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“KarmaToons” by Lama Surya Das and Judi Ricci

THICH NHAT HANH

Bells are used in many cultures around the world to help people come together, to create harmony within oneself and harmony with others. In many Asian countries, every family has at least one small bell in their home. You can use any kind of bell that makes a sound you enjoy. Use the sound of that bell as a reminder to breathe, to quiet your mind, to come home to your body, and to take care of yourself. In Buddhism, the sound of the bell is considered to be the voice of the Buddha. Stop talking. Stop thinking. Come back to your breathing. Listen with all your being.

This way of listening allows peace and joy to penetrate every cell of your body. You listen not only with your ears, not only with your intellect; you invite all the cells in your body to join in listening to the bell. . . .

Prepare yourself each time to listen and to receive the sound of the bell. Instead of “striking” the bell, “invite” the bell to sound. Look at the bell as a friend, an enlightened being that helps you wake up and come home to yourself. If you wish, you can set the bell on a small cushion—just like any other bodhisattva doing sitting meditation.

As you listen to the bell, practice breathing in and releasing all the tension that’s built up, releasing the habit of your body, and especially your mind, to run. Although you may be sitting down, very often you are still running within. The bell is a welcome opportunity for you to go back to yourself, enjoy your in-breath and out-breath in such a way that you can release the tension and come to a full stop. The bell, and your response to it, helps stop the runaway train of thoughts and emotions racing through you all throughout the day and night.

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