I was surprised and honored to receive a request to teach a class on Mindfulness. It’s not something I ever felt I was qualified to do, yet I’ve written an entire book and countless articles on the subject. How had I not thought of this myself!?!
Mindfulness is a buzz word, though it’s nothing new. I believe our higher selves are telling us we’re losing touch with what matters most… we’re craving connection in a world so deeply distracted.
My deepest gratitude to the Dover-Foxcroft Public Library for making this talk and article possible. As Kim said when we were setting up the talk, “Seems like we all could use some mindfulness (and its benefits) now more than ever!!!!”
Allow me to give you basic tips on living mindfully and meditating.
We have to tune in to understand life better—we hear what’s best for our bodies when we learn to listen. Western society is based 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.
We have the power to avoid ALL of that. We can be a beacon of hope without a lot of work. So how can 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 and creates balance and happiness.
How will you make healthy recipes if you don’t have time? If you don’t have the mental and emotional support to say no, how will you ever have any autonomy? If we can’t gain control of our senses, how will we know they’re out of balance?
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 to notice how your body felt in those scenarios. Now, understand the only difference is how you approach those situations. I experienced a variation of the first scenario in Florida; I experienced the second while living in New York for 13 years. I could meditate in both situations and I’m far from being a monk or guru.
I meditate every morning, however. Right after making coffee and feeding treats to the kitties, I light incense, sit in a quiet space, and claim my time for peace. Some days it’s only 5 minutes, sometimes longer… it depends on what I can do.
My success relies on starting my day right, so my morning tasks are non-negotiable. Schedule it and make it non-negotiable. This is a major step in your path to Empowerment! A meditation practice at the same time and place trains your brain to relax and is most beneficial to your practice.
Who Can Have Mindfulness?
Just monks? No. Anyone can access it and everyone has a right to it.
Take 2 minutes and write 3 words you want people to say when they describe you. Repeat these words over and over during your day until they become clear. Live your life in congruence with those 3 words.
I’ve been clear on my 3 words for 2 years now and live as close to them as possible. An example:
I was sweeping at work 2 weeks ago and commented on making sure I got all the staples on 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 wildlife is everywhere.) My coworker laughed… “ya know, you are too compassionate to those lil buggers.” My immediate thought was “perfect! I’m congruent with one of my 3 words, because he just said 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 life. I’ve always “asked too many questions” and loved to research things, learned to make do without a lot throughout life, and always wanted to help Nature and her inhabitants.
My 3 words are what I strive to show others daily. Know your 3 words and live them.
When Can It Be Practiced?
Any and everywhere.
Anytime you think of it and then some. Become obsessed. Use mindfulness during moments of highly charged emotional moments… that’s when we need it most. This also trains your brain to cope with high-stress situations that will occur.
Where Can It Be Practiced?
Ground and center yourself with your breath. It’s nothing elaborate that requires special training, location, or equipment. You have all the equipment you need—lungs.
Why Practice It?
To find peace, make the world a better place, live a better life, and make others happy.
What Is Mindfulness?
- Mindfulness is changing what you can and fighting for what you believe
- Mindfulness is awareness. Being aware of what you’re feeling and why… without judgement. Two examples:
My husband and I moved to Maine to open a healthy café. Last year, we had a chance to open a scaled-down version in Bangor Library, where the price would have been ideal for a small new business. We spent hours working on our proposal, menu, presentation, and business plan. After a month into the process, we backed out of the process. Something didn’t feel right. After multiple discussions, we realized it was too great of a compromise. Regardless of an amazing price, our menu would have been limited, as would ambiance. We didn’t sacrifice all we did to get here, just to compromise on our dream.
Last month, we chanced upon a house that was an amazing deal, with amenities not on our normal house/cafe list: a heated cabin, mother-in-law house, a pool, a jacuzzi, clean garage, parking, and acreage with a lot of trees. (Did I mention a heated cabin!?!) It was on a busy road, which is ideal for our café being on the same property as our house. It even had “decent” parking for a business. As before, something didn’t “feel” right for us… the location wasn’t perfect for a café, despite the house being perfect. We didn’t move here to buy a house, we moved to open a café. We passed on it and continue to search for an ideal location.
- Know what you want and make your actions align with that dream. Rob and I obsess and constantly talk about our future. We know when a life change event will move us forward, when it will only be a lateral, or when it’s too great of a compromise.
- Mindfulness is having a 5-year plan of what you want, making small steps towards your goal, and sometimes, taking big, scary steps. Don’t fear people thinking you’re a little crazy for wanting your dreams. I believe those are the best dreams to have.
- Mindfulness is considering how your actions may 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.
- It’s changing what you can and fighting for what you believe in, even if your expression is through actions and never speaking a word. Just because you don’t voice your beliefs doesn’t mean your actions don’t express them. You’re still making a difference, even if the world isn’t aware of 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.
- It’s watching our reactions, even if it’s in hindsight… learn from your actions and reactions. Change unpleasant habits you may have.
- It’s acting on your thoughts—a vision board does no good without action towards those goals. If you have a positive thought or action, keep doing If it’s negative, stop doing it!
- It’s doing what you can WHEN you can and not beating yourself up 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 multiple reasons. When mom or dad say no so you don’t hurt yourself, though you’ll be mad at them, it’s an act of mindfulness… despite the potential immediate consequence, the end result is more important. “Learning to Say No Without Feeling Guilty” was one of the best books a therapist ever had me read…
How Can You Practice It?
Notice it’s called a Mindfulness “Practice?” It’s not about perfection, nor will you become a monk, unless that’s your goal! Practice, practice, practice… the more you do it, the easier it gets. Trust me.
Here are a few ways to practice mindfulness:
- Take moments of judgement and consider what you’re not seeing… how did that person become homeless? Is that person always a bad driver, or was it an isolated situation?
I’ve always been curious about people and obsessed about watching them. As a teen, a midnight excursion with friends was going to the airport. We’d sit and observe how people interacted with each other. My theatre background made me question the motivation behind people’s actions. I love watching how people interact with their dinner guests in restaurants.
- Know your thoughts can (and should) change. When I was a kid, Columbus was the good guy who discovered America, Pluto was still a planet, and the dinosaurs went extinct from an ice age. We now know Columbus wasn’t such a stand-up guy, nor did he discover a land that already had inhabitants. (Never mind a land named after Amerigo Vespucci.) Pluto is a dwarf planet or a round object in space, depending on which side of the debate you’re on. Dinosaurs may have died out because of a massive meteor, but hold on, because that theory is still under research.
- According to Britannica, America holds 10% of the world’s population yet uses 4x the amount of energy as anywhere else. Be mindful of how your daily practices contribute to this statistic. How you can reduce your consumption?
- Have and express gratitude for the little things. Be grateful for the “bad” things, too. Even mistakes or tragedy teaches us a lesson or two…
I’m grateful for the doughnuts my boss brings in and thank him, though he knows I never eat them. My gratitude comes from his thoughtfulness. I’m aware it’s my decision to not eat them—he’s not responsible for my choices.
- It’s gratitude to Rob for moving my towel closest to the shower when I get in every morning. Now I don’t have to stretch to reach it… I do the same for him.
- Mindfulness is being thoughtful for others, even if they don’t reciprocate it. That’s how you get a dose of oxytocin, by the way… it’s the science behind the bumper sticker “practice random acts of kindness.”
Finally, you practice mindfulness through meditating daily. I’ll leave you with a 5-minute piece my husband wrote for me. Listen carefully during the meditation and notice you can align your breath with the pitch variations in Rob’s song.
Pick 1-2 items from this article to work on each month. Don’t try to master these tips in a short time, nor all of them at once. Over-achieving is the opposite of being Mindful and only sets you up for failure.
P.S. If you have additional thoughts of what Mindfulness means to you, please comment below!