Trên con đường thực tập Mindfulness, mình luôn cố gắng giữ cho tâm trí sống trong hiện tại, không nhớ nhiều về quá khứ hay lo lắng cho tương lai. Thế nên cũng đã quên mất những bước đi chập chững đầu tiên trên hành trình này như thế nào. Sáng này tình cờ xem lại được một bài viết của mình trên FB gần 5 năm về trước. Đọc lại giật mình luôn.

Mình của ngày ấy so với bây giờ thì “restless” không tưởng. May sao có duyên đọc được sách của Thầy Thích Nhất Hạnh mới học được cách walk meditation, eat meditation, go jogging meditation rồi hơn một năm sau mới có thể sit meditation.

Điều đã giúp mình không bỏ cuộc trong những ngày tháng đầu tiên đó là cảm nhận được vẻ đẹp của cuộc sống xung quanh khi mình có thể chậm lại và quan trọng hơn cả là insights/ wisdom có được nhờ thực tập Mindfulness.

Mình học được rằng, khi tâm trí tĩnh lặng, mọi vấn đề phức tạp trong cuộc sống đều có câu trả lời.

Bài này được viết khi mình đang làm việc ở Singapore. Mình thật sự biết ơn môi trường và thiên nhiên ở nơi này đã giúp mình có một khởi đầu thật đẹp. Điều này không có nghĩa là chỉ có sống ở Singapore hay những quốc gia siêu đẹp mới có thể thực tập Mindfulness. Nó có nghĩa là thiên nhiên có vai trò quan trọng trên hành trình này. Và nó cũng có nghĩa, không có mindfulness thì dù sống ở một nơi tuyệt đẹp cũng không thể cảm nhận hết vẻ đẹp của nơi này. Đó là trải nghiệm của riêng mình.

Bài hơi dài nhưng mình hy vọng sẽ giúp cho bạn nào cũng workaholic như mình ngày xưa và chưa biết bắt đầu thực hành Mindfulness như thế nào.

—Sep 2017—

Can a bee practise Mindfulness?

I can’t remember exactly when I started establishing the habit of keeping myself extremely busy. Back in the day, I was famous for working like a bee. I was always the first in and the last out of the office. Of course, you are thinking I forgot counting the security uncles but they had a team of two.

The moment I woke up, wandering sleepily from my bed to the bathroom, at least one project tried to tell me something. As soon as I was wide awake I made plans, rehearsed for a presentation, thought about what would happen next, or worried about potential risks of my projects, then continued thinking while eating breakfast and on the way to the office. The minute I was at my desk, I went from projects to projects, meetings to meetings till about 7 pm. Back home, had a quick dinner and continued working till midnight. I loved the feeling of exhaustion before falling asleep. Weekends were less intense but still many things waiting for me either work or personal hobbies. My weekends were well planned by hours to ensure I was fully occupied.

I remember one time a boss of my line manager asked me what I loved most about working here. I said I loved the feeling that the days wore out so fast. I sat by the window so in the morning I saw a bright landscape and just like in one second my team reminded me of having lunch and the next I saw the dark outside. I didn’t plan to impress her but truly felt happy about it.

Believe it or not, in the first three years after I was back from Canberra, I never took leave for more than one day. None knew a sense of unease rose when my mind would be taken off work for a few days. Lately, I took a long vacation with … the laptop. I was happy when colleagues asked me why still working on a holiday.

Somehow I got a belief that if you did something on the first day of the Lunar New Year, you would continue doing it for a whole year. And I worked intensively till New Year’s Eve passed by. The first thing I did after waking up on the first day of the New Year was to work on analyses. I felt happy believing I would have another busy year.

People might feel sorry for me but I felt proud of my life. I successfully positioned myself as a real hard worker and of course, I never wanted to lose that title. Practicing meditation was unthinkable if someone told me to set aside a few hours a day for it. But Thay Thich Nhat Hanh’s lessons are easy to follow. You don’t have to force yourself to practice a few hours a day, you can do it at any time.

I started with walking meditation. It better suits me – a restless person – than the sitting one. I will fall asleep if I sit still for about five minutes. I practiced walking meditation from home to the bus stop, from the bus stop to the office, from the office to the MRT, and back home. I was breathing in and walking three steps, then breathing out and making four steps. I felt Calm, Peace, and Joy walking with me. I saw many things I’d never seen before though I was walking on the same roads for many years.

I saw small birds searching for food on the pavement, some black with yellow legs, a few bright yellows with little green, some just purely grey. I saw bright blooming flowers and a variety of leaves, some turn red then dark red and brown before leaving the branches. I heard bird songs and I know it was going to rain like dogs and cats if there was silence. I smelt fresh morning dew and warm sunlight. I felt a breeze running through my face. I saw snails bravely crossing the small roads and I happily saved many lives.

Then I embraced walking meditation in the office when I went to fill water or went to the loo. I walked slowly to the meeting rooms. Though it cost me about 2-3 minutes more, it helped me stay calm to start a meeting.

I also started eating meditation. It was a bit weird at first when I forced myself to eat slowly and think about where the foods came from and how it was made like Thay’s lessons. It is not easy if you are not a vegetarian. So I slowly chewed each bite and watched the birds flying, branches and leaves waving behind the window, and clouds floating in the sky. At times I thought about the taste and enjoyed each chew.

I found some foods I used to addict to was not delicious. Like a signature fries at a nice restaurant near my office. I always yearned for it and usually made an excuse to have it for lunch. By mindfully chewing each bite, I came to realize only the first taste was yummy with the seasoning coated outside, the potato itself was tasteless. That explained why I couldn’t stop eating hurriedly till the last piece. I happily let go of that unhealthy dish. I found that if I ate slowly not only did my mouth enjoy the nice taste but my brain was also satisfied and it didn’t make me eat too much. I almost cut 1/3 of my meal by eating that way. You never know how a person who is always worried about her weight feels happy about it. But more importantly, I feel peaceful during each meal. I even feel happy when thinking about food or just simply seeing other people eating.

Surprisingly after 2-3 weeks, I started feeling empty. Among all the negative emotions, emptiness is the scariest to me. It was when I felt numb. Nothing can make me happy, joyful, excited, or even sad and angry. I didn’t feel like wanting to do anything. Cooking, watching films, hanging out with friends, or traveling. My mind simply rejected all options.

The weekend came and I forced myself to put on my running shoes because I put on weight again. I ran around the park. When I finished half of the running route I thought to myself why not run meditation and I stopped thinking. I focused on my in-breath and out-breath. After a few minutes, I felt my mind bright, and my forehead relaxed. I felt fresh and cool air running through my lung. Joy finished the remaining half with me. When I came back home, Emptiness already left.

Every morning from that day I wake up early and run about 4.5km. My first objective was to feel bright, energetic, and calm to start a new day but just after a few days I found wisdom smiling and waiting for me at the finish line. To my surprise, the answers to the challenges I was facing naturally came up. They are not only insights that give me the clarity to the questions why but they are what I call wisdom that brings solutions to ease my sufferings.

I learned one important thing I don’t have to think about the issues, the solutions, or my challenges. All I need to do is to ask myself one or two questions, stop thinking and run. If I am not able to still all the jumbled thoughts or the issue is too painful, the solutions may come a few days later but they definitely come. That’s why I believe in Thay’s wisdom “The way out is in”.