Mental Health Awareness Week is in full swing in the UK. Check MentalHealth.org’s website to find out more about this annual campaign and events in your area.
Mental health affects us all. This is a time to mind out for ourselves and for others.
We’ve borrowed a short chapter and the simplest exercise from Zen master, peace activist and author Thich Nhat Hanh‘s Peace Is In Every Step (The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life) to share a little mindfulness with you today:
There are a number of breathing techniques you can use to make life vivid and more enjoyable. The first exercise is very simple. As you breathe in, you say to yourself, “Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.” And as you breathe out, say, “Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.” Just that. You recognise your in-breath as an in-breath and your out-breath as an out-breath. You don’t even need to recite the whole sentence, you can use just two words: “In” and “Out.” This technique can help you to keep your mind on your breath. As you practice your breath will become peaceful and gentle, and your mind and body will also become peaceful and gentle. This is not a difficult exercise. In just a few minutes you can realise the fruit of meditation.
Breathing in and out is very important, and it is enjoyable. Our breathing is the link between our body and mind. Sometimes our mind is thinking of one thing and our body is doing another, and mind and body are not unified. By concentrating on our breathing, “In” and “Out,” we bring body and mind back together, and become whole again. Conscious breathing is an important bridge.
To me, breathing is a joy that I cannot miss. Every day, I practice conscious breathing, and in my small meditation room, I have calligraphed this sentence: “Breathe, you are alive!” Just breathing and smiling can make us very happy, because when we breathe consciously we recover ourselves completely and encounter life in the present moment.
© Thich Nhat Hanh, 1991 / Bantam Books / Rider / Ebury Press / Random House
Let’s keep talking about mental health all year round.
Check back soon for our next fundraising event.
Photography: Green Graphic – © Mental Health Foundation; Zen Garden and Poppies – © Emma Boden / The Fine Line Project