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Posts tagged ‘Mindful Living’

How To Experiment With Mindful Living – Part 2

In the first part of this post, I offered some ways to reduce chronic busy-ness, so that you can begin to live more mindfully.  At first, this can feel like there’s whole lot we’re making ourselves give up.

But in my experience, there’s no point subjecting yourself to extreme deprivation, or being so all-or-nothing that you get more stressed, not less so. You might challenge yourself to reduce something, and in doing so discover that it does add value to your life (though you may also find that what you enjoy changes as you become more mindful).

This journey can be about choosing what you want to keep, and learning what ‘just enough’ of something looks like. Or you might discover a habit you want to let go of as part of your ongoing mindfulness journey (that kind of change can take time, especially if the habit functions to protect you from uncomfortable emotions).

Real change is gradual, and rushing it can be counterproductive, but doing a playful exploration can have surprising outcomes that are well worth a few failed experiments.

Here are a few more ideas to try out living more mindfully, with a focus on reconnecting with the world around you, which is known to boost well being.

Reviewing Consumption 

We’re constantly consuming – food, products and information. Decluttering is having a bit of a moment, but I suspect it’s more than just a shallow trend, and possibly the beginning of a wide-spread rejection of the mindless over-consumption that’s become the norm for so many of us.  These are some ways to investigate consumption habits.

  • Liberate some space in your home, so that you can live more intentionally.  The best decluttering method I’ve come across are the daily 10-minute declutter, starting with what feels easiest.  This is a practice that cultivates the key mindfulness skill of letting go.
  • Get choosy about digital consumption: notice the impact that different streams of input have on you, then make an informed choice to keep the ones that feel uplifting or inspiring, and limit the ones that make you feel drained, inadequate or unsettled.
  • Practice slow shopping as a step towards less buying.  Online options made my own ‘fast shopping’ habit all too easy.  To slow myself down, I shop around more, look for local suppliers, and only buy things I really need.  Whereas convenience can encourage mindless shopping, having to wait for something seems to make me appreciate the things I’ve bought much more.

Increasing Creativity 

  • Do something with your hands – this brings you into the body, and things like gardening, baking, knitting or art can increase a feeling of connection with the earth and its resources. Many people have discovered that these kind of activities can be a valuable positive resource to help let go of mental ‘doing’ like rumination or catastrophising.
  • Learn a new skill – if creation is the opposite of consumption, it can be liberating not to feel so reliant on the consumer industry.  I definitely wasn’t the handy type before I discovered mindful living, and I used be convinced that I’d never feel tempted to take up things like baking or knitting.  But having slowed down the pace of life in general, I’ve discovered the patience to learn, and I genuinely get so much pleasure out of the things I can make myself now.

Reducing Waste

Like many people, more awareness of the world around me has led to me wanting to send less waste to landfill (though I’m not quite a zero-waster – my bin is definitely bigger than a jam jar!).  And I’ve discovered there are some suprising up-sides to this approach.

  • Shop mindfully: this may feel more inconvenient at first, if it involves choosing alternative suppliers and packaging options.  But I’ve actually found that this way of shopping has simplified things and made me feel really good.  I feel much more connected to the products I’m consuming, and to the people I buy them from.  I don’t tend to ‘over-buy’, I throw away far less unused produce, and enjoy my food much more.  I’ve become more creative with cooking, to use up all of what I have, and this actually makes meal planning easier.
  • Take a break from buying: last month, I chose not to buy anything apart from food, travel & services.  I was pleased to discover that all the items I would normally have bought I could actually find for free (it’s amazing what you might already have in the house, or at your local library). This was enormously satisfying, not least for the money I saved by not auto-buying.

Getting outside more

Studies have shown that connecting with nature makes us healthier and happier. An urban life doesn’t have to mean becoming disconnected from the world that we are part of.  These are a few ways to increase that connection:

  • take a cup of tea into the garden
  • walk or cycle to the local shops, instead of driving
  • visit a local wildlife spot like a park, common, pond, or river
  • meditate outside (even if it’s just lying on the grass for a little while)
  • take up gardening, or just learn more about the plants and creatures in your garden
  • open the window, or even just look out of it more often, especially if you need a screen break
  • bring the outside in, with flowers, a fish tank, or a nature table

Resources

If these ideas have given you a taste of mindful living, here are some resources to help you take it further:

A Simpler Way from Happen Films

‘Anti-Consumerism’, a podcast on shopping mindfully from Practically Zero Waste

Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things

Thrive With Less documentary

LifeEdited: Building A Less But Better Digital Lifestyle Ted Talk

Zero Waste Home – Bea Johnson has some inspiring tips for sending less to landfill.

In the Stockport/Heatons area we’re lucky enough to have this low waste shop  You might have something similar where you live.

For tailored support on your own mindful living journey, check out my coaching programme.  The sessions take place by Skype, and some of the themes include letting go of habits and developing positive resources.

If you live near Heaton Moor (South Manchester), you might be interested my mindful living workshops.

I also share additional resources on Twitter as I discover them.

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.

Choosing Love Over Power

At some point I stumbled across the idea of ‘Love Mode vs Power Mode’. It made a big impact on me. I could quickly see how I operate from each mode in relationships with others. At work. As a parent. In close relationships.

I noticed that when I’m in power mode, that’s about trying to control someone else (usually in the service of making myself feel comfortable).

Love mode, on the other hand, is free of any such motive. I’m fully present to the other person as a being in their own right, and often I’m in service rather than in control.

And then there is the relationship we have with ourselves. The practice of self-kindness has helped me to shift from the power mode of self-improvement to the love mode of self-acceptance.

I first came across the poem below via Tara Brach (it’s credited as the words of Bapuji). To me, it’s an invitation to move more deeply into this space of self-love, whatever obstacles get thrown up along the journey.

“My beloved child, break your heart no longer.

Each time you judge yourself you break your own heart.

You stop feeding on the love which is the wellspring of your vitality.

The time has come, your time to live, and to trust the goodness that you are.

There is no wrong in you.

Your true essence is pure awareness, aliveness, love.

Let no one, no thing, no idea or ideal obscure this truth.

If one comes, even in the name of ‘Truth’, forgive it for its unknowing.

Do not fight. Let go. And breathe – into the goodness that you are.”

~ Bapu-ji

You can find various self-kindness practices on my meditations page.

Quitting The Quick-Fix: Mindfulness As A Lifelong Practice

This year marks my 10-year mindfulness anniversary, since I first went on an 8-week ‘Mindfulness for Stress’ course. And I think I’m learning more now than I ever have.

When I embarked on the course, dedicating a whole 2 months to something felt like quite a big undertaking. We live in such a quick-fix culture, and with so many approaches that promise instant stress relief, I guess I thought that an 8-week mindfulness course must get me sorted by the end of it, right?

Well, thankfully I had access to great teachers who helped me realise that to really get the benefits, I’d need to approach mindfulness as an ongoing practice, not a quick fix.

As a mindfulness teacher now myself, I realise that we don’t believe that anyone who comes to a class needs ‘fixing’ anyway. It’s about becoming more human (not less so), and finding ways to live this human life with greater ease.

In my case, I’d tried so many quick fixes for anxiety during my 20s, but mindfulness is the only thing that’s stuck, and continues to ‘work’. It’s a total gamechanger.

And it doesn’t just ‘work’, it continues to develop, as I deepen my meditation practice. Even after 10 years, I’m still learning so much. About myself. About life. It’s helped me enormously so far, and yet in some ways I feel like I’m only just getting started, and I’m eager to keep exploring.

The first big shift for me was finding freedom from anxiety. Currently, my practice is helping me to open to a more joyful life. Looking at all the positive changes in me over the last decade, who knows how the practice might change me even more deeply, given another 10 years?

So I think it’s important that mindfulness doesn’t become something that we tick off and forget about. While an 8-week course is a great starting point, it’s definitely not an end point: mindfulness is a life-long practice. Remembering this can be really helpful once the course stops, because life doesn’t stop.

While there’s no defined end point to reach in our practice, there is a constant development. We don’t talk about ‘getting better’ at mindfulness, but rather ‘going deeper’ in our practice… getting to know ourselves more intimately, so that we can find increasingly greater ease and freedom, even when life is difficult.

This ongoing development is why I teach classes throughout the year, to support a growing community of people who continue to explore together and make new discoveries.

Some of these insights are that mindfulness isn’t about controlling our feelings, fixing ourselves, or getting rid of so-called negative emotions. Instead, it’s about becoming more comfortable with the full range of our human experience. This is a gradual – but transformative – process. It’s profoundly freeing. But reversing the patterns we’ve built up over decades can’t happen instantly.

So, if you have the courage to keep exploring, to commit to going deeper in your practice, then you’ll discover this freedom for yourself. If you ask me, it’s totally worth it!

If you liked this piece, you might also be interested in this one that emerged as a kind of ‘part 2’ – Committing To Self-Kindness