“The awareness of mindfulness is growing,” says Heather Bickle, health promotions coordinator at Durham College (DC).
Mindfulness, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, is the practice of monitoring a non-judgemental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thought emotion or experiences on a moment to moment basis. Mindfulness often involves meditation.
The term mindfulness is a translation of sati, which is a Buddhist tradition. It is said that mindfulness can be practiced without Buddhism, but Buddhism cannot be practiced without mindfulness.
Mindful meditation is believed to help with stress, distractions and physical and mental health problems. Some companies, like Google, are using this ancient Buddhist practice to improve leadership and collaboration.
Anyone can have the option of taking the time wherever they might be to be one with themselves and meditate. There has been a growth in the experience of mindfulness, with the use of apps like Headspace, Mindfulness and Buddhify. Arguably, the reason for the increased interest in mindfulness is the recent ability to track the way meditation affects the brain.
To honour the Buddhist roots of mindfulness an event was held at the Solace Centre at DC. The event was called, Mindfulness for Change and Transitions, with Gen Kelsang Suma who is a teacher and a Buddhist nun (the term used for a female monk) at Jampa Ling Kadampa Buddhist Centre in Barrie.
There was a total of 30 participants in attendance, including those watching via the web. “Not as high as we would like but not bad for our first event in the space,” says Bickle. The Solace Centre officially opened in spring.
Suma had practiced Buddhism for nine years before becoming a Buddhist nun. She has been an ordained Buddhist nun for 14 years.
Buddhism is a religion of eastern and central Asia. The practice originated from the teaching of Siddhartha Gautama (also known as Buddha). His teaching says the true path to enlightment is by removing all of the attachments to the physical life.
When Suma started to practice Buddhism, she was looking for a deeper meaning in life, as she had deeper questions about suffering in the world.
“I was a young mom. I had a good job, but I felt something was missing inside,” she said. By practicing Buddhism, she found the answer and meaning she was looking for. “By the time, I was ordained, nobody was surprised.”
Once ordained Suma says there are lifestyle changes such as no sexual activity. Her partner at the time was Buddhist also, and they have two sons. He was very supportive and understanding.
The role of a Buddhist nun is not just meditation. Suma also has prayer days and helps out at the centre in Barrie. “I am not a counselor, I but can advise on spiritual practices,” she says. Like a minister, she tends to the sick or dying if they would like her help. She also does quite a lot of teaching on the different subjects of Buddhism and meditation.
One of her students, Michael Dunn, has been practicing with Suma for the last three years. He practices at least twice a week.
“Having a very knowledgeable teacher helps to build a deeper knowledge of experience. She has a great way of teaching and applying in 2018,” he says. He is married but his wife does not practice Buddhism. Dunn says this makes for great dinner conversation.
Suma says we are all trying to be happy and free from sufferings, She explains the real source of true happiness is a mind of peace.
“We have it backwards,” she says. “We look for happiness in people, in things, external attainment and we end up feeling a little bit hollow because we can’t find it.”