A realistic and honest approach to practicing mindfulness.
There’s a lot of crazy shit going on in the world right now. Here’s how to stay afloat, not be an asshole, and manage the chaos.
You know, the nice fluffy buzzword uber-conscious people like to throw around. No, I’m not going to tell you to be one of those green juice drinking, spiritual-quest taking, “it’s up to the universe,” live in a van type of humans who tend to scapegoat their asshole-ness. This is not one of those articles. Although, I would like to live in a van.
Mindfulness is more sophisticated than that…and logical.On the surface, it is actually pretty simple. A broad definition is, “finding more awareness in your daily actions.”
While it definitely can be that easy, real mindfulness is murky, sometimes painful, and always comes with problems.
Modern day mindfulness is a powerful tool for every type of human. It’s the bread and butter of what makes us human. It’s the secret to happiness that humans have used for ages. And at the risk of sounding like one of those uber-conscious, spiritually pretentious yogis, it just might be the secret to saving the world.
Here’s how to get started..
Responding Vs Reacting
Mindfulness is the quality or state of being aware of something.
The God that is Google defines it as such:
“A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
The present moment has a lot to offer. Our bodies, emotions, and feelings are always giving us feedback into what is going on and how we should react. If we start to pay closer attention to this, we can better respond to each situation.
Often times, we are so bombarded with stimuli and distractions that we have completely lost touch with these signals. When we don’t recognize these signals, it’s impossible to respond calmly. We react from the first intense thing we feel, often without thinking or any awareness of why it might be happening or how it may be affecting those around us. And that’s how you can become an asshole. Reactivity and unawareness leads to selfishness, ego-centered-ism, and self-righteousness.
Don’t be an asshole
Learn your body’s signals. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling as it comes up without reacting to it…not waiting until tomorrow to feel it. Why? Because that shit will just build and build until your asshole meter is off the charts. Try to calmly breathe through what you are feeling and observe–without judgement–how it is affecting your body and thoughts.
You will be surprised how quickly it passes once you have taken the time to listen to the signals. Discern what is true and what is useful information. From that place, you can calmly respond to the situation and make more logical, compassionate choices. This is how we create peace within ourselves and with each other. Simple, everyday awareness of what is happening right now.
Embrace Your Problems
Humans are full of problems. We have been since the dawn of time. The solution is not to be problem free. The solution is to enjoy your problems. Choose the problems you want to have, instead of the problems controlling you. The main problem is that we think we shouldn’t have problems. Yet, we are biologically designed to always have problems. It’s how we grow. It’s how we innovate. It’s how we navigate life. If you don’t have problems, the lack of having a problem becomes a problem.
Here is how Mark Manson puts it in his book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck...
“The rich suffer because of their riches. The poor suffer because of their poverty. People without a family suffer because they have no family. People with a family suffer because of their family. People who pursue worldly pleasures suffer because of their worldly pleasures. People who abstain from worldly pleasures suffer because of their abstention.”
So no matter what, we got problems. May as well enjoy them, learn from them, and move on.
This mindset liberates us from the ‘someday’ happiness trap: “If only I had a cooler girlfriend, I’d be happy,” or, “Once I make X amount of money then I’ll be happy,” or, “When I finally get the job I love, I’ll be happy.” While that’s all well and good, you are still going to have problems when you get there. You may even feel more dissatisfied as you continue to be unhappy and have problems even though you’ve reached a goal because you will be left thinking, “I did everything I was supposed to do. Why do I still feel like this?”
This is where mindfulness comes in. Being aware that problems are never going away. Ever.
Even solving problems only leads to more problems. Mindfulness allows us to change how we interface with our problems. We can learn to enjoy them, take them on as a challenge, and even get excited about what we will learn from them. Eventually, we can even get to a point when we look forward to how they will propel our growth. By controlling our reaction to our problems, our problems don’t control us. It won’t necessarily make our problems easier or go away faster, but it will make them more enjoyable and more manageable.
Humans are awesome
It’s true. The fact that we are consciously having a mental conversation right now about how awesome we are is proof of how awesome we are. But we have to remember we are a species that will always have problems. If you can remember that humans are awesome (and problems are a part of being human) maybe you can view problems as awesome too?
Mindfulness is a non-religious, non-spiritual, secular, simple, scientifically proven method to be a better human. You don’t need a guru or take part in a 10 day silent retreat to bring more mindfulness into your life.
Be your own guru and start doing the work every mundane, beautiful day.
Don’t be an asshole. Choose mindfulness. Choose life.