Earlier this year I came up with a new mindfulness practice: bumper stickers! OK, let me explain. I like finding new and inventive ways to cultivate daily mindfulness, which means paying intentional attention to something in particular. Being mindful means being mindful of something. And that something can be anything! Anything that allows us the opportunity to practice getting in touch and connecting with the present moment can be considered a practice of mindfulness. And it’s fun to find new things in which to practice with.
So in January this idea of bumper sticker mindfulness came to me. For each month in 2016 I would practice noticing bumper stickers. In order to put a little extra weight on this new mindfulness practice, to help encourage me to do it, I would also write down the bumper stickers that caught my eye as being especially odd, funny or interesting. I then also resolved to write a blog post about it further into the year. With 6 months of the year almost completed I thought I would post about the ones I’ve taken notice of so far. As an FYI my bumper sticker rules included only writing down bumper stickers I saw in action, meaning displayed on cars – so bumper stickers I saw for sale in a store didn’t count :) I have a nice little notebook and an easily accessible pen in my car that I scribbled down all of the ones I saw that I deemed worth noting. Here they are, in order of date seen (as an additional FYI the most common sticker I saw was the one in the pic above: Keep Missoula Weird):
In dedication for the lives lost, and affected,
in the Orlando shooting on June 12th, 2016
We as a global community,
regardless of race, creed, orientation,
gender, age, origin, likes/dislikes,
and any other category that may be used
to otherwise separate us from our shared humanity,
grieve in unison.
Our hearts are heavy
and full of sorrow.
we are all in this together,
both those we seek to understand
and those whom we seek to blame.
We are not separate.
Breathing in, we hold our grief and anger with love and care.
Breathing out, we look deeply and nourish our compassion.
Yesterday, while encountering the surgeons who had worked on those injured in the Orlando shooting being interviewed on the news playing at the laundromat, I realized that my own personal scales had been tipped in the direction of over-saturation. Otherwise stated, I saw that it was no longer beneficial for me to continue reading or watching news updates relating to the shooting that happened in Orlando. It’s easy to keep reading and re-reading the same news information. Easy to want to “keep up” with the small updates that unfold regarding a news story. But when I really tune into my experience I can see when that sort of obsessive behavior sets in and becomes detrimental. I do my best to practice engaging with the news to the extent that I am able to gain the necessary amount of information in order to expand my perspective and water my seeds of understanding and compassion. And once it starts tipping in the direction of simply acquiring minute details, re-hashing the same information, or inflaming the situation or my own emotions I do my best to practice stepping away.
It can be difficult to stay emotionally balanced during tumultuous times in world news or local politics, especially in this age of 24-hour scrolling television news and pocket Internet. But we can tune into our own experience and make a choice as to what seeds we’re watering and how we want to spend our time and then move forward from there accordingly. It’s easy to get swept away, in the news and in our own thoughts and feelings. May we practice being in touch with ourselves today. May we look deeply to see what seeds we’re choosing to water, so that we may hold our grief and upset with care and healing intention.
This booklet (pictured above & below) was published by Plum Village and can be purchased in the book shop at Deer Park Monastery, rooted in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. I imagine our other monasteries in the US must carry it as well. As written on the inside of the booklet:
“The Qi Kong method “Duong Sinh” (life sustaining) Way of the Heart” consists of four exercises based around the use of a long light stick. Each exercise consists of four movements; giving 16 movements in all. The movements in this particular Qi Kong method were invented by the elderly Mai Bac Dau, and revised by Zen master Tinh Tu who put the instructions together in a compact form and added photographs to make them easier to remember and practice.
Life sustaining Qi Kong, marvelous virtue,
Sixteen movements preventing disease and pain
Healing hundreds of different ailments
Long life, youthful health, peace of mind
Peaceful spirit shining snow-white
Qi’s rich life-giving force, a paradise for Man
Living with joy, walking with a light foot
Awake I smile, feeling free, I am home”