“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 to ‘breathing’ 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.
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.