My journey of self discovery and healing has lead me down many an unexpected path. I’ve encountered traditional talk therapy, online wellness summits, Buddhist meditation practices, and the study of energy itself through both a holistic and a quantum physics lenses. Each teaching has contributed a piece to the cornerstones of my personal wellness practices. In amassing as much research as I could, I came to realize that despite the clear variations in doctrine, many approaches to a sustainably positive lifestyle are marked by the same goal : awareness. An answer so disguisedly obvious that I evaded it for years; seeking around the bush, believing a more actionable remedy was sure to be hiding under this false floor. The word itself even appeared as an empty redundancy, the inadvertent effect resulting from the physical act of opening one’s eyes– seemingly omnipresent & easily accessible, awareness didn’t present itself as the complex answer that I was seeking.
The beauty of awareness is in its immediacy; in its command for inaction (observation) rather than reaction. It can be as complex as a confrontation of the ego or as simple as an noticing the first thought that comes to your mind when you look in the mirror. It’s both the first step and the final step of the cyclical conscious creation of your highest self. The more often you can be aware throughout the day, the more mindful you can be– choosing actions, words, and thoughts that truly reflect who you want to become.
This is a forward, future-thinking projection of energy; freeing the present moment from reactions that draw on the negative patterns of the past. The goal is to reside in own’s mind in a state of mindfulness– at all times aware of one’s intentions, values and also the things one wishes to discard moving forward, acting out of considered repose rather than unintentioned impulse.
No one likes this answer (including me for a long time) but truly the best way to grow a sustainable foundation of mindfulness is through meditation. The stigma around meditation in a lot of the Western world has created a mystic haze around the practice that has made it appear unapproachable and inapplicable to the modern working world; coincidentally coinciding with the place that could most benefit from the implementation of such teachings.
Andy Puddicombe founded the meditation app Headspace based on the idea that mediation is more relevant now than it’s ever been. After a ten year stint as a Buddhsist monk in the Himalayas, Puddicombe returned to the UK to make
“meditation and mindfulness accessible, relevant and beneficial to as many people as possible.”“Do Lectures”. Do Lectures. Archived from the original on 19 March 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
Headspace was my first serious attempt at meditation; finally relenting after the countless preachings of its many benefits from almost every health expert I was following. I meditated occasionally and infrequently; still lacking the necessary perspective to see that the sitting in silence was the necessary work that I was seeking to discover. After months of oscillating between bouts of depression, I firmly decided to make myself into a person who could harvest their own joy. I started with five minutes of daily mediation and quickly gained an appreciation for the clear positive affect it had on my mindset throughout the entire day; both long before and after the actual meditation session.
Through the practice of being aware (noticing one’s thoughts while being present in one’s body) I felt empowered by the recognition that I have a choice : to see the beauty, to respond with compassion, to think in a way that accounts for the bad days in all of us; to move forward as the person I dream of being.
Mindfulness is my goal every day– sometimes I achieve it and sometimes I fail miserably but to have an individualized benchmark that is based on my own understanding of myself has proved invaluable to me. I wanted to share some of the tools I have gained along the way, presented with the understanding that I am equally on my path as anyone else is one theirs; I am not claiming to have crossed the finish line on healing because the truth that has radicalized my life is that there isn’t one; every day we are presented with difficult things, small and big, and our best bet is to assemble the best tools to protect ourselves the best we can. I recognize that theory is only as good as its perceptible effects and so what follows is very tactile tips for awareness with the hope that you can add them to your toolbox and reach for them when times get tough; they always will.
Tip # 1 :
Begin your morning with intention. When your feet first hit the ground take a patient moment to close your eyes and breathe deeply, connecting with the body your thoughts occupy. It can also be helpful to place your hand over your heart for a few moments.
Hold your hand. In moments of chaos or overwhelming emotion it is easily to ratchet up your cerebral activity, often resulting in feeling powerless, barreled over by the runaway train of thought. In these moments, it can be a helpful to physically hold your own hand, rub your own neck, or simply place a gentle hand on your thigh. These small gestures serve a dual purpose; both to re-center one in the physical, tangible moment and to self soothe.
Take a moment to sit back. We often become so enveloped in thought that we forget to bear witness to the life happening around us. It is essential to take moments of pause; to notice the bird chirping in the distance, the wind on your face, the dog across the street.
Image sourced from Headspace