. Now let them relax as we care for our shoulders.

Breathing in, become aware of your arms.

Breathing out, relax your arms. Let your arms sink into the floor…your upper arms…your elbows… your lower arms…your wrists…hands…fingers… all the tiny muscles…. Move your fingers a little if you need to, to help the muscles relax.

Breathing in, bring your awareness to your heart. Breathing out, allow your heart to relax. We have neglected our hearts for a long time by the way we work, eat, and deal with anxiety and stress. Our hearts beat for us night and day.

Embrace your heart with mindfulness and tenderness, reconciling with and taking care of your heart.

Breathing in, bring your awareness to your legs.

Breathing out, allow your legs to relax.

Release all the tension in your legs…your thighs… your knees…your calves…your ankles…your feet…your toes…all the tiny muscles in your toes…. You may want to move your toes a little to help them relax…. Send your love and care to your toes.

Bring your awareness back to your breathing…to your abdomen rising and falling.

Following your breathing, become aware of your arms and legs…. You may want to move them a little and stretch.

When you feel ready, slowly sit up. When you are ready, slowly stand up.

You can modify this short guided relaxation to suit your own particular needs. You can practice for just five minutes or as long as you wish. This exercise can guide awareness to any part of the body: the hair, brain, ears, neck, lungs, each of the internal organs, the digestive system, or to any part of the body that needs healing and attention. You embrace each part and send it your love, gratitude, and care as you hold it in your awareness and breathe in and out.

STRESS MANAGEMENT

It’s not costly to set up a stress management program in your company or organization. It is important to train some assistants so they become skillful in the art of dealing with stress. These people have to practice for themselves first. They must be convinced of the benefit of total relaxation, mindful breathing, smiling, and walking to be effective in their task. Then they can share their practice with the other employees.

In Plum Village, we practice going back to our breathing and relaxing our body every time we hear a temple bell. In your company, you might like to do that too. You and your co-workers may select short sections from your favorite pieces of music—even just one minute long. Every hour or two, you play those short sections of music for the whole company over the public address system. When they hear this music, everyone stops what they are doing and becomes aware of their body, enjoying breathing and relaxing. Change the pieces of music regularly. You will see that after a month the atmosphere will change. The sound of the music functions like the voice of the Buddha within you, calling you back to smile, breathe, and renew yourself, or the voice of God calling you back to your true home.

ANSWERING THE TELEPHONE

In Plum Village, when the telephone rings, we stop whatever we are doing and return to our breathing.

“Breathing in, I calm myself. Breathing out, I smile.” We breathe in and out like this for three telephone rings before we pick up phone. That way, when we answer, we are calm and compassionate. The person on the other end will hear this in the quality of our voices.

When you touch the seeds of calm, solidity, and compassion in yourself, the quality of your conversations will improve.

Many of our friends practice telephone meditation at home and at work. Every time they hear the phone ringing, they stop and breathe mindfully. They enjoy their in-breath and their out-breath, and by doing so they become more calm, more peaceful; this has a very positive effect on their business. I know a businessman who always practices mindful breathing before answering phone calls, and he told me that it helps him become fully present on the call.

MINDFUL EATING

Eating mindfully is also a wonderful practice. While we eat, we focus our attention on just two things: we’re aware of the food and aware of our environment. We don’t think of the past, we don’t think of the future, and we don’t think of our projects and worries. We bring all our awareness to the food and the people around us. We practice eating in such a way that joy and happiness are possible while we eat. When we pick up a piece of food, we become aware of it. We look deeply into it to see that it is a gift from the sky, the earth, and much hard work. After looking at the piece of food, we put it into our mouth and chew it carefully, mindfully.

When I pick up a piece of carrot, I like to be with the carrot. It’s like opening the door or lighting an incense stick. As I shared with you earlier, I was taught to invest one hundred percent of myself in closing the door or lighting an incense stick. When I pick up a piece of carrot, I do the same. I use my body and mind to pick up the piece of carrot. I look at it to recognize it as a piece of carrot. If my mind was preoccupied with other things, like my project or the past or the future, I wouldn’t know that I had put a piece of carrot in my mouth.

I invite you to eat mindfully. Before you put the carrot into your mouth, you might say its name silently: “Carrot.” It’s as if you are mindfully calling the name of your beloved, and the piece of carrot reveals herself to you clearly. When you put it into your mouth, you are aware that it is carrot you are putting in your mouth.

As you chew the piece of carrot, you know that you are chewing your carrot and not your projects, your sorrow, your anger, the past, or the future.

You do only one thing at a time. When you pick up the piece of carrot in this way, you may have a deep insight about the carrot. You see all the elements that have made the carrot possible. You can see the clouds floating in the piece of carrot, you can see the sunshine, you can see the earth in the piece of carrot. In fact, the piece of carrot is a representative of the whole cosmos coming to you. And you can smile to it. It doesn’t take a lot of time. Maybe one second is enough. If you are mindful and concentrated, you will attain insight into the true nature of the carrot.

In the Catholic Church, believers celebrate the Eucharist. The priest breaks the bread and offers it to you. He says that the bread is the body of Jesus Christ.

If you know how to receive it, you will be purified and have eternal life. A piece of carrot is also the body of the cosmos coming to you, and if you know how to receive it, you are blessed with true life. But if you eat it in forgetfulness, the opposite of mindfulness, there is no life. When you are absorbed in your thinking, your sorrow, your ideas, your anger, the piece of carrot is no longer an ambassador of the cosmos.

In Plum Village we eat the first part of our meals in silence, because if we talk a lot we can’t focus our attention on the food, and we won’t be able to treasure the precious presence of our loved ones eating with us.

When we eat together as a community, it is wonderful to stop eating from time to time and become aware of the people sitting and eating mindfully with us. Their presence is a support that helps us practice deeply. The silence can be powerful and eloquent. It can help us be there one hundred percent.

To help us savor the food, we can eat more slowly. It is beneficial to chew at least thirty times before we swallow each bite. While chewing, we breathe and relax, allowing ourselves to be in the here and now. Sometimes I chew my food with the help of the poem we used earlier: “In, out. Deep, slow.” I chew my food while following my breath, and I feel happy in the here and now.

There are people who have introduced the practice of a silent, mindful lunch at their workplace. Their friends and co-workers eat quietly for ten or fifteen minutes before beginning to talk, and they enjoy it a great deal.

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