New Year’s resolutions are made to improve different areas of our life. Most of us want to get fit, some want to save money or travel while others want to quit bad habits. I’ve made all of those resolutions in the past and thought it was a great way to become a better person.
We’re all getting older (and hopefully wiser). It’s time to make some serious changes in the deepest parts of our being. Search inside your core and find the happiness and kindness you forgot you had in you. That, I think, is the greatest resolution you can do for yourself and everyone around you. It’s easier than you think.
As the New Year rolls in, I’ve once again established what is important to me: to practice more fervently my new-found solution to all negative energy and share it to the world. This solution is called MINDFULNESS. And with that, comes the peace of mind that everyone longs for all year round, all their lives. If I could use my voice and influence to make this world a better place, I would do so by spreading the life-changing magic of mindfulness.
Imagine if we all had boundless compassion for ourselves and those around us? If we all knew how to access that happiness that is inherent inside each and every one of us so that we may live free of ignorance (delusion), craving (greed) and hatred (anger) – the three poisons of the mind that cause one to be unhappy.
Let me give this a shot and introduce you to my first of many articles about mindfulness and mindfulness meditation. If you love it, if you hate it or if it simply rings a bell, please leave a comment below and let’s start a dialogue to fuel my series on Mindful Living.
There are many schools of thought and ways of living to help navigate our emotional ups and downs. But there is one simple practice being taught all over the world to help mankind live wide awake. It has helped me through many challenges and has positively affected how I deal with the world. Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation are easy to learn for anyone at any stage in their lives. All it takes is an open mind.
The beginning of my self-awareness journey
I’m no spiritual guru but I am unusually inquisitive about my own psychology and well being. Reading self-help articles is a favorite past-time of mine. So I have always been inclined to search inside myself.
My first big realization came when my yoga and mindfulness mentor, Neil Salang, would advocate yoga of the mind in his Ashtanga classes. That’s when I understood that I have the ability to train the mind to be focused on my movement inside the space of my mat and nothing else, feeling the slightest nuance of every bone and muscle in my body. I learned how to concentrate on the physical, mental and spiritual practice of yoga. As my yoga practice deepened, the more mindful I became. Thus, my self-awareness journey began.
The greater calling came, of course, in the form of a broken heart. I willingly brought myself to regularly see a therapist (lest I continue to talk my friends’ ears off) and started attending Neil’s guided meditation classes. Pretty soon, I was drawn into this new reality where my thoughts and emotions were just a speck in my existence. I started to see the world in high definition.
Mindfulness as a way of life
Mindfulness, simply put, is being aware of the present moment.
Author Jon Kabat-Zinn mentions in his book “Mindfulness for Beginners,” that “mindfulness is about cultivating bare attention, discernment, clear seeing and wisdom, but at the same time it is important to bring an an affectionate quality in the attending.”
Mindfulness is engaging your senses to focus on the full experience of your present activity. Even if it is as mundane as folding your clothes, savoring the feeling of the fabric touching your finger tips, the scent of clean laundry and the neat lines you create by folding, is a way to practice mindfulness.
In a state of not being mindful, we are unconscious of our thoughts running amuck – either dwelling on past events or daydreaming about the future. Through mindfulness, we become at ease with these thoughts.
Remember those moments when you interrupt before the person speaking has completed their sentence? Or you mindlessly reach for your cellphone in the middle of an activity? Or maybe you easily get bored and impatient, always thinking of doing something else. Mindfulness is the cure to the serial multi-tasker.
To me, mindfulness is giving your present activity, situation or companion your undivided attention with a sense of love and non-judgment.
When I focus my attention on someone or something, I tune out distractions. Like when I help a friend move into his first apartment or I train a new staff member in my restaurant, I consider the level of communication and patience required for that task to be lovingly carried out. When I listen to instructions or watch a documentary – especially if it’s a subject matter I’ve read much about – I try to do so with a “beginner’s mind.”
When I purchase goods, I’ve learned to consider what money means to society, not just myself. When I consume these goods, I am mindful of the garbage I create in this world.
In my simple daily tasks such as making my bed and coffee in the morning or organizing my belongings, I treat it like a ritual that makes me who I am. That may sound like a herculean task for those of us who are accustomed to having our house help, parent or partner clean up after us. In a mindset that we are too busy to do this or do that, we may miss out on the hidden beauty there is in treating these mundane tasks like a craft.
Mindfulness meditation as a practice
Like mindfulness, meditation is a similar tool to bring awareness to the mind and be at ease with your thoughts, not eliminate them. It helps improve anxiety and stress, even focus and self-control.
Mindfulness and meditation both offer an end to suffering and a path to true happiness that is inside us. Mindfulness meditation is a meditation technique that focuses the attention on the body and arising emotions without making any judgments.
Without the practice of these, we may think we need some sort of external validation or stimulation to feel peaceful. But once harnessed together, mindfulness meditation can help one access inner peace that is inherently inside all of us – without striving to bury emotions or spitefully let them go in the interest of moving on. Instead, what we hold true is non-judgmental acceptance that it is what it is.
Therein lies enlightenment or the end of suffering, according to Eckhart Tolle in “The Power of Now” or liberation, as the revered Dalai Lama said in “The Art of Happiness.” Genuine and lasting happiness relates to the mind and heart, not physical pleasure. These are attainable through regular practice of mindfulness meditation.
My easy mindfulness meditation practice
I started my daily practice with 10 minutes in the morning using an app called Headspace. It is highly recommended by Tim Ferris, the author of the “Four-hour Work Week” and is used by many influential personalities. I can do it anywhere and any time of the day but when I’m home, I like to light incense, sit on a mat in half lotus and face east.
From there, I increased my mind mileage to 20 minutes, still using Headspace. After taking an in-depth mindfulness meditation workshop with Neil, I now occasionally prefer to meditate without the app and set a timer to see how long I was “in the zone.” My greatest natural highs are when I end my practice feeling like it’s only been 5 minutes but my timer says its been 30. What a joyous feeling of self-love.
The life-changing magic of meditating
Today, I can humbly say that I manage myself much better than I did when I was ignorant. And I use the term ignorant with much affection. I am not easily brought up by the highs and pushed down by the lows. I hover ever so closely to the baseline of my emotions. If I slip, I do not squander energy, mine or others’, on ruminating about what went wrong or contemplating how to do things better. I simply tune into an audiobook about mindfulness and keep my journal handy.
From being a working student who is used to juggling an acting career while earning a degree, I now prefer to do one thing at a time but do it with much love and attention to detail. Gone are my “overachieving” days of starting things before I would finish the previous assignment.
But my favorite application of mindfulness is translated to my lifestyle of less is more. I am slowly adapting to minimalist living where I continuously purge my personal space of objects that do not spark joy in my life and only fill it with a few quality possessions. My house is sparsely decorated and I have a full account of everything I own – including the things inside drawers and closets. But that’s another article I will write soon inspired by my minimalist bible “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo.
We spend so much time and money exercising and eating well to look our best. But what about our mental health and wellness? We are all still a work in progress, no matter what age we are, and it is never too late to start creating new habits. Let mindfulness meditation be the gateway to your own awakening.
For those of you who are ready to start treading your path to happiness, I highly recommend “The Art of Happiness” by The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler and “Mindfulness for Beginners” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
I am currently reading “Search Inside Yourself” by Chade-Meng Tan which is one of the most enlightening self-help books I’ve ever read. And I have read a lot! For concerns about romantic relationships, parental issues, finding your purpose or succeeding in life, but most especially, peace of mind and contentment, these three books hold the golden ticket.
Not a big reader? I’ve compiled some short videos below on the topics of mindfulness and mindfulness meditation.