Mending our hearts with Mindfulness

I don’t know about you, but my heart hurts. I feel overwhelmed. So many of us are feeling hopeless or angry right now. It’s so easy to get lost in the sea of bad news, to feel that there is nothing you can do. But there are many things you can do.

I have come across quite a few sites that recommend actions you can take to be involved in positive change. Donating or volunteering with organizations that support equal rights or calling your Senators and Congressmen to make your voice heard are just two examples. These are excellent suggestions, but what about our hearts?

Years ago I was introduced to the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who introduced the concept of “Engaged Buddhism” during the Vietnam War and has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. I find immense solace in his work and revisit his books often, but especially when I am feeling bogged down by life. As I read, I jot down quotes that stand out to me that I know I will want to revisit. I wish to share some of these quotes with you and expand on them in an effort to promote universal healing.

“It is with our capacity of smiling, breathing, and being peace that we can make peace.”

Mindful breathing is an amazing practice. I teach it to the kids I work with to help them cope with all the new experiences of life. It’s quite simple, you merely recognize your in and out breaths. Mantras can help with the focus, even just mentally saying “in” as you breathe in and “out” as you breathe out allows you to be in the moment and helps to calm the mind. One of my favorite mantras is “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile.” A gentle smile relaxes the muscles in the face. Pausing to do this at least once a day for 3 to 5 breaths can have an amazing positive effect on your mind and body. It reconnects you to your inner peace and allows you to be fully present in the present moment.

“Our daily lives, the way we drink, what we eat, have to do with the world’s political situation.”

I have always said that my dollar is more powerful than my vote. I have encouraged others to research the companies that they buy from to know what that dollar supports. For example, I avoid purchasing from companies that test on animals or pay others to test their products on them. I choose clothing companies that offer fair-trade, organic garments. I buy organic food and locally when possible. I look for companies that are using renewable energy sources and are working to lessen their environmental impact. You are buying more than a product, you are buying a way of life. Every dollar you spend says “this is how I want the world to be.”

“The only thing worthy of you is compassion- invincible, limitless, unconditional. Hatred will never let you face the beast in man.”

Be kind. Go on a kindness rampage! Say hello to a stranger. Hold the door for someone. Smile at everyone. Pick up some litter. Make eye contact with the cashier. Put out some bird seed. Donate some clothes to a woman’s shelter. Donate some books to a nursing home or children’s hospital. Say please and thank you.

Reach out to others. Tell your LGBQT or Muslim friends that you support them. Let it be known that you are a safe place. Speak up if you witness racist, xenophobic, or sexist acts.

“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”

Have positive discourse with those that believe differently than you. Have a conversation where you are actually listening to better understand their viewpoint, not just waiting for your turn to speak. Remember that our brains immediately tune out when someone is shouting at us. We disengage and discount what is being said to us. Keeping calm and respectful will increase understanding all around. (This may require the practice of my first suggestion, mindful breathing.)

“Everything contains everything else.”

It’s easy to feel disconnected in this technological age. There is generally a screen between us and the world. However, we are all connected. We are connected to one another, the trees, rivers, flowers, birds, bears, all of it is one. We share this earth. We are one giant ecosystem containing all things. We all live downstream. Every action ripples out to effect us ALL.

“Understanding and love are values that transcend all dogma.”

This is not about religious beliefs or political persuasions, it’s about us, recognizing one another as valid human beings regardless of those things. It’s about us trying to maintain our peace and sanity amid the current chaos all while effecting positive change and not losing the essence of what makes life so sweet- love.

“We have to wake up! We have to make it possible for the moment of awareness to manifest. This is the practice that will save us- this is the revolution.”

We are all in this together. All of us need to open our hearts and minds. We need to be mindful of our words and actions. Our awareness is the revolution. It begins as easily as mindful breathing. It begins as easily as recognizing yourself in others. Speak up, take action, engage. This is the revolution.

 

Thich Nhat Hanh quotes from the following works:

  • Your True Home– Shambhala Publications, 2011
  • Living Buddha, Living Christ– Riverhead Books, 1995
  • Being Peace– Parallax Press, 1987
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