"The Essential Discipline for Daily Use" by Zen Master Doc The
In The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh tells the story of a book given to him when he first began his monastic life as a Buddhist monk. The book, "The Essential Discipline for Daily Use", was written by the Zen master Doc The (pronounced "tay") and given to novice monks in order to help them develop the practice of mindfulness.
The book, no more than 40 pages long from front to back, was made up of short verses which they would recite to themselves while doing specific tasks in order to awaken their minds (i.e. practice mindfulness). The book included verses for each specific activity that a monk might do throughout his or her day. Such as waking up:
Just awakened, I hope that every person will attain great awareness and see in complete clarity.
and washing their hands...
Washing my hands, I hope that every person will have pure hands to receive reality.
Thich Nhat Hanh has since expanded on that original idea by adding a few modern meditations of his own, as he explains in the video below (around the 14 minute mark). I've quoted a portion of the video:
We have invented new verses. Like riding a bicycle, because the text is very ancient there is no verse for riding a bicycle....Also, we have a verse for you to use when you are about to make a phone call. Called telephone meditation. You are holding the phone and you want to call him or her...so you breath in with one line and out with the second line and in with the third line. And you are calm after that. That way the quality of the talk will be better.
The telephone meditation is four lines. As Nhat Hanh mentions above, you breathe in when reading the first line (silently to yourself), out for the second line, in for the third and out once more for the fourth:
Words can travel thousands of kilometers.
They can build more understanding and love.
I vow that what I'm going to say is going to promote mutual understanding and love.
And every word I say will be beautiful like flowers.
Thich Nhat Hanh doesn't mention if the book had both one-line verses and four-line verses, as he mentions only one-line verses in "The Miracle of Mindfulness" and four-line verses in the dharma talk linked above. But there's no reason you can't use both one-line and four-line verses. Shoot, use two-liners, three-liners. Whatever it is, the point is that they're verses to help you practice mindfulness.
Overall, I loved the idea of the book and thought it would be an incredible tool to help myself develop the practice of mindfulness. So I decided to re-purpose it...
Creating the "Book of Mindfulness"
Long-term happiness does not just fall into your lap. Unless you make the decision to prioritize something, you've got nothing more than a shot in the dark at accomplishing it.
So then how do you do this with an already busy schedule? Trust me, I know how you feel. I have a 6-month-old and a 2 1/2-year-old. Just they by themselves are a handful like no other let alone my other responsibilities. But this can be helped by a number of things. We just have to get creative.
This is why I liked the idea of "The Essential Discipline for Daily Use" so much. I thought, what if I created my own version of the Zen master's book in order to help me adopt the practice of mindfulness in my everyday life? That was the birth of the "Book of Mindfulness".
Adopting the practice of mindfulness isn't easy, no matter who you are. But this book is the perfect companion for the modern-day man or woman to cultivate the practice of mindfulness whether you lead a busy family life or fast-paced corporate life (and anywhere in between).
I liked the idea of having a book which outlined all the various moments throughout the day where one could practice mindfulness and realized that if I did it old school - that is if I literally bought a physical (handheld) notebook and kept it on me at all times- it would be a sure-fire way to remind myself to practice mindfulness (feeling it in your pocket, you're constantly reminded that it's there).
Well turns out, it worked. As soon as I started using it I was not only constantly reminded to practice mindfulness, I knew how to put myself into a state of mindfulness no matter what I was doing. And then I began associating a sense of peace and happiness with the act of taking the book out, which encouraged me to use it to practice mindfulness even more often. Which brings me to our list:
3 Ways the Zen Master Doc The's Book of Mindfulness Can Help You Practice Mindfulness
- It constantly reminds you to practice mindfulness- It's simple- it's a physical book that you hand-write and keep in your pocket or wallet. It's physically obstructive, or at least noticeable enough that you're constantly reminded to practice mindfulness throughout your day when you sit down or reach for your wallet. *Ladies: if you don't have pockets then throw it in your wallet- NOT the black holes that are your purses...that is if you're anything like my wife...The notebook is itself a constant reminder that the practice of mindfulness is more important than the bothersome nature of the book in your pocket or wallet. It's a statement of the importance of your practice and commitment to creating your own peace and happiness. And you don't even have to take the book out half the time. After a while of reading each phrase, you'll memorize them and the mere presence of the book in your pocket will be enough to send you into mindfulness.
- It shows you how to practice mindfulness no matter what you're doing- This is the original purpose of the book. Within it exists various short verses, as we discussed earlier, to help you develop your practice of mindfulness. No matter what you're doing the book has a phrase which you can use to take control of your consciousness and enter mindfulness.If you think you'll be taking the book out too often than you're comfortable with at first, don't worry. You'll soon memorize certain phrases and won't have to take the book out nearly as often.
- It provides positive reinforcement- You'll notice that, after a while of using the book, the book itself becomes a symbol of the benefits of your practice. Inner peace, happiness, and clarity all become associated with opening your book and reading a verse.This is a great source of reinforcement for your practice. Necessary reinforcement, because no matter how good something is we need constant reminders for why we do what we do. When things get tough our commitments loosen as the negative (stress, frustration, adopting bad habits) tries to take hold of us. Mindfulness is the practice to overcome these forces and the book of mindfulness is the tool which reminds you to return to mindfulness.
Building Your Own Book of Mindfulness
In order to create your own book of mindfulness, you'll just need:
- A small pocket-sized notebook- If you have a Barnes & Noble around you, they sell perfect sized Moleskine brand pocket books. If not, Amazon sells them too.
- A pen- Try to use a brand that doesn't bleed too much and make sure after writing something to keep the book open for a bit and blow on the ink. This isn't a big deal, but as you can see from the image at the top of this post the ink will really spread unless you do this because of how many times you open and close the book.
- A little inspiration- You might not know where to start, but you can create your own verses with a little brainstorming like I did. I listed three examples earlier in this article but below are a few more entries in my own book of mindfulness including some verses I created for modern life (driving, the internet).
Present moment - Intro
This is a little poem I originally read in Thich Nhat Hanh's The Art of Power. I really liked it and thought it would be the perfect verse for stopping and following my breath (when feeling stressed, overwhelmed or needing to calm down for whatever other reason). I've since used it more than any other verse in the book. Reading it brings me a great sense of inner peace.
Each word in the poem up to "release" refers to what you're supposed to do as you breathe in or out. I typically breathe in and out 2-3 times for each line to enhance the practice. Breath in on the first word of each line and breathe out for the second. Breath in on "Present moment" and breathe out on "Wonderful moment".
So as you read "deep", make sure you take a deep breath. As you read "slow" make sure you take a slow breath. As you go adopt each new word into your practice. First deep breathing, then slow deep breathing, then as you breathe slowly and deeply calm your body and ease your mind, half-smile to release the tension in your facial muscles and then on "release" imagine yourself releasing all tension and stress from your entire body and mind. Then on "Present moment, wonderful moment" simply savor the peace of this moment.
Relish in the beauty of this moment. You'll never get it back. This is a very calming practice.
Dealing with anger
This is another verse which I adapted from Thich Nhat Hanh's work as I thought it would be highly useful given the "toolbox" nature of the Book of Mindfulness. I thought, why does the book only have to help with becoming mindful during specific activities? This verse helps you regain hold of your consciousness when anger takes over, no matter what you're doing.
Breathe in and out for the first line and in and out again for the second line:
Although right now I am angry at _______,
Deep down I know I am capable of being at peace.
As I place my hands on this wheel I enter a state of mindfulness.
I know I am sitting here, driving this car.
I vow to treat other drivers with patience and compassion.
And I will renew my sense of inner peace with each turn of the wheel.
Surfing / Internet meditation
As I place my hands on this device I enter a state of mindfulness.
My breath is my companion to the connected world.
I know where I am, what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.
And I vow to consume only those things which nurture my mind.
As I enter this building I also enter a state of mindfulness.
I will treat all tasks with the same level of importance I place on (any other task in my life.) (You can fill in the blank here)
My breath will guide all important decisions.
I vow to treat others with compassion and will use deep listening when speaking with teammates.
Feel free to create your own verses and share them here. Let me know what's worked for you!