Sitting in a restaurant reading a great book by a master of mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh, called “The Art of Power” , I realised foolishly that I was reading about mindfulness, while also shovelling food into my mouth. Not possible to appreciate his great words and the superb pizza in front of me, at the same time.
This is the key of happy living – Mindfulness. As he explains, its being in the Present Moment, a much repeated phrase used by many great teachers, but such a simple truth hides a profound amount of wisdom. Research shows scientifically (I always like my spiritual truth to come with backup research, its easier to accept!!) that we often realise after a great event or entertainment with friends or participating in some sport or hobby, just how happy we were but at that time, we were just doing what it was that we were happy about afterwards…
So the feeling of happiness is not what we want to aim for – it is rather full attention to the action itself, which makes us happy. That is an important difference.
And frankly, eating a great pizza in Trivandrum is one of those ‘flow’ moments. Ingrid runs a wonderful little space off the main road in Vazhuthacaud, called Casa Bianca, and she specialises in Italian food, and fabulous cakes and deserts. In fact today was the opening of their new bakery counter, with an array of chocolate cakes, muffins and sweet cakes to make any mouth water. To encourage you to try it, scientific research also shows that people experience their happiest moments, on average days, when eating. (Jumping off bridges with ankles tied together with elastic, or having sex also do it for us – but we’re talking an average day!)
I discussed this concept of mindfulness with a very special man I am sure we will hear more of in the future, as he practices Mindfulness in his work, which is plastic surgery. Dr. Manesh Senan is one of the senior staff at KIMS, and to watch him work is a wonderful thing. He focuses entirely on the moment, cutting carefully and stitching even more carefully, working fast but very effectively. He comes to work early, and squeezes unexpected patients into spare moments – because he does not worry, for example about how much he has to do, he can get to assist an amazing number of people.
KIMS plastic Surgery department are associated with a wonderful foundation called the Smile Train – they have given free cleft palate corrective surgery to over 300 children in Kerala. Dr Manesh tells me this can take as little as 45 minutes per child and cost as little as Rs8000 – in today’s exchange rates, that’s about 160 US dollars, and the effect is profound – not only is cleft seen as a punishment from God and a reason to abandon the child in some cases, but those who make it cannot eat properly, and cannot learn to speak – Asian languages are very nasal and if you have no palate the sounds are not possible. There are always people who need our help, but this seems to be a particularly graceful act in line with the philosophy of “helping someone learn to fish rather than just donating some fish…”
(the smiles of the children after the plastic surgery are profound examples of joy – even bliss – especially seen in comparison with their “before” photo’s filled with fear, uncertainly, self-consciousness)
And in thinking of those children and their journey, I am reminded how little I actually have to worry about in my life, so blessed in so many ways that really I have no reasons to NOT be Mindful all day.