Last Friday I joined forces with 2 colleagues for our 3rd women’s event: “Super Soul Friday – Girls Night In with a Twist”.
The topic for last Friday was “Finding Peace in the Midst of Chaos”. What does it take to stay calm when faced with storms that inevitably show up in our lives?
We touched on the wisdom of 3 leading experts each of us resonated most strongly with for finding our individual ways back to serenity. It got inspired when I invited some girlfriends over to watch Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, but wanted to create a structure for deeper discussion!
I was drawn to Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of ‘Wherever You Go, There You Are – Mindfulness Meditation in Every Day Life’. His calling to bridge art and science (mother an artist; father a molecular immunologist) resonated. I had a lot of questions about spiritual realities growing up surrounded by a strong medical-based family.
After watching “The Secret” documentary back in 2006, it was the realization that EVERYTHING is energy – including us, that brought spirituality and science together for me in a profound way.
Here are the clips I shared:
Having a Morning Ritual (3 minutes)
How to Restore Balance (2 minutes)
Jon defines mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
There’s a widely held belief that non-judgment means having NO good or bad thoughts towards anything. Also that meditation in stillness requires having ‘no thought’ to clear your mind. I don’t exactly agree.
You have between 50,000-70,000 thoughts a day, and majority of it is ‘negative noise’ – you can’t just turn them all off! It’s more about noticing the thoughts you are choosing to think from a deeper awareness, and how they are affecting you.
Judging anything as ‘right/wrong’ or ‘good/bad’ tends to lead to an ‘inferior/superior’ or ‘better/worse’ perception where the ego shows up so I find it’s more valuable to ask:
- Is this healthy or unhealthy for my well-being?”
- Is this thought constructive or destructive to how I feel?”
In short – is this working for me?
There’s a difference between stress that’s destructive to your well-being,
and struggle that helps you grow.
Some of us strive in chaos. As a financial executive, my husband is one of them. He’s drawn to companies that need major upheavals to survive, and thrive. He enjoys this environment, and like most guys – getting results is highly motivating 🙂
It’s one of his strengths: staying calm enough to focus on key areas that require his attention when numerous balls are in the air. Which ones do you allow to drop?
This kind of ‘chaos’ is really a ‘challenge’, or ‘struggle’ which can be exciting where things are moving, and grooving. There’s endless things to do that involves new learning, and solving problems – all great stuff!
The problem is if anything consumes so much time & energy (even what you enjoy) when you finally stop to slow down, you end up putting a plug in the wheel of all the ‘doing’.
- Do you feel a bit empty when you slow down?
- Are you needing to zone out in front of the tv to relax?
- Do you feel lazy, antsy, or unproductive if you aren’t doing something?
What becomes stressful to your well-being? Disengagement with yourself on the other parts of you that matter. Are you slowing down to notice…
- You’re not making time to exercise whatever that is for you
- Eating out a lot adds unwanted weight, not to mention digestive issues!
- Spending quality time is limited to doing necessary household responsibilities
- You miss having deeper conversations with your spouse, or children
- You’re having surface conversations as opposed to building meaningful friendships where you laugh so hard you cry
I grew up in an environment where “getting things done” was highly valued. Working hard, and having an independent profession defined success. Everything was highly structured. At the time, it was worked well, but I could sense something was missing that ‘being mindful’ helped me see.
There was more to life than doing. There was also being. Just noticing. Being present. The squeal of laughter from my children who have some of the best moments during their routine breakfast. The knowing in my friend’s eye when I sense she feels better after we talk about what’s really going on. The look, and feel in my husband’s touch.
Intimacy, and connection on the soul level. I was missing it,
and I began to find it when I practiced being mindful.
In the midst of any experience that isn’t working for you (conflict, frustration, confusion, disappointment) is when we are most blind to what’s happening, and the greatest opportunity to grow.
We react from our conditioning that often involved criticizing, and judging – blaming, and justifying our own stance of why we need to understand, follow or agree with someone else’s ‘right way’ – even when it’s not working for us!
Practicing mindfulness allows you to notice “what is really going on – with me, with them, in this situation?” How much am I willing to step into my own truth of why this matters? What’s not working for me I need to face?
Mindfulness brings you to a place that’s ‘judgment-free’ where your energy feels calm. It brings you back to feeling whole exactly where you are, doing the best you can because you can trust your SELF – your heart, mind, and soul.
You can see, and hear others more clearly
because you can see, and hear yourself.
Angry, and frustrated with someone? What’s underneath your anger that may be creating it in the first place? It’s not them – they are just being themselves. It’s something that you value being stepped on – perhaps something you are not seeing fully.
Get curious. Ask questions. From here, how can respond in the best way for your own well-being?
Sad, and disappointed by how someone has treated you? What is really being stepped on that’s important to you that apparently isn’t what someone else may value? What can you do about it from this place? What will you share? What do you need to let go of?
Mindfulness = Awareness
One of most powerful ways to be mindful is to be in gratitude. At first you may have to think: ‘what am I thankful for?’ Then practice writing down 3 gratitudes every morning in a journal. Eventually you’ll notice you FEEL a sense of gratefulness wherever you go.
Your awareness shifts until you ARE grateful as opposed to practicing to feel grateful or thinking ‘I’m grateful because I….’ – there’s no ‘thinking’, there’s only being.
You get out of your head, and live into your awareness.
Finding spaces to be mindful in your every day life is essential. In the shower – are you thinking about your entire day instead of being present?
Do you spend time in nature?
Will you drive in silence?
Can you wake up in the morning, and hold an intention for your day ahead?
Your greatest insights, and creative ‘out of the box’ thinking shows up when you practice connecting to your inner wise self or your ‘pilot light’. It’s where you can best navigate the waves in the midst of any storm.
Mindfulness is really a practice of slowing down to speed up that brings more joy, peace, even productivity!
Jon describes mindfulness as “a love affair with life, with reality, and imagination with the beauty of your own being…a gateway into the full dimensionality of being human…where there’s infinite depth.”
When you master the art of mindfulness without judgment, the serenity you discover within leads you back to your true nature: LOVE, which as you know, conquers any storm.
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