I attribute Mindfulness and/or meditation to a good amount of the progress I’ve made in the last couple of years or so. It certainly plays it’s part. It’s very easy to see how fast-paced and chaotic modern society can be. It’s very common to be swept up in the sway of all that. Think of how many people you know are on, or have been on, medication for anxiety. It’s a staggering percentage of our population. Therefore, there’s a great need for mindfulness, and a return of simplicity and calm within daily life. We’ve seen yoga become part of that return, as it’s gained huge popularity recently. But that’s just a piece of mindfulness…and one that’s typically practiced with a group outside the home. We can also be practicing mindfulness on our own, with any particular breath…in any moment.
If you’re looking to learn more about mindfulness, and how to implement it into your daily life, I highly recommend finding any books on the topic by Thich Nhat Hanh. He’s a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, and a prolific writer within this theme. His writing is very accessible and practical. Get to the library and grab a few of his books. He is the expert.
I have two analogies for meditation, and they work for mindfulness as well. The first is that practicing mindfulness is like a cleanse for the mind. Just as we need to eat pure and nutritious foods, and similar to how we benefit from a periodic cleanse in our diet to keep our bodies healthy, we need to hold clarified and focused thoughts to keep a healthy mind. The other comparison that I find helpful is more ‘techy’: Practicing mindfulness is like executing a computer defragmentation and disk clean-up on your mind. It allows your brain to systematically determine and place your thoughts in files and folders. It efficiently gets rid of those old cookies and files that are slowing things down. It frees up bandwidth, and makes space for new exploration. I like this analogy because it somewhat ‘ranks’ our files (our thoughts and experiences) and places them accordingly. So many of us need practice with this.
I’ll rush into my house, many thoughts and plans on my mind. I’ll have ideas of what I want to get to. Maybe it’s writing or catching up on emails. But then I see a pile of dishes in the sink. ‘Oh crap,’ I think. A little more anxiety is added to my experience. It becomes a negative weight on my mind. The dishes become an obstacle in the way of what I wanted to be doing. I rush through the dishes as fast as I can, thinking about the emails, the writing, some laundry I have to do, how I should replace these cabinets soon, what I should do with my daughter today, what should be for dinner tonight…a lot of thoughts, and a lot of disregard for the dishes. When I live like this, there is no arrival at a fulfilled moment. There is no contentment. I feel that I can just get there, if I rush some more. No. I can get there by slowing down, taking a breath, practicing mindfulness.
By giving my own experience the gratitude it deserves, I can gain such a different and more positive perspective…even on something that seems so trivial, like the dishes. By calmly focusing on the dishes, and on the actual experience of washing them, I can achieve a content state of mind right now. That rushing feeling, and fleeting hope that I’ll get there has really transformed. I can take a slow, deep breath, and get there now. One tip that I learned from Thich Nhat Hanh that helps me whenever I’m doing the dishes, taking a shower, brushing my teeth, etc. is to consider the water I’m getting through my faucet. Appreciate the fact that it began as rain in the mountains, and it trickled down into brooks and streams, and then into places that we could gather it and use it in our homes. This allows me to focus in on, and be mindful of my direct experience. Even within a technologically advanced and protected home, I can appreciate my connection to nature. I can cleanse my mind of the unnecessary chaos. And I can appreciate this moment, here and now.
Don’t allow mindfulness to sound fluffy, soft, and ineffective. It’s a powerful, direct, and evidence-based practice for helping people with depression, anxiety, and stress. It doesn’t have the side-effects of medication. Mindfulness allows you to approach more experiences with strong, open arms. With time, you’ll be able to laugh off or flick away those negative intruding thoughts. You’ll feel like a beast within your head…that nothing can sway you…that you’re a pillar of your own choosing…and you’re carrying your own sword. You’re not one that gets caught up in the webs of pessimism and havoc. You’re cutting through…discovering order, meaning, peace, and well-being.