What mindfulness Really Looks Like
Around this time last year, i jumped on the bandwagon and proclaimed to myself that i wanted to live a more mindful intentional life. Before this proclamation, i would have totally rolled my eyes to anything that sounded remotely as hipster as mindfulness sounded. I pictured people sitting at home doing yoga all day, drinking lots of herbal tea, and wearing tie dye clothes. Despite my wayward assumptions, i started reading up on mindfulness and intentional living, and decided i would give it a try. Skip a head a couple of days and i totally forgot to put intentionality behind my new mission and continued to live off my old habits. But of course we know what usually happens when we find something worthwhile, and then make a huge deal about wanting to change, and then completely forget about it (aka new years resolutions). Life has a way of bringing us back full circle to the starting line. So here i am again, at the starting line attempting to reclaim my time (and life) and figure out what mindfulness really looks like and how i can adapt it into my everyday life.
With anything new we must first define it, make it more tangible to comprehend. Mindfulness, to summarize every article and book i read, is the art of embracing the present, understanding your past, and being hopeful for the present. It is a state of being. To have full clarity into where you are mentally, how you got there, your choices and your level of happiness, it is total self awareness. Of course defining it sounds great, but it also sounds like something only Yoda or a Jedi Master can do (any star wars fans?!). Although this is a universal definition, it is not a one size fits all practice. Yes, there are elements that are completely necessary, but there is always ways to customize to your life. For me a single women, it is easier for me to find quiet in my day after work, whereas for a parent that would be more difficult. Apart from some of the differences we all have in our lives, the one thing that rings true for all of us, is the need to not live on auto pilot. This is an issue we all need to be aware of. The four practices below are ones i need in my own daily existence, however they are all things i think everyone, no matter the background can benefit from.
Understanding our Imperfect
To know yourself is to know the good and the bad, while also appreciating that both will appear in some form throughout your day. Bad days are unavoidable, we all have them. Being mindful means separating the "bad" part of your day from yourself. Too often one bad day turns into the rotting of our entire week. This happen all too often. The reasoning being that we attach and attack ourselves for messing up, for allowing our imperfect to be on public display. We basically get mad at ourselves for being absolutely human. Of course this is not an excuse for being insensitive and or rude, but it is a pass to give yourself a break when things don't go perfectly.
When was the last time you were still. Napping or sleeping or sitting on the couch watching tv not included. Being still is one of the most important parts of mindfulness. In the bible whenever the words, "Be Still" were mentioned it usually is given as the solution for anxiousness, a call for believers to be patient. Lack of stillness is usually a sign of one of two things (or both), being on auto pilot, or glorified busyness. Neither are healthy, neither prevents an anxious existence. As a christian women, being still is necessary for me to commune with God. I can not pray without there being a stillness in my heart and spirit. Ever try to pray or read and find yourself thinking about your to-do list, or that thing that happened at work. Your mentally multitasking, and let me tell ya that works for no one. Being still is being patient, its being present, and it is recognizing that you can slow down the world around you and enjoy what it has to offer.
Its scary to think that most days we run on auto pilot. We have a routine set and we just go, go, go , go, without much thought to where we are actually going to and why we are trying to get there. When was the last time you stopped and thought about how your routine is impacting your present life, and how it will effect you for the next 5-10 years. We can only stay on auto pilot for so long, sooner than later dissatisfaction, and unhappiness will creep in and disrupt the flow of that routine. Reflection plays a huge role in mindfulness, as it forces us to stop and think about where we are, and where we want to go. Its a lot less self loathing, and a lot more holding ourselves accountable for our circumstances.
In our social media driven society it is very hard to create real meaningful connections. More than half the people that follow us do not know us to our core, and to the people we follow we too do not know the reality of their lives. Whatever your beliefs, the one concept that is never disputed is our need as humans to have meaningful connections. This is why we use social media, its a tool that we use to connect, mostly unsuccessfully i might add. This is why there are so many social driven apps, its a way for more people to connect with those they otherwise would never meet. Its less accountability, the things that is very much required in every form of relationships. I am sure the intention behind creating these apps were good, but ten plus years in we now know that people are disconnected, and generally unhappy. Mindful connections requires authenticity, and vulnerability. Aspects that social media rarely offers. As humans who need genuine connection, being mindful looks alot like turn away from apps, listening intently to a friend who need you, calling another who you haven't connected with in some time, and creating memories and moments that doesn't need to be posted for likes.
The End Result : Awareness of choices
The best result of the aforementioned practices is the awareness of our choices. When we are connected to ourselves, taking the time to be still, and reflecting and connecting intentionally, we begin to become what i like to call picky eaters. Rather than ingesting every bit of information that comes our way, we stop, read the label and make a decision wisely. This means we may turn down a night out if all we really want is rest and relaxation, we choose who we spend our time with wisely. Friends that uplift and support, and avoid the friends that gossip and put down. The time spend in stillness and reflection, whether its prayer, a long walk, journal writing or a deep conversation is sacred, and prioritized over the push to be busy or to check things off a list. This is being mindful, this is total awareness, it doesn't require a yoga pose, a green juice, or rigidity. It is being active in your own life, fully aware of where you are and where you want to go.