I remember dropping my children off at school years ago, and as I walked through the hallways I found a teacher friend frozen in her tracks, just standing, staring blankly before her. I approached and asked if there was something wrong. She shared that some parents had just now said something surprisingly, stingingly unkind to her. My teacher friend is African American, and the insult, offered by white parents, was racially tinged. She said, “I don’t know how I can get on with my day.”
I asked her if she’d like to try something with me. She responded, “Anything!”
We closed our eyes and gently breathed in and out together, saying these words to ourselves:
On the in-breath: “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in…”
On the out-breath: “Breathing out, I smile.”
On the in breath: “Present moment…”
On the out-breath: “Wonderful moment.”
She opened her eyes and smiled at me. “Wow!” she said. “That worked incredibly well in, like, one minute. I’m calm. I’ll be fine. Thank you!” And she dashed off down the hallway to her class.
I love these simple couplets made famous by the venerable Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hahn. There are so many! He used to create a new pair each year, and write them in his beautiful calligraphy to be posted all over Plum Village, his retreat center, to stimulate mindfulness throughout the day.
Try this calming mindfulness practice in a hectic moment, and see how quickly you can become present, relaxed, awake and aware.