As often as our life permits my husband and I attend something called “A Day Of Mindfulness”. It’s held once a month in a beautiful setting near the Alps. The group organizing this is a Buddhist community following the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh.
The first time I remember being drawn to meditation and such was when I was about 12 years old. However I didn’t know how to do it, found the prospect of sitting still unbearable and so forgot all about it. After being drawn into Christianity for a while, and then slowly becoming disappointed with my church, and then becoming agnostic again, I didn’t think about spiritual matters for years. That changed when I read “The Artist’s Way”. At first I found all this talk about the creator and spirituality off-setting, then I felt drawn to it again until I felt comfortable with spirituality once more. Not Christianity as such though.
I think it was in 2005 when I found the book “Coming to Our Senses” because I was looking for a parenting book. I loved it. And how can’t you. The subtitle is “Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness”. I was hooked. I ordered the guided meditation CDs and started practicing. Learning more about mindfulness meditation, I became interested in Buddhism which led to a visit to the local Vesakh celebration in Munich. We made that into a sort of family tradition (because we already have been going twice, you know). There you can check out all the different groups of Buddhists there are in Munich. We’re fortunate because there are so many to choose from. In 2007 my husband and I thought about joining a group. There were several that sounded interesting, I researched them on-line, and found that the “Gesellschaft für achtsames Leben” held a day of mindfulness every month. No membership required, you can just show up, meditate with them and practice mindfulness for a day.
I have come to cherish these days. I’m still not really sure if I am a Buddhist or not but taking the time to slow down for a day, sit, walk, and eat in mindfulness feels very joyful, refreshing and makes me a bit calmer.
It isn’t that easy to organize. My mother-in-law has to be available to take our son for the day. We’re all busy people. We have to get up at six in the morning, pack lunches, tea, meditation cushions, and such and catch the train at ten past seven. The train ride takes about 90 minutes. It takes us through Munich, out of the city again, and then, finally, to a beautiful lake in view of the mountains. To be frank this view alone would be worth the trip. There are quite a few people taking the same train so we go to the village together. Everybody says hello, gets out the cushions, takes off shoes, and puts on socks. After a bit of chanting we sit for a while, and then walk in meditation, then sit. We have tea in meditation, then we’re allowed to talk and have a short break followed by a lecture. Then eating lunch, partly in silence, walking meditation outside near the lake, then some singing, walking meditation back, talk about the morning’s lecture, sitting meditation again, and then it’s over.
The first time I went there I was sure I’d go nuts, trying to be silent for so long but actually I’m a bit sad every time the bell rings and we’re allowed to talk again. Being silent and mindful all of a sudden seems a rare treat. Which it is in modern life, especially when you have children.
It also is a good way for me to remind myself how good mindfulness feels. Lately I have been trying to wriggle out of it. But that’s not doing me any good. Trying to be mindful on the other hand has done me a lot of good. I have to keep that in mind…