What I've Learned About Mindfulness
Or at least some of it. Mindfulness can be a vague word, but it's also so simple. It encompasses every aspect of life which makes it daunting and basic at the same time. I must admit this word used to annoy me. It seemed to be the solution to everything, the magic cure to the stresses of every day life, but I couldn't wrap my head around it. Now, it's a word I carry with me through everything I do. Or at least I try to. It seems to crawl into every piece of advice I give and all the everyday things I do that have resulted in me being the happiest I've ever been.
It's been almost seven years since my brother and I went on our three month trip to South America. It was on a walk near a village called El Chaltén in Argentina that I kept stubbing my toe on rocks, not quite used to walking in FiveFingers just yet. Now, my brother is a Buddhist. My brother is also a very knowledgable person, so I know that his advice has value, but when he, upon my pinky toe's fifth meeting with a large rock, told me to be "mindful" of where I step, I was pretty ready to punch him in the face. I didn't. I did the classic girl thing of silent anger with outbursts of snappy comments.
Seven years on, I'm still a barefoot runner and I love both my FiveFingers and Vivo Barefoot walking shoes. I adore the concept of mindful walking, mindful running and feeling the texture of the ground beneath my feet. I also do yoga most mornings now, another thing influenced by my brother several years ago, and the combination of the two gives me an exercise and movement routine that suits me well.
Yoga and barefoot running were my introduction to understanding mindfulness, but I didn't quite grasp the concept until I started meditating a couple of years ago. A friend introduced me to an app called Headspace and I took the challenge to do a three minute guided meditation every day for a month. I didn't understand it. I didn't feel any different and I felt like I was wasting time with this whole meditation thing, but people, my brother included, kept talking about how good it was for me, so I kept at it. I kept doing these three, five and ten minute meditations almost every day and little by little, it grew on me.
It was only recently that I discovered that an understanding of mindfulness has crept up on me. I understand now what it means to live mindfully and how important awareness is in every aspect of life. It encompasses my relationship to myself, to other people and the planet, the choices I make and how I spend my time and money. Bringing mindfulness and awareness into the essence of everything I do has been life changing. I know how this sounds, and I'm rolling my eyes at myself as I write this, but it's also clear to me how true it is, how right my brother was, that if I just step mindfully, I won't stub my toe.
Living in awareness and being mindful in my choices and actions has led me to a place where I can honestly say I'm happier than I've ever been before. I can't say that I know exactly what I want in life or where I'm going, but awareness of what makes me happy day to day and of what might need to change is what has made the difference in my mind. Learning how to treat that uncertainty with mindfulness and respect has been key for me. I have bad days, of course I do, and I have weeks where I fall out of my routine. It's not like mindfulness has made me more than human, but meditating regularly has taken a lot of stress out of my life and I urge anyone reading this to give it a go. Three minutes every day for a month and it'll creep up on you too, in a good way, I promise.