Mindfulness Challenge – Week 1

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So this week has been the first week of the living mindfully challenge I set down for myself. Like I said last week, I wanted to try and incorporate the ‘7 things that mindful people do differently’ principles that can be found on my Mindfulness and Grounding Pinterest board into my everyday life.  Sometimes things and stuff are difficult and I struggle to adult – hence adding one principle in per week.  The aim is to make lasting changes rather than rush in to life changes and then get overwhelmed trying to stick to them.

The challenge

For the next 7 weeks I will be tackling a new way of thinking and approaching life each week.  On mindful.org Dr Elisha Goldstein, author of The Now Effect, states that the 7 things mindful people do differently are:

  1. Approach everyday things with curiosity – and savour them.
  2. Forgive their mistakes, big or small.
  3. Show gratitude for good moments – and grace for bad ones.
  4. Practice compassion and nurture connections.
  5. Make peace with imperfection – inside and out.
  6. Embrace vulnerability by trusting others – and themselves.
  7. Accept –and appreciate – that things come and go.

Short sentences with big repercussions.

I’m pretty sure I’m all over number 1, 3 and 4.  They are things I try to do already.  I’ve been in therapy enough to have tried to make these things a part of my life by now.  I also have diploma qualifications in counselling; child, youth and family intervention; and community services.  Working in the human services field has taught me to look after myself.

If I’m honest, there is a good chance I will suck hardcore at numbers 2 and 5 – my therapist has already tried to help me with my perfectionism issues.  I tend to only do things if I think I will succeed at them.  Which is the point of my first Mindful Monday post.  There is also a good chance I will go postal in weeks 6 and 7.  I don’t trust others easily and I have some concerning abandonment issues.  So strap yourselves in for some honesty and by the time you get to the bottom of this page I hope that you are inspired to try and make some mindful changes for yourselves by taking up the challenge too.  And I hope I am inspired to continue on this potentially life changing journey and haven’t ended up in the foetal position in the middle of my bed.

Week 1 – Approach everyday things with curiosity – and savour them.

The first thing that Mindful People do differently that I was to try and make a part of my everyday life was “Approach Everyday Things with Curiosity and Savour Them”.  Dr Goldstein describes this as having a ‘beginner’s mind’.  The basic idea is to imagine you’re doing things for the first time to and immerse yourself in the experience.  She goes on to quote Abraham Joshua Heschel as having said “Life is routine and routine is resistance to wonder.”  Approaching routine tasks with a beginner’s mind opens up the possibilities in the world and instils a sense of wonder.

My Experience

I was quite happy that this was to be my first challenge as it is not only a principle that is already a part of my life to a degree but one I go back to when the chatter in my head gets too loud and starts to drown out the rational thoughts.  There’s already a chance you’ve started coming along for Monday Mindfulness with me.  This first part of the challenge would be a chance to extend this mindful attitude to all areas of my life instead of designating times to be mindful.

My sense of wonder is also already finely tuned.  My husband is curious about how things work and why things work, me – not so much.  I don’t like knowing how a magic trick is done or why that cloud looks like a gorilla.  I enjoy the wonder and awe of not knowing these things.  I don’t like the complacency that comes with taking wonder out of the world.  Frankly, it is disappointing to know everything is science and not magic.

Getting up to do my short morning yoga routine and shower turned in to a wonderful experience when I started my Monday with an attitude of curiosity.  I truly noticed the cool air on my skin, my muscles stretching ready to start the day, felt my hair brush across my face and the sleepiness fall away as my mind started clicking over.  I immersed myself in the sensation of the warm water falling on to my body and the sweet scent of my body wash.  By the time I was dressed and ready for work I actually felt peaceful and calm, the sense of dread that can come with a Monday morning with happily absent.  This beginner’s mind attitude was going to be a piece of cake.

I got in the car, felt the warm sun on my face, put on my music and embarked upon my drive to work.

Then I got cut off in traffic and crawled along at 30 km/ph in peak hour.  Why God? Why??  <shakes fist in the air>

Experiencing peak traffic as if it was for the first time was a bad thing.  I actually saw all the douche canoes holding up the traffic.  Saw the Fuck Muppets racing down the lane that was about to end just to push in in front of the people doing the right thing and slowing everyone down.  I saw the Arse Candles paying more attention to their mobile phones than the road.  Good feeling was gone.

I needed to stop the beginner’s mind attitude and put on my world weary blinders, focus in on my music and dance in my chair.   There are definitely situations it is best to have an I’m-used-to-this-so-it-isn’t-going-to-affect-me-because-I’m-slightly-jaded attitude and distract yourself from the travesty around you.

I got to work and got stuck in for the day.  On Mondays and Tuesdays the focus of my job is to write for our social media team.  I write case studies and articles relevant to our industry.  Sometimes I inadvertently write scripts for ads.  It all becomes quite mundane after a while as it feels like regurgitating the same story in different ways. I tried to remember how good it felt when I was first asked to write for the social media team.  I love to write.  I mean, I really love to write.  This isn’t my only blog.  I write stories and articles.  I write notes and snippets.  I write unpublished novels and creative excuse notes for my children.

And at work I’d forgotten how much I loved to write.

So I took all the skills I had learned in my time as the Social Media Assistant and combined them with the enthusiasm I had at the beginning.  I harnessed the joy I felt the first time I saw my writing on our corporate website and how chuffed I was when I received an email telling me I was ‘officially a screen writer’.  And I wrote.  It was the first time I had enjoyed writing at work for a long time.  I enjoyed the sensation of my fingers dancing over the keys, finding their target and my ideas filling up the page.  My morning passed quicker and happier than usual.  I found I didn’t get as upset at the stupid that surrounded me either, I was happy in my world of words.

At lunch time I took a walk to buy something to eat.  Where I work there are no shops directly near us, so it is a 15 minute walk to buy food.  To start with it was delightful.  A warm autumn day with a slight breeze.  I enjoyed the sunshine and the breeze; I delighted in the horses running around their track and smiled at the workmen I passed, thinking how lucky we are to have our roads fixed.  By the time I made it to the little bridge that spans the river, I was quite despondent.  I had looked too closely at my surroundings in my bid to experience everything as if for the first time.  I had seen the trash cluttering up the roadside, the fishing tackle caught up in the powerlines overhead and the scunge on the water.  It took a conscious effort to tear my mind from these things, look to the hills and enjoy the bigger picture.

 Don't Look Down. Don't Look Down. Look at the Big Picture.
Don’t Look Down. Don’t Look Down. Look at the Big Picture.

My week passed well in the same vein.  There were the unavoidable bad things that happened and the inevitable good ones.    A lot of the time I would find that in trying to experience things as if for the first time I would see flaws and faults that I had previously pushed out of my mind.  My personal version of mindfulness has been to look at the good and experience it fully in the past. To be selective about the things I am curious about rather than have a beginners mind.

Driving home Wednesday afternoon I completely failed at any kind of mindfulness and it irritated me further that I couldn’t find the right attitude.  My half hour drive took me nearly 2 hours.  I found out later there had been an accident that shut down one of the main roads forcing all the traffic to alternate routes.  By the time I got home I was stabby and kind of hated everyone that didn’t have to suffer through that traffic.  As I stepped through the door at home I made myself stop, remember that my favourite thing in the world was my family and call out a light hearted hello.  The more I looked to the good things around me, the easier it was to shake the foul mood of the traffic and enjoy my gorgeous family.

What I learned

More than anything I learned how unhealthy my thought patterns are.  There are things I know about myself, things I am trying to change.  And I was aware of my tendency to replay conversations in my head and finally say the things I wish I’d been able to say.  As I tried drag myself out of complacency by being mindful of the sensations and experiences around me I found my thoughts were often dragged back to conversations I had had or, more worrying, ones I might or might not ever have.  None of them were good and all involved me having to argue my point.  I know it comes from a need to be heard in situations where I can’t speak my mind, but nevertheless it is unhealthy to be arguing that much in my mind for no reason.  I have learned I need to try to take control of these intrusive, negative thought patterns in order to leave room for mindfulness.

I learned that having a beginners mind is a wonderful way to live and love every moment, but I need to be selective about my curiosity.  When I am curious about a situation I tend to take in everything around me and that isn’t always a good thing as I am easily upset.

Times experiencing everything fully as if for the first time is a good thing:

  • Eating lunch.  Experience the sensation of the flavours and textures.
  • Walking in the sun.  Feel the sun on your face and the wind in your hair.
  • Showering.  Turn showering into a decadent experience.
  • Exercising.  Be aware of the power of your body as it becomes more lithe and strong.
  • Dealing with co-workers that constantly make mistakes.  It is way less exasperating.

Times a curious spirit is a bad thing:

  • Eating 2 minute noodles. Best to pretend that isn’t happening.
  • Peak hour traffic.  Best to accept that it happens and distract yourself with music.
  • Walking along trash strewn streets.  Best to be curious about the big picture and look at something nice.
  • When you’re in pain.  Best to distract yourself, it is an empirically proven pain reliever.
  • Dealing with co-workers who constantly make mistakes.  It is way more mind boggling.

All in all I’d call it a success.  I learned when it is good for me to do this and when I need to be more ‘big picture’ focused.  I’ll keep practicing these skills as I go in to next week and incorporate the concept of forgiving myself for my mistakes.

Need to make a change to live and love your life as an everyday adventure? Sign up for The Brunch Fuelled Vagabond's Free 7 Weeks of Living Mindfully Challenge. www.brunchfuelledvagabond.com/7-weeks-to-mindful-living-free-ecourse

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