Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh, the way in is out

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Mindfulness gift ideas to give yourself and others

Can you believe it’s nearly Christmas? I’ve said this once before today and I don’t even have to rush out and buy a tree or a turkey or presents. I am having a low key Christmas here in Vietnam. A buffet lunch with friends at a nice hotel, easy peasy!

But I remember only too well that Christmas can be a very busy and often stressful time. Organising a family get-together is always fraught with danger as is cooking a three course meal for the extended family. So I thought it might be nice to think of a few gift ideas that can enrich our lives with mindfulness this Christmas and, hopefully, beyond.

 

1. The gift of deep listening (it’s a free one)

Two months ago I spent a week at Thich Nhat Hanh’s Mindfulness Meditation Practice Centre in Thailand, just outside Bangkok where Thay, as the master of mindfulness is affectionately known, now resides. Of the things that keeps resonating with me, is the idea of deep listening as a gift we can give to ourselves and others.

When we listen deeply inside ourselves, we are able to develop a relationship with our true selves. Listening to our inner sufferings, Thay says, is a way to resolve most problems we encounter, it’s a way to heal ourselves.

Journaling has been my way of deep listening to myself. But Thay opened my eyes to another way of practising deep listening. As a gift to others. By listening deeply and with compassion to others, Thay says, we can help relieve the suffering of another person. It requires us to listen with the sole purpose of helping the other, without judging, reacting, criticising or analysing.

“Deep listening is the kind of listening that helps us to keep compassion alive while the other speaks, which may be for half an hour or forty-five minutes. During this time you have in mind only one idea, one desire: to listen in order to give the other person the chance to speak out and suffer less. This is your only purpose. Other things like analyzing, understanding the past, can be a by-product of this work. But first of all listen with compassion.”

I love this idea so much, I’ve incorporated it into my first online course, which brings me to mindfulness gift idea number 2.

 

Mindful Journaling, a Write Your Journey e-course

 

2. Mindful Journaling – a 21 day e-course

I have been having a lot of fun as a student of various creative e-courses lately, so I thought, I’d distill what a lifelong journaling practice and my experience using mindfulness meditation techniques in writing workshops has taught me, into Write Your Journey’s first e-course.

Journaling is essentially a form of deep listening to the quiet voice of our unconscious mind that speaks below the busy monkey mind. I’ve often thought of my lifelong journaling practice as a form of meditation.

Journaling has been my crutch during times of emotional upheaval; it’s what allows me to reach clarity when things get muddied and it makes me feel grounded when life is shaky. It’s like an ongoing dialogue I am having with myself. It allows me to name what is unspoken and to find the thread of my patterns of thinking. You could say, it’s the ultimate self-help tool, but it’s more than that. It’s akin to a spiritual practice that makes me awake to insights and areas of myself that are impossible to access any other way.

Mindful Journaling, my first e-course, is a 21 day online course designed to help you establish a regular writing practice of deep listening. It incorporates 4 original sound bowl meditations, that help align the frequencies of both hemispheres of the brain and induce a sense of deep calm. If you have no idea what I am talking about, here is a little sound sample for you. For best results, use a pair of good headphones.

Click here to find out more about Mindful Journaling. Registration opens on January 10th at the discounted introductory price of $25. Think of it as an investment in your wellbeing!

 

3. A meditation app

I’ve meditated on and off for years. During my bereavement I locked myself away in meditation centres all over Asia for many weeks. It was as painful as it sounds, but it was also deeply healing. Today meditation remains part of my morning routine, because I know that it’s deeply nourishing for my overall well-being and those that come into contact with me. When I meditate I am less cranky. It’s that simple.

But getting a routine to stick can be hard. So this year, in the name of research for a post I was writing, I tried out a few meditation apps. After years on the cushion, I’ve been surprised by how useful I found an app for keeping me accountable. An app will tell me how often and for how long I’ve meditated and it will remind me when I haven’t made it on to the cushion.

The app I ended up paying a year-long subscription for is Calm. It has cool 7 and 21 day packages of guided meditations to get you started and to work on different areas, ie. 7 days of Calm, Managing Stress, Anxiety, Sleep etc. I am extremely picky when it comes to voices. But I don’t mind the instructor’s voice if Calm. It’s a soothing female voice that I actually want to come back to.

The app also has a timer if you simply want to meditate on your own, there are several calming background noises to choose from. I prefer the birdsong and lake sound, but there is also the background theme sound of crackling fire which might be appropriate for the Christmas season.

 

4. The Miracle of Mindfulness

If you haven’t heard about Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh or aren’t familiar with the practice of Mindulness, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation is a great book to start with. Originally written in Vietnamese as a long letter of teaching and encouragement in 1974, after the zen monk had been exiled from Vietnam. It’s beautifully written and packed with anecdotes and practical exercises to teach the reader the skills of being fully awake to the present moment.

In his gentle and clear writing style, Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us over and over that happiness, peace and calm can be accessed in the present moment. Anything, from washing the dishes, to peeling an orange or driving the kids to school is an opportunity to practice mindfulness. It’s a book to be read slowly, as each of the seven chapters provides plenty of wisdom and techniques that need to be experienced and practiced in order to be fully understood and appreciated.

PLEASE NOTE: I have no affiliate links with any of these products (except for my own e-course obviously). I am simply sharing them here because they work for me.

I hope I’ve inspired you to add some mindfulness to your Christmas stockings this year. If you have any questions about my e-course, feel free to ask.

As always, I’d love to hear from you.
Share in the comments if you’ve tried some of these mindfulness gift ideas or if you have others to add to my list.

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Wishing you a happy and safe festive season x

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