My personal challenge/ miniature self-experiment for the month of January was Mindfulness. It proved to be the perfect post-holiday endeavor and a great way to start the new year with peace and clarity.
First, I realize the word "mindful" is a bit overused these days (we've all heard of trends in mindful eating, mindful parenting, mindful consumerism, etc). However, this does go to show that mindfulness can be for everyone, not just for the anxious, the depressed, the stressed, the gluttonous, or... Buddhists :)
Really, mindfulness is about doing anything with greater awareness and intention. The concept seems so simple, but through the first-hand experiential education outlined below, I realized how complex and multi-dimensional it can be.
My course of action:
Attend weekly guided group-meditation workshop
Focus on everyday moments of zen (yoga, turning off alarms, lingering in places of quiet, slowing down and noticing more, appreciating more)
Set intentions for the new year regarding career, family, finances etc.
Complete digital e-course with visualization tools for overcoming fear and taking inspired action
Read "Peace is Every Step" by Thich Nhat Hahn
Practice Makes Perfect. As with any habit, consistency is key. It is important to set aside time in your schedule to make it happen and like anything- this action takes work initially but gets easier over time.
Live in the Here and Now. Being truly present means noticing and dwelling in each individual moment and feeling that you experience, even the uncomfortable ones. Tension arrises when you get dragged into the past, or get pulled into the future.
Be the Change. You are what you consume, so try as much as possible to immerse yourself in the positive. Pay close attention to what people you are around, the products you buy, foods you eat, and media you take in. These lifestyle choices and your environment are subconciously shaping your perspectives and perceptions at all times. Look deeply into situations to try to see how you can adjust yourself and your own mind in order to transform the external circumstance.
Through all of this, I gained several tools that will help in my personal happiness journey, and most certainly during childbirth and the epic challenges of parenting that await.
Intentionally slowing down was very difficult for The Doer in me. At first I felt restlessness or guilt in doing less/ nothing in the name of mindfulness, but after seeing that life still went on, I got used to it and the chronic over-thinking subsided. The beauty of life really does emerge in the stillness.
Having a focused awareness and pattern of thought is something that doesn't necessarily come naturally to most of us. I think it's human nature to act without too much analysis, caution and care (that's what survival is, after all).
But we can do better. The potential lies within each of us for enlightenment (feelings of pure ease, security, relaxation), yet it is something that we rarely, if ever, allow ourselves to experience. We (me, you, them) each need mindfulness- now more than ever! There are so many aspects of our lives - mainly a result of technology and over-packed schedules- that make zombies out of us, encouraging us to speak, act, and do without being truly present or aware. We are so accustomed to living in a rushed and distracted state- and what a wasteful way to go through life! I don't want to be a zombie anymore.
To me, Mindfulness is the single best tool in the Minimalist toolbox. Using self-awareness and self-examination to transform and simplify your life means you can free up more time, energy and resources for those who need it. My experience this month taught me that the root of nearly every problem can be solved with LOVE: Compassion, Acceptance, or Gratitude. And this is how we will change the world, one meditation at a time.
Love and light (and less),