In Buddhist tradition, I am told a special bell is often sounded in the practice of mindfulness meditation. In my limited understanding, the sound of the bell is intended to remind you to keep your mind from wandering, and bring your focus back to your own breath. It’s a beautiful sound intended to wake you from the ceaseless chatter in your own mind and bring you back to the present, to deeply witness everything that is happening in the moment, both within yourself and your current environment.
I love this concept. I love the idea of something external — a sound, a noise, a smell, an image — pulling you out of the torrent of thoughts constantly streaming through your mind, bringing you back to the present to enjoy a quiet moment. A peaceful moment.
Now, I’m not Buddhist, and I don’t own a mindfulness bell. But it occurs to me that there have been “mindfulness bell moments” at various times in my life when something — a sound, a noise, a smell, an image — has absolutely pulled me out of my thoughts, and put me back into the present moment, filling me with gratitude. And as I sit here thinking about this, two memories immediately come to mind:
The first happened over a decade ago, when I was living in London. I was practicing law then, and would commute to an office almost every day; however, some days I would work from home, buried under contracts, email requests and multimillion dollar oil industry deals. As a rule, I was in the habit of working long days, and on those days when I didn’t even have to get out of my pajamas, the hours were longer still.
As it happened, the back garden of my ground-floor flat shared a fence with the back garden of a small day care centre. And on those days when I would be working in silence in my home, at a certain hour all the small children would come pouring outside, and the air would be filled with their laughter, the creaking of their swing-set, and the singing of their childish songs. When this happened, I would have to stop whatever I was doing, thinking about or fretting over, and bring my attention to the beautiful sound of the children. It was a reminder that despite contracts, email requests and multimillion dollar oil deals, the world still held much wonder, and for that I should be grateful.
The second mindfulness bell moment that comes to mind actually happened earlier this week.
I’ve been buried under work lately: an unusual number of meetings, telephone conferences and writing deadlines. And as always seems to happen when I’m buried at work, everyone else in my house is suddenly crazed as well: my husband was working late because of some huge projects at his job, and my daughter had tests this week, requiring me to help her study. We’ve been handling it, but to say that I’ve been distracted 24/7 would be an understatement. I’ve been crazed.
A couple of nights ago, I was running around, trying to make dinner, check email and help my daughter with her flashcards all at the same time, when suddenly our dog scratched at the back door, wanting to go out. Impatiently, I opened the door …
… and suddenly, intently a scent hit me squarely in the face.
I had forgotten that last year, my husband had planted some climbing star jasmine vines along the fence around the back corner of our house, and suddenly, unexpectedly, they were in full bloom. Our back garden was filled with the beautiful aroma of jasmine.
And for that brief second, I inhaled deeply. And I was very grateful.
How about you — have you had any mindfulness bell moments in your life that you can remember? Any lately?
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