We’re losing touch with what matters most; we crave real connections in a world so deeply distracted by negative news feeds and social media.
I’m sure you’ve heard about mindfulness. It’s become a buzz word in the media and social media… ironic, as these are 2 avenues that distract us from balance and our mind. Countless books, podcasts, and blogs espouse its benefits; yet mindfulness is nothing new. It’s just new to our culture.
Eastern cultures often practice mindfulness as a way of life; they’ve taught it for thousands of years. It’s sprinkled throughout every religious text. But there you have it… it’s a foreign concept.
It seems neat, necessary, and out of grasp for us everyday folks. We envision monks sitting in silence for hours, or yogi’s twisted like pretzels… they have mindfulness. They’ve trained for years and don’t know what it’s like to try to live mindfully while juggling 60+ hour work weeks, 3-4 children, married life, family gatherings, social outings, school functions, and all the other riff raff.
This is what I hear “in the real world,” where I live and teach.
Here’s why it’s so suddenly popular in our western cultures: our higher selves are begging us to listen more. We’re losing touch with what matters most; we crave real connections in a world so deeply distracted by negative news feeds and social media.
As Kim said when we were setting up the talk at TFL, “Seems like we all could use some mindfulness (and its benefits) now more than ever!!!!”
So, allow me to give you basic tips on living mindfully and meditating. It’s important you realize it’s not only possible, but you’re already doing it. My job is to awaken your ear to your inner voice.
We have to tune in to our inner voice to know what’s best for our individual bodies; it’s time to block out the chatter from outside sources. We base western society on instant gratification and capitalism. We’re fed a constant stream of advertisements, fad diets, health gimmicks, negative news, and social media. It’s overwhelming to all our senses.
We have the power to avoid ALL THE distractions. We can be a beacon of hope without a lot of work. How do you make mindfulness a daily practice in your hectic life?
Mindfulness isn’t an abstract quality for a limited few. We are all Mind, Body, Spirit. Living mindfully honors this truth and creates balance and happiness.
How will you make healthy recipes if you don’t have time? If you don’t have the mental or emotional support to say no, how will you ever have autonomy? If we can’t control our senses, how will we know they’re out of balance? Welcome to Mindfulness 101.
Close your eyes for a moment: I want you to picture yourself sitting among orange-robed Buddhist monks, sitting cross-legged on an oversized pillow. You’re in an open-spaced temple with floors and pillars made of bamboo, adorned with flowers, singing bowls, and statues of Buddha, bowls of offerings laid around him. Trees surround all sides of the temple, birds chatter all around, and the wind blows a warm breeze through the wall without temples.
Sit for a moment in that space and feel the serenity.
Now, picture yourself amidst a traffic jam heading into Yankee stadium. It’s 5:30 on a Friday and game time is at 7. There are cars in every direction of the 6-lane highway. A concrete wall sits to your left and right, overpasses above you, and traffic isn’t moving. You don’t see or hear sirens, but you’ve been sitting, unable to move, for 45 minutes. It’s rush hour in New York City, on a Friday night. Thousands of people are on the same road. Going nowhere.
Take a moment and notice how your body felt in each scenario. The only difference is how you approach those situations. I experienced a variation of the first scenario in a Buddhist temple in Florida; the second occurred while living in New York for 13 years. I meditated in both situations and I’m far from being a monk or guru (in this life, at least).
I meditate every morning, however. I feed treats to the kitties, put up coffee, light candles and incense, sit in a quiet space, and claim my time for peace. Some days it’s only 5 minutes, but it’s usually longer. It depends on my morning, but it happens daily.
My success relies on starting my day right, so my morning tasks are non-negotiable. Schedule what makes you successful and make it non-negotiable—this is a major step to your Empowerment! Practicing meditation at the same time and place trains your brain to relax. It helps you meditate deeper, faster, and is most beneficial to your practice. Some days are easier than others, no matter who you are… that’s why it’s called a meditation practice.
Who Can Have Mindfulness?
Just monks? No… we all have access and a right to it. We only need to cultivate it.
Stop and take 2 minutes to write 3 words you want to describe you. Maybe it’s childhood habits, something people always say about you, or a quality you’re longing to have. Repeat these words over and over during your day until they become clear. Write them on a sticky note and put it on your mirror or dashboard; put a reminder in your phone so it pops up throughout the day. Or best, just say them so often you start to live them.
Live your life in congruence with those 3 words.
I’ve been clear on my 3 words since 2017 and live them every chance I get. Here’s the effect of living in congruence with your words:
I was sweeping at work and commented I wanted to make sure I got all the staples off the floor. “I didn’t want our resident red squirrels and chipmunks to step on them and hurt their little feet.” (I work in a greenhouse, so tools, nails, staples, and wildlife are the norm.)
My coworker laughed… “ya know, you are too compassionate to those lil buggers.” “Perfect!” I thought… I knew I was congruent with one of my 3 words; he said it without ever hearing it—Compassionate.
My 3 words are Curious, Clever, Compassionate.
These words came from experiences I’ve had in life, or are qualities I’ve noticed as a pattern throughout my life. I’ve always “asked too many questions” and loved to research things (Curious); I learned to make do without a lot throughout life (Clever); I always wanted to help Nature and her inhabitants (Compassionate).
My 3 words are what I strive to show others daily. Know your 3 words and live them.
What Is Mindfulness?
Here’s where we really dig in… this is where you understand how simple mindfulness is. I’d like you to align mindfulness with a regular occurrence, so you form a habit faster and see the results immediately.
For example, waking my husband (a daily occurrence) with a quick 2-minute massage (act of mindfulness) stretches his muscles and moves his lymphatics. He’s focused on it feeling good, so he wakes in a good mood. I know how much he appreciates it and the benefits it holds for him, so it makes me feel good… we both get a release of different hormones, starting our day in a place of peace and calm.
This simple trick of aligning kind, mindful (kindful? 🙂) acts with a daily task creates a pleasure loop, making it hard to not be mindful. (Trust me, I’ve taught this technique for years and people love its simplicity.)
I’d like you to write for 2-minutes and tell me what you think mindfulness is and perhaps the arguments of why you don’t do it more. Be honest and do this exercise before you go any further. Next, I’ll share my views on Mindfulness and examples, based on years of research and observation.
The Simplicity of Mindfulness
It’s not as hard as we think…
- Mindfulness is changing what you can; fighting for what you believe in. You can’t control everything, as I’m sure you’ve learned by now. You can, however, control your reaction to situations and people. Each action you take creates a reaction… what are your goals or dreams? Do your actions align with those?If not, create actions that DO resonate with your soul. You’d be surprised how much people learn from you, just be observing your actions. Making a difference doesn’t require you standing on a soapbox or saying a single word.
- Mindfulness is awareness. Be aware of what you’re feeling and consider why you have those thoughts or feelings. Do so without judgement. You’ll be surprised at what you learn from yourself when you stop judging.
Two examples of observing your feelings without judgment:
My husband (Rob) and I moved to Maine December 2017 to open a plant-based, health café. By May 2018, we had a chance to open a scaled-down version in Bangor Library. The price would have been ideal for a small new business. We spent hours working on our proposal, menu, presentation, and business plan. But something didn’t “feel” right. After deep introspect, we realized it was too great of a compromise for our vision. Regardless of an amazing price, our menu and the ambiance would have been limited. We were also questioned about possibly compromising our menu by adding meat if need be. We didn’t sacrifice everything to move, just to compromise our values and dream. After a month of intense research and effort, we backed out of the process. There’s an ideal situation waiting for us elsewhere.
In May 2019, we chanced upon an amazing house with amenities not on our house/cafe list: a heated cabin, mother-in-law house, a pool, jacuzzi, clean garage, parking, acreage with a lot of trees, and a great price. (Did I mention it had a heated cabin!?!) It was on a busy road, which is ideal for our café being on the same property as our house—criteria on our house/café list. It had decent parking for a business… only a few spaces, but it was still a parking lot. As with the prior year, something didn’t “feel” right… when we analyzed our feelings without judgement, the location wasn’t perfect for a café. We didn’t move to Maine to buy a house; we moved to open a café. We passed on our offer and continue our search.
Know what you want and align your actions with that dream. Rob and I obsess over our future and constantly share our thoughts. We know when a life change event moves us forward, when it’s only a lateral move, or when it’s too great of a compromise.
- Mindfulness is a 1-, 5-, or 20-year plan of what you want, constantly taking steps towards it. Sometimes, they’re small steps—sometimes, they’re big, scary steps. (Such as moving to a new state with no jobs, no friends, and no family. Seems crazy, but we trust our ability to succeed and figure out how to course-correct.) As Bo Eason says, “does it (your action) move the boat forward?”Don’t fear people thinking you’re a crazy for wanting your dreams; those are the best dreams to have!
- Mindfulness is considering how your actions affect others. To every action, there’s a reaction. You don’t have to think about this every waking moment, but occasionally stop and consider the bigger picture.The more you practice this and observe feedback, the greater your connection with others.
- As I mentioned earlier, mindfulness is fighting for what you believe in, even if your expression is never through words. Your actions express your values. You still making a difference, even if it’s subtle. We don’t all need a soapbox… as the cliché goes, actions speak louder than words.
Be a silent leader.
- Mindfulness is looking at all sides of a situation with objectivity. Judgement is Ego. Ego is not Mindful, it’s protective.The Ego keeps us alive; it doesn’t allow us to thrive.
- Mindfulness is watching our reactions, even if it’s in hindsight. There’s a great lesson in observing our reactions. Change unpleasant habits and increase pleasant reactions.Pause before you react by taking a deep breath.
- Mindfulness is acting on your thoughts—a vision board does no good without action towards those goals. “Creative Visualization” is a fantastic technique (and book); vision boards are fabulous tools for the left brain. They’re useless tactics without action.Consider what you need to take to make your vision a reality… MindMapping is a tool that aligns the left and right hemispheres and allows you to chart your course of action.
- Mindfulness is doing what you can WHEN you can, not chastising yourself for saying no. It’s OK to admit you can’t handle a situation. It’s OK to say no. Being mindful requires saying “no” a lot, for many reasons. “Learning to Say No Without Feeling Guilty” was one of the best books a therapist ever suggested to me…When mom or dad say no so you don’t hurt yourself, it’s an act of mindfulness. Despite the potential immediate consequence of your anger as a child, the end result of your safety is more important.
How Can You Practice It?
Notice it’s called a “practice” and not perfection? Unless it’s your goal, you don’t have to be a monk, nor does your practice require twisted body positions. Practice, practice, practice… the more you do, the easier it gets. Trust me.
5 Simple Mindfulness Practices:
- Take moments of judgement and consider what you’re not seeing. How did that person become homeless? Is he/she always a bad driver, or was it an isolated situation where an emergency caused them to react that way?I’ve always been curious about people; I obsess over observing them. As a teen, one of my favorite pastimes included midnight excursions to the airport with friends. (This was pre-9/11, of course.) We’d sit quietly and observe how people interacted with each other as they boarded or exited planes. 3 years later, majoring in theatre, I gained the ability to question the motivation behind people’s actions. This is a useful tool that allows me to react to people Compassionately versus speaking mindlessly. I also love watching the interaction of people in restaurants, guessing their relationship with their dinner guests (without listening to their conversations).
- Know your thoughts can (and should) change. When I was young, Columbus was an amazing pioneer who discovered America; Pluto was still a planet; the dinosaurs went extinct from the ice age.We now know Columbus wasn’t a stand-up guy, nor could he discover a land that already had inhabitants. (Our country isn’t even named after him, but after Amerigo Vespucci.) Pluto is now a dwarf planet, or just a round object in space, depending on which side of the debate you’re follow. Dinosaurs may have died out because of a massive meteor, but hold on, because that theory is still under research.
It’s not only OK, but healthy, to accept your outlook changing—it’s a sign of growth.
- According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, America holds 10% of the world’s population but uses 4x the amount of energy. Be mindful of how your daily practices contribute to this statistic.How you can reduce your consumption of resources every day? Can you use less or give energy back in some way? New energy cannot be created… only recycled.
- Have and express gratitude for the little things. Be grateful for the “bad” things, too—only you determine good versus evil. To the Universe with no emotional baggage, everything is equal and necessary. Even mistakes or tragedy teaches us a lesson or two… (or more!).I’m grateful for the doughnuts my boss brings in to us and I thank him, though he knows I never eat them. My gratitude results from his thoughtfulness to us as a whole. I’m aware it’s my decision to not eat them—he’s not responsible for my choices. I promise you, his reaction to my gratitude is worth more than my paycheck.
I’m grateful to my husband for moving my towel on the towel rack, so I don’t have to stretch for it… I do the same for him. The “little things” mean more than we think.
- Mindfulness is being thoughtful for others, even if they don’t reciprocate it. These actions release a dose of oxytocin and is the science behind “practice random acts of kindness.”This feeling doesn’t happen if you expect something in return, by the way. It’s unsolicited acts that release “happy hormones.”
Finally, you practice mindfulness through meditating daily. Not hours on end, either… just 2-minutes when you begin this habit. To guide you in your practice, I offer the 5-minute piece Rob wrote for me below. Listen carefully during the meditation; align your breath with the rise and fall of the pitch. Thank you, Rob, for writing this piece for me.
In closing, pick 1-2 items from this article to work on each month. Don’t try to master all these tips in a week. Over-achievement is the opposite of Mindfulness. It only sets you up for failure.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Mindfulness, both before and after this course! Email me at email@example.com or comment below!
Namaste, my friend. -Alicia
5-minute meditation -Rob Lucchesi