The Bell of Mindfulness on the Plum Village App is a way of reminding yourself to be mindful. Taking moments throughout the day to connect with your body, and to the present moment, can greatly increase happiness and ease.
This post will explore the Bell’s purpose more thoroughly, and explain how to use it.
If you experience any difficulty getting the bell to ring, see our blog post on ‘Troubleshooting the Bell of Mindfulness’.
Meditating all day long
In Plum Village monasteries, there may be only one hour of formal sitting meditation scheduled each day.
Since visiting a meditation centre could be expected to mean doing this for hours and hours, such a small period may seem lightweight. So why such a short time?
The reason is that formal sitting meditation is only the beginning. The goal is to be mindful in every moment that we can – so walking, eating, conversing, and resting can all be moments of mindfulness.
Mindfulness bells are a way to help achieve this.
Mindfulness bells in Plum Village
The first time you experience it can be a bit awkward: you carry on speaking, not realising that everyone has gone silent. But, at Plum Village, you soon get used to stopping when the bell rings.
The mindfulness bell can be the grand temple bell, the activity bell, or even the distant church bells. It can also be a chime set to go off every fifteen minutes, or even the sound of a telephone ringing.
Whenever a bell sounds, everyone pauses in what they are doing. It is a chance to stop and to take a few breaths in full awareness.
People might recite to themselves the gatha (practice poem) for listening to the bell:
This wonderful sound brings me back to my true home
Returning to our true home means bringing our awareness back to our body. By connecting with the physical sensations of our breathing and our body, we can return to the present moment.
The bell helps us to stop and fully enjoy breathing and being for a few moments; a mini mindfulness refresher.
Although the first part of meals at Plum Village usually take place in silence, people do have conversations after lunch and dinner. At these times, it is amazing to see the dining hall briefly fall silent at the sound of a bell. People have often been saved from potentially heated debates by the bell offering a chance to stop, pause, and reflect!
The Plum Village App feature: the Bell of Mindfulness
The Plum Village App aims to be a monastery that you can put in your pocket – so it naturally includes a bell of mindfulness.
To find this feature, tap the bell icon at the bottom of the screen and choose ‘Bell of Mindfulness’. Then tap on the toggle next to ‘Enable bell’ to configure its settings.
You can choose a start and end time for the period during which the bell will sound, and how often it should do so. This can be set to occur just once, or to repeat each day. You can also decide on your preferred sound from three options which represent the different bells used at Plum Village.
Whenever it sounds, just as with the mindfulness bells in Plum Village, you can use it as a cue to pause whatever you are doing and take three mindful breaths, returning to the here and now and reconnecting with your body.
This is an effective way to stop and reset, even for only a few moments. It is a chance to check in with yourself at regular points throughout the day. After enjoying a few mindful breaths, you may notice that you have become tense, need a glass of water, or that you have moved away from your intended task.
One small word of warning. In the Plum Village community, the bell invites everyone to stop together, which helps getting used to doing so consistently. When using a mindfulness bell on your own, after a while you may lose the habit of stopping. The mind can be tricky, and could say, “Just this one time, I will carry on working…” – the start of a slippery slope!
But that’s okay; it’s always possible to restart your intention to stop and pause at the sound of the bell. After all, this is something you are choosing to do to increase your happiness and freedom!
We hope you are enjoying using the Bell of Mindfulness on the Plum Village App. It is inspiring to think of app users around the world stopping, breathing, and enjoying the present moment!
A free app as a gift to the world
The Plum Village App is offered free of charge as a gift to the world. As well as the Bell of Mindfulness, it is full of guided meditations, contemplations, and talks offered by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village monastics. Do please share it with anyone who might benefit. If you are using the app and find it beneficial, you can support its continuation with a donation.