The first two and a half decades of my existence passed by in a frenzy of hurry, stress, and I can safely say, ignorance. I’d wake up, drink my coffee, be grumpy, go to work, drone away for hours on end, come home, watch TV, fall asleep, rinse and repeat. Sometimes without the rinsing. And I know I’m not alone in this semi-conscious state of being, as most of the people around me would condone to the very same routine with few variations. Someone would sometimes exercise, go out, or travel, but the essence was the same – empty and mostly meaningless.
Soon enough I realized I was unhappy, that much I could muster up the guts to recognize and admit to myself. As if sensing my growing resentment towards myself, my closest friend of almost fifteen years invited me to her meditation class, saying that it’s a life-altering experience. The words rang in my ears, but I rolled my eyes in disbelief. She persisted, I gave in. And the rest of my life started unraveling in all of its surprising beauty.
Spotting self-destructive patterns
Sometimes, we form habits out of sheer willpower, but at other times, our habits form and define us. We only notice them when they take over some of our choices and decision-making power. What starts like trying out a cigarette turns into a leak in your monthly budget because you can no longer control your habit. In a similar way, I always found excuses to skip any kind of social activity, anything that could be a strain on my mind or body.
I failed to see that it was precisely what I needed – a challenge. I was hooked to mindful meditation after the very first session. I hadn’t felt that relaxed and at peace for years, if ever. So, I stuck with it, and it helped me spot negative patterns in my everyday life that I needed to take responsibility for, one at a time.
Fasting to heal my relationship with food
One particularly harmful behavior I developed over the years was overeating due to stress, and whenever I needed to process unpleasant emotions. We’ve normalized the bucket of ice-cream as the solution to breakups, while we should actually normalize processing emotions and focusing on spiritual healing instead. Slowly, I started restructuring my eating patterns and I learned that occasional fasting days would help my body cleanse properly and my mind let go of the idea of food as the only source of relief or pleasure.
In order to support my own weight loss goals, I added potent diet drops to my nutrition plan to help my body shed the unneeded weight and stay on the right course through my fasting days. Soon enough, my physical self started resembling my spiritual self, as I was no longer “addicted” to food as a way to deal with emotions. Cravings? Gone, too.
Joy and bliss in ordinary moments
Perhaps the biggest change of all was my slowly developing ability to appreciate my own life. The morning coffee turned into a ritual of contemplation and enjoying with all of my senses. I started noticing the meditative potential in every single moment. The feeling of raindrops that surprised me on my way to work made my skin tingle with bliss – and it was the epitome of all those moments we typically rush through instead of savoring them.
Yup, even the Monday morning meetings, and the parent-teacher conferences. Mindfulness, at least for me, isn’t about manufacturing happiness out of thin air. It’s about finding the little things in every moment that let you appreciate them. And it’s different for everyone.
Choosing self-care over procrastination
Mindful existence for me turned into a wish for ongoing, lifelong improvement in every single aspect of my life. I no longer berated myself over not being a supportive spouse or criticized myself for making mistakes as a parent. Instead, I have made changes in my behavior to accommodate a different self-perception, one of self-love and acceptance.
My disappointment in myself was no longer an excuse to be idle. I changed my point of view to see these imperfections as moments of opportunity to become a better human being one choice at a time.
Making a difference
Being mindful of my own imperfections instead of focusing on those of others has also made me a more compassionate human, allowing me to realize that I don’t live in an isolated little bubble, and what I do can and should matter for those around me, too. To translate that into my everyday life, I started focusing more on people who were less fortunate, and situations where some seemingly insignificant act of kindness could make someone’s day.
Suddenly, I replaced watching TV with making sandwiches for the old lady down the street, and volunteering at the dog shelter. Mindfulness taught me that this life is not about me. It’s about all of us and everything around us, so instead of being an observer of my own time here, I became an active participant of my own life, and its most passionate creator.
What started for me as an invitation to a seemingly obscure class can be cloaked in a myriad of different opportunities for you. Leading a mindful life means just that – opening your heart and your mind to be aware of yourself, of your choices, and those around you, and actively choosing to own your moments.