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Recently I went to a yoga and wellness retreat out in the jungle of Cambodia and a large part of the journey was about living more mindfully. Before the retreat, I knew a little bit about mindfulness but I wasn’t really sure how to implement it into my life.
At the retreat, we spent an hour a day, 30 mins in the morning and 30 mins at night practising meditation which in turn lead me to start being more mindful throughout the day. We had dhamma talks about creating your own mindfulness routine and really learnt deeply about living a mindful life.
This really opened up my eyes to how much of a fast-paced and rushed life I live. I knew instantly this was something I wanted to take home with me and practice every day, or at least try to. Our brains are so full of thoughts and often we feel as though we simply need a break from the craziness of our mind. Learning to be mindful will eliminate this feeling and while it will take a long time to change the way our brains thinks as we are so used to having a chaotic mind, you will be incredibly thankful you made the change.
I also read a book during my time at the retreat which really helped me understand mindfulness even deeper. I would definitely recommend reading Mindfulness Plain & Simple by Oli Doyle if you would like to learn more in-depth about how being more mindful can completely change your life.
If you stick around to the end I will share some realistic exercises you can use in your everyday life to start living more mindfully!
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing one’s attention on the present moment and being aware and accepting of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Mindfulness is simply to just be. We spend so much of our time thinking about the past and the future, our brain likes to tell us these stories of what might happen or what could have happened, what if it went like this instead of this, anxiously awaiting the future instead of living in the present moment. You want to observe these thoughts and stories without interacting or trying to change them. Freedom from these stories will bring peace and joy.
When being truly mindful you will not keep score on how good or bad you are doing. Your complete focus needs to be on practicing being mindful without expecting anything from it. The mind likes to keep track of how well we are doing in all areas of life however when being mindful it is key to not keep track otherwise this defeats the purpose of just living in the present moment without worrying or believing the stories about the past or future our brain is telling us.
There are 2 types of mindfulness practices, formal and informal. Formal practices are to intentionally meditate for a given amount of time either sitting, lying or walking. Informal mediation is the practice of being mindful in day to day life, say when you’re at work or having a conversation with a friend. The idea is to have your complete focus on the conversation in that present moment and listen more intently and carefully to each word said by the other person. This will not only improve your conversational skills as well as train your brain to be more mindful in an informal setting.
The mind is continuously thinking, telling us these stories about what might have happened and that you’re not good enough, and if you were better this might happen. Sometimes we just need a break from our minds. Mindfulness will let us be free of these stories and live in only the present moment. There is no right or wrong way to live mindfully as long you bring your attention back to the present moment as soon as your mind starts to drift off.
Emotions are a part of our everyday thought process, there is no way to avoid them. However, when we try to control our feeling this brings the power and they can take over our minds and even through to the body. Controlling your emotions only makes it worse, if your trying to push them down and pretend they aren’t there they will come back, always. If we allow them to be as they are this bring us freedom. We can just be with the emotions and accept them they way they are instead of trying to change or control them.
There are two paths you can take in life, either listening to the mind with its endless judgments, beliefs, and thoughts or we can live life in the present moment achieving inner peace and joy.
The key to moving past these thoughts and stories to be able to live in the present moment is to accept them, just as they are. You will notice them instead of judging them or labeling as good or bad.
To achieve inner peace we need to slow down in life and notice and appreciate the small things in the present moment. We are programmed to base our happiness on large exciting life events, such as winning the lottery or taking a trip to Bali. Our minds will think “I’ll be happy once I’m in Bali” or “If only I won the lottery I would be happy” but because of thinking in this way our mind is too far ahead of reality that once we are in Bali we aren’t actually happy because we are already thinking and believing what our mind is telling us about the future. When living in the present moment happiness comes even with the smallest events. Noticing the little things, such as your partner making you a coffee just the way you like it or enjoying the taste of your favourite food will bring you happiness.
There are 2 types of happiness, conditional happiness and unconditional happiness. When we put the conditions on what will make us happy such as “if I win with the lottery I will be happy” then we can never be truly happy because we are always relying on the external condition to happen before we think we can feel happy. However, if we focus on unconditional happiness and not making external events the basis of our happiness then we can feel happy all the time. You should feel happy right here and now without anything having to change in your life.