Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Mindful Living’ Category

‘Enoughness’ as True Happiness

I’ve always felt a little bit of resistance to the word ‘happiness’. It can feel like a concept that is defined by someone else’s idea of what I should achieve, and then sold to me via magazines and social media.

It’s easy to forget there’s a powerful consumer industry that needs us to feel a sense of ‘not enough’ so that we’ll attempt to buy our way to happiness (some statistics estimate that the modern person sees about 5000 ads per day).

But true happiness, for me, comes from a feeling of ‘enoughness’. Admittedly, this isn’t actually a proper word, but I feel like it conveys a quality of appreciation which isn’t quite there when I hear the word ‘enough’.

This quality, a kind of quiet and steady wellbeing, is actually not all that elusive if I stay open to it. I’ve been reflecting on how it shows up in everyday life, and this is what I noticed…

Enoughness means I don’t always have to get what I want to be happy.

Enoughness means I can let go of trying to prove myself or get somewhere, and actually just be content right now.

Enoughness means that nothing I do has to be perfect.

Enoughness means I don’t have to fill my diary to feel fulfilled.

Enoughness means I can appreciate what I already do have that I’m grateful for, instead of chasing something more, or something else.

Enoughness means I can open to the wonder of just being alive (as trite as that may sound), every day, without waiting for something ‘big’ or impressive to happen.

Enoughness means that the way I live reflects my own values, even if they don’t match those of contemporary culture.

Enoughness means I can connect deeply with the people I care about, because I haven’t got half my attention on the mental pursuit of goals.

Enoughness means I’m more immune to the marketing strategies that want me to believe I need to buy happiness, or chase an unrealistic lifestyle (which also often seems to mean buying what someone is selling).

Enoughness means I can step back from Doing mode, and feel confident that it’s ok to leave those minutes unfilled by busyness. And realising that just Being can sometimes create more positive change than Doing.

Enoughness means that even when life feels uncomfortable, I know I’ll cope because I’m ok at a very basic level: my needs for oxygen, nutrients, physical support and shelter are rarely not met. As Rick Hanson puts it, I’m ‘alright, right now’.

A feeling of enoughness can also be the most reliable clue that I’m engaged in mindful living. So when I feel like I’m losing my way, if I look for a sense of enoughness, however ‘small’, it can make a big impact.

I’ll leave you with an Albert Camus quote that pretty neatly sums up what I mean by enoughess.

“Four Conditions Of Happiness:

Life in the open air

Love for another being

Freedom from ambition

Creation”*

Sheila runs mindfulness workshops in Heaton Moor, South Manchester, and also provides Mindful Living coaching by Skype.

*I believe the correct description is ‘Poe’s 4 Conditions For Happiness’.

JUNE TIPS: Foundations For Mindful Living

For many people, learning mindfulness is life-changing. But how do we consistently bring the benefits of this practice into our lives?

In a very basic way, I might define mindful living as balancing Doing with enough time just Being. This balance tends to lead to greater connection with ourselves, other people and our environment, a feeling of being more fully present in our lives. (For more detail see the Mindful Living page).

This month I’m taking a look at laying down a foundation for mindful living, on an ongoing basis.

Perhaps you’re at the start of your mindfulness journey, or looking to refresh your commitment to living more mindfully. In either case, it’s likely you’ll meet a few challenges along the way. Here are a few supports I fall back on when I need to feel more grounded in mindful living.

You could use some of these as journaling prompts, or just give yourself some space to reflect on what mindful living looks like for you.

Awareness of Intention

Everyone’s reasons for wanting to develop mindfulness may be different. Why is important to you personally? What made you want to learn about it in the first place?

If this is brand new, maybe there’s a change you’d like to see happen in your life. If you already practice mindfulness, perhaps you’ve already experienced some benefits, or cultivated some positive habits that you don’t want to ‘forget’.

Mindful living isn’t always an easy path to stay on – remind yourself often why it matters to you.

Remove ‘Doing Triggers’

Even if you’re not sure what mindful living really is, you might already have some awareness of how the opposite feels: rushed, distracted, overly busy, scattered and in constant Doing mode.

Think about what sort of things trigger these states and therefore undermine mindful living. Again, this is personal. In my case, it’s the devices that lure me into online time, books that I feel driven to ‘get through’, and excessive input from TV, podcasts and articles.

(My starting point with this approach was years ago when I began switching off notifications, one of the best ways I’ve ever discovered to protect my own mindfulness).

Once identified, we can think about how to reduce these triggers. Using my examples above, this means leaving my phone switched off and out of sight whenever I can; reducing how many books are left lying around; and designating times and spaces in my day as ‘input-free zones’, such as a meal at the table or some quiet time cooking.

Your examples may be different. And you don’t have to stop at ‘Doing’ triggers: there may be other conditions in your life that undermine mindfulness. What could you do to reverse that impact?

Maximise Support

When we think about what could help us to be more mindful in daily life, meditation practice might be the obvious thing that comes to mind.

But we can also consider other conditions that support mindful living, and maximise those where possible.

Perhaps that means seeking out like-minded people, being outside more, or even getting more sleep.

Think about what conditions would help you to bring more mindfulness into your life. Which one would make the biggest difference right now?

Mindful Corners

Something that I find really supportive is to incorporate ‘mindful corners’ into my life.

Writer Pico Iyer talks about the “adventure of going nowhere” – I love how this phrase speaks to both the benefit and the challenge of spending more time just Being. He goes on to say that “Nowhere has to become somewhere we visit in the corners of our lives, by taking a daily run or going fishing or just sitting quietly”.

I’ve created literal corners of my everyday life that give me a nudge to drop into just Being. When I get caught up in busyness, or feel like my head is getting too full, these are the places that invite me to pause and connect to more stillness.

Some of mine include:

– my garden bench which has become a regular ‘sit spot’

– the family photo I use for a screensaver on my phone

– the pot-plant I put next to the armchair with the good view

– the mini nature painting that sits above the washing-up sink

They function as a frequent reminder of my intention to live mindfully.

Additional resources

If you would like to be notified when I add new monthly tips – you can ‘follow’ this blog and you’ll receive an email whenever I post tips and blogs – to follow, use the button at the bottom right of the footer. I also post updates to Twitter (I am no longer sending the tips out by monthly mailing list).

On the Mindful Living page of my site, I explore in more depth what this might actually look like in practice.

Pico Iyer’s 15-min talk The Art of Stillness has a great take on how finding pauses in our life can support intentional living.

Short meditations are one way to build pauses into your day, to help grow the awareness needed for mindful living – find mini-meditations (of 5 minutes or less) at the bottom of my Meditations page.

If you would like to work with me to support your own mindful living journey, I run mindfulness workshops and classes in Heaton Moor (South Manchester).  I’m also opening up some slots in the autumn for ‘Intentional Living’ sessions – these are 1-to-1 by Skype.  You can find out more on the Coaching Programme page.

 

MAY TIPS: Slow, Simple, Local

These three words have become something of a personal mantra recently.  You may have heard of the Slow Living movement, and it has much in common with mindful living.  Every so often, I find myself called to slow down some more, to create time and space for what’s most important in life.  Here are three ideas for slower living, if you feel inspired to join me.

Slow

In the Aboriginal culture, there is a practice known as dadirri, or ‘deep listening’.  Hank Wesselman (drawing on Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann’s well-known reflection) describes it as ‘a special quality which allows each of us to make contact with a deep spring that lies within us.  To connect with that spring requires that we achieve a state of quiet, still awareness.’

Fast living just doesn’t seem to allow enough room for this natural inner wisdom and wellbeing to emerge.  However, when we pay full attention to our embodied experience, we get a taste of this quality of deep listening.  And living more slowly really supports that.

When I notice I’ve become disconnected – from myself, from loved ones, or from my environment – I know I’m not leaving enough room for deep listening to happen.  But re-connecting doesn’t have to mean spending hours in meditation – it can be as simple as leaving something out of my schedule for the day or week, to create the needed space.

Simple

In modern culture, there is so much on offer that it’s easy to get drawn into craving ‘bigger, better, more’.  Recently I’ve been re-evaluating the simpler experiences in life.  I noticed that I wasn’t fully appreciating things that happen frequently, simply because I was chasing after novelty.

I found that it’s possible to re-engage with these familiar occurrences – like hanging out with friends, cooking, family downtime – and discover just how rich these experiences are.  Choosing the simple life, far from being boring, can actually create a wonderful feeling of ‘enough’.

Local

I was very inspired by Melanie Warnick’s book This Is Where You Belong – in which she explores the theory of place attachment and how it can boost wellbeing.  She outlines a plan to help you learn to ‘love where you live’.  It really reminded me of the mindfulness practice of taking in your local environment as if you were visiting on holiday.

Practicing ‘loving where I live’ has encouraged me to see my local area through this illuminating lens of unfamiliarity.  Making an effort to spend my time (and my money) in my local community has brought an unexpected sense of joy and connection.  It’s become a habit to ask myself ‘where can I buy this locally?‘, or ‘what can we do for fun nearby?‘, and I feel a lot more content and rooted for it.

Sometimes, I just return to those 3 words – slow, simple, local – as a kind of anchor, to catch myself from coming adrift.

Additional resources

Meditations that complement this month’s theme are ‘Breathing With The Body’, ‘Support Your Self’, or ‘5 Minute Breathing Space’ – which can all be found on the Meditations page.

Blogs that relate to slow living:

Committing To Self-Kindness

Hurry Up, Get More Done and Die by Mark Morford

Podcast on slow living from Brook McAlary & Tsh Oxenreider – On Ignoring What Slow Should Look Like

If you would like to be notified when I post new tips and blogs, you can ‘follow’ the blog to receive emails (using the button at the bottom right corner of the footer). I also post updates to Twitter – see Contact page for the link.

If you would like to work with me, I run mindfulness workshops and classes in Heaton Moor (South Manchester). I also offer 1-to-1 sessions via Skype – see the Coaching Programme for more info.

Kindness Challenge: Cutting Out Criticism

I’ll admit it, a part of me does like to have a good moan. About the food that isn’t quite right in a restaurant, or the film that doesn’t live up to my expectations, or how someone else has done something that’s had an unfortunate impact on me.

And I know I’m not alone. Social interactions (whether online or in conversation) are littered with comments and opinions that are critical, judgemental or of a complaining nature. Our internal dialogue might have this flavour too, if we’ve learned to turn judgement against ourselves as self-criticism. We’re most likely conditioned into this habit, especially if we grew up with it. And I really think that’s what it is – a habit, and therefore something we can condition ourselves out of too.

I know that in my own experience, this tendency is a reactive, aversive energy. It arises when my needs aren’t met, or I don’t like something, or even just to fill an awkward silence. Sometimes it’s a defence mechanism, when I feel hurt or vulnerable. It can also get triggered when I’m seeking validation.

I can’t help wondering, if we all reduced this aversive energy, what would fill those spaces in conversation (or in our life) that the judging and complaining used to occupy? Maybe that’s why we find this habit so seductive, because it covers over a fear of just being with our naked experience, without having to paper it over with our preferences and reactions.

So I’ve set myself a challenge to notice when I’m moaning, criticising or complaining about someone or something. It’s probably more often than I think. Especially when I look at things from someone else’s point of view rather than my own.

I say noticing because I have no intention of transferring the judgement onto myself if (when) I fall into the same old trap. Awareness is the starting point for change, so I trust that it’s enough for now.

Maybe that noticing might plant the seeds of something else that could fill those spaces if I cut out criticism. Because alongside the part of me that likes to find what’s wrong, another part of me can see the world through kind eyes, and find what’s good to appreciate. I just need to get out of the way more often to let that part of me fill those spaces.

And if this post itself comes across in any way judgemental, please know that isn’t my intention. Life isn’t easy, and we all make judgements (it’s an important part of our survival equipment). We can grow our awareness without attacking ourselves for being human.

On that note, when I do find myself acting out an old habit and need to see that through kind eyes, I always find Portia Nelson’s poem reassuring.

You might also like:

Choosing Love Over Power

Making The Most Of Messing Up

Today didn’t go quite how I had planned.

I had planned a day trip with our son to a geology shop and museum in a nearby town. It would be – I thought – a nice easy short train trip and a chance to explore somewhere new.

What actually happened was that I didn’t check the trains beforehand and there was a rail strike, which meant far less trains were running. Then I miscalculated the walking distance between stations and we just missed our train. After waiting an hour for the next one, it got cancelled. By this time I’d also realised that the packed lunch I’d been organised enough to prepare was not in my bag, but left behind at home. Oh, and the kid-friendly restaurant I thought would be a good plan B had closed down…

My initial response was anger – at myself for messing up, at the rail company, at whoever I could blame. I managed not to say the f word out loud (though I may have said it silently to myself), and I may have actually stamped my foot in frustration. But it took less than a minute for a more mindful response to kick in. I could make a choice. I could either let the day be ‘ruined’, or I could open myself up to something unplanned.

As we wandered out of the station, my son practically squealed with delight to find that we’d emerged by his favourite city water feature – some streams with mini-waterfalls. Who says leaf racing is only for summer days? Following his lead, I quickly let go of any lingering disappointment, and found the joy in cheering on my leafy competitor. After that we headed into the nearby football museum for some air hockey, followed by lunch at the science museum, and what the boy described as some ‘quality time’ building with construction toys together.

Today didn’t go quite how I planned. It was much more fun that I could ever have planned.