Updated: Dec 18, 2019
Imagine sitting in your car trying to get somewhere important, but you're held up behind one of those huge, slow-moving tractors that you can't pass, now imagine remaining perfectly calm. Imagine your neighbor traveling to many distant and beautiful destinations around the world all of the time, and never having a single thought of jealousy. Imagine if you could love everyone around you unconditionally, or always find contentment right where you are. These things seem impossible, but what if they aren't?? What if they are closer to reaching than what you thought.
It all starts in the mind. I always tell my clients "if you tell yourself you can't, most likely you never will. If you tell yourself you can, it's more likely you will." So where do we start? The first step on this journey to improve your life through mindfulness is meditation. To many, this seems too simple and a waste of time but there is actually scientific data that states people who meditate are happier, healthier, and more successful than those who don't. This is because we live in an imperfect world surrounded by stress, disasters, sadness and more. For example, we have the immediacy of threats and catastrophes on our phones. Every day I get new updates that pop up and they're hardly ever positive updates, usually, something along the lines of -- vaccinate your kids or they'll get measles, don't vaccinate your kids because it's all a scam, another sex offender going to jail, genocides, dire predictions of climate change, terrorism and hate crimes, statistics like there are 2.9 billion fewer birds in North America than there were in the 1970s. Basically, our phones have made catastrophy immediate in our lives. This leaves us dwelling on all the negativity and less positivity. Below is an fMRI scan of two brains, on the right-hand side, the brain is in the state of meditation. On the left, the brain is not in the state of meditation.
What Is Meditation, and How Do I Start
If you could imagine focusing your mind to only think about the sound and movement of your breath, and your physical awareness like how your fingers feel when practicing gian mudra (making a circle shape with your index finger and thumb). The basic idea behind meditation is to slow down the thought process in your mind.
Try it right now for only 30 seconds, close your eyes and do not let your mind wander. It seems simple until you actually try it. It's a lot harder than it seems, right? It's also like anything you put your mind to in life, the more you practice, the easier it will become. Research shows that when meditation is practiced, it produces more blood to the brain. Why is this important? Insufficient blood circulation to the brain can lead to many mental issues. A steady flow of blood delivers life-giving oxygen, glucose, amino acids, minerals, and other nutrients your brain needs to thrive.
When I started meditating, I started in the mornings. Before getting out of bed for that first cup of coffee. I practiced for 2 minutes, followed by 2 minutes of prayer everyday for one week, after one week I moved up to 3 minutes and added one minute every week after that until I got to 12 minutes. The reason I staggered it this way is because so many of us (including me) hold ourselves to these unrealistic standards of perfection, and then we judge ourselves when we don't live up to them. We are not meant to be perfect, because as a human it is impossible, but transformation is.
All of us have the capacity to change, learn and grow no matter what our circumstances. How do we change, grow, and transform? Through mindfulness, my journey into mindfulness was unexpected. I was always a happy, bubbly, positive person until I wasn't. Depression, anxiety, suicide, and stress became the dominant figure that ruled my life for many, many years. After 8 years of living in the darkness of depression and all that it manifests, I was ready to surrender to mindfulness and ditch the meds that were never really going to help me in the long run.
How I practice mindfulness is I appreciate every emotion, problem or situation with a thankful heart.
Example: I am held up behind one of those huge, slow-moving tractors that I can't pass, instead of being filled with anxious thoughts like I'm never going to get there in time! Why didn't I leave 5 minutes earlier! Can't the stupid tractor driver see he's holding up all this traffic!!! I instead think positive thoughts like this tractor that is slowing me down is here for a divine purpose. He may be an obstruction that is protecting me from a future car accident or a ticket or anything that will ultimately disrupt my life. I begin to appreciate that tractor being there, slowing me down because he just might be saving my life. And just like that, my emotions go from being distressed to a place of gratitude. Now, most likely I might have been just fine if that tractor wasn't there, but it doesn't matter because I've just tricked my mind into thinking something else, and my mind bought it.
Example: My neighbor travels to many distant and beautiful destinations around the world all of the time. Instead of being filled with jealousy that she travels everywhere and here I am, probably never going to see even half of the destinations she's ever seen, I instead begin to bless her and pray for her safety as she travels, I wish only the best for her and suddenly those feelings of jealousy turn into feelings of love and adoration. I can't wait for her to come back so she can tell me all about her trip. I also think about it this way, I have been called to a different mission in my life. Her mission may be traveling around the world and along the way she finds her heart was left in Africa because she is called to go there and work with children in refugee camps. My mission is just to be here and with a grateful heart, I will eventually too find out my mission. I begin to tell myself it's going to be greater and bigger than anything I could have ever imagined. And just like that, my emotions go from being in a state of jealousy to a place of understanding.
Example: (this is a great one for parents!) I'm in the middle of doing something I feel is important, and one of my kids comes up and completely disrupt it by asking I could play a game with them or could I fix them a snack, or whatever it may be. Before I would think and say, hang on I'm almost finished, but they persist and beg "please mommy, can you do it right now! Please!" My blood begins to boil and I think, why can't I have 5 minutes to myself!! And then here comes the anger and stress, now I'm playing a game with my kids and totally annoyed because I didn't finish what I needed to do. Instead, I think about it this way. When they ask for something that I totally am not in love with doing at that moment, I imagine its someone very prestigious (like the Queen of England) in my house, and if she asked me if I could do a favor for her while I was in the middle of doing something. I would totally drop what I am doing to please her, and because she's a guest in my home, I'm going to be a great hostess. All of a sudden, I've just tricked my brain into thinking I actually want to entertain my kids with what they are asking for, and it's done with love and enthusiasm.
These techniques take time to master, but you could do them too! Leave a comment below and tell me how your life transformed by using these techniques.