Mindfulness: tame your life and savour every day
If you crave to live a better quality of life, then using more accurately the capabilities that make us distinctively human should be on the peak of your value summit. Mindfulness is one of them. Having more money, more holidays, a bigger house, new shoes, better nose or anything material that is temporary and flies away like a sheet of paper in a swift swirl of the wind, will not fit the holistic quality of your life. Something will always be missing. Many of the superficial comments that some outwardly happy people make to look good or better in front of others either come from insecurity somewhere else inside or they are ultimately lying to themselves in acknowledging what is truly making them happy in the long-term.
Once your own baby is born and healthy, you may start to understand this better if you have not grasped it yet through your own existence. Emotions and thoughts are the essence of humanity. Therefore, take your time with focused thinking, feel fully the emotions racing through your body and mind, and try to use the higher level of awareness that enables creativity and empathy. After all, these superior traits gave us advantages over the other species living on Earth.
Variety is natural, but can also be overwhelming, especially for a complex thinker. It can become a burden for our mind when there is too much stimulation going on around in our modern cosmopolitan world. We better select what we want to see and what to ignore in order to create a more comfortable and peaceful life for ourselves.
When we open the doors of our consciousness for certain ideas though, we let them shape our worldview and the individual sense of happiness. Ovid once said that men feel the good less intensely than the bad. In psychology it is called the negative bias. Seneca went into extreme as he mentally discarded any belonging to avoid pain from loss. But, it does not necessarily need to be extreme like this. Our attitude can be influenced by mindfulness. For example if we instead of the material ownership focus on experience and creating meaningful relationships, we may become more content with our lives. Attitude can also be used as a mantra: “Do not worry, there are problems all the time. Do not pay attention to them, and they disappear.” As the result of thinking this way, one is eager to experience the world in all shades as it comes along.
Direct your emotions so they flow smoothly
To think and perform better, we need focus. To tame the gushing stream of emotions, we need to be able to stop and acknowledge them, and only then we can profit from the higher level of general awareness. An athlete will be better, a writer more precise, and a mother upset about her child crying will change her aura so the baby may be soothed without much effort.
A dog may be more aware of smell than us, but he cannot create something lasting and inspiring that the other dogs could appreciate, well except puppies. Although, we can create relationships with animals, they are based on simple connections such as not feeling loneliness and having someone we can trust. Science goes forward by pushing the boundaries of our knowledge, and as much as we are far more complex creatures, an animal is not capable of inventing something. Thus sharing our knowledge immortalises us.
Human complexity though can make our lives messy, so we need a tool for our mind to tame the wild herd of thoughts and emotions in our head. The hectic lifestyles of big cities, obsession with speed not just on the roads, in sports, but also in our thinking, are not sustainable for a long and healthy life. Most modern diseases are caused by stress and our unthoughtful daily actions. Yet, millennia of wisdom and experience tell us that we are getting more off balance if we do too much of anything. Mindfulness facilitates the awareness of our limits and knowledge of where we are currently in our own life.
Reportedly, The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, said:
Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present;
the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;
he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
The reality of life is harsh for most people, we need to work in order to feed our families, since hunger can cause illness and unhappiness, yet even in this situation trying to get the best out of the moment, being mindful of what we are doing, can bring us more satisfaction with even the most boring or demanding chores we had to do.
In the first world consumer society, when excess is the norm more than scarcity, we can become the victims of our own circulating in the wrong circuit of life. Although material pleasures in life are enjoyable, they do not form the holistic completeness to a long-term genuine satisfaction with our existence (at least in this life, although reincarnation is also philosophically connected with actions in our current lives).
We can also ask, what makes the pleasant experience last for longer? One of the easiest but also more intense tools is mindfulness. We turn our attention off in some instances when keeping our focus on the pleasure experienced in that certain moment would make it even more enjoyable as well as preventing us from skipping off to other subject, experience or object. It is like stopping time or at least feeling like stopping the clock, human invention after all.
Overcoming the challenges: do not fight, but use your weapons
Being in the moment may sound as an overwashed phrase in the media lead by the flamboyantly expressive entourage of the self-help literature. Yet this is not just another luxury invented by the contemporary emotions-centric marketing to pamper the eccentricities of modern comfort. Yes, yoga became in some way cultish and the way of life for many stressed city dwellers seeking peace of mind, but our busy lifestyles instinctively crave something grounding and yoga often does it for you, and it does certainly for me.
I struggled with finishing this musing. Half-way through writing it, I realised that I am writing about something that I have not mastered myself. I battle with mindfulness on a daily basis. Am I trying to find a solution to something that cannot be solved? As it often happens, when we let go, a foggy mountain becomes a starkly clear glacier, and it happened one morning during my yoga practice. Conceptualising it in my mind as a battle was actually the artificial hurdle I had created for myself. The battle stopped me from allowing mindfulness into my mind and residing there at least for the curative long-enough moment. Any strong, muscle-tensing determination can bring anxiety, yet mindfulness needs to enter softly, like a naturally talented dancer with a great sense for movement, into our state of everyday existence.
Meditation can be too difficult, too high a hurdle to jump over without collapsing during the number of months or years lasting attempts. It reacquires too much discipline and practice that most of us give up before its blissful effects can start to penetrate our body and mind. Even if you have the ideal setting, a totally noise-free meditation room at your holiday destination, there will be days when the neighbours will be drilling into the walls, their kids racing on the floors right above you or the other neighbours manicuring their impeccable garden with a powerful engine of a grass mower. For this, I need a stronger distraction in order to go deep into myself. Going deep into my mind, my physical body together with focus on the effort and the energy inside are the best tools that I own and do not need to pay a penny for their powerful work.
Practicing on your own a mindful or a well-guided, feelings rather than correctly aligned positions stressing, form of yoga is much easier and realistic habit to stick to. For some people it is more or at least as much rewarding as sitting still during a deep meditation session. Being mindful of your body, acknowledging the sore muscles from a game of tennis yesterday, the stiff back and tight hips from sitting too much at work, even a dislocated vertebrae in need of a gentle twist to ‘click’ it back – all that brings awareness of your body’s real needs, but at the same time it helps to tune your mind in the smooth jazz frequency. Yoga practice can become mindfulness in movement, but it is better to practice on your own, undisturbed by the voice of the teacher, the smells of the yoga studio and the other yogis each in a probably different proficiency of the asanas (postures). Too many questions float to the surface of the studio. The gentle stretches and slow, precise movements of our body are also the main aspects of Tai-Chi and Qi-Gong, where you work with your body’s energy. For Tai-Chi I like Master William C.C. Chen’s Tai Chi Chuan technique suitable for the beginners, and for Qi-Gong Master Fumin Wang Guo.
Breathing is a well-known and researched technique indispensable not just for our survival but also aiding with meditation, yoga, qi-gong and many other body & mind connecting practices. The energising flow of an inhale and the releasing power of each exhale, both requiring enough concentration to distract from other activities and disturbances, while at the same time directing the body’s life energy to a balancing pace. Harmony and longevity are terms used often in the eastern world, and I wrote about them in my previous long-life focused musing, therefore mindfulness is one of the non-material tools that can help us to live longer and be happier.
The key is to let go, while observing. This sounds almost contradictory, but it is not since when we free ourselves from intense emotions we have time and space for observation.
TO RELEAVE YOUR OVERLOADED MIND TRY SOME OF THESE TECHNIQUES:
Next to meditation, yoga, the eastern martial arts and breathing, there are many other tools you can implement into your daily life to increase your mindfulness.
Su-Mei Yu, the author of The Elements of Life advises using your beauty time (not just ladies) to unwind and bring attention to your mind. When making a face mask at home, lie down and relax while it’s nourishing your skin for the recommended 10 to 20 minutes of its penetration. It is a perfect opportunity to clear your head and skin at the same time. Also, during a good massage at a spa, just focus on each part of the body as the masseuse touches it and become aware of any stiffness, soreness or other signals that our body is talking to us through, while touched appropriately.
Summer lents itself to tanning on a quiet beach, the perfect place where nature with its relaxing clashing of the waves guides your mindfulness practice. Just close your eyes, and let the rays penetrate deep into your skin. Warmth in itself is calming.
Nature rejuvenates our spirit, but a strenuous hike requires our attention being dispersed in the environment, so we do not slip and injure ourselves. Take a break, sit down on a comfortable stone or a bench and savour the clean air, the fragrances of the forest and the meadows or the mineral breeze swooshing refreshingly from the sea.
Music is another marvellous tool that can tune us into the state of deep focus. It depends on the type of music though, and each of us likes different type of music and needs to test on himself what works best. The piano music composed by my friend Tom Zaruba that can be played on La Muse Blue’s home page works magic, slowing you down, just try.
BENEFITS OF MINDFULNESS
Your focus will improve in most daily activities. Focus is something that top athletes cannot achieve without. In some sports it may not be obvious, while in others it bangs on you. Like car racing, sport shooting or tennis.
Achievement is a short snippet of happiness, but if we make the experience of getting towards our goal more meaningful every day, if we connect it to our most cherished personal values, then we most likely enjoy our journey as much as the milestone or the final destination.
You might be happier as you notice the subtle nuances of your surroundings and become more interested in digging deeper into daily necessities like how to prepare and enjoy a meal with your loved ones.
By shifting our attention to the positive side of reality we create and spread happiness to the people closest to us. We can further contribute to everyone’s betterment by helping them to shift their attention from pain, emotional strain like depression or death of a loved one and other discomforts in life.
Mindfulness also guides us away from the robotic mode that we tend to slip into naturally when doing something familiar repeatedly.
Better control of your cravings as you will be able to shift your attention to something else.
Listening to our body and mind’s needs is crucial whether we feel like (emotions) indulging or rejuvenating ourselves in the moment.
If we employ mindfulness then we possibly will hardly be able to exploit anyone or anything because of our higher state of awareness of being engaged with something.
Appreciate the fruits of nature and the human labor. Savour the great moments in life by paying a greater attention to them through mindful enjoyment lasting for as long as possible, all without guilt since this is ultimately the most sustainable way of living.
Further, by appreciating the beauty of seemingly automatic things around us, we will become the attentive observers of our own surroundings. Smell the roses in the garden, look closely on the brush strokes on a painting and feel the softness of the silk shirt you are wearing to work. Be grateful for living in this wonderful world! La Muse Blue is founded exactly on this perspective, and I hope that it will aid your journey to mindful happiness.