As a certified holistic wellness coach, there's very little I haven't tried in the field of health and wellness practices. With personal certifications in yoga, reiki, Hawaiian healing and meditation, there's so much I can say I've gained from each one, but meditation is truly the practice that has taught me the most.
The legend, davidji, who trained and certified me to teach meditation says, "meditation is the act of watching the progressive fluctuations of the mind." This description most accurately depicts mindfulness meditation; A form of meditation where one practices being conscious and aware of something.
So what about mindful as an adjective? "Mindful living" is a term that's thrown around a lot by health-seekers and spiritual-advisors alike. To be mindful actually means to experience things as they are. No avoidance. No attachments. Just being here now.
This is true liberation.
My mindfulness practice has brought my life from black and white to technicolor. Here's what I've personally gained from practicing mindfulness meditation:
1. Learning to rest in inquiry.
Humans love to jump to conclusions. We love to know things because in fact, the unknown can feel rather scary. In mindfulness, we practice simply being as we ask the occasional deep question with no expectation of clarity or answers. We practice relaxing in a state of unrest. What I've gained is an ability to be with unknowns with a powerful sense of peace. Gone are the days of waiting for clear skies to enjoy the outdoors.
Acceptance is a decision. It's the choice to stop the kicking, screaming, avoiding, resisting, self-victimizing and simply seeing things as they currently are - no fluff. Acceptance doesn't mean complacency. Acceptance is the very thing that great leaders practice. In Stephen Covey's, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he deems "brutal honesty with oneself" as a key to successful, effective change. Acceptance takes honesty and honesty is the only true way through.
The understanding that the world is more grey than black and white changed my life. In sitting with myself and watching my thoughts, I realized what a contradiction they all can be. I realized how much I change day to day. I realized if none of these thoughts go monitored, I could be capable of getting caught up in the stream of any of them. Anyone could. Beliefs are an easy thing to get lost in and yet they serve some greater purpose to the believer no matter how disempowering they could be. There are many opposing truths. Discovering this has liquified all my rigidity and opened me up to all infinite worlds.
There are two words in Sanskrit that make up a balanced meditation practice: sukha (ease) & sthira (effort). One without the other is imbalanced, wonky. Consider the posture of meditation alone: being too tense will inhibit your practice, but so will being limp and un-alert. Finding that middle ground is a practice within my practice and it's something I take with me in everything else I do. Where can I ease up? Where can I focus in?
Compassion is said to be the highest form of love. It's complete sympathy for all beings. It's the understanding that we're all in this together and have all been dealt a specific deck of cards, full of blessings and challenges. Even in moments where I could've judged, I now see that I could've made the same choice if I'd had the same experiences, wiring and things at stake. I feel for all humans and living creatures.
6. The Power of Choice.
My meditation practice showed me my thoughts and reminded me I can choose. There were many years where though I could conceptualize the idea of choice, applying it seemed like a whole different animal. It's no wonder I didn't know how to speak the language of choice - I hadn't studied it, listened to it, heard it enough yet. Mindfulness is the act of immersing oneself in that language until the words pour out like honey.
7. My Relationship With My Thoughts.
There's the act of thinking the thoughts, the act of watching the thoughts, and then there's the act of watching yourself watching the thoughts. It gets pretty meta pretty quick. What started as a "zoom in" button turns out to be a "zoom out." You realize that the struggle doesn't come from the thoughts themselves, it comes from how you react to those thoughts and how you react to your reactions to those thoughts. Once we take the power away from these made up constructs in the mind, we can simply notice them and let them go - releasing yourself from their fake control.
8. Navigate my Emotions in a Healthy Way.
Thoughts and emotions are not us - so in that way, there is a similar lesson to gain from mindfulness meditation. Emotions are fleeting, even when they seem like the end of the world. I used to get so swept up in emotions that my family told me point-blank that what they hated most about me was how "dramatic" I could be. Being mindful of my emotions taught me where they were coming from, what I cared about, and to find a healthy medium between avoidance and indulgence of my emotions to watch them, nurture myself and transmute to not get lost in the feels.
9. Let Go.
Letting go is something so many of us want. We want to let go of hurtful thoughts, grudges, old ties to old relationships and places. Why is it so hard? Because letting go feels like bungee jumping off a cliff. What's the best way to start? Practice jumping off little baby ledges until the big one feels less scary. In mindfulness, we practice letting go of thoughts over and over again, constantly practicing with this muscle. This muscle is the muscle of non-attachment. Non-attachment is freedom.
10. Cultivate Inner Strength.
Sitting down and being in stillness and silence is no easy feat. It takes big commitment and big courage. Facing what's within can feel petrifying at first, but like a kid peeking beneath the bed, we find the monsters we'd perceived to be there are really not that scary. By doing so, we take the power out of the darkness and the demons and put it back in our own hands. You realize you're stronger than you ever knew.
11. Generate Appreciation.
Gratitude, appreciation, peace, joy, etc. All the positive emotions we sit around and wait for all our lives are right here. Mindfulness has shown me that when I slow down and get out of my own way, there's more to appreciate about this present moment than I could possibly imagine. It's all here.
Living mindfully means being aware, processing emotions in a healthy way, communicating with kindness and honesty, choosing thoughts that are relevant and helpful, connecting with your environment and body, and so much more. A mindful life doesn’t get caught up in what doesn’t matter. A mindful life is a life lived.