Nothing and nobody can design our inner world except our own thoughts and actions.
Thoughts influence and affect our emotions and body feelings. So how can we see and understand our thoughts clearly? Reading a book or listening to someone speak may help us understand at some level but to really know, make change and be aware of one’s thoughts result when you practice mindfulness (Sati, sanskrit term). Mindful practice is the most efficient tool to provide awareness and consciousness. We have the ability to see through our thoughts deeply, find the truth of life and be free from suffering throughout our body and mind.
One of my clients in a recovery center had been suffering from grief since he was a youth. He tried many ways to solve this issue by practicing different kinds of meditations but none of them helped. I worked with him and introduced him to a different style called the “Hand Moving (Open Eyes) Meditation.” This mindfulness practice includes hand and body awareness that brings the person back to the present moment. By incorporating this practice, he is finally free from his grief and is now experiencing a joyful life.
Recently at my workshop about mindfulness yoga and living, one of the participants who has been practicing yoga for more than 20 years experienced tranquility and equanimity – then had tears of happiness during her first experience with the hands moving meditation. She felt so relaxed and peaceful just from the very simple movement from this practice.
I can tell many other stories of people who have benefitted from this unique mindfulness practice style, simple but powerful. It is the root of any kind of mindfulness practice.
Luangpor Teean (CE 1911-1988) was one of the most remarkable teachers of Buddhist practice to appear in Asia in modern times. His teaching was very direct and from his own experience, intensely personal and original. He was the monk who created this teaching technique, and who taught me in 1986-1987 before he passed away. This was the original influence for my working style in teaching both yoga and mindfulness and it also inspired my book title, “Mindfulness Yoga” in 1999.
I myself was able to pass through my most difficult period thanks to this moving hands mindfulness technique. More than 10 years ago, I experienced burnout and depression. I didn’t take care of myself well enough, worked too much and did not eat or sleep enough. My ability to be aware of myself was reduced. My body was very weak. During that time, I still tried to do yoga and meditation practice but it didn’t work, as my body lacked energy and focus. My weight went down and my body systems such as digestive and nervous system, were out of balance. I was not aware of my thoughts or control my emotions and body function. I had no motivation in life, didn’t want to do anything or to be anyone. Then, I stopped working. One of my close friends, who is a medical doctor ordered me sleeping pills. I finally surrendered to it.
When I was able to get some sleep, my body system worked better, I could eat more and could practice a gentle yoga and meditation. My ability to pay attention slowly came back. I knew what was needed to help my body and mind back to normal. At that time, my body was still tired and my mind still blue, depressed and not clear enough. Sometimes during the day I would experience a pattern of negative thoughts like there is nothing interesting in my life, my dreams are all fulfilled, there is no reason to live anymore. These thoughts made me sad then suddenly I would feel as if insects were crawling in my stomach and then there would be a sinking sensation, muscle weakness, short and shallow breathing, and finally a weary body.
I promised myself I had to be free from this situation and sleeping pills, as I prefer to avoid or reduce medication when possible.
Meanwhile, the mindfulness technique which I practiced with Luangpor Teean 20 year ago came back to be a part of my daily life again. I set up my new routine and simple activities to support any moment of open eyes meditation and mindfulness practice.
The key of this practice is to train our mind to stay in the moment by paying attention, which is called “watching” or “seeing” then “know” through body movement or stillness, for example we know when we shake our head, blink our eye, smile, move hand, fingers, etc., We aware of our heartbeat, the wind touches our skin, and we know it. Luangpor Teean liked to say “Just know it”. We don’t make up any story. See as it is, hear as it is, feel as it is, and smell as it is. We will train our mind to get used to “knowing but not doing”, non-judgment mind.
When mind and body stay together, to be one, then we will get an experience of empty mind(Sunyata). When we keep continued focus with this moment, it increases the state of meditative consciousness (Samadhi) and finally, we will understand the true nature of reality, (Panna, wisdom) which in Buddhism means seeing that in reality all phenomena are incomplete, impermanent, and not self . Our thinking and feelings are impermanent, we don’t own any of it. It doesn’t matter whether it is happiness or suffering, both are impermanence and suchness.
I had been practice this intensive mindfulness all day in any activities, whenever my mind wandered I brought it back. One month passed, my body began to feel stable and strong. Also my mind felt more relaxed and refreshed. I used a relaxation technique before sleep. Mindfulness practice was the way to take care of my mind; having good and enough food, exercise, healthy actions and living in the right environment was the way to take care of my body. I slowly decreased sleeping pills in the second month and finally stopped. Another tool I used to help my sleeping was to practice going to sleep with the ability to let go of everything.. I finally had a deep sleep, my body came back to normal, felt strong, balanced and flexible and my mind was stable, with clear thoughts, focus and gratitude for life. My creativity came back. I was living fully in the moment and I once again recognised that life is fleeting.
This suffering (Dukka) experience had given me new life and freedom. I’m so thankful for it. It confirmed for me the power of connection between mind and body. I discovered how to let go of self and surrender to life, and to be more gentle and compassionate with my self and others. It also confirmed that real happiness or joy don’t come from things, no one can give them to us. This understanding can only come direct experience.
I started my therapy work and resumed training for using different styles of meditation and mindfulness techniques for people with different needs such as mental problems like stress, depression and other emotional issues. The hand moving one is the most urgent and simple technique; I can use it anytime and use it as a core with the other techniques. This is also one of the reasons why I decided to accept work setting up the International Mindfulness Recovery Center in Thailand. Mindfulness can help people pass though difficulty; it is like an urgent medicine and vaccine for personal well being and flourishing. Those who are suffering will be able to be free from it, free from using drugs, abusing substances or any pills.
Nowadays, seven years have passed by and many people from all over the world have passed though the mindfulness program at this community, and they have a better quality of life. Even though my life has moved past this community, I still am continuing to live life with Sati (Mindful) practice and I keep on sharing.