Can mindfulness save the world? Here’s an example of how it cultivates insight
By Zoey Sky // Jan 22, 2018

At mindfulness retreats, participants often have the chance to ask their meditation teachers questions. The questions often involve anger management, discussing politics with family and friends, or simply "using mindfulness to not take that extra cookie."


However, someone will occasionally ask a challenging or provocative question. For example, during a particular retreat, a participant asked Thich Nhat Hanh (called "Thay," the Vietnamese word for "teacher"): "I have been practicing mindfulness every day for a few weeks. My practice has deepened. I feel a lot more joy in my heart as a result. But, I am concerned about my job. My mindfulness practice has led me to think deeply about the type of work I do. As a nuclear physicist, I realize that I am part of creating something very dangerous. I'm part of a process that could cause enormous destruction. I fear I'm no longer helping to create a better world. This is causing me a lot of suffering. I'm thinking I should quit my job. What do you think I should do?"

The 950 attendees and 100 monks and nuns waited with bated breath to hear Thay's answer. He was quiet for a couple of seconds while he took several deep breaths. After collecting his thoughts, Thay said, "I encourage you to keep your job."

Both the nuclear physicist who asked the question and the audience were surprised at his response.

Thay then explained that the nuclear physicist is doing the world a favor. Since he was "practicing mindful awareness," he was still a better fit for the job instead of another person who could "behave carelessly or mindlessly." Thay continued that being reactive is not beneficial to such a serious job. He emphasized the importance of the nuclear physicist continuing his practice of "mindful breathing, mindful reflecting, and mindful working." Thay assured him that they will help keep him "sharp," and that the practice can even help the nuclear physicist make wise decisions "when the time comes."

The story illustrates the core theme of mindfulness, which is: "whatever you are doing, do it mindfully." This means that you must "use your senses to pay attention to what you are doing, what you are thinking, and how you are feeling." It helps to pause a lot and breathe, "to let go, and to reconnect with yourself, the people around you, and the Earth." (Related: Study: Best treatment for anxiety is mindfulness meditation.)

Practicing awareness is closely linked to practicing the cultivation of our own insight. Simply put, we think more deeply and we feel more deeply. This will help us express ourselves from a place full of clarity and purpose. We need to realize that each decision we make matters, even though some might seem mundane or trivial and others can create a ripple effect that can be felt around the world.

Remember that "your mindfulness practice isn't just about you. It's about all of us."

Mindfulness tips for busy bees

If you're always busy but want to take the time to be mindful, these tips can help you out:

  • Focus on one task at a time.
  • Take your time with each task.
  • Do less. Figure out what's important and let go of what's not.
  • Manage your schedule so you have enough time to finish each task.
  • Take at least five minutes each day, but don't do anything. Try to embrace the silence and stillness.
  • Don't overthink about the future and focus on the present.

You can learn more about mindfulness, meditation, and mental health at

Sources include:

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