Hello islanders! Hoping this year is treating you with new beginnings, second chances and optimism. With the dawn of 2021 woven around pandemics and socio-political shifts intensified by digitalization, I’m on a mission to bring you inspiring stories with a bit of a helicopter view; just so we can slow down, appreciate the wisdom and simply enjoy the ride. Welcome to my column, In Conversation with Hirushi Jayasena. To make this reading experience more colourful, you can also tune in to my weekly show on Daily Mirror Online and Lankadeepa Online.
A sizable part of the external “world” is a manifestation of our internal thoughts. Our thoughts collectively decide whether a war is to come or if it’s a peaceful, sustainable realm that awaits. With this tone, I was eager to speak with someone distinctive; a travelling monk admired by many communities around the world due to his mission to spread kindness, peace, and mindful living.
Ven. Bhante Sujatha thero is the head monk at the Chicago Blue Lotus Temple, currently visiting Sri Lanka to fulfill his usual duties at the Sanatha Suwaya meditation retreat in Kandy. I paid a visit a few days back, with a glimmer of hope to collect a few tips on mindful living.
Ven. Bhante Sujatha thero, it’s an honor to have you for a Q&A for the Daily Mirror! In your words, what is the meaning of “mindfulness?”
Thank you for your warm welcome Hirushi. Well, mindfulness is a popular word during these times. I call it a word the economy invented. People make lots of money using this word. Yet, this allows people to experience silence, quiet time, reflection and other benefits. If those things help them even a little, I find they open up to a desire for more of a fulfilling meditation practice. I guess what I’m saying is, mindfulness is how you behave out in the world after you've gained the benefits of meditation; harnessing the power of the present moment. This will lead to more awareness and thoughtfulness about one’s speech and actions that will have the right ripple effect.
Some individuals are regretful of the past or anxious of the future, they are subject to comparison and to consumer trends that make them feel that they are not good enough. What mindset change do we need to start achieving permanent bliss or satisfaction? To feel “I’m enough” and “this is good enough.”
This question is so well timed. The pandemic is a perfect, perfect, perfect teacher. Certain special plans we had for the future got either delayed or erased. The pandemic proved that we only have this moment now. It is tragic that there was suffering and loss. But it is important to grasp the benefit from learning that all we have is this very moment. My favorite mantra is, happy with, happy without.
When we are present so many things feel better, more manageable and our ability to handle it is so much better. People achieving "good enough" status have really, in my opinion, accepted the present moment while still living a life that creates the future.
How can practicing ‘mindfulness’ lead to peace among people, especially among different ethnicities, cultures and religions?
The central benefit I see of meditation (leading to mindfulness) is that it re-wires our insides. We judge less and love more. When we take time out and really go within, it's hard to hate other people. It's easier to understand we all suffer. Meditation helps build a tool chest of compassionate responses we can use when dealing with the world.
Why do you feel the current world finds it difficult to be mindful and in the moment?
This is not true. Part of the world might, however we are healthier as a world than ever before. More people are being lifted out of suffering than ever before. More is going right than is going wrong. The problem is not the world or a lack of mindfulness, the problem is we're constantly exposed to secondary opinions and content making financial gain by leveraging all the drama in the world. What we focus on, eventually expands. Just change what you are focusing on and the whole world changes!
Do you feel that the COVID19 pandemic is a blessing in disguise? Do you think the world slowing down is a good place to start with in terms of understanding the true meaning of life?
It can be if we make it a blessing, however I am cautious to suggest a blessing with so much suffering all around. I see it as a great teaching, maybe that's a better word. If we are intentional about keeping an open heart and mind, we will always see blessings. Many of us right now are seeing the world differently; we have seen clarity than we have ever been about what matters and what doesn't and for many, this is allowing them to take a hard look and make real change. I see people acting on dreams they have had for a lifetime. They realize there is no more waiting. If these are the results of the pandemic, I believe it's a high-priced blessing.
What are your tips for the “busy” people out there to execute meditation or practice mindfulness in spite of their complex lifestyle?
This question everyone asks. I smile and always breathe before I answer. To me, it's so obvious I have to remind myself that some people don't know the greatest benefit of meditation: it creates more time. Let me say it in another way. Non-meditators have 24 hours a day. Meditators have many more. I hardly know anyone who says they don't want more time.
Meditation is scientifically proven to create clarity, focus, equanimity and so many other attributes that make you efficient, thereby creating time. As for tips, I can find 1000 tools just on my digital device on how to meditate and how to create time to meditate. You could even have an app that tells you to breathe! You don't need more tips. Searching for tips is an excuse to not do it. Just do it. Immediately you will see it creates time. Then do it again. And then again. Make a determined effort, maybe two minutes for the next two years, the time invested does not matter. Keep going.
In one sentence, what is your wish for this new decade?
My wish is that each and every person will have the courage to do one more thing to add more love to the world. If this happens, boom. Done. World healed!