January 26
Dear One,

I regularly resolve to practice contentment. I want to feel content, no matter what is going on. Yes, it is a challenge and I find it requires falling in love. When I practice contentment in meditation - welcoming everything and resisting nothing and being with "what is" - this practice begins to become an undeniable experience of contentment in my everyday life, too. I am "in love" with what is.

Being content means that if it is sunny, you are content. And if it rains, you are still content. The word for contentment in Sanskrit is Santosha , and it is not only a practice, it is a way of life. (It's also one of the five Niyamas, and Niyamas are one of the eight limbs of Patanjali's yoga sutras.)

If I wake up tired—I imagine what would love would do. So, i make it a point to fall in love with the dullness and headache. If I am running late for a meeting, I fall in love with the feeling of being frustrated or anxious. I fall in love with the drive and the stoplights along the way. I also fall in love with the way my heart breaks or how angry I get when I bear witness to suffering.

Santosha asks us to stop projecting our discontent with our lives, but instead to appreciate it, and return to love, return to truth, and return to what actually is happening. When I allow myself to fall deeply in love with everything,

As Lao Tzu says in the  Tao Te Ching : “Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

This is it. Be here, now. Appreciate your life.
Thank you for putting your spirituality first during this time of deep practice. I am practicing with you.

Love, Sarah

Sarah McLean
Director, Feast for the Soul, Inc.

Meditation Teacher Highlight
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is a global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist, revered throughout the world for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace. His key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment– the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’ self and in the world. In this conversation Thich Nhat Hanh teaches how to fall in love and to enjoy life. Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile.

Spiritual Practice Tip
Every variety of meditation practice begins with mindfulness. You start with being mindful of where you are, as well as what and how you feel. When mindfulness is practiced formally, it’s often practiced as a seated meditation, where you sit still and attend to the activity of breathing. Sometimes the attention is focused on body sensations, or movement. Or your emotions, your senses one at a time, or the movement or activity of thoughts.

The breath or the body sensations are the perfect anchors for your attention. They exist in the present. Your life is in the present moment, too. Mindfulness meditation can help you to anchor your attention in this moment. So to practice mindfulness meditation, you gently focus on your breath or body, and whenever you notice your attention drifting away from it, you come back to the focus. You’ll notice the mind's commentary and refocus back to the meditation. It’s almost with an attitude of, “Thank you for sharing,” and return your attention to the breath or body, without judgment.

Whether you are meditating or engaged in a mindfulness practice, you will, again and again, focus and refocus on what you are actually feeling or doing, rather than your thoughts about what you are doing. This continual refocusing interrupts your brain’s reactivity and domination of your compulsive thinking patterns. Eventually, your thoughts will be less disruptive and you’ll be less distracted from what is actually going on both in and out of meditation. 
Living the Feast
Here is a practice of sounding the bell that Thich Nhat Hanh shares.

"Dwelling in the present moment, We can see so many beauties and wonders right before our eyes–a child’s smile, the sun rising, the autumn leaves. We can be happy just by being aware of what is in front of us. Practicing with a gatha can help us return to ourselves and to what is going on in the present moment. It is helpful to memorize these gathas. As You silently recite the first line, breathe in; and as You silently recite the second line, breathe out. When the gatha is finished, continue your activity, and You will find that your mindfulness has increased. When We drive, road signs help us find our way. We “see” the last sign until the next one appears. Practicing with gathas is the same. When we practice well, the gathas are with us continuously, and we live our whole day in awareness."

Find a bell that you love. Then, sound the bell, and internally chant these gathas (short verses to create mindfulness) while cultivating the feeling:

Listen, listen, this wonderful sound brings me back to my true home.

May the sound of this bell penetrate deeply into the cosmos so that beings, even those in dark places, may hear it and be free from birth and death.

May all beings realize awakening and find their way home.
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