The year draws to a close and I am wondering what I learnt from my travels and subsequent return home; what I can carry forward into the New Year that’s an improvement on the usual tawdry promises?
For the first six months of 2018 I lived in Cambodia where Theravada Buddhism is the principal religion. I was struck by the close relationship between the pagoda and the community; monks walk the early morning streets in the towns and villages and are given food and money; all festivities centre around the pagoda and the religious ceremonies; food is prepared and cooked for the monks and the poor.
Monks are respected members of the community and it is common for people to spend time in a monastery either as a monk or on a spiritual retreat. You may recall that the members of the Wild Boars football team and their coach spent nine days as novice monks undertaking a period of prayer, meditation and temple duties after their release from two weeks trapped in a Thai cave.
Meditation is a very important part of Theravada Buddhism as enlightenment can only be achieved by one’s own efforts, so much time is given to meditation. There are different types of Buddhist meditation but the one which has engaged my attention is called Satipatthana or mindfulness. The word mindfulness has become very prominent in talking about mental health issues in the West; the NHS website has a page devoted to the subject and there are numerous courses and publications available to those interested.
The principal is quite simple, allow yourself time to engage with what is going on in your head and your body; concentrate on what is happening now. Look at the things around you and appreciate every small detail, use all your senses of smell, taste, sound, sight and touch; observe the thoughts in your head and learn the differences between the different thoughts; making “to do” lists and baseless worries, anxieties and positive thoughts and ideas.
I heard a wonderful programme on Radio 4 called “Living in the Moment” spoken by Rabbi Harvey Belovski in the “Something Understood “series. In it he explored the benefits of living in the moment and emphasised the importance of accepting the unpredictable nature of the future. He also noticed our obsession with trying to capture the “now” on mobile phones and through social media rather than actually experiencing the event in the moment. How much of the event do we actually miss?
The important concept is to accept that the past is gone and we cannot change what has happened – let it go. In the same way, we do not know what the future holds and therefore it is pointless to waste time worrying about it. It is all very logical that the only thing which we really can know is the “now” nothing else is possible. The benefits of learning to live in the moment can be an improved quality of life and mental health and reduced levels of stress.
There is a famous quote from the Buddha “Do not dwell on the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment”
So that’s my New Year’s Resolution to live more in the now and I wish all of you a wonderful, happy and peaceful 2019.
©Copyright overthehils.com 2018