When you are going through a crappy time in your life--like the end of a relationship, maybe even divorce--it's tempting to look outward for all of your solutions. You look to blame your partner, (...if he would have just been more...if she would have seen me as...) whose emotions are enmeshed with your own. You may think about your circumstance constantly. And, you may turn to teachers, therapists, counselors, coaches, and self-help books. While there are so many helpful books, Websites, Facebook groups, other social media sites & personalities, just mindlessly perusing such resources in hopes of a silver bullet isn't a good way to feel better, long term.
How can you move from being mindless or mindful? Just notice you own habits for the next 3 days. Observe and record. How much time do you spend eating just to eat, not because you’re hungry; drinking alcohol in hopes you’ll feel better; browsing on the internet; allowing your social networking feed to constantly interrupt you; watching mindless TV; reciting past conversations over and over in your head; practicing future conversations that may never happen?
I get it. Being mindlessly swept away may feel like a respite. You may feel the need to see what your ex is up to on social media. You may feel the need to read advice or buy a new self-help book. You may have found me because you were seeking relief. Those needs feel important, and you’re certainly not alone. A Time magazine article in 2014 reported that US adults invest in self-improvement products and services (including books, audiobooks and seminars) at a rate of $11 billion-a-year, which is about the same size as the Hollywood film industry.
What I know for sure, though, is that you'll never get to a better feeling place by only focusing outside of yourself. Never. That's a strong statement, and I know it's true, because no one else has the answers you seek.
No one else knows what it is that you need—what you need to learn from this experience, what you need to see for your future, what you need to do today to start. Only you can know you, because only you has such deep access to you.
What can you do, starting today, then, to access you? Treat the next week as an experiment and, after 3 days of observing and recording you mindless activities, choose to replace as many as you can with mindfulness. Find a balance that works for you. Keep asking yourself this questions: how can I create fewer mindless moments and more mindful moments?
My two, favorite mindful practices? Journaling and meditating.
Journaling is a practice of telling the truth to yourself about yourself. It’s a mindful conversation. Sometimes, I recap the day at the end of the day. Other times, I'd jot down what as I was thinking or feeling throughout the day. Other days, I simply write to be surprised. No matter how I approach my journal for that day, writing allows me to start a dialogue within myself about what was going on within me. It helps bring clarity where there was none. In this way, it serves as a core mindfulness practice, offering to me insights about recurring patterns of thought or experience.
Journaling is easy and it’s cheap. A simple notebook is all you need, or you can use one of many free Online tools, like Evernote or Day One. I’ve used both of these, but I keep coming back to my plain-paper notebook. So, find what works for you.
Meditation isn’t new, but nearly everyone’s talking about it. The earliest written records of meditation (Dhyana, which is Sanskrit and means profound meditation that is the penultimate stage of yoga), come from the Hindu traditions of Vedantism around 1500 BCE. There isn’t one “right” way to meditate, but the general goal is to turn your focus inward and actively notice your breath, as you sit quietly for awhile. Start with 5 or 10 minutes a day. Set a simple timer or use an app, such as one of these:
Skeptical of meditation? This app features Dan Harris, the ABC news anchor who wrote a book about his grudging embrace of meditation.
Andy Puddicombe, an English guy who has been both a monk and a circus performer, is the voice on this meditation app.
A handy tool to time your meditations and share your practice with friends.
If you're new to mindfulness or if you hear that critical voice inside doubting the power of mindfulness, check out these 6 Myths About Mindfulness in this comprehensive article about the impact of mindfulness practices on sleep.
Start to be more mindful today. Unplug from the outer world. Disconnect so that you can connect inwardly. Protect your energy so it will serve you, especially if you are experiencing difficulty in your life right now.
You are powerful, but if you're leaking drastic amounts of energy by focusing outwardly, your power is compromised.