What Is Mindfulness?
Updated: Aug 26, 2018
Is the idea of transforming your life equal parts thrilling and scary as hell? You are not alone.
Throughout my years as an Enneagram Practitioner, I've yet to meet one person who came to the practice of transforming their life without some element of fear, or reason not to start. "I'll get healthy next month." "I'll break off this toxic relationship next year." "I'll get my dream career later." Here's a little hint: there is no right time or day to start the process of transforming your life. You just have to delve in.
That said, the biggest mistake that people make on the path toward self-transformation is starting at the wrong point on their journey. As someone who has worked in the health field for... [insert awkward cough here] a very long time, this was one of the toughest lessons I had to learn. So many of us have been spoon-fed the idea that if we lose weight, make a lot of money, or have the right partner that happiness will naturally follow, but it isn't often the case.
Well let's start at the beginning.
What does it mean to transform my life?
Transforming your life is an ongoing practice of developing your mind, body and spirit. (Sorry, I know. I wish it was easier, or even sounded easier, but I did say it is an ongoing practice.)
There are many paths toward self-transformation - philosophical, psychological, religious, spiritual, naturalistic, and so on and so on. And perhaps because there are so many paths, and so many different texts on the subject, we've all started to accept the idea that transforming our life is way too hard. Or that it is better practiced in faraway temples on isolated mountaintops with only the rising of the sun and the moon for distraction. But it doesn't have to be that hard. You can completely transform your entire life if you can learn to do this one thing, and do it well, be mindful.
What is mindfulness?
You will hear the word mindfulness A LOT when talking about transforming your life. Mindfulness is the practice of drawing your attention to what is present.
The majority of us move through our days mindful of everything else but what is present. At any one moment we can be influenced by our past, disconnected from what is in front of us, and scared of what might happen next. This state of existence is the exact opposite of being present, or mindful.
Learning to be mindful of what is - not how you would like things to be, not fearful of what could happen, not influenced by how things went before - is the first step on any self-transformation journey. From this 'presence state', we can make powerful decisions and influence lasting change in our lives.
I want you to see that the first steps to transforming your life are completely in your power. That's why I've created a Guide To Transforming Your Life for beginners. You can start transforming your life today by following the five steps I've outlined below. If you've been waiting for the right time or place to get started, well, you've found it.
BEGINNER GUIDE TO SELF-TRANSFORMATION
STEP 1) I NOW RELEASE. The peace and serenity you have been searching for has always been accessible to you, but so many of us lose sight of this eternal truth at a very young age. And so we try to do everything to control and manage a world that we perceive to be out of control - a world that we come to resent. Starting this practice with a specific outcome in mind, a desire to control what will be, is as fruitless as trying to hold back the dawn.
Say this with me out loud, "I now release my desire to control this practice and its outcomes." Say it again. And AGAIN. As you say it let a sense of serenity wash over you as you release your need to hold yourself to impossible standards, as you release your disappointment in yourself and in the world, as you release ignoring your feelings and your body. Release the need to obsess about things that you cannot change so that here and now you can begin changing the things that you can. STEP 2: I NOW AFFIRM. Are you in a cage of your own design? Is it a mental, physical, or spiritual cage? Are your shackles reinforced by habits that no longer serve you, a body-self you are disconnected from, and/or people that drag you down?
You've forgotten that you are no more, or less, important than any other part of the Universe. The Universe owes you nothing. The Universe denies you nothing. You are more FREE to do or be than you've ever believed possible.
Repeat after me, "I now affirm that I nurture my own growth and development." Stop hiding. You are no more, or less, important than anyone or anything. But you've given yourself to other people's dreams, or expectations, because it has served you in some way - safety, love, protection - . Affirm that you are clear and conscious of these motives. Affirm that your happiness does not depend upon pleasing others. Affirm that you are ready to own your own feelings and desires. Affirm that you can let go of people, jobs, and habits that no longer serve you.
Affirm that you are lovable for who you are, so that you can lay down your pride and come to your practice with humility and openness in your heart.
STEP 3: RADICAL AUTHENTICITY
My Dear Soul-Sister, it is time to accept yourself as you are - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Come out from behind that mask.
Go ahead and say it...
You are not the things you own.
You are not the person you are dating or married to.
You are not the clothes you wear.
You are not your job.
You are not the things you've said.
You are not things you've done.
You are neither the mask of success you wear, or the unworthy individual you believe you are. Come out from behind your shame and learn to accept yourself as you are.
There is hope and grace for you here, and the path forward begins with the practice of radical authenticity - the practice of truthfulness. You must be radically truthful with yourself, your family, your friends, your community. It starts with being radically authentic when asked, "Hey, how are you?" Try telling the truth for once.
STEP 4: SURRENDER
At first pass you may think that surrender is only for weaklings who have given up their pride, their self-respect and succumbed to their failures. I mean, we all saw that seen in the movie 300, where the Trojan queen told her husband to come back victorious or dead on his shield. And the weird thing is that we all totally related to it!!!
However on closer inspection (and after much therapy if you are anything like me) you will learn to embrace surrender as a transcendent place few of us ever get to. To surrender is to accept the positives and negatives of life in exchange for equanimity. It is the so-called balance all of us have been seeking.
So how do I surrender?
Well for one, you stop indulging in your version of what is, what happened, what went wrong. I'm here to tell you that no matter how much you beat yourself up, no matter how many people you feel let you down, no matter how unimportant or undesirable you think you are, you are not defined by these feelings. Only the feelings you act on define who you are.
If you are waiting for every thing you think and feel to be good, then you will waste your life away.
Say it with me:
I surrender my feelings of hopelessness and despair.
I surrender my self-sabotaging thoughts and actions.
I surrender to the good that is in my life.
I surrender to the transformation that is taking place even now.
I surrender all.
Step 5: Practice The first part of every practice is to start the work. If you are waiting for things to slow down, or when you have more money, or less commitments, then you will spend your life on the sidelines. To transform your life you must first muster the courage to participate. It is time to step into creation, Dear One. Second, open yourself to the 'growth opportunities.' You might know these 'growth opportunities' as stresses, arguments, failures, weight-gain, and etcetera, but they are really just growth opportunities in disguise. They are messages from your true self that something is out of whack. The practice is in learning how to decipher these messages AND courageously allowing your true self to emerge.
Third, learn how to ask for guidance. If you cannot answer these questions: 1) Who are you?
2) What do you want?
3) What are your goals and desires?
Then it is time to seek out guidance. Try to find a 'guide' who is not invested in your answers. Friends and loved ones are always willing to 'help', but that is not the same thing as guidance. A guide is someone who will challenge you and support you as you nurture and reveal your true self. They will encourage you on your journey and reveal a more meaningful and deeper experience of life and love that you may never have known existed.
Practice. Practice. Pratice.
And then, practice some more.
You have never been more free to live and pursue your goals and desires. All it takes from you now is the courage to get started. When you falter, as we all do from time to time, please return to this Beginner's Guide To Transformation to get you back on your path up the mountain.
Lindsey T. H. Jackson is an Enneagram Practitioner, Leadership Coach, Storyteller and Entrepreneur.
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