Ring. Pause. Ring. Pause. Ring. Pause. During a retreat at Thich Nhat Hahn’s Plum Village in France, I learned how to use everyday sounds to practice returning my attention to the present moment. When the telephone would ring during a community meal, everyone on retreat stopped whatever we were doing – we held our forks in mid-bite and ended conversation mid-sentence. The dining hall became silent while the telephone rang three times. On the fourth ring, a Vietnamese Buddhist nun on staff would pick up the telephone, “Bonjour,” and then everyone would start chatting and eating again. The telephone rang frequently, and randomly, so we had plenty of opportunity to learn the rhythm of being in silence together for short, sweet moments of rest.
The simple of using a sound to gently return focus to God’s presence in our lives has more than spiritual advantages. Our minds benefit from a discipline of taking regular breaks from thinking. My shoulders and neck relax when I intentionally practice resting for a minute before resuming whatever tasks compete for my next action.
I recently installed a FREE meditation timer for the computer that also serves as a reminder to return to restful, centered silence. The ability to set the meditation timer with a random chime allows me to spiritually, mentally, and bodily practice resting during the many hours I spend online. The random chime announces it’s time to stop typing, breathe, relax my shoulders, readjust my posture, and thank God for the present moment.
To download the meditation timer, visit the FREE Download page of the Web site in the Resource section. Follow the installation instructions based on whether you have a PC or Mac.