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  • I attended a week-long conference with the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, as our primary teacher. Our objective was to learn about Buddhism and 'silent walking meditation.' We would finish our time with a walking meditation at The Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC.

    As preparation for the walk, he took us through many experiences and exercises. As an example, at any point in time, someone would ring a bell. That was a signal, in that moment, for each / all of us to pause, breathe, and remember that we were alive.

    Two of the practical everyday practices I remember learning from him...and still use today...were 'Telephone Meditation' and 'Red Light Meditation.' 'Telephone Meditation' is to, upon hearing the phone ring, pause, breathe deeply, and remember that I am alive in the moment before answering. 'Red Light Meditation' is to slow down rather than speed up when seeing an orange light, thus stopping for the red light...with time to pause, breathe deeply and remember that I am alive.

    One of his main points was that 'I am alive' will not always be so; that in this form, we are temporary. Like the sands of a Buddhist mandala, the physical form and beauty will be swept away.

    I especially remember a time when he had us pick a partner. He had us look deeply into each others' eyes and repeat his words, first one of us and then the other, "I pause, breathe, and remember that, in this moment, I am alive. I see you here with me. I pause, breathe, and remember that, in this moment, you are alive. And I know that one day I will not be here. One day you will not be here."

    I remember weeping...both in gratitude for the fullness of that moment and in a new level of recognition of our temporary nature.

    [Photo of Thich Nhat Hanh from the Wikipedia Commons]
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