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Living A Mindful Life

By: Kaira Jewel Lingo

I am so grateful for the practice of mindfulness!

Over and over I find that I don’t know how much I need to stop until I stop. In the midst of all the busyness of doing, when I manage to slow down and touch even a little bit of stillness-- to be with my breath, to feel my body-- it is such a relief! The speed of daily life has its own momentum and as long as I’m carried along by it, I don’t even notice it, until I stop and touch into a radically different way of simply being that is extremely replenishing and restful.

This is the first aspect of mindfulness: to help us to slow down, stop, calm, and rest, so that we can heal.

This pause can be very instructive. When I stop, I have the chance to connect to the many things going on in me that need kindness, care, and slowing down in order to attend to. The little space that opens up around and between things that had been all jumbled up in the stream of constant thinking, allows me to see my situation more clearly, to remember my priorities, and for insights to arise in response to my daily challenges.

This is the second aspect of mindfulness: to help us look deeply and understand. We can only do this after we have stopped and calmed our minds.

On a silent retreat a few months ago, I found myself thinking and worrying about next steps in my life as I am going through a time of many transitions. Ideas about who I should contact, leads I should follow and actions I should take after the silent retreat popped up often in meditation.

After about a week, I had the thought, "All I need to do is be happy and practice peace in each action. Because this way, no matter what I do, I will be happy! Its not so much about what I do, but how."

I know this and yet it is so easy to forget! One meaning of the word 'mindfulness' is to remember. So with this remembering, I was able to release the worry and fixation on managing the details of my very unknown future — at least for a time — and remember that taking care of each moment, this moment, is the way to ensure a beautiful and fulfilling future.

As the retreat progressed, I found myself sinking to deeper places of calm and stillness inside, as the various stories and 'issues I needed to resolve' circled around enough times in my mind that they wore themselves out. I also understood that I wouldn’t resolve them by thinking about them, so much as letting them go and allowing the answers to come to me in the stillness.

As the worrying and planning receded to the background, what was left was a real energy and joy to practice mindfulness as much as possible in each moment — an enthusiasm and curiosity about how to nurture my practice and help it deepen and grow constantly. What got me up at 4am and provided the zeal to sit and walk mindfully all day until 10pm was bodhicitta, the mind of love, the mind of awakening. It became its own internal motor, providing energy and diligence from within.

One of the causes of mindfulness arising in our minds is a previous moment of mindfulness. Another way to say this is, the more you practice mindfulness, the more mindful you will be! We can all train our minds in this direction and we will see results. I noticed on the retreat that as I started to enjoy more and more the simple practice of being present for each moment, this naturally wanted to continue itself and there was an ease and enjoyment that required very little effort.

During the weeklong course, Living a Mindful Life, at Schumacher College, we will slow down and allow space so we can see more clearly what we really want, what is really important to us, where our deep enthusiasm lies. We will experience that insight, born from a calm, clear mind, is always there when we just allow it to emerge. We will also explore how we can nurture and sustain our bodhicitta, our deep aspiration to live mindfully and beautifully. How we can keep our mindfulness fresh and engaged, for the well-being and happiness of ourselves and others.

Kaira Jewel Lingo

Kaira Jewel (formerly Sr. Jewel) is from the US and has been practicing mindfulness and Buddhist meditation since 1997. She was ordained as a nun by Thich Nhat Hanh in 1999 and as a Dharma teacher in 2007.  She returned to secular life in 2015 and continues as a lay Buddhist teacher and mindfulness teacher. Before ordaining, she graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. and M.A. in Anthropology and Social Sciences. She has led mindfulness retreats in the US, Europe, Asia, Brazil, India and Southern Africa. She spends much of her time sharing mindfulness and compassion, especially with children, families and young people, and bringing mindfulness to teachers and schools. She is editor of Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh. She is passionate about exploring the ways art, play and spiritual practice connect. She leads mindfulness courses for artists and has a background in dance and improvisation. She is also a certified Yoga Teacher and InterPlay leader.