Meditation is where mindful living starts. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just sit for 5-10 minutes and learn to “be in the present”. Focus your attention on your breath. Notice when your thoughts wander from your breath, and gently return to the breath.
The real meditation practice is how we live our lives from moment to moment to moment. – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Meditation is practice for “being present”. You know that feeling when someone has been talking to you and you suddenly realize that you haven’t been paying attention? This is the opposite of that! Being present is something you can do throughout the day, all the time, if you remember. The trick is to remember!
Watch for Distractions
Watch your urge to check email or social media, to watch TV, to be distracted, to procrastinate. These urges will come and go, and you don’t have to act on them. Anything that distracts you from “being present” is distracting you from living life.
Let go of Expectations
We all have expectations, all the time. We have the expectation that our day will go perfectly; that people will be kind and respectful to us. We have the expectation that everything will go according to plan and when things don’t, we feel that we’ve failed. When water encounters a new obstacle, it immediately adapts and works around it.
Accept people as they are / accept life as it is
When I stopped trying to change a loved one, and accepted him for who he was, I was able to just be with him and enjoy my time with him. This acceptance has the same effect for anything you do — accept a co-worker, a child, a spouse, but also accept a “bad” situation (remember the horse analogy, who knows what is good and what is bad), an unpleasant feeling, an annoying sound. When we stop trying to fight the way things are, when we accept what is, we are much more at peace.
Be OK with Discomfort
The fear of discomfort is huge — it causes people to be stuck in their old bad habits, to not start the business they want to start, to be stuck in a job they don’t really like, etc… because we tend to stick to the known and comfortable rather than try something unknown and uncomfortable. It’s why many people don’t eat vegetables or exercise, why they eat junk, why they don’t start something new. But we can be OK with discomfort, with practice. Start with things that are a little uncomfortable, and keep expanding your comfort zone.
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. – Neale Donald Walsch
Watch your Resistance
When you try to do something uncomfortable, or try to give up something you like or are used to, you’ll find resistance. But you can just watch the resistance, and be curious about it. Watch your resistance to things that annoy you — a loud sound that interrupts your concentration, for example. It’s not the sound that’s the problem, it’s your resistance to the sound. The same is true of resistance to food we don’t like, to being too cold or hot, to being hungry. The problem isn’t the sensation of the food, cold, heat or hunger — it’s our resistance to them. Watch the resistance, and feel it melt.
Too often we are stuck in our ways, and think we know how things should be, how people are. Instead, be curious. Find out. Experiment. Let go of what you think you know. When you start a new project or venture, if you feel the fear of failure, instead of thinking, “Oh no, I’m going to fail” or “Oh no, I don’t know how this will turn out”, try thinking, “Let’s see. Let’s find out.” And then there isn’t the fear of failure, but the joy of being curious and finding out. Learn to be OK with not knowing.
We tend to want to complain about everything. But life is a miracle. Find something to be grateful about in everything you do. Be grateful when you’re doing a new habit, and you’ll stick to it longer. Be grateful when you’re with someone, and you’ll be happier with them. Life is amazing when you learn to appreciate it.
Let Go of Control
We often think we control things, but that’s only an illusion. Our obsession with organization and goals and productivity, for example, are rooted in the illusion that we can control life. But life is uncontrollable, and just when we think we have things under control, something unexpected comes up to disrupt everything. And then we’re frustrated because things didn’t go the way we wanted. Instead, practice letting go of control, and learn to flow.
Compassion for others can change the way you feel about the world, on a day-to-day basis. And compassion for yourself is life-changing. These two things need remembering, though, so mindful living is about remembering to be compassionate after you forget.
Challenge: Pick one of these areas and try to work on it for the rest of the day/week. See if you notice a change in yourself or in others. Good luck and be mindful!