This week I went to Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, California. It’s a practice center in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh (a Buddhist monk.) In the Dharma lesson, the monk – through an interpreter told a story about a man who drank alcohol everyday. His wife came to him one evening and said, “Tonight, I’ll drink, too.” On her first sip, she spit out the wine. “It’s so bitter!” she said. At that moment, he realized he’d become used to the sharp, bitter taste of alcohol one day at a time—bit by bit.
The same is true for stimuli around us: T.V. commercials blaring at us at home; loud store or restaurant music; engaging in negative talk about ourselves or others; a gluttony of clutter in stores isles, and our homes; fast drivers. Some people aren’t bothered by any of this. It’s crept up on them gradually, and they, like the man who’s trained himself to drink the bitter alcohol daily, have formed a habit while not being mindful.
Some people think being mindful means giving up fun, or eating vegetarian, and meditating. (That could be part of it, but it’s not what being mindful means.) When you eat, do you notice the flavors? When visiting the monastery, they requests everyone eat meals slowly, and in silence for the first 15 minutes. Do you TASTE your food? Do you feel the entire universe support your existence while you eat?
When you meditate, do you fall asleep? I found myself drift into judgment about others not being mindful, but falling asleep. Then, I had the opportunity to see myself not being mindful, while I judged others for snoring. We’re all working on our stuff. If you get the chance to go to Deer Park Monastery, please remember it’s a sacred place to those who live there, and to many who visit. Dress conservatively (long pants and covered shoulders are appreciated.) Below is a link to a short video from the monastery.