I learned the idea of using the bell from reading Thich Nhat Hanh. In Peace Is Every Step, he says:
In my tradition, we use the temple bells to remind us to come back to the present moment. Every time we hear the bell, we stop talking, stop our thinking, and return to ourselves, breathing in and out, and smiling. Whatever we are doing, we pause for a moment and just enjoy our breathing. Sometimes we also recite this verse:
“Listen, listen. This wonderful sound brings me back to my true self.”
Thich Nhat Hanh tells a story about a family who uses a bell to regain mindfulness and peace when they are angry or in conflict. The first person that becomes mindful of the conflict leaves the scene, goes to the meditation room and sounds the bell. The rest of the family follows until they are all together listening to the bell and remembering what is truly important to them: feeling peace and love for each other.
I read this ten years ago and thought it was beautiful practice. I bought a bell the next day. And it has been in our living room ever since. (If you are doing the meditation series, this is the bell that sounds on Day 17.)
If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindfulness symbols remind us to breathe
We can pick any symbol to center ourselves and remind us who we are. These symbols remind us that God is present, that we are divine or most importantly that there is another way of responding to the situation. Fr. Jim from Spiritus Christi Church has three symbols that remind him God is near; three birds together, a yellow rose, and a burning bush. When he sees any of these things (even in symbolic form) he becomes mindful, breathes, and knows that he is not alone. They remind him that everything is going to be OK.
I have two symbols that calls me to mindfulness. One is seeing the rays of the sun through the clouds. The other is seeing a deer, alive, on a sign or in artwork. (Oh Deery Me! Deer=Me)
My children are aware of this and recently told me about their own signs. And how happy and relieved they are when they see them. This fills me with so much pride and joy.
What’s your favorite lesson from Thich Nhat Hanh?