Mindfulness, 5 Steps to change your life
There are many ways in which mindfulness can change your life, we are all different, our nervous systems respond in varied ways to varied practices but some things remain universal. These days you have access to numerous studies on mindfulness and meditation. Several world-renowned experts can give you experimentally verified explanations on how mindfulness practice effects our body and mind but I will start by telling you how mindfulness changed my experience.
I am sure you know the phrase “carpe diem”. I remember writing it on my army back pack with a marker pen and writing it in notes and letters to my teenage friends. It made so much sense when I was 13 but even then I had to remind myself about it, to make sure I didn’t forget to live it. Then time goes by and you do forget, you still remember the phrase but you don’t feel it anymore. All you feel is the longing for it. All you have is a memory of being able to live fully, in the moment, like there is no tomorrow. We do associate this way of being with youth, our first kiss, dancing with abandon to loud music, running through the field at night, feeling everything so vividly. What I want to tell you now is that it doesn’t have to be in the past, we can access this way of being and living on every step of our life.
It is about making the shift from longing for something we can’t have or touch, to seeing and appreciating the world around us. That is when mindfulness practice comes in. It is not easy to make that shift, our habitual ways of thinking are always in the way. Up to now you have been conditioned by your parents, school, social circles, culture, media, the list goes on. You can say that we are trapped in a way. Evolution doesn’t help either, we have a so called negativity bias which we developed over thousands of years. Being always on guard is a natural state of being if you want to survive, especially if you are being chased by wild animals. The problem is that we are no longer being chased by lions yet the danger alert is still very much part of our daily existence. We constantly scan our reality for potential source of threat and pain. And this is a tough way to live.
So how do we create this shift?
1. We accept the world as it is. Fighting things back takes up a lot of our energy. As people we can reject certain things for years, this doesn’t mean they disappear. They are still very much there and we are still fighting. There is a huge healing power in accepting the reality and moving on.
2. Start noticing the beauty around you, it is in abundance if you are willing to notice it. It is all about you deciding where you want to place your focus, what you are willing to notice and what you are willing to let go of.
3. Develop resilience. When you get out of that trap into the world you are very vulnerable. It is a totally new territory and you haven’t developed ways of dealing with this new reality yet. It is very easy to be put off, get frightened, distracted and fall right back into the same trap. Resilience is what will help you to stay on track.
4. Relax. The pace of modern life is extremely demanding and we need to be able to relax. Our body and mind need time to recharge, reset, get back into balance. Doing more and more, faster and faster is not sustainable, even though at first it might seem like we are getting great results. When we are relaxed our perspective changes, we make more objective decisions. We are more able to open up to different possibilities which means we are exposed to a wider range of opportunities.
5. Practice self compassion and compassion for others. We are social animals, there is no denying it. No matter how independent we are in our lives, deep inside we are all looking for connection and understanding, so it is really important to develop positive feelings towards other people. The best way to achieve that is by starting to develop positive feelings for ourselves. And by positive feelings I don’t mean that we should feed our ego and tell ourselves how amazing we are. What I mean is developing a sense of love, understanding and empathy that you might have for your best friend or child. A true understanding and support. A space with no pressure, no expectations, no self doubt or self criticism.
If you can practice the above on a daily basis, I promise you it will change your life for the better. It will allow you to see things clearly; it will enable you to focus on what is truly important to you and will make your body-mind a more relaxed and friendly place. We do have just one life and it goes fast, so what you make of it is entirely up to you but trust me it can be amazing for all of us. “Carpe Diem”