For a long time I didn’t understand what mindfulness was.
I used to think that meditating was all about entering a blissful trance state. I used to think that mindfulness was all about making your mind totally silent. And whenever I was meditating I thought I was doing it wrong, because, well, I couldn’t cease my thoughts.
I would think and think and think and then I would notice I was thinking and then I would think about how I shouldn’t be thinking. I would wonder why I was thinking. Then I’d realize I was thinking about thinking and then I’d think about that.
I thought I sucked at meditation, until I learned that mindfulness isn’t about being perfectly focused. It isn’t about being blissfully happy. And it isn’t about getting all these benefits everyone talks about.
Sure, I’ve had times when I’ve been super focused, I’ve had moments of bliss, and I’ve gotten a ton of benefits. But at it’s simplest level, mindfulness is about simply being with what is. Whether that’s a quiet mind or a busy mind. Whether that’s deep compassion or shallow annoyance. Whether that’s bliss or agony.
Mindfulness is simply the practice of being with what is.
Well, here’s what I’ve learned about living mindfully:
1. You don’t have to meditate, but it helps.
Most people think that meditation and mindfulness are the same thing. They aren’t.
You can learn to be mindful without meditating, but the truth is that meditation helps ALOT! Meditation teaches you about the nature of your mind and heart better than any personal development book or course ever could.
They say that if you truly want to know who someone is, you have to live with them for 10 years. Yet our minds are like lifelong roommates we never pay attention to. You spend time occupying your mind, keeping it busy, and filling it with facts. But you spend very little time actually paying attention to it.
Meditation helps you pay attention to it, teaches you how to notice what it’s doing, and the games it plays to keep you safe from tigers don’t exist.
Meditation teaches you to understand your mind and to understand the self. Once you understand yourself you can put yourself aside, which essential if you want to achieve things far beyond what your little self defines as possible.
2. Go slowly, sometimes.
Mindfulness isn’t about going slow, but going slow can help. If you want to pay attention to your life, it helps to slow parts of it down. Slow down the way you talk, the way you eat, the way you wash the dishes, and the way you wait for the bus. Slow it all down.
At first being mindful is like trying to count the branches of a tree you’re falling out of. So if you The slower you fall, the more you notice. Eventually over time you learn to fall faster but still notice. This takes time and practice, so at first just pick a few things to slow down.
But don’t try to slow everything down. It’s super annoying to other people and really difficult to maintain. Sometimes you need to go fast; sometimes you need to react quickly. Mindfulness helps with this too.
3. Be Curious (about everything).
Curiosity is the most underrated mindfulness tool you have. At it’s core mindfulness is about being curious. It’s about being curious about the texture of your food, about the way your foot feels inside your socks right now, and about the way your heart loves someone.
If you want to be more mindful, become more curious, but don’t just investigate with your mind. Investigate with your whole being.
If you see how the wind pushes the branches around, don’t do a Google search on wind. Watch the branches. Notice them with your whole body. Imagine that you’re the first person to ever see branches sway like that. Imagine that you are a device that is designed to observe the world in the smallest detail and bring these details back to a whole planet of people waiting for what you notice. Notice how this observing makes you feel.
This is mindfulness, being very curious about everything. Good or bad. Simple or complex. Just Become curious and you’ll learn more about the nature of your own life than any book could ever teach you.