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Daijo, the monk, was just finishing his ash mountain and was preparing to light a piece of charcoal and bury it in it. After the lighted charcoal is buried, it’s covered with ash, except for a tiny hole at the top to let oxygen in and the heat out. Then it’s covered with a mica plate, and some finely ground incense is placed on top. He rocks back and forth and chants softly as he does it, his face a perfect model of concentration. An ash mountain is one of the ways that the Buddhists burn incense. It’s called “empty burning” or “sky burning.”

Monks can spend up to four hours building the perfect ash mountain and then destroy it a few minutes later, as nothing in this life is permanent. A few minutes later, the sweet smell of sandalwood fills the room. Two candles dimly light Daijo’s face on either side of the podium as he prepares to give his talk on meditation.

Focusing on the candles, we close our eyes and chant. Pretty soon, everyone’s voices fill the room with a low murmur. At that time, there was no stress, no kids, no work, only the sounds of our breathing, our voices, the smell of the incense, and the light of the candles. We are practising what the Buddhists call “Mindfulness.”

Mindfulness is also practised in Tai Chi, Yoga, and Pranic breathing. According to CNN, it is a great way to relieve the stress of everyday life and reduce blood pressure and is being adopted by more and more people in the workplace.

Mindfulness is being aware of everything around you; your breathing and heart rate, the slightest noise in the room. It goes hand-in-hand with meditation. Meditation increases your awareness of things around you, but with more focus, shutting down that busy, scattered “monkey brain” we all seem to have.

Turning this off is essential because everyday stress has been shown to become internalized. It builds up and can affect our blood pressure, digestive system, and even our sex lives. In the workplace, mindfulness can help us handle annoying colleagues and stressful situations.

For mindfulness to be successful, you need something to focus on. This can be music, a candle, incense, or something as simple as focusing on your breathing. You can start with this simple exercise: try to notice things around you that may have escaped your attention before: The smell of a flower, the sound of a water fountain. Try to keep a mental image in it and recall it in great detail later. The better you get at this, the more quickly you will become mindful in ordinary situations.


Your Wellness Yogi