Bells are used in the Plum Village tradition to remind us to return home to our body and our breathing. The bell - small or large - acts like a bodhisattva, gently calling us back to awareness of the present moment. We refer to ‘inviting’ the bell rather than ‘striking’ the bell. This practice of inviting the bell is specific to the Plum Village tradition, but the ritual of ringing a bell or gong has been widely practiced in an array of meditation traditions. The sound marks the beginning and then the end of a period of meditation, with someone inviting the bell (sometimes called the bell master), who will often first silently recite the following gatha:

“With body, speech and mind in perfect oneness

I send my heart along with the sound of the bell.

May all who hear it awaken from forgetfulness

And transcend all anxiety and sorrow.”

But what about when we are not at sangha, meditating by ourselves at home, or while we are traveling? Some of us use incense as the timer - when the incense stick burns out, the meditation period is over. Others set an online bell to sound at the end of a specified meditation period.

And when we are just on our computers or smartphones? We can so often become lost in our work and completely disconnected from our body in the here and the now. You may want to program a bell of mindfulness on your computer or smartphone; every quarter of an hour (or as often as you like) the bell sounds so you have a chance to stop, breathe and relax. Breathing in and out three times is enough to release the tension in your body, smile, and then continue work.

You might like to try the awakening bell. It includes the sound of a big bell and a small bell; you can use either by inputing a time interval, an exact time, or a random interval. Enjoy, and please email feedback and suggestions. ☺