Meditation and Mindfulness in a Hong Kong Monastery – YP
In a monastery in the middle of nowhere in Hong Kong, the silence is interrupted by the chime of a bell every 15 minutes.
When it rings, everyone stops for 20 seconds to breathe and be aware of their body and surroundings. Everyone resumes their tasks when the bell stops.
“When you are aware [of yourself and your situation], then you can recognize your ability to be happy, ”said Trang Nghiem, a nun from Lantau Island monastery and led by the Plum Village organization.
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The short break can help a person recognize what’s going on in their mind, she said.
A rainy morning earlier this month, Young post took part in a mindfulness and meditation retreat at the monastery, located in a secluded area about an hour by bus from Tung Chung.
Even after getting off the bus, you’ll have to walk through the forest to get to the courtyard of a modest two-story building. Once there, you will see the Buddhist brothers and sisters greet you with a smile.
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The retreat aims to help participants realize the importance of happiness, awareness and mindfulness.
He wants to help people integrate mindfulness into all aspects of life, even in simple tasks like washing dishes.
The day’s itinerary included walks, silent meditation, and sung meditation. It was followed by a discussion of true love and, after lunch, a session of total relaxation. The day ended with a soothing tea meditation.
Meditation was a key part of the day at Plum Village.
Each activity lasted for an hour, although it was difficult to know how much time had actually passed when one was fully engaged in the moment.
Our group of 20 began the retreat by reassessing our way of walking.
“Walking in Hong Kong usually means speeding through the streets and insisting on where you need to go,” Sister Her Xuan explained.
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As a result, Hong Kong people are often unaware of their surroundings, but she said walking meditation is about being mindful – marrying your breathing and your steps, and focusing on where you are, rather than on where you are going.
She demonstrated how to breathe and walk at the same time – inhaling she took two steps and exhaling she took three. By focusing exclusively on breathing and slow movement, the mind becomes clearer and one becomes more aware of the small details, insects crawling on plants in the wind and moving leaves on the ground.
During the sung meditation, we sang simple tunes accompanied by a guitar and cello, with lyrics meant to uplift the spirit.
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Then we turned to more conventional meditation – sitting cross-legged on mats with our hands resting on our knees. Being in the room with the high ceilings, regulating our breathing, and learning to let go of our thoughts was calming, as was the sound of the pouring rain falling outside.
After 20 minutes of silence, Elder Pham Tru began a discussion on the Buddhist ideals of true love, which consist of four key principles.
Benevolence is the desire to bring joy and happiness to the person you love. Compassion is the intention to alleviate the suffering of loved ones by alleviating their pain. Joy is the happiness we have in giving to those we love. Equanimity is about releasing the attachment and prejudices of the love you give.
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These four principles come together to represent true love, he said.
“Not to be confused with romantic love, which we [as monks] I don’t have much experience with it, ”he joked, making the crowd laugh.
Lunch was prepared with fresh vegetables from the monastery garden. There were tofu balls mixed with mushrooms and seaweed, cooked in a delicious broth and ladled over rice noodles and mint herbs. We also had a dish of simmered radish and mushrooms served with rice.
Lunch was prepared with ingredients grown in the monastery garden. Photo: SCMP / Amalissa Hall
Participants practiced mindfulness while eating by taking measured bites, chewing more than usual, and reflecting on where the food came from and how it changed. We were more aware of the amount of food we were consuming, which also made us feel fuller.
After lunch, participants were invited to lie down in a dark room. With a full stomach, relaxed body and closed eyes, Sister Mac Chieu spoke softly of gratitude for our opportunities in life.
Everyone was lulled or in a state of lucid dreaming by his words and the accompanying chime of bells.
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Some had a deep emotional release and couldn’t help but cry afterward.
Fortunately, Sister Trang Nghiem assured us: “All strong emotions pass. Don’t try to push the stress away; smile with them and use conscious breathing to let them go.
How to get there: Take the # 11 bus to Tai O from Tung Chung Bus Terminal. Get off at Fat Hwa Yuen bus stop and walk five minutes keeping left before going down the stairs.