Sunday, February 15, 2009

In the Spirit of Mindfulness

After spending an exhausting Saturday walking the streets of Vietnam looking for souvenirs, we spent a quieter Sunday looking at Pagodas.  Buildings I've only seen in pictures, movies, etc., the Vietnamese pagodas are a special, thoughtful place, right in the center of activity.  You could consider them an oasis perhaps, from the hustle of the city.  A chance to step inside for a bit of mindful connection.  These are open to everyone, much like our churches and temples are in the states - and yes, I'm aware we also have pagodas back home, I just haven't seen them.  But I suppose these were special to me since I was able to watch individuals connect with their higher powers openly, and it brought me a bit of peace.  No one seemed to mind us being there or watching the scene, in fact, they seemed to be quite accustomed to it.  We were careful not to take any photos inside the temple or of anyone praying.  I think this actually made the whole experience more sacred to me: I had to remember what I saw and not rely on photos to jog my memory.  And instead of thinking about what might make a good shot, I was more interested in the rituals playing out before me.
Incense plays a very vital role in worship in Vietnam.  The heady fragrance is so powerful, it almost wraps you up and sends you off to the afterlife in it's tendrils of smoke.  It's as if smelling it is an immediate signal to slow down and breathe, reflect, open.  I was moved by the number of young individuals, mostly young women, who came to pray.  They brought young children and walked them up to the statues to first light and then wave their incense sticks to the four corners of the world.  Everyone did this with reverence and peace.
So it makes me think about our life back home.  Do we have enough places of respite in our day?  This does not have to mean going to church or temple, though for many, that is how they fulfill their needs for reflection.  What does turning inward and giving over to a higher power, or even our own psyches do for us?  I'm thinking about how I feel when I have really reflected on an issue at hand for a long time.  Then I find a way to completely let it go, not give up but give the issue over to something bigger than me, and then return to the issue later with a fresher mind.  Most often, I am able to see things in a brighter light or more intense understanding.  
It really is important to find that place that makes you come to a sense of peace within.  Perhaps it is through meditation, massage, or listening to a sermon.  For some it is listening to music that transports them, for others it is complete silence.  

What do you do to transport yourself to an inner sense of peace?


Silverton said...

Awsome. I hope you can write some about the people. What are the women like? How do they raise their children? Do they work? At home or in jobs? What are their homes like? Thank you for this peaceful reflection.

goldenbird said...

Hi Jill~ I just read all of your posts from Vietnam and enjoyed them so much. I really like this one in particular. Reading it made me feel so peaceful. I like the way you describe the incense and how it is a signal to slow down and open up. I try to maintain an inner sense of peace by being mindful, but it's so challenging in my every day life with commuting, work, etc. Thanks so much for this post, it really grounded me and reminded me of what is important.