Bells of Mindfulness
September’s Sacred Cinema movie is Walk With Me, a documentary about Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Community. You are invited to attend the Sacred Cinema Zoom meeting this Sunday, September 18 at 3pm (contact office for Zoom link). Even if you don’t watch the movie, come discuss a favorite quote or teaching from the Master.
Watching the movie, there were two things that made a lasting impact on me. The first is Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice to a little girl whose dog recently died. You can watch the except
here: ‘Walk With Me’ Documentary film clip – Thich Nhat Hanh on dog dying.
The second was the “Bells of Mindfulness”. The movie shows that at Plum Village, every 15 minutes a bell will ring. Attendees stop whatever they are doing – talking, eating, walking, working – for a few breaths as a reminder to return to being mindful, mindful of what they are doing, saying, thinking, feeling. I wondered what that would be like. I wanted to experience this.
I was trying to figure out how to do this at home. That’s when I discovered a free app provided by Plum Village that includes the Bells of Meditation. You can get the app here: Mindfulness Apps | Plum Village
I had a free morning at home so I downloaded the app and enabled the bell. It starts you out with a 2-hour session with the bell ringing every 15 minutes. I started it and went about my day. Every 15 minutes when I heard the bell, I would stop what I was doing, take a long slow breath and check in with how I was feeling, what I was doing. Was I mindfully (or mindlessly) doing my tasks? Was I connected to my body? Was I aware of my surroundings? It did make me more aware of what I was doing, seeing, and feeling. But I actually found it distracting, taking me off task.
I decided to go another couple hours, but at a 30 minute interval. At this interval I found myself anticipating the bells. I would wait to start a task until the half hour was up or find a task, I thought would be completed in 30 minutes. I was being “mindful” in a way that didn’t serve me well.
The next day I decided to try again, but at a random 23 minutes. This way, I would not be sure when the bell would go off if I happened to look at a clock. This worked well for me. I was able to get things accomplished without being concerned about time or when the bell would ring. The bell at indiscriminate times brought me back to mindfulness, deciding if what I was doing at that time was what I should be doing.
When I find myself mindlessly going through my day, I now have another tool in my toolbox to bring me back to the present moment. “…we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life.