There are many ways in which mindfulness can change our lives, we are all different, our nervous systems respond in varied ways to varied practices but some things remain universal. These days we have access to numerous studies on mindfulness and meditation. Several world-renowned experts can give you experimentally verified explanations on how mindfulness practice affects our body and mind but I would like to start by telling you how mindfulness changed my experience.
I am sure you know the phrase “carpe diem”. I remember writing it on my army back pack with a marker pen and writing it in notes and letters to my teenage friends. It made so much sense when I was 13 but even then I had to remind myself about it, to make sure I didn’t forget to live it. Then time goes by and you do forget, you still remember the phrase but you don’t feel it anymore, all you feel is the longing for it. You have this memory of being able to live fully, in the moment, like there is no tomorrow. We do associate this way of being with youth, our first kiss, dancing with abandon to loud music, running through the field at night, feeling everything so vividly. What I want to tell you now is that it doesn’t have to be in the past, we can access this way of being and living on every step of our life.
It is about making the shift from longing for something we can’t have or touch, to seeing and appreciating the world around us. That is when mindfulness practice comes in. It is not easy to make that shift; our habitual ways of thinking are always in the way. We have been heavily conditioned by our parents, school, social circles, culture, media, so it can be very difficult to discover new ways of seeing and doing things, especially if they are not aligned with the stories we have been told in the past. Evolution doesn’t help either, we have a so called negativity bias which we developed over thousands of years, being always on guard is a natural state of being. You need it if you want to survive, especially if wild animals are chasing you. The problem is that we are no longer being chased by lions yet the danger alert is still very much part of our daily existence. We constantly scan the reality for potential source of threat and pain, which can sometimes be useful but a lot of the time is completely unnecessary.
So how do we create this shift?
1: Accept the world as it is.
Fighting the reality takes up a lot of our energy. We can resist or reject certain things for years but this doesn’t mean they disappear. Of course, there are causes worth fighting for, especially if they are connected to our values and sense of purpose but a lot of the time it is more productive and healing to accept the reality as it is. Especially if we can’t change it. There are things, which are within our control and those that are outside of it; like other people, morning traffic or illness we would prefer to avoid. It is up to us to understand what is worth resisting and what we need to accept in order to move on because the moment we move on, we open up to new opportunities, we redirect our precious energy, we are reborn.
2: Start noticing the beauty around you.
It is in abundance if you are willing to notice it. It is all about consciously choosing where you want to place your focus, what you are willing to see, what content you decide to consume, where you place your attention in your day to day life. You can let the negativity bias take over or pay attention to what is good, what is beautiful, what makes you smile.
3: Learn to relax.
The pace of modern life is extremely demanding and we need to take time to relax. Our body and mind need time to recharge, reset, and get back into balance. Constantly doing more and faster is not sustainable, even though at first it might seem like we are getting great results. This mode very often leads to high levels of stress and anxiety, problems with sleep, reactivity, bad communication and eventually burn out. On the other hand when we are relaxed our perspective changes, we can see things clearly and therefore make better decisions. We respond in ways we choose rather than mindlessly react, we feel stronger and more grounded which helps us open up to different possibilities.
4: Practice self compassion and compassion for others.
We are social animals; there is no denying it. No matter how independent we are in our lives, deep inside we are all looking for connection and understanding, so it is really important to develop positive feelings towards other people. The best way to achieve that is by starting to develop positive feelings for ourselves. And by positive feelings I don’t mean that we should feed our ego and tell ourselves how amazing we are. What I mean is developing a sense of love, understanding and empathy that you might have for your best friend or child. A true understanding and support, a space with no pressure, no expectations, less self-doubt and inner-critic. The more tolerant we are towards us, the more tolerant we will be towards others.
5: Develop resilience.
When you get out of the trap of habitual living, driven purely by conditioning and what other people thought you and decide to live your life the way you want to live it, you may feel vulnerable at first. It is a totally new territory and you will need to find your way around it, create new habits and practices that support and serve you. It can be hard and it is normal to doubt your choices, get frightened or distracted and fall right back into the same trap. You need to develop resilience, remember it doesn’t matter how many times you fall, all that matters is how many times you manage to get back up.
”If you practice the above on a daily basis, I promise you it will change your life for the better. It will help you to see things clearly; it will enable you to focus on what is truly important to you and it will make your body-mind a more relaxed and friendly place. We all have just one life to live and it does go fast, what we make of it is entirely up to us but I already know that it can be truly amazing for us all.Carpe Diem