Lessons from budget travelling & attending mindfulness retreat with my mum

It was the first time I travelled with my mum and it was her first time travelling for such a long time (3 weeks in total) with a budget to some extent.

I booked for Airbnb well in advance in Saigon for me and my mum. A few days before my mum arrived, the Airbnb host informed they will be away for a few days in Thailand. I did ask for the key before they left Vietnam but they said their cleaner would need it, gave me her number and wrote to me where to get the key. Two hours before my mum arrived, I came to the place but could not open the front door, couldn’t call the host or their cleaner, text sent but no reply. The neighbours couldn’t help either and showed me to the actual landlord.

It turns out the landlord doesn’t allow the Airbnb host to sublet and he did not let me in despite how much I explained about how Airbnb worked and that my mum was going to be here in one hour and he can talk with the Airbnb host when they are back in 2 days. He insisted on a ‘no’ and kept coming back a few times to check…After an hour, just before my mum arrived from the airport, I managed to get us to stay at my Couchsurfing host when I first came to Saigon who has become a good friend. I reported to Airbnb and asked for urgent help but they called for further information after a few hours…and offered me a coupon for next booking.

I then booked for accommodation from Agoda, with my mum complaining about cost, I changed the booking from a room with windows to one without – which was not a good idea…I used to share a room with my mum for more than 20 years when I was living at home in Hanoi and thought it would be nice to share the room with her again. I didn’t realise I have been living away from her for five years and she still thinks of me as her baby so that was quite a problem… I was lucky to be able to come to another friend’s at night and left the room for my mum so we can have a break from each other each day.

Airbnb in Bangkok was not a good experience as well when the host (not Thai…) came over the next morning with anger and after an abrupt conversation, asked me and my mum to move, only because I informed him that my mum found the toilet dirty. I tried to make peace with him because I don’t want my 50+ year old mum to have to move just after arriving the night before. I gave an honest review on Airbnb about this host to then get his review on my profile with made up accuses. After such two experiences with Airbnb in two weeks, I am not sure I will choose Airbnb again in Asia though my experience with it was generally ok in Europe.

My mum had stomache after eating the sticky rice with durian bought from Big C supermarket that we kept in our bag while walking in Bangkok. It could be the durian or the heat of the day that spoiled it…I appreciate that my mum managed to take the metro and tried tuk tuk, together with taxi sometimes.

It was good that I booked on Agoda for Koh Samet after Bangkok – even budget hostels manage to be more professional when you need help compared to some Airbnb hosts. Koh Samet, recommended by a friend who lives in Thailand, was quite relaxing with a few not crowded nice beaches because it’s less popular. My mum had a good rest there before we went to Plum Village Thailand for a retreat for Vietnamese.

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My mum taking the 5 mindfulness trainings with her dharma sharing family teacher

We were arranged to stay in a tent together at the retreat because there were too many people. It was a nice big tent but after around 8 hours of bus altogether, my mum did not want to stay in the tent thinking she would not be able to breathe. Together with the fear that I might want to become a nun, she wanted to leave. I was not prepared for this – in the retreat I went just the month before, no tent was needed. I was tired too and couldn’t keep calm, told her she could do what she wanted then. The returned ticket was booked and my mum probably can’t go by herself…I left her sitting at a rock to decide…

A helpful nun saw what happened and went to comfort my mum, brought her to me afterwards saying she could stay at another area. It was good to stay separately so my mum would make new friends and practise (mindfulness) properly without talking to me. Throughout the retreat, I tried to not spend much time with my mum so she would be more dependent and make the best out of the retreat. She was cynical about the practice in the first day. The first dhamar talk the second day touched her and she started to ask about how to practise sitting meditation properly to keep calm and improve health & well-being – I was so surprised and happy. At the end of the retreat, my mum attended a private consultation session with a nun and even registered to practise the fourth mindfulness training ‘Deep listening and loving speech’. Home practice is important after the retreat, I will try to find some Plum Village practitioner who can take my mum to practise with a sangha (group) in Hanoi.

Lessons learned:

  • Cancel Airbnb if the host is not going to be there when you arrive
  • Some doors are opened by sliding to the side…
  • Agoda is probably a better option when travelling with elders because there might be accidents with Airbnb…
  • Try to accept your mum as she is, though she might act or say things to you that are not easy to hear, it’s mostly because she cares about you but just doesn’t know the best way to show it. This is easier said than done though…Having breaks from eachother during travels helps. Taking my mum to massages was a good way to have a break from eachother while still being together.
  • When taking parents to a retreat, ask for a normal accommodation in registration form, staying in a tent is properly too ‘hipster’ for them…It’s ok that they don’t stay so quiet or follow the retreat’s reminders. While I have been practising for around 7 years, it was my mum’s first time. I tried to be more relaxed about her after a few days…
  • Taking parents to Plum Village retreat becomes very fruitful. I hope to take my dad there next retreat🙂

 

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My mum practising walking meditation at Plum Village Thailand

Links:

Plum Village retreats in Thailand

 Plum Village retreats in France (for other countries visit Monasteries list at the bottom of page)

 

Lessons from travelling with friends

While I often inform friends about my travels and invite them to join me if they can, most of the times I travelled alone. A few moments I felt like having a companion but most of the time, I figure I enjoy travelling alone – I go with my pace, I stop where, when and for as long as I want, I don’t get lost in conversations but truly experience new places.

I am always happy to plan travelling with good friends, especially those I haven’t seen for a while. In reality, unexpected things happened and I would like to share the lessons I learned from travelling with friends.

 

  • Health

While we exchange a number of emails to plan our trips together, I was not informed if a friend has been ill in a way or other. This led to unexpected emotional breakouts from them that I didn’t prepare myself for – I might want to do more things than their health permits, I might talk about topics that are sensitive to them emotionally.

From now on, before deciding to travel together, I would check with my friends if they are in good health or should I know about any discomfort or difficulty they are having. Is it ok to sleep early and wake up early to make the most of our experiences? Does anyone snore and is that ok for everyone else?

I need to remember to not visit hot places during the summer as well – the heat takes a lot out of me and my friends and we tend to be more grumpy when we are tired.

  • Budget

I often travel with a restriction on visa (the UK is not in Schengen – borderless countries in Europe) and with a budget and I would like to make the most out of my experiences. I assume friends know about my travel style but some might not and I should let them know about this in advance.

I should ask them if it’s ok to buy food from the supermarkets and eat out only once in a while; if it’s ok walk to places to see the local scenes and people on the way, to take public transportations instead of taxies, if it’s ok to couchsurf or stay in shared dorms or affordable AirBnb etc.

  • Interests

We’re often friends because we share some interests but it’s not always the case with travelling. I prefer local experiences while some friends might prefer visiting touristic places, I prefer out-door nature while some might prefer indoor city visiting, I prefer tea houses while some might prefer nights-out etc. I would like to practise walking meditation, eating meditation when we can while some friends might want to walk or eat faster.

And of course it’s ok to spend time apart while travelling together, knowing this in advance prevents any disappointment though.

 

If hanging out with friends is like dating – it’s often fun, travelling together is like moving in – you should know the person well enough in advance and still, you will learn a lot more about each other to know whether or not you just want to hang out sometimes, or are suitable to travel together.

At the end of the day, we are there for each other and as long as we understand where ourselves and our friends come from, we can act with compassion and help each other during our travelling together – emotionally, physically, mentally, financially – when one forgets their bank card at the ATM in a crowded touristic area…ATMs in Thailand give you money before the card by the way!

Exercise On the Go!

exercise anywhere

On days when I go to work in the mornings and don’t have time to do yoga and meditation after breakfast as usual, I do exercises on the go – that make up some basic positions of meditation, yoga and aerobic workout.

  • I leave myself enough time to walk slowly to the station and keep my back straight as when I meditate. By being straight, you not only look better but also feel better and your back will thank you

 

  • I walk up the stairs or the escalator most of the time unless I have heavy luggage; tuck my belly in so I can use walking as an abs-exercise as well

 

  • Sitting or standing in the tube/ train, I try to keep my back straight as well, although I tend to rest my back on the chair when I sit

 

  • Before work, I fill up my glass bottle with some still water. I use a small bottle – when the water runs out after not too long, it’s a good chance for me to stand up, have a little break from the computer and fill up the bottle again.

 

  • I try to sit straight in front of the computer – same as when walking – it really pleases my back. I sometimes do a quick back bend position by putting my right hand on the left knee, left hand to the back and then reverse.

 

  • I install EyeLeo for the computer and set 2 minute break every 40 minutes. When the computer screen freezes during break time, I stand up, go to the toilet, do some stretches, add some water to my tea/ water cup

 

  • I walk to have lunch in between working hours so I do not sit too much for a long time

 

  • I go the toilet when I need to, sometimes work can carry you on and hold these needs – that is not good for your health and mood, you have to do it anyway, why holding it

 

  • In the toilet, sometimes I do stretches for my arm and back when they feel tiring – it feels great after sitting for a while! I normally turn my back from side to side, turn my head around, stretch my arms to all sides and finish with a standing forward bend.

 

  • Before leaving, I fill my small bottle with water again. Same for walking back, I take my time and keep my back straight, walk the escalators, try to sit or stand straight in the tube/ train and drink some water.

 

  • Since I start my 8 week MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy), I listen to guided meditation audio by Mark Williams (Oxford Mindfulness Centre) on the tube and have great relaxation after a whole day at work.

If there is anything else you think can be added to ‘exercise – on the go’, please share!

Links:

http://eyeleo.com/download

http://www.oxfordmindfulness.org/learn/public-programme/

https://play.spotify.com/artist/4U0UzHswio6o97a43Feadz

{Zen Installation} Peace Is Every Step

Peaceful New Year! Below is my Zen Installation for Convergent Media university coursework back in March 2012.

I want to create a Zen installation using what I have learned from reading about Zen Buddhism – mainly books by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen Master living in France. Thich Nhat Hanh turns thousand year Zen Buddhism wisdoms into modern everyday life lessons with simple and clear English writing; with real stories and examples of those who have found Zen Buddhism helpful in life, in their relationships with others.

One of the fundamental ideas of Zen is to simplify to the minimal. There are minimalism architectures and sculptures in the 1960s with simple blocks (Tony Smith). In ‘Zen For Film’ by Nam June Paik (1962-1964) there are eight minutes of white film.

What are the degrees of being minimal? How much minimalism is too much? Is being minimal equal to being simple? If a project is too simple, can it convey any meaning?

I tried to think of the most simple and ‘minimal’ installation possible to convey Thich Nhat Hanh’s wisdom: having one of his books on the floor in the middle of a white empty room – nothing else on the floor or on the walls or in the room. The book I first intended to use in the installation is ‘Anger’ – a size A5 paper cover book of more than two hundred pages with eleven parts.

Would people pick up the book to read? They probably would because there is nothing else in the room or on the walls. How much would they read? How much would they get from what they read? Does the empty quiet room help people to concentrate on reading the book? Or after how long they would find it boring and leave?

In this digital era people including myself have been reading less from books but surfing for information more from the internet. There is more quantity than quality reading from an unedited internet source compared to a book written and edited carefully from a known author. However I am not fond of using technology to convey Zen ideas. It’s not ‘simple’ or ‘raw’ enough to be ‘zen’ enough.

To get people’s attention using sounds, we make it loud i.e. ambulance or fire alarm. To get people’s attention using texts, we can make it larger than usual. With that thought, I tried enlarging the pages from the book. After trying with different sizes, I find size A3 is big enough but not too big. A3 is four times bigger than the original size of the book. Bigger than that, the distance between words and the words themselves are a bit too big and would make the texts too much longer and make the readers, one of whom is myself, find it long and tiring to read.

While enlarging pages from ‘Anger’ I picked up another book by Thich Nhat Hanh ‘Peace is every step’. ‘Peace is every step’ contains more than one hundred practical and small Zen Buddhism lessons in daily life. Each lesson is written in one, two or a few pages. I want to hang the enlarged papers over a wire across an empty white room. Longer texts from ‘Anger’ might make it hard for people to follow and there is not enough space for the whole book. Because of that, I decided to use small lessons from ‘Peace is every step’ instead. I picked out the pages I find more relevant than others to mostly western audiences who would be in the room: Non-Surgery, Pillow-Pounding, Parents, What’s Not Wrong?, Blaming Never Helps, Real Love, Hugging Meditation, Investing in Friends, The Art of Mindful Living, Love in Action etc.

I first thought of putting the enlarged pages on the walls as posters running from one to another in the flow of texts in the order of pages . Pages, in that way, would be glued on the walls and stay fixed there. By hanging the papers over the wire, the papers would be more free in space and people can also pick the bottoms of the papers up a bit to read if they want. That way the papers as well as the audiences have more freedom – a more ‘zen’ factor to this Zen installation rather than papers being fixed on the walls.

I often turn on instrumental music when studying – this is using one ‘distraction’ to distract oneself from other distractions. I searched on the internet for Zen and meditating music and was satisfied with mediation music from Tony Scott for this Zen Installation.

Having asked for an empty white room, I got room PDR for my installation. The room is spacious enough however there were many tables, chairs and wine bottles from a party before and I was not allowed to move anything outside of the room. I tried to re-arrange and clean the room to the best I can – pushing all tables neatly one next to another against the walls, chairs under the tables, hiding the bottles away.

My idea was to have the wire hanging on eye level across and in the middle of the room. Trying to adjust to what the room had to offer, I finally had the wire hanging in a diagonal line across the room. I hang the pages starting from the left side of the room, as that is how we read, and the pages go the same order as how they are in the book. I hang them on both sides over the wire. Mediation music by Tony Scott was played using a borrowed iPod attached with a small speaker hidden behind the projection screen in the room.

During the viewing, some people pulled the chairs out from under the table to sit – this is why it would be better if it could be an empty room with no clutter in it so people would concentrate more on going around reading than sitting down. However since I was not allowed to move anything outside, leaning the tables and chairs neatly to the very end sides of all the walls in the room was the best I could do. Despite what some people say it is better having the wire in a diagonal across the room, I actually still think that having it hanging in the middle of the room would give the whole installation an equal space between both sides and therefore would give more and equal space to readers/ audiences from any side of the wire.

Despite how beneficial I think Thich Nhat Hanh’s books and Zen wisdoms are to people, if looking at one normal size book, people might just find it boring and walk away. The moment I opened the room for people to walk in, people start walking around looking at the pages and stopped at the pages to read what is on there – everyone was quiet in the room filled with meditation music. On purpose, I ducked down and walked to the other side of the room divided by the wire and later on people were filling the room reading the pages on both sides of the room divided by the wire. Almost everyone was immersed into reading the pages. The quietness lasted for about half an hour until Raine (my tutor) asked someone to speak up for the critic part.

References:

  1. ‘Anger’, ‘The Art of Power’, ‘Peace in every step’ – Books by Thich Nhat Hanh.
  2. Meditation Music by Tony Scott
  3. Minimalism Installation – Tony Smith
  4. ‘Zen For Film’ – Short film by Nam June Paik (1962-1964)

{Video Installation} FLOW

Below is the text and videos for my video installation for Experimental Film & Video module in the first year at university on May 18th 2011.

The two big (projection) screens with sounds muted of Marylebone Road and Oxford Street were in V shape. The Waterfall smaller video screen with sound on was at the corner point of the letter ‘V’. All videos were looped. 5m2 in space.

Two months before I knew I would go to London, a girl from my high school passed away in London when crossing the street. I used to think such accident would not happen in a developed country like England…

Four months later I arrived in London. By the first time waiting for the light for pedestrians to turn green I had my first culture shock from the speed of the cars on Marylebone Road. The drivers must be stressed enough to drive at that speed. The first morning in London, after finding my way from Marylebone Road to Baker Street for a while, I found myself walking much faster than usual as if unconsciously I was catching up with others’ speed. I slowed myself down.

Big screen 1 – One side of V shape (Marylebone Road)

Marylebone Road with stores full of mass produced souvenir about London and Britain added up with numerous tourists from all over the world makes that part of London Chaotic. However, later on, it is Oxford Street that makes London not being a classic cultural European place I expected. A whole long street of super big glossy stores of supposed to be famous brands of clothes and everything else that is called fashion. Noisy and dusty streets of on-going constructions, cars, buses and pavements packed with people walking one after another with big shopping bags. Trying to find a way out of Oxford street in the weekends feels like trying to find a way out of the flow of a society where people slave themselves for commercial products.

Big screen 2 – The other side of V shape (Oxford Street)

Leaving all the dramas back at home in Vietnam to start a new life in London, day after day, month by month I realise I haven’t prepared myself enough for all these difficulties and stress when living in a whole new city of a whole new country doing a whole new course all by myself. Dragging myself through the gloomiest days of the winter and my mind with all problems here and home, past and present and worries about the future, I gradually find peaceful moments when being in the nature part of the city – the parks.

Small monitor screen – At the corner point of V shape(Waterfall, Regent’s Park)

Recalling what I read in Thich Nhat Hanh’s books about knowing your breath in each and every single second, I allowed myself to sit in the park for a long time just to look at trees, listen to the waterfall sounds, look at the water flow, breath, think about nothing – do nothing but immerse myself in the nature surrounding.

References:

  1.  Anger, The Art of Power – Zen Buddhism Meditation Practice Books by Thich Nhat Hanh.
  2. Zen For Film (Nam June Paik, 1962-1964)

P.S. Since then, I have discovered more of London’s nice bits for myself and get more used to the stress side of the city. You can visit So You Think You Know LONDON for some art, social and cultural event updates that I repost from my favourite places in London.

Summer without internet and with a lot more life!

B and I have moved from East to South London for less than a month but we both feel like we have lived here a lot longer than that. The reason is that we literally live more here since we do not have internet! Though we could share the bill and use the housemate’s internet, it has been a great decision not to have it. I used the internet so much that without the internet, it feels like I have freed myself from a trap after almost eight years since I first had internet at home.

The room we rent is quite small but the house has a big garden with a small river crossing by at the back. We wake up to the sounds of birds singing most of the time, if not the cats during the night sometimes – you know what I mean. We have breakfast, lunch and dinner outside in the sun (welcome to British summer time!), look at the spacious sky, big trees dancing in the wind – instead of watching something as we tried not to but still did sometimes when we ate in door. After breakfast, I practise yoga at the end of the garden when B practises classical guitar. Squirrels chase one after another from this to that branch above us like it is their Olympic time – I still hope they would never fall! There are two cats from the landlord upstairs and three others from the area who often come around. The other day when we were finishing dinner, a big fox was running after one of the cats, B ran out to rescue – the cat was shivering under the neighbour kids’ plastic slider. With the sky getting dark and the grand trees around, it was such a scene!

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the garden where we stayed in Norbury, London

Without the internet, I finally read the books I wanted to. I finished ‘Chinese-English dictionary for lovers’ by Xiaolu Guo in less than three days, finished ‘True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart’ by Thich Nhat Hanh that I started a long while ago. Now I am half way through ‘Europe 101 Art & History for the traveller’ by Rick Steves & Gene Openshaw. It is a fun read of more than 500 pages full of interesting facts and figures as preparation before my coming EU inter-rail trip this summer. I also draw and start painting, using watercolour and acrylic paint so far. I could not stop playing with the colours after five hours the other day, despite of bug bite and the weather getting colder at night. Leaving the bites area in the sun and in warm salt-water ease the swollen and itchy areas.

We do check emails sometimes with limited data on my phone and go to the local library for internet only when needed. The library blocks a few social media sites, which helps to focus on the important things only. Without the internet, B and I have more time to enjoy the nature and each other. I get to do more reading, writing and B still practises guitar a lot as usual but definitely more. I feel more in control of my life without the internet – more relaxed, calm and happy. I highly recommend cutting off the internet at home if you have not tried. You save some money, a lot of time and get to do much more breathing & playing!

P.S. I am typing this with Word and will post it at the local library later.

Friends who inspire me to practise meditation & yoga

In my  post ‘How I started doing meditation and yoga everyday’, I have not mentioned friends and other sources who have inspired me to have a healthier life. My close friend since twelve – Ly is the one who got me started with practising yoga since high school time in early 2000s. She has been doing meditation and yoga every day for a long time now. You can read her experiences on her blog here.

My boyfriend’s friend – Joel has been going to bed at 10 pm and waking up at 6 am every morning and practise meditation and yoga with his girlfriend (now fiancé and wife-to-be) Gabi for a long time that really inspired me.

My boyfriend has practised yoga a few times with me before but he prefers running and cycling. I do believe meditation and yoga would be helpful for his breathing, being calm and focus but I cannot persuade him (yet). People come to yoga when they really need it and they will stay with it if it is right for them. It took me about ten years to take yoga in daily routine anyway. I let go the want of doing couple yoga and practise meditation and yoga while my boyfriend practises classical guitar in the same room we share. However, if you have been to a classical concert, especially a solo one, you can see the pianist or guitarist close their eyes and stay still for a while before playing the first notes – they meditate before playing, with or without knowing it! Playing an instrument, especially in classical music, requires total concentration and it seems like a form of meditation when musicians dedicate themselves to playing a piece of music.

I had not been an early riser during the first year of university because classes start later than when I was in schools before. My boyfriend, however, always wake up at 8 am every morning to the call of his guitar as he often says ‘My guitar is calling me.’ when he wants to stop playing around and start practising or playing his guitar. Thanks to his healthy and hardworking habit, I have been waking up at the same time since I started my yoga and meditation habit and we can enjoy our breakfast together.

There are articles about yoga, meditation, nutrition and natural health care on Mind Body Green by certified and experienced trainers that can be a source of inspirations. However, I must say that the way the website number all the points in most articles encourages me to not read them carefully but run through many articles instead because of appealing titles around; and not read the article without numbers there properly as well.

P.S. You can check out my boyfriend’s website here.

How I Started Practising Yoga and Meditation Everyday

Last April, after wandering around the host’s farm house in Fribourg surrounded by beautiful green fields, hills and mountains, me and the Dutch friend, who was also volunteering for Dalai Lama visit in Switzerland, got back in our shared room. She put on her earphones, sat straight and told me she was going to meditate. I started straightening my back and meditate on my bed as well. We were talking earlier about how you can feel the tense muscles soothing when you sit straight and meditate and yes I did feel so. She showed me how you can spare even just a few minutes to meditate any time, anywhere!

Two months after that I was lying on the grass in front of Belfast castle, looking down to the hill, looking up to the sky, the chronic pain in my back was not there for those moments. I realised how tense my muscles were normally when I’m in a crowded, busy and fast city like London. Later on, one night before sleeping during my travel in California, I received a post from Zen Habits about choosing a ‘trigger’ when creating a new habit. The author of the blog also shares in other posts about doing the most important things in the morning after waking up. Thanks to him, I also get to know about ‘Lift’ (now Coach.me)  an app that helps you to create and keep new habits going with a healthy and positive community. I started practising meditation and light exercise/ yoga on bed while travelling.

Last year, I tried several meditation apps, did sitting meditation and yoga from time to time but not often enough. I was still suffering from the pins and needles in my left side of body and back pain. I did go to the GP and doctors in London for almost two years, did several tests and tried massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, herbal medicine – scattered appointments depending on outsiders’ touch did not help with the root of the problems. I gradually learn that the discomforts are results of stress and sitting too much, too often without frequent exercises for years.

A few travels overseas refreshed my mind and recharged my energy. I felt in love with nature in Fribourg, enjoyed walking along the gorgeous Aare river in Bern, hiking up Land’s End in San Francisco. Switzerland and the Bay Area inspired me with people jogging around, energetic start-up people on trains, health-concious stores. Coming back, London’s weather was at its best – the sun was shining into the bedroom – I started doing meditation and yoga the first morning after travelling, until now! I decided to meditate and practise yoga after breakfast everyday – before anything else. I was living in a single room in a student house and practised meditation and yoga in bed. It was not the best condition but it was time to take actions and work on my health. After each yoga and meditation session, my body is well-stretched, energy fully charged and my mind balanced; my face brightens up, the skin looks better as well.

In the beginning, it was not easy for me to sit still for even just a few minutes. I started by counting from one to nine and increase the time gradually. Starting small and counting along your in-breath and out-breath helped. I started with 9 seconds for each yoga position as well. Now I do up to two hours of meditation, yoga, added with aerobic workout every day. I normally shut down my computer – my biggest distraction together with the internet, put it in a closed drawer unless I practise along a video online or a DVD.

For me, meditation is yoga for the mind and yoga is meditation for the body. They have become my close friends now – whenever I feel unwell during the day, I pause what I do or think at that moment to sit down, meditate, do my favourite yoga positions to lift myself up mentally, physically – which then will make me feel better emotionally as well. I highly recommend using ‘EyeLeo’ for the computer – I set 7 minutes break every 30 minutes I use the computer when I stand up, clean a few things, go to the toilet, do some stretches, yoga positions or meditation.

Links:

http://zenhabits.net/triggers-and-habits/

https://www.coach.me/users/d9ac310b5c32ad847e38/activity

http://eyeleo.com/download

Why ‘Breathing & Playing’?

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh, Being Peace

Back in 2008, I started to pay attention tobreathing’ when practising yoga along the DVD taught by Master Karmal. Though I took some yoga classes in early 2007, I guess the teacher was not focusing on breathing or I was not attending enough classes. Master Karmal, however, keeps reminding about breathing and forgetting about everything else, turning off the phone during the lesson.

I then read the first book by Thich Nhat Hanh in summer 2009 thanks to recommendation of a friend of my close friend back then. I bought a set of three of his books: ‘Anger – Wisdom for Cooling the Flames’, ‘The Art of Power’ (for people in business and politics) and ‘Cast a raft of reed – analyse The Tale of Kieu (a classic Vietnamese literature) with the eyes of Zen Buddhism’. The first one I read was ‘Anger’. I can easily see why – at that time, with mental and physical violence at home and at the same time I stressed myself about getting a full scholarship to study overseas, I was often upset about my dad, my parents, my friends and myself. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds me often in his books of breathing in and out to come back to the present moment with myself. I have, since then, practised ‘breathing’, more in situations that I want to calm down.

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Thich Nhat Hanh’s calligraphy

Since August 2013, I practise meditation and yoga everyday. Almost eight months of practice until now have eased my long-term emotional and physical discomfort. I continue to read and listen to Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings, also try to apply them into my daily life – at home, at university, at work. Practising yoga, meditation and applied Zen Buddhism does not work all the time, it takes time and practice – it leaves me with stories and experiences to share.

‘Playing’ is about enjoying anything I do: sleeping, cooking and having meals, practising yoga and meditation, writing, working, brushing my teeth, having a shower, decluttering – the list goes on. When we were kids, we used to play toys or in the playground with full concentration and joy; and we mostly still do when it’s a form of playing as in traveling for example – but why not having the ‘playing’ spirit when we do other things in life? When we mindfully remind ourselves each time that all the chores, works and things can be done with joy and focus  – then we will be able to enjoy them better. I will get into details of how-to from my experiences and practice in later posts.

We breathe naturally, we can ‘play’ and have fun for some moments but we don’t always breathe and play mindfully to bring true joy that lasts to ourselves and people around us. ‘Breathing & Playing’ with more than just a dash mindfully’ in the title is a reminder for this journal where I share my journey to a healthier mind and body, day after day.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s books with customers’ reviews on Amazon can be found here. You can watch and listen to Thich Nhat Hanh’s talks in English, French, Vietnamese on Youtube, Vimeo or audio.