Our heart is an element of peace and joy, but we don’t touch or appreciate it. We only touch the things that make us suffer, and because of that, we give our heart a hard time by our worries and strong emotions, and by what we eat and drink. Doing so, we undermine our own peace and joy. When we practice breathing in and becoming aware of heart, breathing out and smiling to our heart, we become enlightened. We see our heart so clearly. When we smile to our heart, we are massaging it with our compassion. – Thich Nhat Hanh, in “Present Moment Wonderful Moment”
Staying present is difficult. It’s difficult when I’m not hurtling through my life at neck-breaking speed; it’s even harder when I am. So reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s words on being present felt akin to receiving a gift. I was slightly amazed at the clarity and simplicity of the first practice for mindfulness that he urged; I delighted in its ease; and I immediately tried playing with it. The practice is simple: Breathe in and say, “Breathing in, I am aware of my x (insert heart, tongue, tree, etc).” Breathe out and say, “Breathing out I smile to x.”
I chewed my sandwich. “Breathing in, I am aware of my sandwich. Breathing out I smile at my sandwich.” The flavors enlivened slightly, touching different corners and curves of my mouth and tongue. I tried again. “Breathing in, I am aware of my teeth. Breathing out I smile at my teeth.” The open-close movement of my jaw, my teeth gnashing and reducing my food; and I felt my self settle into my bones a bit more. For that breath, I felt a little more space, a little more liberation, a little more peace.
I tried again at yoga, this time concentrating on my heart. I stand guilty of feeding my heart only my worries right now; and it seems good and necessary to touch it with love. “Breathing in, I am aware of my heart. Breathing out, I smile to my heart.” My heartbeat deepens. In salabhasana, my heartbeat shifted to my belly. I forgot I feel it there when I’m backbending on my stomach. So cool.
The more I chant my little mantra – the more I smile to my heart and touch it gently – the more that peace creeps in with that astounding sense of feeling grounded. Present tense = respite.