3 Lessons in mindfulness
Mindfulness. A concept I only recognised recently but have been practising for many years. It can be self-care, it can be meditation, it can be journaling, it can be dancing. The techniques to practice mindfulness are endless, but the outcome is always the same - pure happiness and freedom. Here is what I’ve learnt whilst becoming a little more mindful.
I never knew what it was, but I knew I could recognise the concept of mindfulness that was rooted deep inside me. I cared about the way I feel, I experienced emotions deeply and thoroughly. Yet, I was always significantly manipulated by others. That, according to Kegan’s theory about adult development, is natural. Furthermore, the majority of us never leaves that stage (number 3: Socialised Mind). However, I decided to be different. I wanted more.
I started recognising my thoughts and examining them from a distance. I didn’t know I was being mindful when I was reading a book with a cup of tea in bed, all by myself. I didn’t know I was being mindful when walking in the park listening to folk music. I didn’t know I was being mindful when I was meditating in a cross-legged seat. Names don’t matter. The act is crucial. Time to think, time to stop, time to reflect. That’s what I call mindfulness.
Having the space to examine myself, I had a miraculous moment - this is me. No need to try to change anything, instead, accept and celebrate everything as it is. This is what mindfulness taught me.
1. Loving myself
I read and write a lot about self-love. Slowly, I started believing that I must learn to love myself before I’ll be ready to love anyone else. But I had no idea how… And so, as with any other commitment, I started step by step. I wrote a line in my diary every day, I did a single sun salutation every morning, I smiled at myself in the mirror whenever I could, at least once a day. And suddenly, the pages became crowded, the yoga series got extended, the face looking at me in the mirror became familiar. I was loved. I was me.
Through a series of loving rituals, my life slowly changed. I changed. I’d like to think I became more real, honest, pure. Put simply, I was becoming me. I started learning how to eliminate distractions, putting my phone into the plane mode or switching off apps when working on my laptop. I started listening to my body. When I spent a couple of hours with my friends and family, I took some time off by myself. Alone. I needed to be offline. I needed to recharge. To be with me.
I stopped feeling guilty about those needs and now listen more carefully to what my mind, body and soul need.
Once I developed this selfish obsession with myself, things changed. I started looking at my naked body in the mirror, recognising the beauty of every curve and wrinkle I possessed, I stood on my head less and sat on my butt more - meditating. I stopped thinking that writing, turn it into a career and dedicated an entire hour to working on a book, every day. And as I began doing the things I love, I could feel the gentle transition. I was falling in love with myself.
2. Appreciating pain
Loving myself somewhat came naturally to me. I was paying more attention to my needs, doing the things that filled me with joy. What I didn’t realise was the change within me. Over the years of pretending and dissatisfaction, I was suddenly happy and real me. And when people saw me, they were shocked. Some of them were instantly drawn to me, others were hesitant, but something in my face has changed - and that threatened and excited them at the same time.
One day, I realised, that I was entering a new stage. I became accepting of everything I was and was unexceptionally loved by myself. Until then, I was constantly looking for love elsewhere. But I didn’t want to be disappointed another time and so I looked for love in the only place where I felt safe - within my own mind, body and soul.
Once I started loving myself, things started happening. I stopped hunting for the perfect guy, thinking about the reasons why nobody loved me, and gently smiled at the mentions of still NOT having a boyfriend. I accept those facts as they were, I was happy to be myself. I didn’t need the recognition nor appreciation of others. No false lies, no pretending, thank you.
And then something odd happened. I started seeing someone with whom I thought we were bound to be friends, but we became something more. Neither of us knew what exactly it was, but we were enjoying it. I would even say I was in love - with the way I felt when we were together. I felt incredibly happy, secure and lifted… all until the storm hit.
Having had a few glasses to drink (me non-alcoholic, but still), we found ourselves on the terrace, discussing life. And then he spoke about his doubts, his hurts and disappointment. My immediate reaction was to end this. No more struggle, no more pain. And so we said goodbyes. But during the time of being isolated from him, I have been aching in a way I only did once before in my life. The pain went far beyond the tears and upset expression, the feeling was sharp and painful, it was happening inside my chest, near the heart. I could not redirect my thoughts to anything else. I buried myself in work but it didn’t help. I was alone and I was feeling lonely. I wasn’t ready to leave all the good behind and suddenly I was left with nothing. Without warning.
This crippling pain, however, opened a new dimension of the understanding of my emotions. I realised that without the pain, there cannot be a joy. If I never experienced the total high, how could I now be hitting the rock bottom? In a way, I became grateful for this pain which was a living proof, that what we had was worth fighting for. And so, we met again.
We admitted to ourselves that we both miss each other. We talked about our fears, our doubts, our weaknesses. And we made a promise to work on our relationship and give everything to it. This was the first time I did this for a man. And it’s thanks to mindfulness that I didn’t fear away from aching but instead tried reading in between the lines and learn from what was coming my way.
3. Following my passion
Another way of utilising mindfulness was when finding my purpose. I spent long hours thinking and reflecting on life - what I’ve done, accomplished, achieved. What were the things that filled me with joy, without the need for a financial remuneration? My answer was journaling, helping others and sharing joy, yours can be very different. What are those things for you? Think about it.
Having loved journaling and co-founded a magazine made me realise - why not to write a book? At first, I laughed at my own idea. But then I took the risk and mentioned it to a few of my friends. My mentor and my best friend had the most amazing response - YES, you should definitely do it! And so I did. I dedicated an hour every morning to writing, researching and daydreaming about my book and, after a month, completed the first part. I was so proud and grateful to have done it!
The feeling that spreads across my body is incredible. I feel at ease, I feel comfortable, I feel free. I used to rush and tried to complete as many tasks as I possibly could. Now I prefer to sit in peace and share the love I collect within myself with others. I might change my mind soon, but for now, I know that having the time to think and reflect is the most important element of my life. Only then, can I appreciate everything I have and become.
My mission is to maintain this sense of freedom and independence to do the things I love, so I can love myself. I am well aware that everybody is not that fortunate to take the time to reflect, but wherever you are in life, please, try and take one deep breath today whilst doing nothing. Paying attention to your mind is more than enough. But it needs time. Let’s try. Namaste.