Life moves at a pace that can be tremendously disconcerting.
While technology has been a boon to make the world smaller and bring us closer together — it’s also been a challenge. Society has become fixated on quick fix, instant gratification, faster-faster-faster ways, and means.
Information inundates us from the technology we created to make it more accessible. News both true and false, opinion, conjecture, fact, and more are available 24/7 at your fingertips. Overwhelm and overload have become normalized — and the stress and other illnesses that go with them.
Feelings — even among those who feel more than they think — get steamrolled by it all. Expectations, responsibilities, societal norms and such bulldoze your awareness and mindfulness in the interest of contributing to the “greater good.”
As such, we do things because we’re expected to. We take on jobs we don’t truly desire, responsibilities we don’t want and allow ourselves to be complacent in the name of fitting in.
If you are doing something that makes you feel miserable — why are you doing it? When you do something by rote that makes you uncomfortable — why? When someone does something you dislike but you don’t speak up about it — how does that make you feel?
Frequently we don’t look at it. We ignore how it makes us feel. And that, in time, will build into depression, anxiety, loneliness, and other negative feelings that, in truth, we lose track of.
What can you do about this?
There are questions you can and should ask yourself to ascertain what you are thinking, what and how you are feeling, and what actions you are taking, and why. These are all simple questions that will make you aware of yourself.
· How do I feel?
· What am I thinking?
· What do I feel?
· Why am I doing this?
· What is the intent behind this thing I do?
This is putting mindfulness into practice.
Mindfulness is not some huge, complex end-all-be-all notion. It’s a regular, frequent, ongoing, everyday act. Being mindful is entirely about being self-aware.
Mindfulness offers insight and understanding of and for you. It starts on the surface — being aware of your current conscious thoughts, feelings, actions, and intentions. The above questions open the doors to this insight.
From the surface, you can get to the next level. That is the isness of you. Your mindset/headspace/psyche and perception of life, the Universe, and everything.
The deepest layers are the beliefs and habits built on life experiences that you have. But this is where the conscious, subconscious, and unconscious mind all come together. You become conscious of it and get into the subconscious and unconscious matters via mindfulness.
Mindfulness has become a buzz word. It evokes either deep, psychological exploration and/or hooky-spooky new-age yadayada. But the reality of mindfulness is that it’s a practical means to knowing yourself.
When you look at the world today — how many people do you see out there who tend not to know themselves?
Education and early beliefs
As a child, you were sent to school for three reasons.
First, to develop social skills and learn to interact with human beings around your age group. People you will directly or indirectly interact with for your entire life (even if not THOSE exact people).
Second, to learn. All the classes and subjects of schooling serve a few different purposes. How you grow, and learn, and gain knowledge. Some very basic — math, reading, writing, science, and so on. Others were more complex — but not always designed to help everyone grow.
No two people learn the same way. Some people are all about books, others about learning by doing, and some combine these — or use wholly different methods. Learning was a part of school — but not the end all be all of it.
Third, school began to teach you about social stratification. While before school all your authority figures consisted of parents, older siblings, and blood relatives — now you added unrelated authorities. Teachers, counselors, principals, and so on.
While to some degree they instill independence within you — to another they also impose their beliefs on you. Look at modern religious schools that don’t teach science like evolution in favor of creationism. Sure, maybe in the future those children will become interested in science and the like — or they will perpetuate stereotypes because that’s what was presented to them.
This was the most formative period of your life. Tons of beliefs and habits began to take shape here. Many of them were not of your making — they were the creation of others.
Some are perfectly good in your adult life. But many are not. Because people tend to be out of touch with themselves, they don’t know how this old, outdated information has impacted them — and continues to do so.
Breaking the mold
One of the things schools used to teach — before my time, even — was critical thinking and reasoning.
You would be presented with a problem. Then, you would be shown how to work with that problem and reason out potential solutions.
Critical thinking about the problem and reasoning out solutions was encouraged. Some of this was still evident when I was an elementary school student in the late 1970s — but as far as I can tell it has been largely cast aside in the interests of standardized testing.
Because you are not taught how to critically think or reason in primary school — it becomes something you need to learn on your own. And lots and lots of people, studies show, stop working on learning once they are out of school.
Colleges used to be better about this sort of education. But more and more I read stories about resistance to critical thinking and reasoning.
Which, when you look at society as a whole, makes a lot of sense. People who can think and reason on their own don’t elect people who work against their best interests. Thinkers and reasoners won’t be led by demagogues with naught but opinions and crazy conspiracies.
If you come to understand this, you have taken a first step towards greater mindfulness and awareness.
How does it make you feel?
When you become more aware of yourself you see how things make you feel. And if something you are doing makes you feel bad — or unhappy — or otherwise negative — you can choose to change it.
With few exceptions, you do not need to be doing things that don’t feel good. Particularly because you have one shot to live life.
Here and now is the only time you have. The past has passed, and the future is uncertain (more so now than ever). So here and now, if you are not living a life you desire to be living — shouldn’t that be changed?
Yes, certain obligations cannot be ignored. Parenting, responsibilities you have taken on that need to be seen to. But again, with exceptions such as parenting, you can choose anew if what you do makes you feel like crap.
Because of the world we have created and the technologies we have developed, we do not need to simply exist. Human beings were gifted with critical thought and reasoning abilities that allow us to evolve artificially and gain knowledge unlike the rest of the animal kingdom.
You don’t need to just seek shelter, food, and procreate to propagate the species. You can create a life that excites you, that feels good, that allows you to make more connections that expand your life experience.
For you, but not for anyone else
Finally, we need to acknowledge a VERY important fact about this.
This is all about YOU. It’s about choices and decisions that impact your life specifically.
Despite what some would like to believe, nobody can control ANYONE but themselves. All the choices and decisions you make — while they may have an external impact — are internal.
What that means is that you need to be mindful of your surroundings. Situational awareness is a thing.
If you are in a relationship, have children, or are in a position where what you do impacts lots of people — you need to not ignore them. But know that what you do WILL impact them.
You cannot alter how anyone else thinks, feels, or acts. Period. You can impact it and influence it — but you can’t choose it. Hence, when you practice mindfulness you can’t take anyone else along for the ride.
As such, you may hurt people. Not intentionally, of course — but just by the nature of how they react to you and how you change. While you must take this into account — you can’t allow it to stop you. Especially if the end result will be better not just for you — but for those you care about.
This is not selfish because the intent is not selfish. Selfish acts involve knowingly causing harm. They are acts that hurt people tangibly or intangibly with malice of forethought.
You can only change yourself. Only you think, feel, and act for you. Nobody can make you do anything you do not choose to do — and vice versa.
Whatever you are doing in your life, it’s important to recognize how it makes you feel. If it makes you feel awful, negative, and otherwise disempowered — you should be mindful and consider making another choice.
You get one shot in that body on this planet in this time. Shouldn’t life be lived fully and experienced as much as possible? Shouldn’t you feel more positive than negative along the way?
Thank you for reading. I am MJ Blehart. I write about mindfulness, conscious reality creation, positivity, and similar life lessons.