For the @2:50 second anniversary, Natalie Hill from MIT ORSEL joined us to share this breathing with nature practice. Each practice introduces a sentence for the in-breath, a sentence for the out-breath, and a short-hand version that captures the essence in a single word. You might start using the full sentence and shift to a single word as it becomes more natural. The visual aid used during the presentation is below. Thank you to Natalie and MIT ORSEL for supporting our event and work.
The four mindfulness practices are based on Peace is Every Step, by Thích Nhất Hạnh. TNH (1926-2022) was a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who introduced mindfulness worldwide through his books, talks, and retreats. We dedicate today’s post to T.N.H. and other great mindfulness teachers everywhere. And now, on with the practice.
As human beings, we can experience strong emotions, and when we have big or intense feelings, we may feel overwhelmed. Under their influence, we forget that we are more than our emotions. These emotions are like strong winds. While such winds can damage things like trees and buildings, even a hurricane or tornado will not sway a mountain. Particularly during emotional challenges, sitting and breathing, in and out, we can become a mountain, helping us to feel solid again. “Breathing in, I become a mountain. Breathing out, I feel solid.” Mountain. Solid.
Thich Nhat Hahn described all humans as flowers. Although we were all born as flowers, our daily lives can leave our inner flowers tired and wilted. We wither a little bit from the burdens in our lives – strain, sorrow, worry, grief. This practice is restoring your inner flower so you’ll feel fresh again: “Breathing in, I see myself as a flower. Breathing out, I feel fresh.” Flower. Fresh.
When we often interact with others, we filter what they say and do through our emotions, assumptions, and biases. As a result, we can have a mistaken perception of what is going on. We listen to our prejudices and emotions, and therefore we miss the point that other people want to make. It is like looking into water full of waves – images reflected in that kind of water are distorted. But imagine a pond where the water is very still. In that water, we can see the sky, the trees, or anything else nearby, as clearly as if we were looking at an upside-down photograph. When our minds become still like that water, we are able to reflect reality as it is, to perceive things as they are. Therefore, “Breathing in, I become still water, and, breathing out, I reflect clearly.” Water, Reflecting.
When you plant a garden, it’s essential to leave enough space between plants for each one to grow and get plenty of water, soil, and sunlight. Human beings are like that, too, we need space to be happy. And not only space outside but space inside. If we are so full of thoughts and emotions, we don’t have enough space to find happiness. Therefore, this practice is to let go, to have space inside and around us. “Breathing in, I see space within. Breathing out, I feel free.” Space, Free.
Rev. Natalie Hill is a Methodist minister and chaplain to MIT from the Welsey Foundation, a Boston Cambridge Ministry in Higher Education founded by an ecumenical consortium of UMC, UCC, PC(USA), and American Baptist traditions. Natalie holds a B.A. and M.Div. from Boston University and an M.S.W. from Simmons College. She worked as a clinical social worker for many years with a specialization in eating disorders and entered the ministry as an extension of this work. She is particularly interested in the role of spirituality in emotional wellbeing and the intersection of faith, food, and embodiment. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was known to say that the world was his parish. Natalie invites students to view the world as their laboratory instead, bringing their questions and creativity into a wide range of life experiences. More at MIT ORSEL.
revnhill (at) mit.edu