NAN TIEN – a true southern paradise
“Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom”
Nan Tien is a Chinese term for “Southern Paradise”. It is the name of a beautiful Buddhist temple located south of Sydney, the largest in the southern hemisphere. It is open to all visitors and they also offer many other courses, events and retreats. A weekend retreat is done in “noble silence” and includes meditation, tai chi, walking meditation and of course, lovely vegetarian meals. Overall, a wonderful experience and will leave you wanting more. Of course, being in noble silence means the liberal use of an all- important communication method – a simple smile!
So… this is really just a reminder on mindfulness and meditation – always good to have reminders, right?! We all live busy lives that sometimes we all need to stop and be the observer. To remind ourselves who we really are. To go home. To remind ourselves that deep down, we are one precious diamond. Each and every one of us. As Rumi quoted, “Let silence take you to the core of life”.
Mindfulness and meditation have become buzz words in recent years. It is important to cultivate mindfulness in all that we do. It does force us to slow down a little and appreciate all aspects of our lives. Mastering our mind is important to master our life.
Let’s just take eating for example. We know we have to chew our food- as the digestive processes starts there. But let’s take a step back. We also need to be relaxed to digest our food, (to have the appropriate, parasympathetic nervous system working effectively). That is, sitting down relaxed, and focusing on eating and what we are eating. Say you are eating some rice. Think about its origin- the seeds planted somewhere far away, the many labourers working in the paddy fields growing and harvesting the product, later packaged (by more people) and distributed all over (even more people involved) until it gets to you in a packet bought at a shop (yet more people, the cashier at the supermarket being the last in this ordeal). A grain of rice is more complex than we thought! Surely some gratitude and appreciation for all those many people involved for you to be able to eat your rice – or any food for that matter. So before we start eating, just have that moment of appreciation and respect for what’s in front of you. OK – I hear you! …all I am saying is to at least consider that (now and then.)
Appreciating the food in front of you will also contribute to your perception. Capture the fragrance and sight of the food before eating it. And then do it slowly, aiming to chew as much as up to around 32 times (as my Grandfather used to say!). It’s astonishing how we often tend to just gulp mouthfoods of food down and expect everything to be alright. This is simple but so important, particularly noted in the Eastern traditions such as Ayurveda. The simplest foods can be the most delicious, just from that extra appreciation. One may say that they don’t have time- as with other things of benefit such as movement or meditation. But no matter what, it is a matter of choice. If we deem something important enough, value and appreciate it, then it will just become part of our daily lives. Because we want it to be part of our lives. If we do not hold something up there in our values and of what’s important, then it won’t happen and we will come up with a myriad of excuses. It can require effort to attain these habits but is sure worth it in the end. Like anything, baby steps, one day at a time.
There is a plethora of information and research now on meditation and its astounding benefits on our mind and body. This also takes time, practice and commitment. A worthwhile journey indeed.
As Bruce Lee said, “Long-term consistency trumps short-term intensity.”
And this is something that anyone can do- regardless of one’s beliefs. I say this because, as a holistic clinician, I have occasionally had comments in relation to the suggestion – as if it is only for those of certain religions (namely Eastern, I would assume) and not something they should be practising. At its simplest, it is breathing and being in the moment, living in the NOW. And rest assured, does not go against any religion either! So all I can say, is that for those who are still a little sceptical- have an open heart and open mind. Try it and see if it works for you. No doubt it will. A failed attempt does not render it useless Indeed, the Buddha did state there are 84,000 ways to meditate- so it’s just a matter of finding what resonates with you.
But let’s keep it simple. A simple 10min meditation would be taking deep breaths in and out (counting to 10 on each in or outbreath and repeating, if needed), and literally just focusing on your breath, letting thoughts come and go. This is deeply relaxing and focusing. It may not seem like much, but as one of our teachers pointed out this weekend- imagine what that would be in a year- 3650 minutes – WOW! Just imagine what potentially profound effect that would have on your mind and the life you follow as a result. As we said, baby steps, one day at a time. And the other beauty of this is that it can be done anywhere- although a great practice to do in the morning or before bed at rest and great to be done out in nature, it can also be done at any point of the day, even if you are waiting for the bus or waiting for a (very) hard-boiled egg to cook!
“Watch your thoughts, they become words, watch your words, they become actions, watch your actions, they become habits, watch your habits, they become character, watch your character, for it becomes your destiny”
Thank you to everyone who shared their teachings, experience, generosity and time (and humour!) at the Nan Tien temple. A truly blessed weekend.
For more info – www.nantien.org.au