Finding Peace in the Modern Cacophony

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Like many people, I struggle with the weight and stress that myself, others, and just life, in general, bring down on me and the mental overloads that always seem to accompany them. For the past few years, I have been giving my mental health and well-being some long-overdue attention, and right now I just wanted to talk a little about one tool I have come to use that has helped me when I choose to apply it, the practice of mindfulness.

Many people mistake what mindfulness really is, some think it means to turn off or to quiet down those thoughts that get loud and jumbled, some believe it is simply a way to relieve stress, while others believe it means to sit down on a mat in silence, but that’s not what it is. The most eye-opening experience was when I learned that I could practice mindfulness in everything from just sitting and breathing, to school work, working out, playing with my kids, speaking to my husband, even while I was doing the daily household chores. This did not come easy for me, and in many ways, I am still in the process of learning to apply it in my daily life.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is defined as being diligently aware, mindful, and attentive with regard to:

  1. activities of the body
  2. sensations or feelings
  3. activities of the mind
  4. ideas, thoughts, conceptions, and things

It is a concept that has become simplified and popularized in Western culture but its origin is deeply rooted in Buddhism. What our society now uses, and in many ways fails to credit, is only one part of the Buddha’s teachings (i.e., the Noble Eightfold Path). It’s important to understand where it came from before searching for ways to learn about what it is and how you can practice it. The most important things to me here are the practicality in applying these into daily life, even if it is only mindfulness, and that the main intention and goal is to end suffering.

Mindfulness Meditations

You can begin with a very simple activity, breathing. You can do this at any point in your day but it does help to start out by choosing a time and place where you can be alone, sit, lie down, or just go for a short walk by yourself. Breathing meditations give you back control of your breathing, your body, and even your thoughts or your mind. This was important to me because many times things can begin to feel out of control, especially in dealing with issues pertaining to mental health. Breathing in, you are being aware of your breath and your body, and breathing out you’re letting the stress, anxiety, or feelings of pain go.

This is an extremely useful skill to build on for yourself, especially in our fast-paced and highly competitive Western culture and society. It’s important to feel all of that pain and tension that you have allowed to build up over time. In a society that tells us time and how much you do with it are to be considered highly valuable, ultimately this reminds you what’s really important; your body. You can’t expect your body to continue on at full capacity when you aren’t even aware of just how much it is hurting and suffering, and giving it time to heal, recover, and release that pain or tension is crucial.

I like to do this when I am alone because what happens is when I allow myself to become fully aware and attentive to myself I become aware of feelings I may not have fully known were there in that moment, and it allows me to completely open up emotionally. I would say that if you are practicing mindfulness and you start to feel uncomfortable then you’re doing it correctly, because it’s not about being relaxed, at ease, or pain-free, it’s about facing the reality of what is going on with you, but by practicing mindfulness it most definitely leads to all of those positive things.

“There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes to wash the dishes.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

The very first time I read that statement my entire outlook on how I was “living” my life changed. You can practice mindfulness meditations in any activity throughout your day, including while you’re washing dishes. When we wash dishes a lot of times it’s easy to view it as a frustrating chore, something to hurry through and get done with as fast as possible, and it’s never really an enjoyable experience, because who actually likes washing dishes. What I used to do was stand there and think of everything but washing those dishes to get my mind off the task I had to complete, but in all reality, and soon I came to realize as one of my biggest problems in life, I was always looking to the next task or looking back, never just being alive in the present.

Loving Yourself Through Mindfulness

The most important thing I have gained from practicing mindfulness is learning to love myself. People struggle with self-love, worth, and confidence every single day, and it is caused and triggered by various different events or people, but it also is very much our own created and self manipulated inner thoughts. This practice is the beginning of learning how to love yourself.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Being present and living in what you are doing, thinking, and feeling, and also being aware of any hurt or pain, understanding it, where it comes from; this all is part of loving yourself. It’s easy to allow our thoughts to speak down about ourselves, it’s very easy to be negative and judgmental about our past, actions, thoughts, and behaviors. If you only take one thing away from all of this I hope it would be that you choose to love yourself just a little more each day. By practicing mindfulness it helps you to become emotionally intelligent and realistic. You gain compassion, patience, and understanding not only toward yourself but towards others as well.

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