by Sister Bernadette Purcell
As Chaplain in the College, I see the link between Contemplation, Meditation and Mindfulness. Meditation and mindfulness are a core part of the Chaplaincy programme in IT Tallaght. It is one very realistic way of getting students to engage in the meditative process and move away from the frenetic and addictive world of busyness. It also facilitates the connection with the Sacred.
Mindfulness is a very simple and a very powerful practice and the benefits from it are immense. “Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose in a particular way in the present moment with curiosity, without judgment.” (Jon Kabat Zinn). Mindfulness has been present in the Judeo-Christian tradition from the beginning. In fact, the quality of ‘attending’ of ‘being present’ can be found in all sacred world traditions. In the Christian monastic tradition it was known as ‘Prosochi’, while in the Buddhist tradition it was known as ‘Shamatha’. In the Jewish tradition it was known as ‘Kavannah’ and in Islam it was ‘Tafakkur’. Bringing body (soma), mind (psyche), soul (nous) and spirit (pneuma) into harmony is the focus of all main traditions.
Most of our students (18 – 25 years) are searching and mindfulness is a tool for de-stressing and they are certainly eager to get to know the way of doing mindfulness. On hearing that this group of Buddhist Monks, who follow the school of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, was coming to Dublin, I thought it might be opportune to invite them to the College. They were in Ireland to do a Retreat called Wake Up Dublin.
Last year the monks had been in Dublin and in Kerry doing retreats with their Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and this was covered by the national media.
Over 80 students and staff attended the workshop which included a deep relaxation, sitting meditation, ten mindful movements and eating meditation.
IT Tallaght was the only third level college that the Monks visited this year and we all feel so privileged and blessed that they came to share their art of mindfulness to enhance our life.
I ran an evaluation on the experience and some of the comments were: “The good part of it is the spiritual upliftment and getting the mind and body to relax”; “I could not identify with the Buddhists way of life, e.g. the discipline, celibacy, their idealistic way” and the same person enjoyed the mediation because it was a “break from the stress of everyday life.”
The people involved in bringing the monks to Ireland, say that there is a huge interest and increase in numbers of students exploring and committing to mindfulness. It is great to be part of this adventure here in the College. Every Tuesday we run sessions at lunchtime for our students and on Mondays for our Staff.
In line with the work of the Congregation of nurturing the contemplative dimension of life, I believe we can bring about real and deep change in ourselves and in the world. Mindfulness is one such avenue that has become everyday language and can be used by all faiths and none.