Harvard University launched the Thich Nhat Hanh Center for Mindfulness in Public Health, a pioneering effort. Its $25 million aim includes investigating mindfulness-based evidence-based health and well-being improvements. Due to the effectiveness of scholarly studies on mindfulness, it may be seen as a personal wellness tool or mental health intervention. However, mindfulness overcomes these constraints. It has led to community for millennia. Meditation pioneer Jack Kornfield calls mindfulness “a practice that enhances our sense of belonging or connection to ourselves and others.”
Nhat Hanh’s Vision: Mindfulness as Action and Connection
The great Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh dismissed mindfulness as a solo practice. He saw it as social action, belonging, and connection. He named his Zen community “The Order of Interbeing,” recognizing that human existence is interrelated. Thich Nhat Hanh’s “socially engaged” mindfulness promoted group meditation, ethical community building, and social and ecological justice.
Ubuntu and Interbeing: Connection Philosophies
The concept of interbeing isn’t exclusive to Buddhism. Southern African Nguni Bantu say “ubuntu,” meaning “I am what I am because of who we all are.” Desmond Tutu says, “A person is a person through other people.” These ideologies emphasize human interdependence and the need for belonging or connection for meaning and survival.
Belonging: Deep Well-Being
Recent literature explores the notion of belonging beyond connectedness to others to nature and shared agency and meaning. Active participation in the wider whole brings profound well-being. This notion, like interbeing and ubuntu, views mindfulness as a means to belonging holistically.
Combating Modern Isolation: Mindfulness Tips to Build Sense of Belonging
- Community Meditation
Despite the solitary image, group meditation has been practiced for centuries. In an age of digital mediation, in-person mindfulness meditation with friends, family, or groups can strengthen belonging and bonds. Beyond personal gains, it builds harmonious and egalitarian societies.
The practice of Metta, or lovingkindness, includes fostering compassion toward all, including those one may not like. In times of division, this exercise can remodel neural circuits to boost compassion and happiness. Lovingkindness helps overcome “othering” dynamics.
- Feel Earth
Thich Nhat Hanh recommends meditating by walking mindfully, feeling each step, and thanking nature. Mindfulness involves active environmental engagement. Mindfulness with such practices helps people feel connected to nature.
- Consider Interbeing
Consider interconnectedness when applying Thich Nhat Hanh’s mindfulness to daily life. Savoring tea commemorates the intertwined web of life, from tea leaf growth to harvesting and packing. This exercise promotes gratitude and interconnectedness.
Mindfulness and Shared Belonging: Odd but Effective
In a world that values independence, mindfulness meditation as a means to community may seem contradictory. However, the preceding practices show how mindfulness may train sense of belonging. In times of social and environmental crisis, these behaviors help overcome loneliness, isolation, and disconnection.
Adopting Thich Nhat Hanh’s Vision amid Modern Turmoil
In the 1960s, Thich Nhat Hanh and Thomas Merton saw contemplative practices healing personal and planetary issues. Their opposition to the Vietnam War and exploration of Buddhism and Christianity showed their dedication to collective well-being through mindfulness.
Mindfulness Beyond Self-Improvement
Evidence-based mindfulness is becoming mainstream, giving more individuals the chance to practice contemplation. Mindfulness has many benefits, but its main goal isn’t self-improvement. This is about finding oneself “in others.” Being part of something bigger.
Finally, as mindfulness evolves and gains acceptance, its foundations in shared belonging must be embraced. By seeing mindfulness as a discipline that strengthens connections and promotes well-being, individuals may help create a more harmonious world. Mindfulness’s journey from ancient wisdom to modern relevance is a common path to a more compassionate and integrated society.