Breathing in, Breathing Out

Thanks to Evan Brown, Earthroots wise man that I adore, we found ourselves at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, CA last week for their annual family camp. I was astounded to find a community (led by the beautiful Thich Nhat Hanh) whose core values expressed in the Five Mindfulness trainings, essentially match my own.

Tucked away into the hillside, gorgeous bells were rung periodically calling everyone to stop whatever they were doing…mid stride, mid sentence…and return to their breath, to their self.  Imagine…everyone, just stopping!  My children surprisingly, fully embraced this, falling easily into this rhythm, so that even Sabi (age 2) started policing it, hilariously exclaiming, “Mommy the bell rang and he is still walking!!”

We ate in relative silence, as much as could be expected with three young ones, chewing our food thoroughly and mindfully.  We sang songs with beautiful lyrics calling us back to the present moment “Happiness is Here and Now, I have dropped my worries…” We walked and sat in meditation, “enjoying our breath” and feeling ourselves grounded in the earth, in the moment.

I marveled at how everything we were doing were the very same things that I have been recommending to traumatized clients and overstressed mothers. Here was an environment that was holding this healing space…reminding us that breathing in, breathing out, feeling ourselves supported by the earth in that moment, is the simple yet profound path back to all that is whole in us.  Especially if you know how to use this quiet moment of breathing to return to your soul with love.

On our way home, we dreamt up ways to continue this sweet feeling of peace and connection.  I asked my family to ring the bell for me if they saw me losing my patience…and we all agreed to ring it periodically to remind us to tune back into our ‘little child/soul.” We also vowed to continue eating and consuming mindfully because it just feels good.

The next few days have been filled with many gleeful gongs on our singing bowl given to me by a dear friend.  We’ve managed about 3 minutes of silence at meals, but it sets the tone and that is enough to get us into a mindful eating groove.  When Sabi is even just eating a random snack he will yell at us, “Guys stop talking!!” When sibling squabbles have risen, the bell is a playful, neutral reminder of the peace we all know we can return to. And every gong, or series of gongs when someone gets carried away and wants to play a tune, creates that pause of reconnection that is so crucial in every day life.

Mindfulness is a bit more raucous here than at the peaceful monastery…and I’m still smiling.  My best teachers, these wise souls I’m privileged to share life with, are even better when given the right tools :)

Thank you Thich Nhat Hanh, Evan and all those at Deer Park!


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