Sister D.'s Favorite Mindfulness Practices

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Sister Dang Nghiem—a nun in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh who is affectionately known as Sister D.—reveals her favorite mindful practices. 

By Sister Dang Nghiem

I first rely on the practice of mindful breathing. I think of myself as a bird watcher. Bird watchers don’t try to make the bird go north or south, faster or slower, they just watch it as it is. In mindful breathing we come back to our in-breath and out-breath as it is throughout the day.

I’ve learned to do it, but trust me it’s not as easy as it sounds! The mind takes off and gets lost in other things—things that are more attractive or that we’re addicted to. But to bring your attention back to your breath helps your mind stay even-keeled; it helps your mind be stable and calm. 

Every time I stop, I just take in an in-breath with awareness. When I’m sitting on the computer, I follow my breathing as I’m reading something or writing a message. Mindful breathing is definitely my lifesaver and my most favorite practice. 

Loving Speech & Deep Listening

I also learned to practice loving speech and deep listening to my body and to my mind. This morning I woke up and rubbed my shaven head and said lovingly toward myself, “Thank you for being healthy and for being able to heal. I’m so grateful that I have all these favorable conditions so that I can rest and sleep in a little bit more. I have many opportunities to heal and practice.”

Then I massage my body part-by-part, aware of what’s healthy and what’s painful, and I send love toward my body. Throughout the day, I say to myself, “I love you so. I’m here for you.” I say this many, many times. Loving speech and deep listening to my own body helps me cherish my life and what I have in this moment. I know that I will never be this young again. So I just appreciate what is, and I am there for it.

Know You Have Enough

Another favorite practice is to know I have enough. Before I would think life has been unjust and unkind to me. But now I think: I’m so grateful to life. I’m grateful for what I have, I know I have enough, and I come back to my breath. Instead of digging around in your many thoughts, just sit quietly and breathe and smile. That’s a wonderful luxury. Wherever you are, just come back to your breath and relax your body. Your mind becomes much more focused and you become much more effective. It’s a much nicer experience of life.