by: Jay Spence
The prolific author and Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in “Peace is Every Step” wrote about bells of mindfulness. In some cases these “bells” were actually bells, but at other times they might be a stoplight, a childs laugh, an alarm clock…you name it. The purpose of these “bells” is to remind ourselves to be brought back to our center, that place where we can become consciously aware of Self (capital “S” intentional).
At times when we wish to feel centered, these “bells” encourage us to stop the inner chatter and simply breathe, knowingly, and to calm our minds. As we breathe out the Zen Master reminds us to smile. A short session of two or three breaths are generally all that is needed, especially when followed by the requisite smile.
I am a visual person, so I tend to relate to things I see rather than hear. To that end, I surround myself with things that serve as my bells.
As I write this, for example, I am sitting alone at my computer desk with my cup of coffee (the second of the morning). It is in a ceramic mug with “Faith” impressed on the side facing me. It sits atop a tile coaster with the word Love (in English and Japanese) written upon it. Above and to the right of me, I have a magnetic button with the same design, and my PC mouse sits on a mousepad with “Believe” embossed on it.
My refrigerator is a magnet haven with grandkids pictures, pizza coupons (and delivery phone numbers, of course!!!), and not a few “bells” reminding me of my “Oneness” and that “There is nothing more to do, only more to be” (the latter courtesy of my talented pastor and friend).
I’ve designated a special place in my bedroom as an “altar” of sorts, but would never really call it that. It holds scads of stuff that have special meaning to me… a small Tibetan singing bowl on a cute little magenta cushion, several stones I’ve found lying about, a few feathers, a long wooden candle holder with 7 cups of varying color, some mala beads, an incense burner. I add to it when I find something else that has meaning, even if just for a short time.
I believe in the wondrous power of affirmative thought and prayer. When I look at one of these “bells” it encourages me to stop and think “I am that…” love, joy, faith, oneness…!
In between thoughts while writing this, I consciously take a breath or two, just knowing that in doing so I am brought into the present moment with full awareness, and I smile…really smile.