Mindfulness is all the rage these days, right? But the more I talk to people about what is to live mindfully for me, or the ways in which I find the practice personally powerful and profound, the more I realize how misunderstood and misused the word actually is.
First, let’s get one simple thing out of the way. I’m NOT saying my understanding of what mindfulness practice is, is somehow better, or bolder or more beautiful than yours.
The truth is, and this should be obvious – no one has a copyright, or a corner on what it means to be mindful.
But language DOES matter. The frame we place around our words, and our wisdom, does color the interest that others will invest in our ideas.
And for those of us who love the idea of spreading the magic and life enhancing benefits of this powerful practice, it’s important to know exactly what mindful habits are most important when it comes to living our lives.
So if I had to pick 3 mindful habits that I personally try to incorporate into my own daily life, this would be the short list!
1 – Get back in your body without being stuck in your skull.
I’ve spent so much of my own life lost in the maze of the monkey mind. Being stuck in our head is the vehicle by which many of us deliver our own suffering. When you find yourself stuck in your skull? Get back in your body. Find a location in your body like your feet or hands (I love to move my attention to the spot at the back of my knees) and just allow your attention to get as close to the raw sensation you feel in that location. It immediately “re-minds” me to get back in my body and moves me away from the manic monkey mind…..and for me, it works like magic!
2 – Make your practice portable.
There is no rule that mindfulness equals sitting meditation. As a matter of fact, some of the most powerful and pragmatic practices are those that you bring OFF the “mat” and into the world. I practice something I call “mindfulness on the move” with a very simple finger based mudra technique.
How does it work?
I identify the 4 core values I want to bring out into the world every day, and each of my four fingers represents one of those values.
I use my thumb to touch each finger as I go about my day, reinforcing and repeating each word in my mind as I do so. When a challenging situation arises? I used to over-react and get over aggressive to simple slights.
Now, I just instinctively bring my attention to my 4 fingers, and perform a simple, silent, mental mindfulness exercise that reminds me of who I am, and who I want to be in the world. (irrespective of what those i encounter in the world do)
3 – Practice kindness to everyone. (starting with yourself!)
The most powerful mindfulness exercises I’ve learned in my own life are based on what are called the Brama Vihara’s, or what the Buddha taught were the 4 highest, most divine and powerful practices. Two of these 4 practices are the Sanskrit words “Karuna” and “Metta” which are translated as “Compassion” (karuna) and “Loving Kindness” (metta) The rule is super simple. What you energize, increases. And when you stoke the emotions of loving kindness and compassion for people you bump up in the world your whole life begins to change. What many people forget to do? Start with ourselves.
Learning to treat yourself with true compassion and loving kindness is the greatest gift you can offer yourself. A light, loving attitude to your own imperfections, eccentricities and awkward uncomfortable moments will make you smile, laugh out loud and if you are like me, learn to love yourself after 40 years of serious self scrutiny.
The traditional sayings for “Metta” practice are:
May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be Free. May you be loved.
You can DEFINITELY substitute any words or phrases you like, but start with directing those 4 phrases at yourself, and watch how your own sense of self appreciation, kindness , compassion and connection begins to grow and flow in the direction of more love.
It’s very basic stuff.
But THIS is the real magic of mindfulness to me. I’m confident the same will be true for you!