Until I started studying and practicing mindfulness I was full speed ahead, day in and day out and always on the go. Once I started learning how to slow my mind, thoughts, actions and intentions, I found more peace in my life. It is work, but it is work that is well worth the effort.
Living mindfully means being awake and not just going through the motions. It means being fully engaged, fully aware and fully present every chance you get. Sounds a little challenging doesn’t it? Well, yes, it is but being present keeps your mind from dwelling in the past (it’s over) and worrying about the future (it hasn’t happened yet), it keeps you in the now, the wonderful and the beautiful present moment. Try it. Feel how your mind refocuses and centers itself. Feel how you are better able to recognize and control your emotions. See your relationships grow and become stronger. See your healthy habits shine and your stress take a backseat. Like I said, it’s not easy so I’m going to share a few tools (recommended by Zen Habits) that will help you in your journey to a mindful state of living.
- Meditation. Meditation is where mindful living starts. And it’s not complicated: you can sit still for even just 1 minute a day to start, and turn your attention to your body and then your breath.
- Be Awake. Meditation is practice for being awake, which is not being in the dream state (mind wandering into a train of thought, getting lost in the online world, thinking about past offenses, stressing about the future, etc.) but being awake to the present, to what is.
- Watch Urges. Remember that you are not your urges and that you don’t have to act on your urges, this will help you change all your other habits. Watch your urge to check email or social media, to eat something sweet or fried, to drink alcohol, to watch TV, to be distracted, to procrastinate. These urges will come and go, and you don’t have to act on them.
- Watch Ideals. We all have ideals. We have an ideal that our day will go perfectly, that people will be kind and respectful to us, that we will be perfect, that we’ll ace an exam or important meeting and that we’ll never fail. Of course, we know from experience that those ideals are not real, that they don’t come true, that they aren’t realistic. But we still have them, and they cause our stress and fears and grief over something/someone we’ve lost. By letting go of ideals, we can let go of our suffering.
- Accept People & Life As They Are. Stop trying to change those around you, and accept them for who they are, you’ll then be able to just be with them and enjoy your time with people close to you. This acceptance has the same effect for anything you do — accept a co-worker, a child, a spouse, but also accept a “bad” situation, an unpleasant feeling, and an annoying sound. When we stop trying to fight the way things are, when we accept what is, we are much more at peace.
- Let Go of Expectations. It’s useful to watch your expectations with an upcoming situation, with a new project or business, and see that it’s not real and that it’s causing you stress and disappointment. We cause our own pain, and we can relieve it by letting go of the expectations that are causing it.
- Become OK with Discomfort. The fear of discomfort is huge — it causes people to be stuck in their old bad habits, to not start the business they want to start, to be stuck in a job they don’t really like, because we tend to stick to the known and comfortable rather than try something unknown and uncomfortable. It’s why many people don’t eat vegetables or exercise, why they eat junk, why they don’t start something new. But we can be OK with discomfort, with practice.
- Watch Your Resistance. When you try to do something uncomfortable, or try to give up something you like or are used to, you’ll find resistance. But you can just watch the resistance, and be curious about it. Watch your resistance to things that annoy you — a loud sound that interrupts your concentration, for example. It’s not the sound that’s the problem, it’s your resistance to the sound. The same is true of resistance to food we don’t like, to being too cold or hot, to being hungry. The problem isn’t the sensation of the food, cold, heat or hunger — it’s our resistance to them. Watch the resistance, and feel it melt.
- Be Curious. Too often we are stuck in our ways, and think we know how things should be, how people are. Instead, be curious. Find out. Experiment. Let go of what you think you know. When you start a new project or venture, if you feel the fear of failure, instead of thinking, “Oh no, I’m going to fail” or “Oh no, I don’t know how this will turn out”, try thinking, “Let’s see. Let’s find out.” And then there isn’t the fear of failure, but the joy of being curious and finding out. Learn to be OK with not knowing.
- Be Grateful. We complain about everything. But life is a miracle. Find something to be grateful about in everything you do. Be grateful when you’re doing a new habit, and you’ll stick to it longer. Be grateful when you’re with someone, and you’ll be happier with them. Life is amazing, if you learn to appreciate it.
- Let Go of Control. We often think we control things, but that’s only an illusion. Our obsession with organization and goals and productivity, for example, are rooted in the illusion that we can control life. But life is uncontrollable, and just when we think we have things under control, something unexpected comes up to disrupt everything. And then we’re frustrated because things didn’t go the way we wanted. Instead, practice letting go of control, and learn to flow (just like in yoga).
- Be Compassionate. This sounds trite, but compassion for others can change the way you feel about the world, on a day-to-day basis. And compassion for yourself is life-changing. These two things need remembering, though, so mindful living is about remembering to be compassionate after you forget.
And then I forget, but I reflect, and I learn, and I practice again. This is the process of learning mindfulness. It’s forgetting, and then remembering, again and again.
A stress-free life doesn’t exist, but these tools will definitely make you more prepared to deal with the stresses that will inevitably come your way (Zen Habits). I hope you choose to live in peace. 🙂