What is Mindful Living?
If I had to define it, I’d say it’s about how mindfulness can transform your life into an expression of what really matters most to you.
Before I discovered the practice of mindfulness 11 years ago, I was chasing a life that someone else had designed, centred around career ambition and material achievements. And it made me thoroughly miserable, because it turns out that isn’t the life that feels meaningful to me. I felt like a robot putting in time at a lifeless ‘success’ factory. I constantly felt I needed to prove myself, or pretend to be who I thought I ‘should’ be. It was exhausting and soul-destroying.
Things are very different now. All my time and energy is put into things that are important to me. Life is slower, simpler, much less stressful and a lot happier. I feel properly alive. I feel comfortable just being human, and being who I really am.
Many people decide to try mindfulness for similar reasons. But there can be a difference between learning mindfulness and actually living it – especially in our ‘quick fix’ culture. We may have a lot to unlearn and let go of, as we bring more mindful awareness into the whole of our life.
Mindfulness is very powerful, but it’s pretty useless if it doesn’t transfer from your ‘meditation’ time into your day-to-day life. Instead of viewing it as a technique to master, I believe it’s a way of inhabiting this human life, moment to moment, even when what’s happening is challenging.
Mindful living offers us a way to experience greater wellbeing in a sustainable, long-term way. As one of my clients puts it:
“Life is easier, more fun and less stressful.”
Meditation can be a valuable part of the path, but it’s not mandatory. Some of us start off with other mindfulness practices that we weave into our day, and come to sitting meditation later. With hindsight, perhaps this is why mindful living was such an integral part of my own journey: I needed time to slow down my pace and adjust my minsdset before I was ready to start a regular sitting practice.
With this in mind, I share a range of tools and ideas drawn from coaching, mindfulness and self-kindness. These practices foster greater awareness, and support three key aspects which I feel contribute to mindful living, outlined below.
This isn’t intended as a rigid definition – it’s just my take on it, informed by more than a decade of my personal mindfulness practice, plus a number of years running workshops and classes on mindful living.
This is also known as values-based living. Mindfulness helps to grow our awareness of personal values, so that we can honour them more fully in how we live our lives. There is no one size-fits-all template for mindful living, it’s an expression of what matters most to you personally.
We live in a demanding world, with a very persuasive culture that can easily pull us away from our own values. But with greater mindful awareness, we discover more choice about where we put our energy. For example, one of the choices I made early in my own journey towards intentional living was to swap my corporate job for something much lower paid. When our life is aligned with our deepest intentions, there is a feeling of ‘enoughness’ that supports more ease and wellbeing.
Life inevitably includes discomfort and challenge at times: it’s hard being human. From a very young age we may have developed habits to help us cope (which can be mental, emotional or behavioural). Though once useful, these strategies can eventually become limiting.
In order to release ourselves from limiting habits, we need to create a new set of resources. I believe that self-kindness can be an extremely powerful resource, which helps to build emotional confidence. This is how we bring mindfulness of emotions into the fuller picture of mindful living. We are less driven by unconscious patterns, and more able to stay steady and resilient in the face of difficulty.
You can find blogs about this aspect of mindful living in the ‘self-kindness’ category.
We experience life in our body. But we can become disconnected from that reality. When I first came to mindfulness, I was hardly aware that I even had a body, I was so accustomed to inhabiting the reality that existed only in my head, as a stream of thoughts about the past and the future.
As we become more aware, we re-connect with our embodied, physical experience – and we develop a new appreciation of both the external environment and the sensations inside our own body.
Mindful living helps us to maintain a balance between doing and being, and between mind and body. We can take a break from achieving, to allow for just being. We can embrace being in the body to give the thinking mind a rest. All of this helps us to access a peaceful state of natural wellbeing more often, one in which we are fully connected to our experience of being alive.
Your Next Steps
If you want to move further towards mindful living – there is plenty of material for you to explore on this site, for inspiration and encouragement. As a starting point, you might like the post How To Experiment With Mindful Living.
If you live near Heaton Moor (South Manchester), you might like to check out my mindfulness workshops and classes.
I also offer a coaching programme via Skype (1-to-1 sessions) – through which I share tools for mindful living.
“I feel like I know myself better now, look after myself more and I am much happier with who I am.”
“Sheila explains so well what mindfulness is and how to incorporate it into each day. I have benefitted so much from her sessions.”