What I Learned from the Monks About Mindfulness and Compassion

Guided Mindfulness Meditation with monks at Dreamforce conference in SF - photo © Love to Eat and Travel

Guided Mindfulness Meditation with monks at Dreamforce conference in SF – photo © Love to Eat and Travel

What an amazing gift Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff gave to attendees of Dreamforce at this year’s annual tech conference in San Francisco, CA. He personally invited 24 monks and nuns from Plum Village Monastery in the Dordogne region of southern France, founded by Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hahn, to teach daily mindfulness walking and sitting meditations. Only in California!

Like Marc, I truly believe in the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. I’m always looking for ways to deepen my meditation practice and learn more. So what did I learn from the monks?

“The present moment is the only moment available to us, and it is the door to all moments”
– Thich Nhat Hanh

The monks’ message to us is to live a life of love, kindness and compassion – and to simply “slow down” and enjoy each moment. We each need to give ourselves space to just “be” – and practice mindfulness in whatever it is that we are doing and pay attention to the little things. One of the monks, Brother Phap Lai shared that meditation is a way of life and that by integrating it into our daily routines, it can bring many benefits, including a more genuine long lasting happiness.

Guided Mindfulness Walking Meditation at Dreamforce conference in SF - photo © Love to Eat and Travel

Guided Mindfulness Walking Meditation with the monks, led by Brother Phap Lai at Dreamforce conference in SF – photo © Love to Eat and Travel

Guided Mindfulness Walking Meditation & Mantras

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Our day began bright and early with the monks teaching us how to walk mindfully, slowly, totally relaxed. This was a challenge for me because even though I love to walk, I prefer to walk quickly. I’m trying to be more aware of mindfully walking and apply that to certain situations when I’m out and about. Focusing on a mantra can often help keep you in the present moment. Here are two of the mantras that the monks shared with us during one of our early morning walking meditations around Moscone Center.

Walking very slowly, take three steps as you inhale and say the words “I have arrived.” Then take three more steps as you exhale and say the words “I am home.” Another mantra you can use while repeating this three-step process is to say “Mother Earth” as you inhale and “here I am” as you exhale.

Halfway through the walking meditation, we stopped in an open area where the monks guided us in stretching, breathing and balancing poses that they do every morning back at their monastery in Southern France. This was a little challenging to say the least as most of us were dressed in jeans and wearing shoes – I yearned to be in my yoga pants and barefoot! Nonetheless, it was a great way for us to wake up our bodies and our minds for the day ahead.

Guided Mindfulness Meditation at Dreamforce conference in SF - photo © Love to Eat and Travel

Guided Mindfulness Meditation at Dreamforce conference in SF – photo © Love to Eat and Travel

Guided Mindfulness Meditation

“Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity”
Thich Nhat Hanh

During our Guided Mindfulness Meditation sessions we learned to breathe mindfully and to be in the present moment. To simply let the air flow naturally and peacefully. To let our thoughts pass without judgement. We also practiced gratitude, including being thankful for each part of our bodies – the eyes for seeing, the nose for smelling, the mouth for eating, the ears for hearing, the heart that works so hard to keep us alive, the lungs that fill with fresh air to feed our cells and replenish our bodies… In a nutshell, we all have so much to be grateful for each and every day. We should also smile more, even while meditating. Visualize looking into a mirror and smile 🙂

The monks also encouraged us to make time for the people in our lives that matter the most – to be present and give our full attention to those around us – to turn off our cell phones and to talk to each other when we get home from work. Mindfully be there for each other – be fully present. Forgive. Let go of anger and resentment. And most of all, be compassionate – to others and to ourselves.

 

Chant of Compassion

The final day of the conference featured a Day of Compassion, ending with 24 monks gathering on stage to perform their Chant of Compassion. A chant for ourselves. A chant for everyone in the room. And a chant for the world. It was extremely powerful and harmonious. Listen to a brief 23-second segment in the above video.

Namaste... Brother Phap Lai and Alana after a morning Guided Mindfulness Meditation at Dreamforce conference in SF - photo © Love to Eat and Travel

Namaste… Brother Phap Lai and Alana after a morning Guided Mindfulness Meditation at Dreamforce conference in SF – photo © Love to Eat and Travel

When speaking with Brother Phap Lai, I couldn’t help but notice his British accent. Before moving to the monastery in France, he mentioned that he lived in Ruislip, a little town just outside of London – and that just happens to be where I grew up before moving to California… talk about synchronicity! It really is a small world and another reminder that we are all inter-connected.

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without” – Buddha


Learn how to slow down and meditate starting with a 60-second quickie meditation!

If you are curious and would like to learn more about mindfulness meditation, sign up for one of my easy self-paced online meditation courses:

 

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